“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” ~Judy Garland
Fall conference season for the automotive industry means it’s a time for me to travel around the country evangelizing Social Media marketing and online reputation strategy. I was in Orlando recently for an independent auto dealers convention. These are non-new-car-franchise dealers who are thirsty for information and are challenged when it comes to digital marketing.
I meet all kinds of audiences and people who are just like you and me. We connect to stories we hear and we work hard every day to stay successful. If we remain steadfast in our story, our “Why Buy Here” proposition, what we publish on Social sites will continue to engage. All Social Media content must be real, authentic and useful.
We all strive to connect and when corporations’ zeal to make profit gets between that, the customer experience suffers.
Disney Corporation runs the Orlando hotel where the conference was held and everywhere you look there’s something fake. I grew up around Disneyland and over the years it’s gotten more and more commercial; less and less authentic. At check-in they gave me a “wrist band” that doubles as a room key and credit card. They didn’t ask me if I wanted it, they just forced it on me. Truthfully, it felt much more like handcuffs for Disney jail. I’m sure it tracks everything I do while on the property (or elsewhere). I guess they’ll be disappointed that I didn’t go for the $8 yogurt in the convenience shop.
I took my morning walk around the “lake” and found signs that said “Cast Members Only.” I felt like I was in The Truman Show for a bit but then I heard a leaf blower. Excuse me but if you’re really putting on a show for your audience, shouldn’t you at least be consistent? Is the leaf blower part of the show?
Along my walk everything was a staged presentation. It felt like that Twilight Zone where the couple has a hard night partying and they wake up to find they’re in a weird town where everything’s fake and they hear a little girl laughing. Manufactured “beauty” is off-putting. I found it similar to what I see on a lot of dealerships’ Facebook pages. Contrived content with no heart. When you stand in front of a Van Gogh painting, you can feel the essence of him. When you walk around a dirty man-made lake with corporately-placed foliage, it’s just not the same feeling.
Thankfully, the foliage attracts real wildlife. Ah, I thought, nature has made it so Disney can’t completely annihilate all the natural beauty. There were some squirrels having fun in the tree. They were digging in the manufactured wood chip ground cover for tasty morsels. It was so fun to watch them just doing their thing. As humans, we all connect to what’s real. We recognize it intuitively and you can’t fake it.
In Simon Sinek’s TED talk about the Golden Circle, he speaks about how all businesses know what they sell and how it’s superior but that many of those businesses don’t ever establish why they do what they do. Unless you establish your Why, he says, you won’t be tapping into a prospect’s Limbic Brain, which drives behavior. If you know why you do what you do, you can communicate it to staff, communicate it through marketing to your audience and, if done right, compel action (ie: sales). People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
So I was struck, as I stood looking out over the water at the fake Mayan ruins site that, to truly win in this online arena, you have to get real. If you come from a fake place, you can stand on a stage and tell everyone you’re authentic but with Social Media you’ll eventually be found out. The realness doesn’t stop with just you. You must also do a good job of enlisting employees in the realness (in the why).
It comes down to a decision that depends on you. Are you willing to go all in and do the real thing? Or will you deliver a fake version of yourself and your business? Maybe you just want to sit back and wait. Sit back and think it will all blow over and we’ll go back to business as usual circa 2007.
With many of the manufacturers, most recently America Honda, announcing a shift in their marketing budget to allocate 30% to Social Media, now is the time to break through, get real and take action.
Most of us have been through some kind of transformation in this recession. Personal, career, relationships, or business – we’ve had a wake up call. Don’t try to go back to sleep. The social web is forcing us all to show our authentic selves. Do your best to be real, establish your Why, and let your employees tell your story. Your content will engage more people, even if it’s not bright and cheery. No one is expecting you to be 100% positive, 100% of the time. Show your flaws, be willing to look human. It will help you get even deeper into your Why.