AuthenticI recently came onboard as Managing Editor for the blog network at Magnet Media. As such, I am charged with acting as the “corporate voice” for the company—here on the corporate blog and in our social media interactions on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and so forth. As is surely a common discussion, the concept of being “genuine” has come up more than once. I can’t look at my morning social media “newsfeed” without finding at least one item about this very topic.

It seems people can smell insincerity a mile away.

The more we’ve discussed the issue and worked through how to best represent the Magnet Media brand in our online interactions, the more strongly we believe in the need to be genuine and human online. While it might seem a no-brainer, coming off as a robotic corporate voice can be an all too easy trap to fall into.

The desire to get out there and promote your content is strong. You’re no doubt proud of your work and want to spread the word. And social media is a fantastic tool to do so. However, by its very nature, it’s a whole different animal from a more “traditional” outbound marketing approach of pushing out “blasts” to your audience. Social media demands that you earn your engagement.

How does one earn it? Go figure, it seems the key is having an actual conversation.

Easier said than done, but in the end it will certainly be most effective. Think about how crowded your own newsfeed has become. You surely follow some brands and social media/marketing “thought leaders.” Which are those you actually engage in conversation—let alone go as far as clicking the link to their latest content? If you’re like me—and I’ll wager you are—you interact with the content from those personalities who appear to be living, breathing human beings. Not just automated newsfeeds. Those who are actually offering you something of value and of interest, no? Perhaps they ask your input into the discussion, or even produce content based on that input, answering a question their readers have posed? The key would seem that they contribute something of relevant value to a conversation that’s a true two-way exchange with their audience, rather than a one-way promotional tool.

Another key to appearing—nay, being human—is in acting as true individuals. Certainly they’re representing a brand, but they are still individuals contributing unique points of view to any conversation.

Corina Mackay recently posted a piece on the Social Media Examiner about this very point. She went as far as to suggest the person managing a company’s social media accounts use her own name. Or, as I have seen suggested before, each person using the accounts include a brief “sign-off” with their initials. The key point being that posts clearly come from individual human beings who “own” their identities, rather than faceless corporate robots.

Robot Gardener

Robots gardening=Good. Robots Tweeting=Bad.

Brian Solis echoes the need to be genuine and own one’s persona online in his list of “Rules of Social Media Engagement.”

While it may be tempting to maintain separate LinkedIn accounts—one for company use and one for personal use—the general consensus is to avoid that route. Joshua Waldman makes a pretty solid case in his post on Careerealism, arguing that while you may operate on behalf of a business, you are NOT the business.

“The reality is…everyone prefers to interact with people versus brands that are represented by a logo and a tag-line,” states Aedhmar Hynes in her recent post, “Social Media Interaction Starts in the C-Suite.” “The trick is to create a social media brand presence that is compelling and brings your brand personality out through your employees. If you want to humanize your brand, you need to let your employees be humans first.”

It can be a sticky subject, as some of us may not always be comfortable allowing what we view as our personal profile to blend with our professional profile. I’m certainly not advocating full disclosure in all cases. No one needs to see photos of your cat on your corporate blog—necessarily. These days, the big social media players allow for some pretty granular (albeit, constantly changing) control over exactly what you share with the public. So with a little effort and care, we can keep what should be private…private.

There is no perfect handbook for online brand interaction, but everyone really is in the same boat, figuring it out as we go. One thing seems clear—and the same can be said for any endeavor—we will always prefer to do business, make friends with, and interact with those whose company we enjoy. Those who appear to leave their ego at the door and are genuinely interested in what we have to say. Sure, you know that a salesperson’s ultimate goal is to sell you whatever they’re peddling, but if they earn your interest by engaging you in an actual and genuine conversation that offers something of value and substance, you’ll not only be more likely to buy from them—you’ll be more likely to do it again.

So whatever your brand, product, or service, try to remember the Golden Rule and treat your audience/customers/clients as you would want to be treated. Chances are, if the conversation is sincere and genuine, you’ll get a response.

Ryan Swearingen, Managing Editor, Blog Network - Magnet Media Ryan Swearingen is Managing Editor of the Blog Network at Magnet Media and co-founder/editor of Stated Magazine.



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