What is authenticity? Do a quick search online and you will find many definitions of authenticity, in some instances, it is used with the same meaning as both transparency and sincerity, which are two very different things. So what exactly is authenticity and why is it so important to remain authentic on social media?  

The Free Dictionary defines authenticity as ‘the quality or condition of being authentic, trustworthy, or genuine’ and authenticity has always been a vital ingredient for building a successful brand. After all it’s marketing 101 – find the consumer, connect with them, offer a solution that solves their problem and deliver it in the best, most genuine way you can – repeat. There are not many consumers who will support a brand or business, over a long period of time, that does not display all three characteristics of authenticity. Sure we will dip in and out of trading with a slightly dodgy brand when the need arises or in times of sheer emergency, but consumers will always head back to the brand they know and trust the first chance they get. In the past, when brands behaved with anything but authenticity the fallout could usually be contained to the region where the behaviour happened, but with social media not only does such behaviour become widespread knowledge it can hang around forever.

I’m sure a lot of us have sat back and watched with interest the recent unravelling of fashion and lifestyle blogger Essena O’Neil, and you’ll probably agree that at times it hasn’t been pretty. First she quit social media, then she didn’t (reinventing herself to be more ‘real’), then her ‘friends’ turned on her to say it was all a con, and the cynical amongst us would probably agree. I mean after all, here is a young, gorgeous and obviously savvy woman who has built up an impressive business through the power of social media doing what she can to push her profile up to top spot on the news sites, right? You know what, good luck to her if this is what she has set out to achieve because, at the end of the day, she succeeded. But for me, what it really highlighted was the importance of remaining real, or authentic, when it comes to using social media to push your brand – personal or otherwise.


Sets the tone

Pretending to be someone or something else is hard work and eventually you will come unstuck. Being authentic will guide the tone of your social media and because your tone will be coming from a real and genuine place, it will be sustainable, resonate with your community and be one of the reasons they keep coming back.

Develops your personality

Hand in hand with tone, authenticity will let your real personality shine through. Authenticity is a character trait of people and brands that comes through in your personality – we can all spot a faker, and this means consumers will find you out for being fake, contrived, boring or a jerk even when you think you are getting away with it. Your authentic personality doesn’t have to be all peaches and cream, brands can build up a great community being difficult (or edgy), but remember if that’s how you are going to be you need to make sure you can sustain it.

Builds trust

When you share authentically and with truth, consumers will pick up on it, like you for it and more importantly they will trust you. Trust is important across all facets of a brand – between brand and consumer, between brand and employees and between brand and suppliers and it is the number one emotion good marketers aim for when building a brand. Being less than authentic on social media can unravel any trust you have built up over the years in a nano-second and it’s a long climb back when that happens.

Builds a community

Take a look at some of the more successful social media communities out there, such as Michelle Bridges 12wbt and Woogs World, and one thing you will see is a great community. They have each others backs and not only do they support each other, but they avidly support the brand they are following, and this is important. If you have been nothing but authentic with your online community and built up the trust bank when the chips are down your community will stand behind you.

For one, I am not sure Essena will ever truly reclaim the authentic voice and trust she once had with her social media community, including the brands she had partnered with, and this in the end, will be her downfall.