Why do people buy? They believe that what you are selling is going to fulfill their need. And that’s the key word…believe. For them to believe this fact, they have to trust. And in an industry based on artifice, to instil trust, nothing matters more than authenticity.
I’m aware that speaking about authenticity with regards to digital marketing risks eliciting eye rolls and sighs at the sheer millennial nerve of it all. You can’t sit through a conference presentation on social media without someone talking about this. And yet, the reason they do is that authenticity genuinely matters. One of the reasons that so many organizations struggle with social media is that they are so used to controlling their brand narrative. It used to be that through the power of your deep pockets and your PR capabilities, you could control how people perceived your brand. This is no longer the case. Now, if the organization doesn’t live up to the promise made by a brand in its advertising, it’s in real trouble. If the operation can’t cash the cheque written by marketing, it will have serious problems.
We see this in the emergence of ethical brands or those that place a wider mission at their heart. And we also see it in the struggles of those that do not. I recall years ago I had a client that was in the business of providing high interest loans. They wanted to move beyond a reliance on paid search and start advertising on Facebook. I practically begged them to not do that. Through paid search they were reaching people that understood what they were and were actively seeking those services. In social it was an entirely different matter. When your business is to prey on people with no other options, people take note of that. Needless to say, they ignored my advice and advertised in Facebook anyway, with entirely predictable results. Their team ended up spending more time deleting angry and disparaging public comments (some of which were genuinely funny, by the way) than managing their campaigns. In other words, if you are authentically a bad person, that matters.
Authenticity matters in your campaigns, but it also matters in your career. To understand this concept, we have to understand how senior people in organizations make decisions. These people are often time starved and under-pressure. They don’t have a great deal of time and bandwidth to spare. They have demanding goals, and they need to know that when they hire you, either as part of their internal team or as an external provider, you have to be able to deliver the outcome that you are claiming. To do that, you have to showcase credibility and track record. You have to show them a plan or roadmap on how you will achieve the goal. These are intellectual hurdles you need to overcome. But people don’t buy intellectually, they buy emotionally. And for that, they need to trust that you will deliver what you say you will. This is why authenticity is so important. At heart, people buy people, and they have to determine if you are a person they like, trust and want to work with.
So what if you know that the authentic you doesn’t fulfill those criteria? What if you think they won’t like you? Then walk away. Maintaining a lie, maintaining a persona that is inauthentic is exhausting and ultimately doomed to fail. If they don’t like who you really are, then this isn’t the organization for you. Recognizing that and taking the necessary action is critical to thrive in your task, and ultimately in your career. Because ultimately, authenticity matters.
Next week on octopus, we will continue to explore the role of the digital strategist. Please be sure to comment below. I’d love to hear from you. Please subscribe for alerts about new episodes and content. Thank you for listening to octopus. I’m Nasser Sahlool.