social authenticity

Digital strategist, Steve Downes, shares his thoughts on this year’s most important social media trend.

Consumer cynicism will be the real transforming social media marketing trend of the next 12 months.

2016 was the year in which the warm and cuddly social media of its childhood matured and became a bit of a BEAST. Rows, trolling, bullying, controversies and the like grabbed as much space as positive content and our favourite funny cat videos.

And we entered the post-truth era. For those of you not au-fait with post-truth (the Oxford English Dictionary’s Word of the Year 2016) it defines our culture as now being one in which public opinion is largely influenced by appealing to base emotions rather than the actual details or, indeed, the truth of an issue.  It is generally accepted that the truth of a point is secondary to the point being made.

This has led to the explosion of ‘fake news’ on social media, which has entered the public psyche through the big stories of 2016 like Brexit and Trump.

Public cynicism was stoked further by stories like the VW emissions scandal. If one of the most trusted brands in the world can cheat…

The upshot of all this is a huge consumer distrust of what it is being fed on social media channels by politicians, the media and, yes, brands and marketers. Even national favourites like the John Lewis Christmas ad are being met by negative and cynical reactions.

This is the biggest challenge you will face this year. You can assume that all your content, paid-for or not, will be met by a very wary and cynical eye. Messaging will be all important. These are the words you need to learn, for they will determine your social media marketing success – AUTHENTICITY and TRANSPARANCY.

The Euromonitor Top 10 Global Consumer Trends for 2017 has just been published and its key finding is this… “Consumers are now more demanding of products, services and brands than ever before and are using digital tools to articulate and fulfil their needs. They want authenticity in what they buy…”

If you’re going to use words/phrases like biggest, best, cheapest, leading, discount, new, etc. you’d better be ready to prove them, because consumers are waiting to take you to task.

Last year, I was preaching how you must create great content that is educational, informative and entertaining. I would now preface all those words with authentic and provable.

If the public is becoming cynical towards brands, be more human in your messaging, tone and personality. Be more playful to break down the barriers of mistrust. Strive to make your marketing, as much as possible, one to one rather than one to many. Which is where the potential of massaging apps comes in.

In 2017 you need to add a checklist to every piece of content you put out on social media:

Is it true?

Is it believable?

Can we prove it?


If you want a future social media approach, my suggestion would be…KEEP IT REAL.

This is an excerpt from the ‘Future of Marketing’ report, available to download now