you can’t outsource authenticity.

Recently I made a comment on Twitter about a talented singer-songwriter and, a few days later, received an @ reply from someone suggesting I get said artist’s latest single. Curious, I checked the account to see it bragging about its “digital marketing clients” including a pretty decent roster of performers.

Too bad the whole thing is all kinds of wrong.

A couple years ago, I mentioned singer/songwriter Pete Yorn in a tweet. You know who responded and started following me?

Pete Yorn.

Pete Freaking Yorn.

Pete The Freaking Man Himself Yorn.

Not someone repping “digital marketing clients.” The artist himself, who tweets as he tours the country, promotes himself well but also shows his human side. And while I had sort of drifted from watching his career, I’ve bought all three records he’s released since.

Why? Because, strange as it seems, I feel a connection with him. Not with the team that handles him as a “digital marketing client,” but Pete Freaking Yorn.

Because I don’t go to Twitter to get marketed to. I go there for conversations.

If you’re an artist — or a company or an organization — who is a “digital marketing client,” you’re missing the boat. Sure, you can have people help you learn about social media, assist with a drawing up a digital strategy, but only you can be you. Heck, I bought two albums from the band Vancougar after discovering their tweet about attending a roller derby bout. Authenticity is the currency of social media, and you can’t outsource authenticity.

Look, I’m nobody special, yet I’ve had all kinds of performers follow me (or follow me back) and engage me in conversation. That makes me want to stay connected. To their music. To their brand, to use the marketing term.

I think most agencies struggle in the world of social media because they can’t do authenticity as well as their clients. They can’t converse when they focus on pushing messages. They can find suckers to pay them to tweet … then they spew marketing taglines and no one responds.

Because we don’t talk to taglines.

We don’t talk to entities repping their “digital marketing clients.”

We talk to people. It’s personal. It’s conversational. It’s authentic.

It’s what every performer who wants a presence on social media should be doing … themselves! Personally. Conversationally. And authentically.



Filed under Web

16 responses to “you can’t outsource authenticity.

  1. Couldn’t agree more with your post here. Social media is just something too “high touch” to outsource and no external person or agency will be able to “do it for your” effectively.

    After working at a digital agency running social campaigns for clients, I realized there’s going to be a big digital divide in the future between organizations that “get” and “live” social or that fall entirely behind the times.

  2. Tim Nekritz

    Exactly! And I agree with your similar post on the subject. When will people learn: It’s not much different than outsourcing phone conversations or email … it’s about conversations.

  3. Andrew Gossen

    I couldn’t agree more. Your voice (personal or institutional) is your most precious asset. Why surrender that willingly to someone who can’t possibly know it as well as you do? Unless, of course, you don’t really have something you want to say…in which case, maybe saying nothing is the best practice.

  4. Lou Borrelli

    Rock on, Tim… The fact famous folks have handles @TheREAL(fill in the blank) makes me dizzy in a bad kind of way….”keep it real” used to mean something…Reality TV is anything but….roller Derby is the only authentic sport left in America (suck up line just for you)….

    Keep looking inside your head…there’s some good sh*t in there.

  5. As usual, great post. I, too, find myself feeling connected to the bands/people who participate on Twitter. Matchbox Twenty confirmed for me in an @reply that band members take turns tweeting from the account, and I’ve been glued to their stream ever since. I tweeted a blog link once about how the TV show “Project Runway” is using social media, and Nina Freaking Garcia (to borrow your naming convention) responded. Did she read my blog? I have no idea, but I will forever love her for making me think she might have.

  6. Kati

    Nailed it. You’re right on. Back in my consulting days I encountered many institutions that want community management done for them and don’t want to actually dive in to fully understand how it works. You can definitely have someone help train you and plan a strategy, but it’s only genuine when it comes from the real source. Cheers for authenticity!

  7. John Lucas

    Just followed Pete Yorn! 🙂

  8. Tim,

    I’m going to throw a different point of view into the ring. While I think it’s true that organizations/bands etc should manage their social media primarily themselves, it isn’t always possible to do at scale, and calling in some help is reasonable course of action when there is a need to ‘man the helm’ in those off times.

    Also a summer intern or even a staff member tweeting for a university-level is no more authentic than an agency doing it.


  9. Tim Nekritz

    ANDREW: “Voice” is a great way of putting it. It’s something discussed in social media 101 and basic branding — “if you were a Twitter account, what would you sound like?” etc. — so it’s strange that people outsourcing tweets or the agencies handling them have no problem forfeiting this important consideration. And if a brand has nothing worth saying, that’s a whole different problem …

    LOU: Well, thanks! And don’t get me started on so-called “reality TV.” Plus, of course, hockey’s a plenty real sport … go Lakers!

    ALAINA: Those are some great stories! Any kind of connection like that seems so much more meaningful.

  10. Tim Nekritz

    KATI: Thanks! Outsourcing community management makes about as much sense as outsourcing resident assistants. Sure, there are live bodies there, but they’re not really members of the community.

    JOHN: Ha! Like any of us, he seems to have his productive and non-productive days, but I really like some of the things on his feed.

    MIKE: Different points welcome, friend! But I would politely disagree with your second point: A college is a sum total, or a mosaic (to use a Canadian term) of its community members. If well run, it embodies the organization’s priorities, voice and currency and tweets from a kind of institutional pulse.

  11. Completely agree!!!

    I will not follow a celebrity if they are not pushing their own content — and I am more likely to purchase the products of an artist that humanizes themselves with their own twitter content.

  12. Tim, lol I agree with your comment on my second point in theory. However, in reality I think that’s mostly just lip service from university. University’s are too big and complex to have an intentional institutional pulse (one exists but it’s purely by accident). And, even if an intentional one did exist I don’t think folks external to the organization would know or care about it enough to be able to tell the difference between an internal staff member or an outside agency tweet. 😉

  13. Still think it was funny when I called out Guy “Smoke-n-Mirrors Douchebag” Kawasaki for outsourcing all his tweets to which he appeared like Nessie from the deep from an entirely different Twitter account he, errr, his unpaid interns, use, to taunt me showing, he may not do any of his own tweeting but has a ghost account from which he, out of vanity, will scour Twitter for people who may talk bad about him. His trolling did get me more followers though.

  14. Tim Nekritz

    ARMAHILLO: Exactly. I’d rather see no account than an account that is completely fake or poorly done automation.

    MIKE: Maybe I’m a kind of romantic or anthromorphisizer, but I tend to think that institutions, to a degree, do have a soul or a pulse. It’s a fine philosophical point, so we’ll have to agree to disagree … perhaps over a beverage when I’m in Canada.

    COLIN: Ah, good times. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, and the wizard usually isn’t a wizard after all.

  15. It takes individual courage to be authentic. Blogging, Facebook posts and tweets, done well, are a self-expression of a human being. Companies have to find someone within to take this on and they have to be willing to be vulnerable. Social media is not for the faint-hearted.

  16. Pingback: You Can’t Outsource Authenticity: | Rootfire

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