Stop Talking and Start Listening: Consumers and the Meaning of Authenticity
As professional communicators, our job is to know how to translate brand needs into a language that consumers not only understand but appreciate. We aren’t here to talk them into something. We aren’t here to ‘wow’ them with pretty graphics and cool moving text. We aren’t here to change their lives.
We’re here to communicate with them.
But so often we fail to listen. According to a recent study by Stackla, 90% of consumers and 83% of marketers agree that authenticity is important, but their ideas of what is authentic couldn’t be any different. Marketers (32% of them) say brand-created images are the most authentic. Yet 58% of consumers say that honor goes to user-generated content (UGC).
To really bring that point home, 92% of marketers said that they think their content resonates as authentic with consumers. Consumers couldn’t disagree more – 51% of consumers said that less than half of brand-created content is authentic.
Basically, these stats are letting us know that we are failing to listen to the people whose opinions matter most. There could be a thousand reasons why this happened, but it’s safe to say it needs to change – and I’d even go so far to say that this disconnect is at the core of many of today’s marketing frustrations.
Now that we know we aren’t coming across as authentic as we’d like, it’s time to figure out what to do about it. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Remember that you are a consumer too: You may not be the target audience for every brand, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something to be learned here. You get served ads, you follow brands – ask yourself what makes you interact with a brand, or what makes you choose to stop engaging with them. When you click on an ad, ask yourself why. When you like a post a brand creates, think about what it was about that content that made you care. Those split-second decisions can offer valuable insight across any target audience.
- Do better research: Research is at the heart of any strategy, and if the research isn’t top-notch, the strategy could suffer as a result. Time-consuming though it may be, doing thorough, empathetic research is key. And if you’re at a loss for how to improve your research? We’ve got you covered.
- Focus marketing resources on UGC: Over the past few years we’ve been seeing an overwhelming desire from consumers to have access to more UGC – so give the people what they want. Consider building strategies to help your brand build up their UGC library. These can include contests, making it easy for consumers to snap Insta-worthy photos with your brand, or letting customers know you want to hear from them and share their experiences.
- Have real conversations with your audience: Get in the weeds and really talk to your audience. This can be done with Q&A’s from branded handles, DM’s to willing participants, or real-life conversations via focus groups. Ask them all the things brands don’t usually want to hear – like what they struggle with and what they’d love to see from you. Letting them know your brand genuinely cares can go a long way.
- Do a lot of social listening: Sometimes the best way to know what the customers want is to simply read the conversations they have with each other. There are lots of tools that can help you track chatter around nearly any topic, so consider putting aside some resources for this.
- Truly put the customer first: We all love shiny new social offerings or exciting videos that utilize innovative techniques, but always pause to ask yourself if what you’re making really meets the needs of the people you’re trying to communicate with. Sometimes we get so caught up in what’s shiny and new that we forget what can really affect the client’s bottom line. Don’t ignore new offerings if they would resonate with your audience, but always remember that what you’re making needs to work for the people seeing it.
- When permissible and relevant, ask non-marketers what they think of your campaigns: As marketers, we don’t always think like the general population. We run everything through a filter of data, best practices, brand history, personal taste, and more. Sometimes the best way to create a good marketing campaign is to see what non-marketers think about it. You don’t have to necessarily take their suggestions, but certainly think about why they suggested them.
Marketing isn’t easy and keeping track of rules and best practices can be quite an undertaking but here’s the heart of the matter: The best way to create more successful content for your brands is to listen to your audience and communicate with them in the way they like to be spoken to. Building a positive relationship with your audience is the first step to creating a highly effective content strategy.