Digital strategist Jordan Julien got us thinking about “synthetic authenticity,” the risk large corporations face as they try to engage customers in social media. The problem, Jordan says, is social media tools were built for individual people to interact with each other, but suddenly faceless entities — big brands with big names — are entering the space.
This creates a cognitive dissonance that can erode trust. Say you lob a question at Nike Plus on Twitter and get a response. Who wrote it? Do you trust their opinion? Is it a real person’s thought, or a brand spinning its own future sales?
Jordan suggests one solution is to add real faces to your corporate persona. Instead of trying to make a brand act human, put real humans in charge. Earlier this year Mashable listed its favorite 40 companies on Twitter; the list is worth reviewing to see how “human” they act. Here is Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas responding to a guest:
OK, that’s a start. Luxor gives us an attractive woman in a swimsuit chatting about hot dogs. But the most authentic brands online are the ones that give us real people’s names. Surprisingly, the auto industry has been leading this charge. Scott Monty at Ford gets press, but here’s Adam Denison, PR guy for Chevy, offering a human connection:
What? A Chevy marketing executive is asking for help building PowerPoint? Exactly. Suddenly the big auto brand seems like a potential colleague, a guy looking for advice. While Adam uses Twitter to answer questions about Camaros and promote his brand, he also chats about Mormon missionaries, crows about BYU football, hints he is an avid golfer, and wades into debates about Swine Flu. You know. A quirky, opinionated, helpful real human being. If we ever considered a Chevy, we’d reach out to him instantly.
Yes, it’s a risk to let real people become the touchpoints between the brand you’ve carefully crafted for decades and the consumers who use it. But the bigger risk is you blow it, eroding trust from an audience that will tune you out. If even giant IBM can have Twitter streams authored by real people, so can you.
Graphic: The Jordan Rules