4 Tips to Deliver on Honesty in Social Media

By: Sofie De Beule

August 6, 2014

An honest brand should deliver on an honest message. But, why exactly is it so important?

Becoming a trustworthy, honest brand is part of a difficult process because it takes a lot of effort for people to have confidence in brands. However, if brands want to connect with their customers over the long haul, they need to deliver on an honest, transparent, and authentic message.

Authenticity and honesty are essential in any aspect of communication. If brands don’t communicate authentically, people see right through it and will immediately tune it out. The idea behind it is easy: don’t set standards for your brand it can’t aspire to.

Businesses are easily tempted to take crazy, rather unethical actions to draw attention on social media. A lot of companies maybe don’t admit it, but often succumb to low standards. For example, perhaps they begin bluntly posting messages with potentially high click-through rates that leave their core messaging and values completely behind. Especially millennials – who have grown up with a lot of deceitful TV commercials – are very skeptical and have serious issues trusting a brand. They have become allergic to brands faking reviews or buying followers.

However, it’s often difficult to draw the line between honest or dishonest brand practices. Would you consider giving away your new product for free to get a positive review out of a dishonest practice? Make the exercise for your company, and question whether you actually believe in the message you are spreading.

Let’s have a look at these 5 tips about how to deliver on honesty in social media.

1. Treat Your Community Like Insiders

What better way to show you are an honest brand than to be completely transparent about how you run your business?

Blog posts are a great means to give inside scoops into new product features or your awesome corporate culture, but try to include your employees as much as possible as well. Give them a voice on your social channels, and dedicate special blog posts featured solely around your employees. This will not only make them feel more empowered, but shows you are willing to be open about everything and adopt a transparent culture.

Corporate values or mission statements are just words, and they’re meaningless if you don’t put them into practice and fail to translate them into the actions you take. A great example of a company who truly treats their audience/community like insiders is Buffer. The company has adopted a radical approach to transparency and decided to launch the Open blog where you can have an exclusive peek into the company’s revenue, user numbers, and also salaries. Transparency is considered one of their most important values. Opening up their salaries to the public is a great step towards becoming an “open company” to deliver on an honest message – one of the ultimate goals of the company.

 2. Identify & Nurture Brand Advocates

Why would you deliver on an honest message if others can deliver it more effectively for you?

Brand advocates have a great potential to help shape your brand’s honest message and give it a fresh face because they often feel emotionally connected to brands and are very authoritative. As passionate customers, they are defined by their likeliness to recommend your product or service to others. That’s why any brand should nurture them to gain full potential. According to research by Nielsen, 92% of people trust brand advocates, so it’s important to have brand advocates speak for you. Luckily, through social media, the process to identify these brand advocates has been sped up as customers find social media to be the perfect place to talk openly about brands.

Once you have identified your brand advocates, nurture them by offering exclusive previews of, for example, new products you are working on. If brand advocates realize you have something important and honest to tell, that (honest) word of mouth is worth more than any type of sales ad. However, it’s important to not be too controlling, defensive, or manipulative, or customers will easily tune it out.

3. Stop Being So Perfect

Be real, be genuine. Brands need to stop focusing on being perfect, and just be “real” instead.

Restaurants, consumer goods brands, clothing brands, hotels etc. all do the same thing: make their products look like they fall right out of a magazine with picture perfect images of their latest products. However, these polished images give an extremely unrealistic view on the actual product or service people would pay money for. That’s why utilizing user-generated content (allowing your customers to promote the product for you) can help keep your brand alive in a very realistic, straightforward, yet attractive way. So, why not come up with a cool, new social media campaign with dedicated hashtags to put the spotlight on your customers?

People want to see real products and experience the true value of their purchase. A social network like Instagram enables brands to regularly update fresh images that don’t need a professional finishing touch to completely convey a brand’s message. Instead of having a static website with fixed images, companies can keep updating their social profiles with the most recent images. However, do respect social channels, and don’t try to gain more out of it than possible.

Sharpie, an American manufacturer of writing instruments, chooses to fill their Instagram account full of rather simple drawings that were made by fans with the brand’s famous markers. This way, the brands shows the exact use of the products and displays a range of different, yet extremely authentic drawings. The cool thing here is that the main focus is really on the use of the product, and not on the product itself.

 4. Make Personalized Connections

Who doesn’t want to feel important? Building genuine, personal conversations is a great way to connect meaningfully with your customers.

Companies often forget people are more willing to buy from brands they can relate to. A lot of business overlook the opportunity to build that personal, one-on-one connection. Although people are already starting conversations with brands, the damage of unanswered complaints or meaningless, disingenuous conversations dramatically affects a company’s reputation.

Developing that special rapport with your customers takes time and energy. Built-in CRM systems in social media management tools help you remember small, yet very helpful details about your customers. So, why not bring them up in the conversation to help you woo your customer? Don’t simply look at your customer as a means to bring in money, but appreciate the small things that will help you better understand what it takes to truly satisfy their needs.

Customers want to know that they’re talking to a human being on the other side of the social channel. That’s why companies slowly start adding more personality to the conversation and educate their employees to reveal something unique and personal as a great conversation-starter.

Closing

When it comes to developing an honest brand, put complete focus on the people surrounding your organization. What is important to your employees, your customers, and your influencers? Stop thinking about how you can become a “picture perfect” brand from the outside, but focus on optimizing your one-on-one relationships and building an honest, sustainable brand and image over the long haul. Soak up as much information about your customers as possible through your built-in CRM system to personalize your interactions.

Moreover, take an active role in creating relevant connections rather than talking to the crowd. Commit to developing an honest, personalized message. Don’t ever hide your flaws or conceal something such as hiding negative comments or paying for clicks. Empower your employees to become the voice of your brand. Educate them wisely, and focus on the human, personal aspect of creating conversations.