In the digital marketing industry, there are two really powerful ideas making waves. These are authenticity, and storytelling. These tie in with influencer marketing, but they also have a lot of interplay with good content marketing, too. They’re tricky, though. Since they’re so powerful, it’s important that they not be abused. They need to be used responsibly and honestly.
That’s a value we’re very proud of here at Colibri Digital Marketing. We’re the only B Corp-Certified digital marketing agency in San Francisco, so it’s even more important to us that we do marketing in a way that upholds our values. It’s also very important to us to help push for that kind of responsible conduct across our industry, so we wanted to take some time to explore these new marketing concepts, authenticity and storytelling, to find out how they can be misused and to help spread the word about how to use them genuinely.
Whether you’re a full service digital marketing agency or a business building a brand, using these practices properly will give your clients or your business a leg up, and you’ll be proud of the results you can achieve.
Authentic Sponsorship as Partnerships
Working with a sponsor can be a great experience, so long as you aren’t asked to fib or exaggerate to frame sponsored content as genuine.
This is especially visible in YouTube channels or on social networks, like Instagram or Twitter. It’s got a whole name: Influencer Marketing. Here’s a quick primer for those who haven’t previously encountered the term.
A person launches a personal account or brand on a particular network or channel. Let’s use YouTube as an example. Maybe I launch a channel where I review different devices, like laptops and cell phones. Down the line, I’ll expand into speakers, accessories, cameras, and just the sort of thing that will appeal to my (techy) audience.
Sooner or later, if I get a large enough following, I will be approached by a device manufacturer, who will offer to send me a free unit in exchange for a review. That unit will be mine to keep, or sell, or give to a friend. I’m now an influencer, because I have a trusted voice in the industry, and my audience will take my recommendations very seriously. My review unit will be paid for by that company’s marketing budget, as a way of getting the word out about the device’s features, price, availability, etc.
Now, the company isn’t necessarily paying me for a good review. It’s not that I would be expected to parrot ad copy. So long as everyone keeps it above board, it doesn’t have to be done in bad faith.
My review should be clear, and unbiased, but also honest. The company should be just as interested in my honest feedback as in my audience reach. That’s how influencer marketing can be considered a kind of partnership.
When it goes wrong, it’s because of either dishonesty or a lack of transparency. If I get paid for a good review, but I pretend that it’s genuine, I’m abusing my position as an influencer. And if I, the company, pay someone to lie on my behalf, I’m not doing responsible digital marketing anymore.
Authenticity refers just as much to the reality and honesty behind the content as to the personal presentation for which it’s become a by-word.
Storytelling in Content Marketing
LIke with Authenticity, Storytelling is another way of connecting with an audience, but where Authenticity talks about the reality of an experience, Storytelling is a way of using experience to demonstrate a brand or an experience impressionistically. In media, it might be the “show, don’t tell” approach.
It’s a great way of expanding a brand identity. It’s not a single, concrete concept, but rather a whole category for a way of connecting with an audience. Let me give you another example. In this example, I own, manage, and operate a small factory in the Midwest. Our brand is all about the great outdoors. We make hatchets, knives, cutlery — anything you could need to go on a days’ long hike and live off the land. Our team isn’t predominantly male or female, but we’re all in our late 20s or early 30s. Most of us have young families. Our demographics are more or less in line with our customers, so video and blog content work really well for our brand.
Our team recently went on a company retreat, a week-long hike and a climb up a mountainside.
Here’s where storytelling comes in.
Since our customer base is more or less in line with the demographic profile of our employees, they have subscribed to our Instagram and Twitter accounts just the way they would subscribe to their friends or colleagues. When they watch our feed, and see our trip documented, they aren’t watching it as a kind of advertisement or business outreach, but rather as a kind of social interaction.
That’s storytelling, in digital marketing, in a nutshell. It’s a way of leveraging social outreach to forge deeper connections with your consumer base.
Telling Tales or Sharing Stories
Since Storytelling doesn’t follow the standard “marketing” model, it doesn’t get filtered or treated with the same sort of care or criticality, so it can be misused to effectively bypass a consumer’s firewalls. Faking a personality to appeal to a social demographic is a lie and a betrayal, but social media is, unfortunately, a supremely effective tool for that kind of manipulation.
There’s a fine line between curating your self presentation and fabricating it. Adding emphasis here and there isn’t a problem. When our hypothetical rock climbers staged pictures knowing they would be shared on the business feeds, that wasn’t inappropriate because it wasn’t dishonest. They weren’t pretending to be something they weren’t.
That’s where Authenticity comes into it. It isn’t right to forge your identity to boost your sales, and it’s important to use these tools, Authenticity and Storytelling, responsibly.
Responsible Digital Marketing in Good Faith
Storytelling and Authenticity are two relatively recent digital marketing concepts, but as any good digital marketing agency will tell you, they follow the same rules as every other tool. Marketing isn’t about lying. It’s not about fibbing, or misrepresentation. No short-term boost in unwarranted traffic is going to spell long-term success for any business.
Marketing is about getting the word out, but that word has to be genuine. Storytelling is one more way for a consumer to connect with or experience a brand, but that experience should be real. Authentic. Responsible digital marketing is about sharing and communicating, not deceiving. As with any other digital marketing practice, honesty and genuity are core to responsible conduct and good governance.
Maybe to simplify, “what you see ought to be what you get.”
Colibri Digital Marketing
We’re the only full-service B Corp-certified digital marketing agency around. As such, we choose to work with businesses and brands that we can be proud to get the word out, about. When we share those stories, it’s with genuine interest and excitement because we believe that they have something great to offer. We’re proud of every single one of our clients.
If your business has a story to tell, get in touch! After a free digital marketing strategy session, we’ll be ready to help you tell it, authentically, honestly, and proudly.