Saturday, August 15, 2009

Is authenticity the new transparency?

I've been all up in social media's grill for quite some time now and it's very easy to start talking the talk. But I have a high bullshit sensor and really hate "bizspeak." Masterminding, low-hanging fruit, and taking a conversation offline all make me want to claw my face off. I realize that some work-specific vocabulary is necessary but much of it strikes me as pure posturing.

These days, I've been hearing a lot about the importance of "authenticity" and "being authentic." These words are being bandied about with as much abandon as "transparency" was last November. I admit that I've used these terms. Who hasn't asked an antique dealer if an oak clawfoot table is actually authentic? And, yes, I've used them when describing the importance of real, true social networking and communications, because there are a lot of phonies, blowhards, and chuckleheads out there in cyberspace. You can't see, hear, or reach out and touch someone when he sends a tweet. How do you know if it's worth your time to click on a link? Is it going to be a blog that touches the soul or captures the imagination? Or is it going to be an ad for penile implants? Sometimes you just don't know.

But you can increase your chances of striking cyber gold if you are engaging in social media regularly (and by engaging, I mean having conversations, reading your streams, posting your own compelling content, and not just stalking your twitterfeed and facebook home page). You can see someone's tweets, status lines, and thoughts over time and get a sense of their credibility, their authenticity.

And what speaks to me as authentic may not resonate with you at all. We have to find our own tribes, or twibes, as the case may be, and work on building our own, ugh, authenticity within them. Don't retweet everything you see. Don't hashtag people for #followfriday unless you really are digging on them. There is a buttload of quantity out there (which is admittedly hard to stomach if you're a professional writer like me who values great writing and likes to get paid for it); help yourself and your tribe sift through it. Recommend the things and people you truly like, write to your personality and not your bottom line, and seek out strong voices within the social media din. You'll come through loud and clear.

But remember: please use "authentic" sparingly or I might have to cybersmack you.

What's your definition of "authentic?" Are you fed up with this or any other buzzword these days?

You can find me on twitter @Jennifer_Worick or on Facebook. Follow me, friend me, join my tribe/twibe.

(A great book about building credibility within social networking is The Whufffie Factor by social media maven Tara Hunt, @MissRogue on twitter.)


Shauna said...

Jennifer, I really enjoyed this post. I agree...and at some point, let's stop talking in broad brush strokes about social media and start talking about real results, real stories and the passionate people behind the ideas. Thanks for the nudge to deepen our conversations.

Jeremy said...

It's amusing to me, actually. I think people are confusing transparency with authenticity - and likely understand neither term.

We're as transparent as we want to be, for safety reasons, for personal reasons, etc.

We're as authentic as we want or need to be. One of the nicest compliments I've had from a bunch of people on Twitter is that I am extremely authentic, meaning that I'm the same in person as I am online. Not many people can say that, because not many people are going to be that honest. Or, well, transparent and authentic.

Punkinhead said...

but is the penile implant an AUTHENTIC penile implant??

Sorry - that's just me being me.

Elizabeth C. said...

Love the topic. Love your photo. Being authentic to me is about working hard to be true to my voice, vision and values in the face of a lot of pressure from all the thousands of others out there. You would think this would be easy but I find it a real challenge.

Thanks for creating this forum. It is about time there is a place where I can read about social media from someone who is telling me something I need to know to succeed!

Maya said...

So true Jennifer - am a little exhausted myself.

This is one of the things there is no point talking about - people get it or don't. And it is not social media, it is life.

People will see thro us sooner or later and if a person is not working on it, oh well, they had better be.

We define authentic for ourselves and validate it with what we get back, i think.

mduette said...

You know what I love? The fact that I am not alone in using the word 'chucklehead.' That makes me, perhaps, happier than it should, but there you go.

I have to agree about 'authenticity.' It would appear that anything that gets bandied about enough becomes popular and therefore loses all meaning....yes, I'm talking to you, Acai berry, the phrase 'is the new black,' and pomegranate-flavored everything.

I used to wonder how cliches were made. Now I know.

Chris said...

This is so spot on. My BS threshhold is so low that I'm not long for becoming one of those grizzled old ladies hollering out the window about kids on the lawn. But at the same time, I get so jazzed about so many things that I can't help but yell about them and clap my hands with delight. I try to allow others that kind of enthusiasm without calling them disingenuous, because life is short enough without refusing to crush on things. I live for a crush or two. And I like what you said about learning, with enough social networking, to tune your own guage for the 'real deal' factor. The real deal will out.

And if it don't, watch out for my cane!

Softflexgirl said...

"Twibes" - nice!

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