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What Is Content Marketing Authenticity?

We’re long past the advertising heyday of the mid-twentieth century, where the go-to marketing campaign was simply placing your product in front of a camera (preferably in the hands of a flawlessly-presented actor), then just telling the audience what it was.

Fast-forward a few decades and the internet has utterly changed the way companies market themselves. Thanks to social media, even gigantic corporations can now interact with their users on a personal level; in fact, it’s become essential. While marketing has come a long way from the days of purely TV advertising and catchy jingles, the great irony is that a lot of it has looped back around to a very basic idea: authenticity.

There’s now a very real need for companies and brands to feel ‘authentic’. Where once people could only see the polished front of a company, social media now allows for genuine human interaction between customer and business. It’s human nature to crave that connection, and now that it’s been made possible from brand-to-individual (and vice-versa) there’s an expectation of ‘real’ rather than shiny corporate perfection.

Stats on brand authenticity across generations

Who’s Doing This Well?

Formula 1 may be the perfect example of a company that fumbled this kind of interaction at first, but managed to find their feet. Over time the company lost the connection to their supporters, with the event becoming staged, corporate and causing many previously-raving fans to fall away.

Enter a new media team, who realised the importance of connecting with their vital base of supporters. Now, the focus has shifted to the people behind the event, with fun additions such as a GoPro attached to the bottle of victory champagne and cameras in the green room that broadcast post-race conversations; anything that lets fans see behind-the-scenes and connect with the very real human element.

Formula 1 saw where it could improve and moved past its mistakes, but so many companies still struggle to come across as authentic, with their attempts actually doing the complete opposite. Make no mistake: you’re dealing with a social media-savvy generation, and they’ll be all too quick to call you out on staged content.

  Infographic about consumers and content authenticity

User-Generated Content

The stats vary depending on demographic, but not by a great deal: 90% of millennials say that authenticity is important when deciding to support a brand, compared to 85% of Gen X and 80% of Baby Boomers.

So how are brands doing? According to the 2017 Consumer Content Report, not that great. 57% of the people surveyed say that less than half of all brands are creating content that feels authentic. Even worse, 30% of millennials have said that they unfollowed a brand on social media because their content just felt fake.

It may seem obvious, but the most influential content of all is generated not by brands or influencers, but by the users themselves. People are simply more likely to listen to other people, so the juggernaut of online reviews cannot be underestimated. Once again, we can look to millennials and their unprecedented connection to technology: while a large majority of users read online reviews (86%), looking deeper reveals a more thorough picture. A massive 91% of users aged between 18-34 trust online reviews just as much as they’d trust the opinions of family and friends.

This isn’t to say that brands and influencers have no power or place in the process of getting the word out. They may not resonate with supporters quite as well as an online review with a name attached, or a good word from a person’s dear old mum, but they have the critical ability to communicate your message to a far bigger audience.

Stats on millennials unfollowing brands on social media because of content

How Can Your Content Be More Authentic?

There’s no catch-all solution for companies and brands wanting to appear more ‘real’ to their followers. Authenticity starts with you, your company, your brand, and understanding your unique voice. The ‘Authentic 100’ lists corporate giants such as Apple, Microsoft and [Nestle – change] at the top of their rankings. This isn’t a trust rating or a popularity contest; this just means that these brands realise who they are, and they translate that into smart, authentic marketing. People expect Apple to be shiny and sleek, so that’s how they present themselves.

Every brand is different, every product is unique, and every marketing campaign should have a distinct focus. However, while there’s definitely no silver bullet strategy that’ll appeal to every single demographic on the planet, there is one marketing principle that remains constant: don’t be afraid to be bold.

Content marketing authenticity, in the broad scheme of things, is a new phenomenon. Big corporations have tried and failed, and that fear of being judged for your slip-ups can put off many brands – especially those that are not well established. However, sincerely trying to connect with your audience is the best possible thing you can do to start.

Stats on how many online users trust reviews

The Smarter Way

At SBM, we’re always striving to try to do things smarter, and at the moment, content marketing authenticity IS the smart way to do things. Before we get into strategy, website content, or the creative aspects of a campaign, we first take the time to get to know a business, who they are, what they do, and their unique voice.

Of course, it’s equally important to consider the customers: who they are, and what they’re expecting to see. In the end, that’s what authenticity really is: taking the honest message of who you are as a business, and then sharing that truth with your supporters.

 

– Written by Stuart J.A. McNabb

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