Why Brands Need Authentic Content Marketing

By Rhonda Bradley / 17 October 2018

Discover tips for authentic content marketing that will help you build trust with your audience.

As our world continues to evolve digitally, consumers are becoming annoyed by and sometimes immune to self-promotional or manipulative content marketing techniques.

A recent survey found that 67% of people think content marketing is useful and valuable - but 33% believe content marketing is biased and unreliable. 

As digital audiences evolve and Generation Z takes its place as the next main body of consumers, these customers will more easily spot and ignore self-promotional or manipulative content. 

Authentic content marketing, on the other hand, entertains and educates in a way that builds trust with your audience and forms a strong and loyal connection.

In this article, we’ll help you get started with authentic content marketing by showing you examples of what authentic content is and isn’t. 

  1. What Is Authentic Content?
  2. Beware of Inauthentic Content Marketing Tactics
  3. Tips for Creating Authentic Content

What Is Authentic Content?

Authentic content marketing, referred to by some experts as a “new revolution in marketing,” is content that tries to genuinely be of service to its readers and its industry without trying to manipulate its audience. 

Anything that seeks to trick consumers is the opposite of authentic. And while most brands avoid overtly shady techniques, many fall into the trap of dishonest, but not illegal, advertising tactics because “everyone else is doing it.”

Beware Of Inauthentic Content Marketing Tactics

To clarify what authentic content marketing is, let’s take a look at what authentic content is not.

These common content marketing tactics can be misleading:

  • Native advertising/sponsored content
  • Instagram Pods
  • Outdated statistics
  • Stock photos

Native Advertising or Sponsored Content Is Not Authentic

Native advertising or sponsored content is a form of paid advertising that places promotional articles inline with news articles. 

It can be hard for the reader to spot the difference between genuine writing and sponsored content.

For example, MSN’s News mixes journalism with sponsored content. Both types of stories are presented in the same format, making it hard for readers to tell the difference between a genuine news story and promotional content.

MSN sponsored news story

In its sponsored content format, MSN stories can be filled with ads, some of them flashing. Meanwhile, the actual story takes up only a small part of the page.

Readers are forced to click through as many as 60 pages to read an entire story. 

This artificially increases the number of clicks that MSN receives on its website in order to increase “engagement” rates.

Instagram Pods Are Not Authentic Content Marketing

Instagram Pods are a promotional tactic designed to hack the Instagram algorithm so that a brand’s content get seen by more people. 

A pod is a group of people who join together and agree to interact with each other’s posts, no matter what the content is.

An Instagram Pod specifically is an organized group of businesses or brands who band together in an attempt to manipulate Instagram’s algorithm, and fellow Instagrammers, into thinking its members’ content is engaging. 

Black hat Instagram techniques
Source

Instagram Pods are a blackhat – or villainous – technique and are not authentic content marketing.

Outdated, Misleading Statistics Are Not Authentic

Including statistics in content can be a powerful way to add value to a piece. 

However, when statistics are outdated and intentionally re-published to appear current, then the reader is being manipulated and misled.

For example, the following article titled “61 Social Media Statistics to Bookmark for 2018” leads a reader to believe that she is browsing through current data. 

"61 Social Media Statistics for 2018" screenshot

Scrolling down the 61 statistics, this writer chose a random statistic to investigate. 

Clicking on the source link to #40 brings reveals the source of the statistics. In this case, it’s a breaking news story – dated February 11, 2015.

Outdated data screenshot

So, the data’s source is 3 years old and is not current after all. 

Although these type of discrepancies aren’t easily detected by readers, the publication is misleading their audience by providing readers with outdated information.

Misleading statistics are not authentic.

Stock Photos Are Not Authentic

While there’s nothing misleading or dishonest about using stock photos, you might want to reconsider how, or if, you use them in your marketing content.

If you’re trying to connect with an audience on a personal level, publishing a photo of a model isn’t a good choice because it can make your content feel impersonal.

For example, below is a high-quality picture of a woman, downloaded from UnSplash stock photo service. The image looks great! 

Stock photo

However, it’s not a true representation of your company or its culture. Stock photos can come across as disingenuous and cause you to lose trust with your followers if they are revealed to be fake.

Instead, try taking some pictures around the office or neighborhood where your brand is located. Sharing images of real people from your team lets your audience get to know you better and helps to build a connection.

Tips for Creating Authentic Content

Forbes Magazine writer Jason Demars believes that the industry will soon judge your brand based on the level of your content’s authenticity. He offers the following tips:

  • Avoid self-promotion
  • Create original content
  • Add a personal touch to your writing, such as humor or anecdotes

Here are some additional tips for building trust through authentic content:

1. Employ User-Generated Content and Campaigns.

Find ways to encourage your audience to share their own experiences through photos, videos, or stories. This is an excellent way to build authentic, trustworthy content across social media.

For example, GoPro cameras is encouraging users to share content by offering cash prizes and rewards for the best GoPro content.

GoPro content contest

Each day, GoPro selects the best submissions and shares them with their audience.

Contests like this are an engaging and authentic way to connect to audiences.

2. Cultivate Conversations on Social Media.

There are many ways to improve conversations between your brand and its audience, which is one way to build trust. One of the most reliable ways to cultivate conversations is to offer customer service on social media.

Responding promptly to customer service inquiries shows that your company cares about its audience. 

While social media customer service may seem daunting, it can be worth the effort because it’s a powerful way to show customers that you take their feedback seriously.

Furthermore, when you can include personality in your social media content, it’s even more engaging and authentic because it proves there’s a real person behind the computer screen.

Funny tweet

Tweets like the one above showcase your company's culture and invite conversations.

3. Allow Customers to Write Reviews of Your Products.

A good review system lets your customers connect with each other to make recommendations and share their stories. It’s an excellent form of starting real conversations on social media or on your own website.

Screenshot of Amazon reviews

Amazon is a good example of a brand that’s built trust with its customers by offering a review system.

Learn how to create a content marketing strategy.

Authentic Content Marketing Offers Long-Term Wins

When you choose authentic content as a way to market, you are doing more than selling a product or building a brand. You’re building a relationship with consumers which can lead to long-term, loyal customers. 

Brands who continue to contribute to their industry and serve their customers are on the right path to authentic content marketing. These are the brands that are most likely to weather changes, trends, and dips and maintain a loyal base of customers.

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