The Incredible Power of Authenticity for Business & How Social Media can help you find it

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Authenticity. Freedom to be yourself. YOURSELF …. complete with all your glorious strengths and weaknesses.
To place yourself in your authenticity is a powerful place for both corporations and individuals. I’d like to spend a bit on why it is so important for companies and how Social Media can be an important tool in finding it.
As an example, let me brag on a favorite restaurant of mine in Calgary called Marathon. Located on 10th St NW in Calgary’s trendy Kensington district it serves up awesome Ethiopian fare.
A couple fundamental distinctions of Ethiopian food & culture. First, there are no knives and forks! Ethiopian ethnic delights are served up on a common platter on top of a spongy bread called Injera which you tear and use to scoop up your food. Second, Ethiopia runs on a 13 month calendar as compared to our 12 month calendar.
As with every single corporation out there, this restaurant comes with its strengths and weaknesses.
Some Strengths: Amazing & Fresh Food, Relaxed Atmosphere and Jazzy type music, Owners whose smiles and laughter could cheer up a continent.
Some Weaknesses: Their service can be slow. Parking can be limited in the area.
Whether you are happy with this restaurant will depend on your goals for going there. If you want a quick bite before heading out to a movie or play you will almost certainly end up being extremely frustrated and disappointed if not angry. If you are there for business there will be a moment of awkwardness as you both weren’t quite prepared to share a platter never mind doing so with your bare hands/fingers (you can get knives and forks if you ask but by this time it may be too late!)
However, if your goal is to spend some quality time with a person you love or want to get to know better, then this is the perfect place. You won’t feel the rush to vacate your table for the next “shift”. The slowness of service won’t matter as you fully engage in conversation with your partner over a glass of wine and some relaxing music. The wait will seem worth it when you taste this fresh and fantastic fare with its complex flavours from spicy berbere dishes to comfort food lentil based creations all brought together perfectly by a sweet vinegar salad that refreshes your palette for every next bite. As your hands cross the platter to gather your next mouthful it brushes against your partner’s hand which is reaching for something on your side. You get the picture… It can be incredible.
I think the danger for business comes when we try to be everything to everyone. Marathon’s long term success will come in marketing itself simply for what it is. Unique flavors, Great People and a leisurely dining experience. I think there is a huge market in any city for that.
When we figure out our authenticity as a business, our authenticity being our strengths and the real, true experience customers will have when they engage us in our environment, great things happen.
a) We attract people looking for what we have to offer and we can just be relaxed and genuinely ourselves in serving them. A fundmental truth in managing people is to know that fundamentally people don’t change. If you are constantly trying to be someone else in your life as a business, it will be a tough road.
b) We push away potential clients who would only be dissatisfied and angry with our products and services. You cut down on the huge cost of trying to service that segment of our customer base today and you don’t have them walking out of your business telling 10 friends about how crappy your product/service/business is.
Here’s where I believe every business needs to leverage the power of Social Media. You see in the old days that dissatisfied customer would talk to those 10 friends over the phone. You couldn’t see it, hear it which meant you couldn’t react to it. My experience as a Retail Manager suggests that 9 out of 10 dissatisfied customers leave your store and never come back without ever confronting you on your issue (giving you a chance to make them happy).
Today, instead of talking to 10 friends on the phone, they are talking to thousands of friends on the Web! While the viral nature of web reviews and comments seem daunting, it actually should be viewed as an opportunity.
You see in the old days you couldn’t react to the complaining because you didn’t hear their phone conversations. Today, whether your company has a formal presence in Social Media or not, it doesn’t stop the public from talking about you in these channels.
The opportunity is to listen. Google Alerts, for example lets you have Google keep an eye out for any new entries on the Web that contain search terms which you define. One of them should be your company or product name and any shortforms of it. When new “discussions” appear on the web, Google emails you automatically and points you to it.
You may or may not like what you hear but feedback is the essence of any businesses growth and it will be powerful in helping you define your authenticity in the eyes of your customer base (which is often different then what we see it as). Your authenticity will then allow you to be targetted with the search tags and keywords you use in helping the right audience find you.
If it is on average 10 times more expensive to attract a new customer then retain an old one then you should delight in your new ability to respond to these customer concerns and potentially turn bad experiences into raving fans for your business.
I encourage you to start embracing various Social Media platforms for the opportunity it gives you to find your authenticity. My last thought: “You may be able to eak out a living outside of your authenticity, but you will find LIFE when you dare place yourself in it.”
David Benjatschek is a professional speaker/workshop facilitator who works with Emerging Leaders to set them up for success.

