About a decade ago, “social media” was still a relatively new phenomenon. The phrase ‘brand’ as we use it today was not even all that well known. But the social networks that began largely with the intention of connecting friends and family had begun connecting businesses with potential customers. Many companies and services could use social media to market their products to a more widespread audience in unprecedented ways, and they took advantage of this opportunity.

By the end of the decade, social media had fully graduated from a fun new tool to a marketing mainstay. By 2017, over 90 percent of companies in the United States had established at least one social media account, with Facebook being the most popular for B2C Marketing, and LinkedIn the most common for B2B Marketing. With this massive growth in social media use came new ways of doing business(social media brands), and new ways of marketing(influencer marketing took off, for example. However, the oversaturation of social media accounts also caused problems for some businesses, particularly for startups and smaller brands and companies looking to grow their audience and make a noise in the vast oceans of Twitter or Instagram, seemingly drowned out by other content. It begs the question for marketers- how does one make themselves stand out?

You could surely try to answer this question by doing a deep dive into analytics, and looking at the most popular hashtags and trends that you should use. You could try to buy followers, attract the intention of popular online influencers, or attach your brand to a widely talked about political issue. And all or any one of these strategies could potentially work, if done correctly.

But there is another, simpler solution that should override any algorithm, hashtag, or automated feature: Be Authentic. Any company can release a statement with a lot of corporate jargon. Take the following statement for example: “Company X is strongly committed to our values, principles, and mission. We harness the power of synergy, creativity, technology, and innovation.” What does this statement actually mean? It could mean everything and nothing. It tells you nothing about what the company even does, what product they make or what service they provide. It doesn’t tell you what their values or principles are, or what their mission requires. Most notably, it doesn’t tell you how they plan on doing the things they say they will do, rather they just give you buzzwords that could have come from an algorithm created by a consulting company. The statement above may have been made up on the spot, but take a look at a lot of company’s websites and social media posts- far too often, they are strikingly similar.

Luckily, the solution to this problem is rather easy- just talk and act like a real person. Customers value authenticity and transparency when it comes to businesses just like they would for anything else. According to a 2016 survey from NBC News, 94 percent of customers strongly value brand transparency, and many of them would be willing to pay extra money if they feel that they can trust said brand. A 2018 Emarketer survey found that 81% of responders felt that companies needed to be more transparent on social media. What these people specified as to how to be more transparent varied, but if you are open with your customers, you will only be more likely to be able to fix these problems. So be responsive, and be as authentic as you possibly can- not only is it a good life lesson, but it could very well lead your business to great success.