How brands can be more authentic on social media

Jun 7, 2021

Comms professionals often ask us how to be more authentic on social media.

This desire to be more human and less corporate is great, but people often don’t know where to start.

Specifically how can you be authentic on social media?

I’ll take you through three examples of social media authenticity in action.

See if they inspire you to be more authentic.

What is being ‘authentic’ on social media?

‘Authenticity’ for me is about not pretending to be something you’re not.

You know what I mean: when the tone sounds all pompous and formal, but it’s been written by an ordinary comms pro like you or me.

When we pretend like the brand is perfect, never cocks up and knows everything.

As communications professionals we can forget that as consumers, we don’t believe the the glossy, flawless exterior that most brands project.

Our audience will trust in us more if we show something believable, that doesn’t feel like a leaflet or a press announcement.

1. Make your tone of voice sound like a person

Tone advice we give communicators is to never hit ‘send’ on a social media post if it doesn’t sound like something you’d say verbally.

Put more succinctly, by the author Elmore Leonard:

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

An example of this comes from The Black Country Living Museum, on Instagram: “We ay half had a bostin’ day in the sunshine today”.

If you’re an organisation that operates in the Black Country, why wouldn’t you use local language like this?

It clearly hit the spot on Instagram.

This feels authentic because local phrases and slang terms are part of our identity. They’re a gift to the communicator who has an audience based in a specific area.

Those phrases we heard since we were kids, they comfort us with nostalgia, they connect us with others who know the phrase, they make us smile.

Back in the day when I worked for a council in South Wales, I’d describe things I liked as ‘lush’. Because I wanted people to know a real person was there, showing genuine enthusiasm for the place.

It sounds like a person said it, not a committee of officials.

If you don’t want your brand personality to be a dry as a cream cracker, local language can be an easy win.

2. Use empathy and see how more real you sound

Prove that there really is a human there by demonstrating some emotions, and relating to your audience’s emotions.

Surrey Heath did this beautifully recently.

Facebook post from Surrey Heath says: We get it. We know everyone is fed up at the moment. Fed up of being told to Stay Home when you're desperate to go out. Fed up of not seeing your family when you really want to give them a hug. Fed up of only being able to catch up with your friends on video calls. Fed up of juggling work, homeschooling and just general life at the moment. We get it. We're human too. But we know that Surrey has one of the highest Covid-19 rates in the country at the moment - and it's still going up. We can also see the huge pressure our local NHS are under, at Frimley Park Hospital and beyond, doing their best to cope with the rising numbers of Covid-19 cases being admitted every day. And we cannot ignore the reality of the temporary mortuary set up in Leatherhead to deal with the sharp increase in Covid-19 deaths, as local hospital capacity has been exceeded. These people are not just statistics - they are mothers, sons, grandparents, family members and friends, each one mourned for and missed by those who loved them. We also know that every person who doesn't follow the lockdown guidance risks spreading the virus - perhaps unknowingly - in turn adding to the pressure on the NHS.  And that anyone who catches Covid-19 could end up in hospital themselves - or, worst case scenario, in the mortuary. This is real. This is the reason we are asking everyone, however fed up you are with the lockdown, to please play your part to help #KeepSurreyHeathSafe.  For yourself, your loved ones, the vulnerable, and our community as a whole. Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives. Thank You. social-media-authenticity


3. Show up as a communicator, and owning the failures

In this article, Corporate Communications Manager, Alexander Mills from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, shares some of the comms flops, booboos and turds he’s worked on.

Screenshot of Aleander's Linkedin post linking to the article.  It has a picture of two sheep sticking their tougues out at each other, and I have no idea how that relates to the article! social-media-authenticity

You’d never think it, if you just relied on listening to conference talks and reading CVs – but ALL of us make mistakes, have campaigns that tank, and persist with ideas that don’t work.

There are some fab lessons in there.

And while we might think it’s brave to be open about these unsuccessful projects, it’s actually hugely beneficial to Alexander and the brand he represents.

It’s not brave – it’s confidence that you know your stuff enough to not hide the ‘downs’, and only ever mention the ‘ups’.

The truth is much more impressive than the pretend, perfect versions of ourselves.

In this article, I can see evidence of a highly strategic and creative mind, and an organisational culture that doesn’t squash innovation.

Those mishaps, false starts and lead balloons he mentions have taught his team what works for SYFR’s audience, and what doesn’t.

You don’t get that stuff in a textbook.

For each of the failures, there are probably 20 or more successes. Not trying anything new or creative will never get that kind of pay-off.

Why be embarrassed by sharing the harder parts of your story?

Ultimately, the brand and Alexander himself come off as way more competent and likeable – because it’s refreshingly truthful.

We feel better about our own struggles when we see role models face obstacles too. We trust that what is being said has value, because it’s not a glossy, aspirational misrepresentation of reality that we’re used to.

So maybe you yourself as a communications professional can try being more authentic yourself?

Social Media authenticity in a nutshell

It’s all about getting in touch with how you actually talk, how you see the world when you’re not in work mode and letting people join you for genuine conversations.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Hel Reynolds

Hel Reynolds

Author of this post

Hel is social media trainer and boss of Comms Creatives. She has been working in comms since 2005, and has been brushing up her expertise in social media for brands since the good old days of MySpace. She also draws the Comms Cartoons, and is usually attached to a mug of coffee.

Comms Creatives Academy membership

Annual membership gets you unlimited access to all our classes, courses and events.

New classes added every month.

All the training, time-saving resources and inspiration you need for a whole year.

A whole year to become a confident, expert social media communicator.