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Be Authentic.

On Fast Company last week, Baratunde Thurston, comedian and former Director of Digital for The Onion, recounted a social media anecdote that would make any digital marketer squirm: he mistakenly activated a 3rd party tool for Twitter that spammed The Onion’s entire following every time they got a new follower. While his story may give me nightmares for weeks, the portion of his piece that really stood out was the importance of brand authenticity within the social space:

“For companies that see this new frontier as a marketing opportunity (and that’s basically all of them), it is a thin line between relevant and creepy stalker. You want to be where the conversation is and join it in an ‘authentic’ way, but just because someone is talking about your product does not mean he wants to talk about it with you. Should every human gathering place be targeted for interactive marketing campaigns? How would you feel if you and your friends were out dining, discussing Game of Thrones, and an HBO executive suddenly joined your table screaming, ‘Winter is coming!’”

Social marketing broke down the wall between brand and consumer. It offers such a valuable opportunity for open communication—but with this open communication comes new challenges. Companies need to achieve a seamless social strategy that users will get behind, rather than a “marketing ploy” that users will shy away from. The key to successful social marketing is authenticity.

When approaching social strategy, ask yourself: Would I personally share that post/tweet? What does liking this page say about me as a person? What value does my brand provide to our following? Don’t focus only on what you want your customers to do for you. Define how you want your customers to view your brand. Stay true to your brand voice and engage the users.

Read Baratunde’s full article here.