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David Benjatschek is a professional business speaker/trainer, motivating audiences across North America. His 15 year career in Oil & Gas primarily focused on the transportation sector. Also an accredited photographer, David is the driving force behind and the Wowtrucks® Calendar: Canada's Big Rig Calendar.

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  • While I agree with some of the sentiment in your article, to say that all business should embrace Social Media is a gross oversimplification. A successful Social Media campaign takes a lot of time (or money, if you can afford to hire someone to do it for you. Most small business owners simply don’t have the time to spend on Social Media and nor should they. For small business, particularly restaurants as cited in your example, word-of-mouth marketing is the best way to get your reputation out there.
    Good product, exceptional service and a friendly atmosphere will bring people. Plus, if the restaurant focusses on those points, they won’t have to worry about ‘bad’ press on social media. Social Media is unproven for large businesses selling to other large businesses where relationship is much more important than your latest tweet, or number of ‘likes’ on your facebook page.
    Business has to concentrate on its core activites. Make a good product, use the tools necessary to reach out to people. Have a well rounded campaign, which includes the old traditional medium. Social Media itself will not bring in the business if you have an average product or service.

  • John,
    Thank you for your post. You’ve raised some great points and I think as you mentioned we agree on the general concepts. It is a huge topic. Backing up what you said:
    1) Authentic does mean that your product backs up the “expectation”. If you don’t have good product.. nothing else matters. Absolute truth.
    I encourage companies to have the realization that what “Good” is will be different for different segments of clients depending on their goals. Market to the segments that appreciate your specific delivery of Good so you don’t waste marketing dollars on deaf ears or eventually dissatisfied clients.
    2) I love that you mentioned that Social Media is NOT FREE. It is the biggest cautionary thing I threw out in the workshop
    I took across Canada. It definitely is not. There can be a huge investment in time/ effort and programming costs. Any Social Media Strategy should be
    realistic given the resources available. If that means presence in only one channel then so be it.. start measuring the ROI of that channel and
    decide by comparing to traditional marketing ROIs where you want to focus on. I think every company should start a Social Media presence and in measuring all channels, continue to throw their dollars where it gets the biggest return.
    3) I also really like your comment of “Business needs to focus on its core activities”. For some businesses who don’t have Social Media savy inhouse they may choose to outsource to someone to do it for them.
    4) You are absolutely right about Business to Business Marketing not necessarily being effective on Facebook. For example, I don’t have a business page on Facebook because like potentially yourself I need to reach certain positions inside a company. I do have one for Wowtrucks (my transport photography hobby/passion)because it lets me effectively talk with a community of individuals. LinkedIn is an essential channel for me on the speaking side. It is where that community of HR professionals live and are looking to connect on a Business to Business level.
    A friend of mine is a Professional Tiler in BC and his work shirts have the slogan of “A Business Built on Referals” on it. As you mentioned word of mouth is the best way to build a business. 78 percent of people make choices based on referals. Social Media just takes word of mouth and makes it potentially “World of Mouth” by supersizing a referal’s reach past the limited scope of Face to Face and phone call interactions. All will continue to happen going forward and are extremely important.
    The business case for Social Media should not just be New Clients. I think for larger companies a huge source of savings will come from the Customer Service potential of social media. You are right in that you may not react to every latest tweet but I encouraged my workshop participants to at least listen to them. As a whole they will give you a great idea about what people think you do well and don’t do well. Responding to customer concerns on Social Media can also turn a “negative” tweet or facebook entry into a marketing oppotunity for your company by demonstrating you care and turn dissatisfied clients into Raving Fans.
    Thanks for widening the discussion on the original post. It is an important topic. Here’s a link to a Youtube Video called Social Media Revolution that effectively demonstrates the power Social Media can have for your company.