#SFExperience: A Cautionary Tale on Authenticity (Or the Lack Thereof)

In our latest eBook, The Social Experience, we gathered insights and expert advice from today’s top brand social marketers and industry visionaries. We are sharing insights from this book these insights here on the Spredfast Blog. Today, socialmedia.org's Andy Sernovitz provides a word to the wise on the importance of authenticity and disclosure in social media.

Trust is First

When we have great tools for analyzing social data, it’s easy to find ourselves focused on the quantity of conversations about our brands—because we have the ability to do it.

But smart marketers know that no matter what the tools are, great word of mouth and social media marketing is grounded in trust. Without trust, nothing else matters


helloWord of Mouth Can’t Be Faked

Word of mouth marketing can only succeed when people trust each other to talk honestly about what they like and don’t like.

You cannot fake word of mouth. It just doesn’t work without the trust. You might be able to fool a few people for a little while, but in the end, people will figure out that you faked it. Then you get embarrassed, you make enemies, and you lose sales.

Let’s say a restaurant posts fake reviews to a website. It will get noticed. No matter how good you are, website operators are great at sniffing out fake reviews. It’s their job to keep their reviews clean and credible. If they didn’t police them and pay attention to what is being posted, no one would trust their sites.

On a bigger scale, if you post the same review to a bunch of blogs or message boards, people will catch you. You can try to hide it, you can try to vary the message, you can use a bunch of user names. You’ll still get busted. It’s too easy to search for and compare similar posts. The more you post, the more people know you are posting. As soon as one blogger gets suspicious, they’ll look you up and see that you’ve been posting all over the place.

Guess what happens? All of that positive word of mouth that you were hoping to create turns negative. The very same audience that you were hoping to reach with your fake posts will feel deceived and lied to. And they will out your company all over the web. You’ll lose far more business than you ever could have hoped to gain.


Just Be Yourself

As a marketer, you can comment online, you can post on message boards, and you can do it a lot. Participation is welcome in the new world of online communications and communities. But you have to do it the right way.

The difference between deception and honest participation is disclosure.

You can be an eager participant as long as you do it in your own name, clearly identifying who you are and what you stand for. Also, insist that any relationship between your business and the people who speak for you be clearly disclosed from the beginning, whether they are employees, customers, or volunteers.

Disclosure is a positive thing when done well. Smart marketers understand that disclosure makes messages more powerful because it makes them more trustworthy. Disclosure gives status to participants in a word of mouth program, giving them credibility.

Disclosure is good. Demand disclosure.

Word of mouth is about genuine communications. Always be honest. It’s the right thing to do—and it works better.



Andy Sernovitz teaches word of mouth marketing and social media. He is the New York Times bestselling author of Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking. He leads SocialMedia.org, the community for social media leaders at the world’s greatest brands, and WordofMouth.org, where marketers and entrepreneurs learn to be great at word of mouth marketing.


Don’t want to wait to hear insights from Whole Foods Market, RadioShack, Caterpillar Inc. and more? Download your free copy of The Social Experience now.


cdoman@spredfast.com's picture

Courtney Doman

Courtney is the Content Marketing Manager at Spredfast. She focuses on sharing smart social ideas and insights to transform the way companies connect with consumers. Courtney is a passionate football fan (supporting Arsenal and the USMNT), curious traveller, and ambitious home cook.