From now on millennials will be trademarked as the generation of social media. If Instagram was a mold they would be the clay filling the crevices, shaping to its influence. Through media, we maintain our sense of “being in the loop,” our knowledge of our world, and our connections to others.
While this dependence is not necessarily bad, it is notable to consider the way that we are also easily shaped by those same media; one of those ways being the conformity to construct an ideal personal image as if it were our true image.
The idea that society is inherently represented, influenced and shaped by the media is not a new one. Several theories explore this basic proposition, such as Stuart Hall’s “Cultural Studies,” or Marshall McLuhan’s “Media Ecology,” which claim that normative culture is shaped by the media we consume and that the media and its influence is controlled by dominant groups in society.
If we’re being honest with ourselves, it feels a little distressing and intimidating to think about the implications of this idea. It is daunting to consider how we unconsciously submit to the social structures and norms that are emphasized through the media.
While the theories mentioned above are most certainly valid, they do not necessarily always involve negative implications regarding our culture being latently shaped by dominant groups of society. We often forget that for most social media platforms, we hold most of the power. We are a part of the groups that have agency over what to post, what to like, and who to follow.
In our current cultural moment, we care a lot about and look often to influencers and/or verified people on social media, like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Additionally, many of us strive for the status of a verified individual or influencer. This is important in that it suggests that we still have a valuable and increasing amount of power on these platforms, especially for those of us in the Public Relations field.
When we recognize that we collectively hold the power of how and what content we are all feeding each other on these mediums and claim that power, change can happen. We no longer have to accept theoretical truths, such as Hall’s or McLuhan’s, and feel hopeless, vulnerable, and impressionable. Rather, we should feel empowered to utilize our existent power on these mediums and feel inspired to spark the change that positively affects society and shifts our perspectives.
For instance, generally, we accepted and conform to the idea that the image that represents us on social media platforms, like Facebook or Instagram, must be a careful construction to match some standard of perfection. We have lost our sense of authenticity and sincerity and all play a part in perpetuating the cycle.
While it is easy to think about and understand this idea on a more personal-relationship level, it is also very relevant in business-consumer relationships. This leads to a general distrust of people and companies. We have adopted a sort of skepticism for opinions of people that we once entrusted with honesty, (like influencers!) and companies we once thought were more than corporations just fighting for our attention.
That being said, it seems clear that both people and businesses would benefit from attempts to operate with sincerity, integrity, and authenticity. We have the power to perpetuate these principles of practice, on both a small scale and a large scale. Further, when people, in this case specifically consumers, see transparency and honesty in the company, they will more readily feel motivated to do business with that company.
Here are five ways you can appear more authentic to your audience
- Be sincere. Instead of fabricating sincerity, focus on actually operating with sincerity in every situation. People know the difference! The more virtual our lives get, the more we hunger for sincerity.
- Show personality. By any means available, show what sets your company apart and let consumers see more than a constructed brand or image but rather a set of characteristics about your company that bleed through in everything that you do.
- Be transparent. Be open and honest, even if that places you in a position of vulnerability. This cultivates trust and respect for your company in consumers.
- Be Grateful. Let your customers and prospective customers know that you see them and are thankful for them. Highlight customer reviews and showcase customers that use your products. After all, what is a business without its customers?!
- Be Consistent. Walk your talk. Once you have established your company personality and set of values that you operate off of, it is important to make sure that you do not deviate. This shows people that you can back up everything you claim to be and are not just another company trying to get and maintain attention at any cost.