July 10, 2018 | Nikki Sneed

How to Create Authentic Content


“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” 

 Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

That might sound a little extreme for something like writing social media posts or blogs, but I honestly don't think so. I'll put my bleeding heart aside for a moment and get technical: research consistently shows that purchasing choices are not influenced by logic. Emotions drive most consumer decisions.  

So, it's important to really connect with your consumers if you want to make sales, which I'm assuming you do. Truly connecting refines your audience, which makes people more likely to engage with you. It makes you an authority on your topic, which puts you at the top of people's minds when they go to make a buying decision. Authenticity adds value. 

And that connection isn't something you can fake. Your customers know if you're only pretending to understand them, just like you can tell when your parents are just nodding along politely when you try to explain your job to them.

Creating authentic content is a big deal, but I also genuinely believe that it is not difficult once you understand what to do. I can boil it down to three simple steps: understand your buyer persona, know what you're talking about, and stay on brand.   

Understand Your Buyer Persona

This step is vital to all parts of marketing, really. Spend time in the spaces that your personas occupy - digitally and physically. Learn what they're talking about, what's important to them, and how they're talking about it.

One of the greatest things about buyer personas is that they let you narrow your focus. Instead of trying (and failing) to market to everyone, you're marketing to a small group that you can really pay attention to. You can cover the topics that matter to them and really be helpful to your core audience. 

Let's check out BarkBox, a monthly subscription box full of toys and treats for your furry friends, as an example. 

From some quick internet sleuthing, I found out that an extremely significant portion of their website visitors are women without kids, mostly aged 25-34. I expect to see some humor, probably memes, and very cute dog pictures on their social media - and I was not disappointed. 

Screen shot of a BarkBox tweet with text "When I get 50+ likes on a picture and I expect the modeling contracts to come at any time" and a photo of a glamorous looking dog in a headscarf and sunglasses


As a woman without kids aged 25-34, I relate. Really though, this is the sense of humor I'm used to seeing among my friends and other people I follow online. And as you can see, it got engagement from users. Humor is a good tactic for this specific brand because, even though people take their dogs very seriously, a subscription box of dog toys is far from a somber product. It's clear that whoever's running the BarkBox social understands who they're reaching out to. 

Know What You're Talking About 

On my way to work the other morning, I heard an older radio DJ trying to define how ~*~all the kids these days~*~ are using the word "lit." I'm still recovering. 

Using slang that you don't naturally use in conversation should be saved for intentionally embarrassing your kids in front of their friends by asking what they're playing on the Playstations these days (even when it was clearly a N64, MOM). It's obvious when you're faking it, and it does not make you fit in with the group. You just look like this:

Steve Buscemi dressed as a "teenager" trying to fit in at a high school
Psh, a Music Band shirt? I bet he can't even name their top 54 albums. 

This can go the other way too - don't throw a bunch of technical or high-brow terms around if you aren't 100% sure you're using them correctly. As much as it hurt my soul to hear someone older than my parents* explain what the kids these days are up to (rebellion and petting dogs, mostly), I imagine it'd be pretty horrible to listen to me tell them how to run a radio show, too.

*I feel bad about (jokingly!) picking on my parents this blog post. They're delightful, and they always know the correct brand of my electronics.

Let's look at General Electric's Twitter for this one. 

Screen shot of a General Electric tweet about their plans for the future

Demographics for this one are slightly more men, still mostly aged 25-34, but followed very closely by other, older age brackets. GE knows that short video is extremely popular on social media right now, especially for their undoubtedly busy buyer persona. Renewable energy is a hot topic these days, and energy is clearly an area where General Electric would be an expert - they know what they're talking about. 

Stay on Brand

There's not always room for humor or personal anecdotes for your particular brand voice. But that doesn't mean you can't be authentic. Look at the General Electric tweet above as an example. They're taking a stand on something that matters to them and their buyer persona, they know what they're talking about, they're using a more serious tone - and they're coming across as authentic. 

Think of something unique and on brand to say for all your content, even if it's curated. If you're retweeting or posting someone else's content, don't just copy-paste the headline of the article as your own tweet. Every interaction with your customers is a chance to put your brand out there. 

One last thought on authenticity: own your mistakes. Even the biggest businesses are run by humans - and we make mistakes. From a typo in your tweet to saying something stupid or mean that you regret, admit you made a mistake, apologize, and learn from it so you don't do it again. Your customers will respect you for it, and it's the right thing to do.

Crafting Effective Buyer Personas-Click Here to Download


Nikki Sneed

Nikki Sneed

As VIEO's content marketing strategist, Nikki Sneed creates content strategy for VIEO and our clients. She works with the content team to create, document, and revise creative content strategies that help clients and customers better understand each other.

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