The days of a perfectly curated, aspirational social media feed are fading. Photo dumps, GRWM (“Get Ready With Me”) TikToks and iPhone quality content are what people expect to see from their friends—and what they want to see from the brands they follow, too. Increasingly, people want to see real people living an unfiltered life, speaking on issues that matter and simply keeping it real.
“Today’s consumers seek authenticity, and a super polished or overly stylized piece of content isn’t it,” says Jenny Li Fowler, Director of Social Media Strategy. “A produced video is essentially your opinion, and consumers aren’t interested in your opinion. They want to hear what other people think of your brand and/or product.”
Over the past few years, TikTok has led this shift towards authentic content. Trends on TikTok are fleeting and come and go within days, so brands must carefully choose the trends that authentically align with their values and jump on them quickly if they want to “enter the chat.”
This trend toward authenticity has even paved the way for a new social media platform centered entirely around authentic content. BeReal is a new “anti-social” social media platform that strips away filters and likes for a candid glimpse into people’s daily lives. Every day at a random time, everyone on the app is notified simultaneously to drop everything and capture and share a photo to share with their friends within a few minutes. There is no time to plan or curate a picture-perfect setup. Whatever you’re doing at that moment in time is what you share.
While the app is designed to be consumer-centric, some brave brands, like Chipotle, have taken the leap and joined the BeReal community to give consumers a true behind-the-scenes look at how the guac is made. This begs the question: should my brand get on board? But like any platform, BeReal is not a fit for every brand. At this point in time, BeReal does not have any advertising offerings, so it’s important for brands to truly understand their intention for being on the platform organically.
Karen Freberg, a social media expert and professor of strategic communication at the University of Louisville, warns against brands jumping in without a well-planned strategy to deliver real value to users because, “Gen Z and other audiences can smell an ad from a mile away.”
However, the appetite for authentic content is not going away, and so it’s time for brands to lean in and create honest and real content that appeals to their unique audiences across platforms. Here are some tips and considerations for brands that want to explore showing up in more authentic ways on social:
- Leverage user-generated content. Social media, at its core, is geared toward building communities and relationships – that’s why it’s called “social” media, after all. Share the perspectives of your audiences, partners and others to provide a fuller picture of your brand and the relationships people have with your products or mission. Whether this looks like posting customer reviews or comments on Instagram, retweeting event attendees on Twitter or re-sharing followers’ photos on Facebook, look to your audience for inspiration.
- Ditch the filters and photoshop (for some content). You’ve probably heard the phrase “Instagram vs. Reality” before. This is because Instagram users have historically curated only the picture-perfect moments, often distorting reality with filters and fine-tuned edits. But brands have increasingly gone in the opposite direction, favoring images that are both genuine and aligned with their brand.Aerie is a great example of a company that is prioritizing authenticity by posting unretouched photos of real people. Other companies like Chipotle have also ditched professional photography equipment for iPhone photos of overflowing burrito bowls. This approach to content can help make the company feel more relatable to consumers by naturally integrating branded content into users’ feeds.
- Take your audience behind-the-scene. Your audiences are likely curious about the people, product and places behind your businesses – that’s why they follow you! Whether you capture a sneak peek of the development of a new product or an interview with an employee, giving your audience a (mostly) unedited view of the content shows a different, more human side to your business. This is an especially great tactic on LinkedIn, where providing an authentic look at the company culture, values and people can be valuable to recruitment efforts, particularly as companies take stances on sensitive social issues.
Incorporating authenticity into your content strategy shouldn’t create more work for yourself. Ultimately, it should help alleviate the pressure to be perfect as you strip away the filters and take advantage of the content that is right there in front of you. Leverage user-generated content, ditch the filters and photoshop and take your audience behind-the-scenes to show up authentically and keep it real with your audiences across social platforms.