Get back to your authentic self on social media

Social media users today see straight through humblebrags and ‘vaguebooking’; it’s time to return to authenticity or nothing at all.
26 December 2018

The ‘Insta-life’ is not real life. Source: Shutterstock

Whether you are a brand, self-proclaimed influencer or everyday user of social media, we need to talk about the authenticity problem in our perfectly curated digital world.

People can now see through the false modesty of those humblebragging statuses by companies and individuals who just cannot help themselves.

Just like the end of a reality TV show, we have been conditioned to showcase our ‘best bits’ online. If you or your brand has ever removed a post because it never reached the desired engagement levels or embarked on a ‘like-fishing’ trip by shedding crocodile tears on camera, maybe you are unwittingly a part of the problem.

From oversharing to ‘vaguebooking’ your friends and followers, many people are waking up the fact that social media is just one big highlight reel. The reality is that ‘Insta-life’ is not real life, no matter how much you try and convince your friends and followers that it is.

Being surrounded by fake news has delivered the gift of self-awareness and is increasingly waking users up to privacy issues and the manipulation of their personal data. As users, we are also becoming distrustful of self-proclaimed influencers who seem to accept every ad deal that comes their way and bury #ad under a million hashtags to disguise what they are doing.

In an age of instant gratification and entitlement, some users on the fringe of social media success have been caught demanding a free ticket to paradise. Somewhere along the way, we created an ecosystem where anyone can make their online followers envious of a fake lifestyle by demanding free nights in hotels in return for exposure.

Predictably, a rising of distrust and disdain for influencers is gathering pace. By contrast, we are increasingly craving authenticity and something real from our online relationships. When it comes to good old-fashioned trust, credibility is not about the number of followers that you have. But, what does this mean for businesses?

The rise of influencer fraud and the purchasing of fake followers is enabling businesses to look beyond renting the reach of influencers’ followers and towards meaningful engagement. It’s not just about bringing authenticity back into social media but also leading through greater trust and transparency.

Selling the promotion of products and services to the highest bidder could ultimately harm the consumer trust and love for both the brand and the influencer if they do not adapt to the change in customer attitudes. The damage to trust cannot be undone and could run the risk of appearing sneaky and underhand in front of a vast online audience.

Most people reading this will have created a safe haven away from fakery through the infamous group chat on messenger platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Ironically, they are both owned by Facebook.

The most revealing aspect of the humble group chat is that we have been slowly retreating from sharing everything on social networks to private groups where we can talk openly and freely about how we really feel about things. Are we recognizing that the detrimental effects that social media can have our lives and weaning ourselves off these platforms?

If we are slowly falling out of love with social networks, how will companies capture our attention? Any attempt to insert advertising into private group chats would feel intrusive and probably backfire in a spectacular way for all to see.

Maybe, the biggest problem is our thirst for instant gratification. Wannabe influencers are buying fake followers and demanding free holidays to showcase a lifestyle that will bring more followers their way. Brands are renting that reach to deliver their message, but nobody is investing the time and effort required to build meaningful relationships.

Instead of endlessly searching for the next quick fix, building a community, relationships and trust will all involve a considerable investment of time and is not something that you can buy. But what does that mean for our social media usage in 2019?

As we head into 2019, we can expect influencers that promote products for free that they love will thrive. By contrast, those that continue to provide soulless endorsements of products they don’t genuinely love will lose the attention of followers who crave authenticity.

85 million searches in the Storyblocks Creative Trends Guide report seem to suggest that authenticity and diversity are rapidly becoming the new currency online. Brands will also need to recognize they too must be as authentic and diverse as their audience if they genuinely wish to serve and ‘wow’ their customers rather than use them.

Whether you are a brand or an individual on social media, 2019 should be the year that you get back to being our authentic self online.