It's interesting to have over 100K followers on Twitter. To some people, it means absolutely nothing because they've barely even heard of Twitter and have no idea how it works. To others, it's unbelievable and there must be some super malicious, sneaky way that I bought my way there. Then, the ones I love dearly, they wholeheartedly understand social and are willing to have a down to earth convo about it. Perhaps the oddest thing that's come of it, is the question of whether I am actually who I am on Twitter in real life. The first time I was asked this question, I was completely caught off guard. Why the HELL would I cultivate a Twitter following and write blog posts every week under a fake personality? I honestly thought the person was just messing with me, and laughed it off. Then, they asked the question again.
Here's the deal --> You'd have to ask one of the 100K that knows me in real life AND follows me closely on Twitter to get an unbiased answer-- and it's really hard to find someone that follows my every move on Twitter AND my every move in real life. If that person exists, I am concerned for their social life. However, my biased answer is that Twitter is simply an online reflection of moments and thoughts I have in real life, in real moments. I don't tweak it to sound cooler, or exaggerate to get more rise out of my audience. First off, I'm smart enough to know that I am likely to run in to some of my followers in real life and having two separate personalities off and online would cause some issues. Second off, I started my Twitter account and blog for ME to write about MY experiences-- not to gain a ton of followers. And, if I ever and to give only one piece of advice for anyone in social who wanted a big following-- that would be it --> Do social for yourself and stay true to yourself, and the followers will come. Sounds corny, but it's true. Granted, I have to remind myself that 100K people are going to read what I put out there, so I have that extra layer of awareness, but, unless your my significant other, BFF, or in my immediate family, that extra layer exists anyways. (I.e. "Never say anything you don't care if the whole world hears.")
I've seen the exact same thing work for the brands I've worked with. The moment they decide it's about gaining followers, they lose their engagement and interested of the followers, which does NOTHING to gain more followers. However, if they stay true to their brand through thick and thin --> followers stay with them through thick and thin AND recommend the brand to friends. This, my friends, is called being authentic.
Authenticity is not framing a photo so it looks authentic to the audience. It is not signing up to a do a charity event and blasting out on all your social channels that you are such an amazing brand for doing a charity event. Authenticity is not learning the lingo of the fans you want to attract and starting to use it in all of your messaging.
Authenticity is producing content and conversations that tie directly back to the core values of YOUR brand. Sure, you can tweak copy and images to appeal to a certain demographic, but at the end of the day those copy and images better also directly link back to the brand, or you've done nothing but create some fake persona of your brand that you are now going to have to struggle to live up to and might even be called out for.
Social is simply a tool to amplify your brand-- so don't give into all of the trends and the new buzzword of "authenticity" that is being misused all over the internet. If you really want to be authentic, figure out who you are as a brand and go out and do things on social that represent those values. If that means volunteering at an event and covering it on social-- cool. However, if you just volunteer at event to follow the "authentic" trend, then you are NOT being authentic --> you're being a poser brand, and BELIEVE ME, that will show through at one point or another, and completely backfire.
Yea, I have over 100K followers on Twitter, but that's not because I set out to have thousands of followers on Twitter --> It's because I set out to show the world who I am as a person and share my beliefs and opinions and expertise on topics I'm passionate about. It's because I listen to my followers and ask them how their day is going as well, and I am GENUINELY interested in their lives, as much as they are interested in mine. It's because, no matter how dicey or great or unbelievable life gets, I share that will them. I give them an authentic piece of myself, and they follow me back.
You want a huge social community for your brand? Start by being a brand that is true to itself, and understands and lives the true meaning of authenticity -- not the buzzword version.
- Marji J. Sherman