If you’ve been anywhere near a social media marketer in the past 12 months, you’ll have noticed that the words authentic, authenticity and genuine have been used so much that actually, they now don’t really mean *anything*.
How can you be genuine and authentic on social media if you are using a professional persona?
If your life is highly curated into a stunningly beautiful Instagram feed, are you really showing off your real life, or your “reel life”, as the marvellous Jenna Kutcher likes to call it?
People are becoming wise to the word “authentic”. It’s now viewed in the same vein as “literally” – you know, when someone says they are literally on cloud nine right now, when what they actually mean is figuratively. The meaning of the word “literally” remains the same as ever, but in conversational English, the meaning has changed: we accept its use instead of piping up “well, actually, I think you meant to say figuratively there, not literally”.
Why don’t we do this? Because while we would be technically correct, we’d also be seen as rude, or patronising, or condescending.
But what happens when we flip that script?
When we as marketers start to tap into buzz words and trends without really understanding what they mean, we’re exposing ourselves as being (at best) a little bit dim, or (at worst) downright manipulative.
For example, let’s take a look at the Body Positivity movement. This movement was started because there was a lack of representation of women of colour, of differently abled women, women over the age of 25, and of “plus sized” women in advertising. At its roots, body positivity is about acceptance of ALL bodies, just as they are, without photoshopping, skin lightening, nip & tucking and injecting until you no longer look like yourself: instead, you look as close to the beauty ideal of the day/month/year as you can possibly get.
Body positivity is where phrases such as “living your best life”, “body confidence”, and “radical self love” have stemmed from.
But, take a look at the top results I got when searching #bodypositivity on Instagram:
Personally, I see three bodies that I would call plus size. I see one woman of colour. I see no differently abled women in these results (of course, I could be wrong here – not all disabilities are visible).
So, where are the women who started the movement? Where are the men and women for whom this movement was actually created?
The body positivity movement has been commodified as a marketing tool, predominantly by people who don’t actually need this movement, and because of this the original meaning of body positivity has changed: it has become inauthentic.
Posting a cute selfie of you at the gym or eating a teeny tiny salad under the hashtag body positivity means that you are taking something that does not belong to you.
“That movement is not for me,” she said. “That movement was designed for women who are discriminated against, like in front of doctors and in our society, because of their size. That is a must-have movement for those people. I am slender, so I’m not discriminated against, because of my size.
I believe in just not thinking about your body, and I have the luxury of being able to do that because I’m not being constantly persecuted for my size.”
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BODY LIBERATION! Why we should stop saying “everyone needs body positivity” when we feel shut out of the BoPo conversation. We do ABSOLUTELY all need to learn to stop hating our bodies. But that particular movement exists because other people who are bigger, are not believed by doctors, who are abused in the street and who can’t find clothing in their size are the ones that movement was designed for. If that’s not you, or if Bopo is still too much of a challenge for you, because it’s hard to actively love something society is always attacking (which is so unfair because we have the fucking RIGHT to love ourselves) then you can join us at @i_weigh in Body Liberation, whatever your size may be, if you like. Read up the history of the body positive movement and let’s all learn how to support those who are being actively attacked for their size without taking up their space. I constantly get labeled by the media as the “face of bopo” but that’s without my announcing that about myself. In fact, I have been trying to clear that up for over a year. At @i_weigh we are trying to focus on the inside not the outside. That’s not to say we don’t support BoPo. We do. It’s just not our lane.
This answer sealed my opinion of Jamil as a true class act. She could easily have jumped on the body positivity bandwagon and used it to get some more followers, more likes, more attention. Instead, she has called attention to the fact that some people are sneakily riding on the coat tails of a movement that was never designed for them, as a way of “hacking” the social media algorithms.
And what does that make these people?
In the worst case scenario, they could be considered outright liars.
So, how can you avoid authentic inauthenticity?
Firstly, do some research. Are the people that you want to have genuine conversations with part of a movement that you think you should target?
Do you have anything of value to offer them?
Why do you want to target them?
Can you solve their pain?
And can you do it without directly selling to them? Don’t target women who champion body positivity with a diet plan. The only thing you will do here is p*** them right off.
Do you have something that will genuinely make their day better, that will make them feel heard and important, or are you only looking at them as floating dollar signs?
If your answer was floating dollar signs, then step away. You will not win them over. You will not convert them into raving fans or brand ambassadors. You will convert them into enemies, who will trash both you and your product.
If you’ve made a mistake, own up to it!
What’s the first thing you should do if you’ve upset someone? You offer them a genuine apology. Not a “well, I’m sorry you feel that way” non-apology: give them a heart felt apology, and then thank them. Yes, I said thank them.
Why? Because they’ve drawn a mistake to your attention. They’ve given you a different viewpoint to consider. They’ve highlighted an area that you need to do more market research on. And – most importantly – they have given you an opportunity to be human, and to have a valuable conversation with a potential customer.
Even if they NEVER buy anything from you, they’ve given you something that is worth more than money. They’ve given you the chance to show the humanity behind your brand. You have the opportunity to be gracious here – don’t squander it.
Users of social media are becoming ever more aware of manipulation. Call out and cancel culture is rife.
Make sure that you protect your business and brand integrity by being on the right side of these conversations.
And if you’re not sure, then ask your followers!
They will be delighted that you care about their opinions, and you get to avoid a potentially very sticky situation.
Win, win, hey?