Authentic: “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character” (Merriam-Webster)
Ethical: “in accordance with principles of conduct that are considered correct, esp those of a given profession or group” (The Free Dictionary)
There was a time when computer / smartphone screens could not hide us from the world. People’s glances were often enough to trigger some sort of self-awareness that prevented us from behaving in ways that could destroy our reputations.
The beautiful thing about social media is that it has allowed introverts to come forward and share their voices with the rest of the world. Unfortunately, it has also given many a false sense of unlimited possibilities, and the incentive to do things that are often questionable. Natural boundaries have been blurred.
“If you don’t like what you see on my wall, unfollow me. I am free to say whatever I want,” some businesses respond to those who complain about their unethical behaviors.
Actually, no. As a brand, you are not allowed to share anything that crosses your mind publicly. Unless, of course, you want to go bankrupt.
Without the support of your audience, you have no business. Ask Chick-Fil-A, Celeb Boutique, and Applebee’s. While they still have customers, their recent faux pas will be remembered for years — and maybe decades.
“So, how can I remain authentic while putting ethics in the forefront,” you ask.
Some will tell you that there is no easy answer to such a question. I, for one, beg to differ. It is actually very simple.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I want a child to see what I share?
- Are my (personal) opinions on the topic at hand relevant to what I do and my brand?
- If someone used my work without my permission or crediting me, would I find it acceptable?
- Am I willing to take responsibility for my mistakes?
Ethics is your most important currency in this digital world. Just like authenticity. Without them, you are nothing.
There is a huge difference between being “personal” and “personable”. In the first case, you share your daily routine with your audience — and in every kind of mood. In the second, you only tell them about challenges and stories that matter. And you do it in a positive way because you want to create a bond with your followers.
Audiences get tired of perfection or moodiness quickly. However, they will always stand behind a brand that is respectful of their time, remains true to its principles, and lets its employees take central stage when needed.
In a nutshell, they want to feel the human touch.