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Over the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about the importance of originality and how it’s absolutely essential if you want your content to be noticed. Authenticity is a key ingredient of original content. But what, exactly, is authenticity and why does it matter?
Why is authenticity important in content?
Michael Georgiou of Forbes says that “90% of customers mentioned authenticity as an important factor in deciding which brands they like and support.” Authenticity is particularly helpful for reaching millennials. Indeed, Peter Cassidy of Social Media Today notes that 90% of them say that brand authenticity is important.
Authenticity can also help you establish deeper connections with your customers. Georgiou states that a 2015 Harvard Business Review article found that “’fully connected’ customers are worth 52% more than ‘highly satisfied’ customers.” This can have practical benefits for you as well, as fully connected customers are more likely to give you word-of-mouth publicity.
Authenticity can also make your content stand out in a sea of AI-generated material. AI can marshal facts in a reasonable manner, but its attempts often feel superficial. A human touch instills an authenticity that the bots can’t yet match.
How can I be authentic with my content?
Being authentic doesn’t mean tweeting everything you eat or publishing a cri de cœur about how the death of your pet hamster in the 3rd grade still haunts you today. According to Michael Brenner of Marketing Insider Group, developing a consistent brand voice is a good place to start. It doesn’t matter if that voice is quirky, playful, or sober. Pick whatever feels the most natural for your purposes and stick with it. Be careful, though. We’ve all seen how cringeworthy it is when major brands clumsily coopt slang for their marketing efforts. Luckily, you can leverage your authenticity through brand stories, original research, or by writing for multiple platforms to reach as wide an audience as possible.
Brenner also discusses how brand stories can boost your authenticity. This doesn’t have to be something elaborate. For example, the History section of Warby Parker’s website once began by stating that their company “was founded with a rebellious spirit and a lofty objective: to offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.” It then describes how one of their founders lost his glasses on a backpacking trip during his grad student days, which inspired him to work to lower the cost of eyeglasses. Offering a personal narrative like that helps foster a connection with their customers.Similarly, Jonathan Turley celebrated achieving 68 million views on his blog by providing readers with some interesting facts about his publication to show how it’s grown over the years.
Brenner emphasizes that producing original content can help you bolster your authenticity. Andreea Serb echoes this point. “The idea is to make your content authentic, by supporting your arguments with advice, relevant data, and statistics from reputable sources and experts.” The Volokh Conspiracy recently did this by offering readers analysis of Article I, section 6, clause 1 of the US Constitution.
Put your interests in context
Okay, this is all well and good, but how should you go about actually creating authentic content? Dan Koe suggests that you should choose two or three interests to write about. You can then take each interest and place it in a wider context. To use one of Koe’s examples, if you’re interested in web design, you could broaden your horizons and also talk about business in general. Once you’ve identified a wider field, he recommends brainstorming a list of topics. With a topic like business, you could write about skill development or branding advice. The great thing about this approach is that, because it’s ultimately derived from something you’re actually interested in and knowledgeable about, it’s going to be a lot easier to produce content than if you were stumbling around with a topic you know nothing about.
When it comes to actually producing your content, Koe recommends using tweets as a sort of building block because they’re a good length for a variety of platforms, from TikTok to Instagram. This is good advice even if you’re the kind of writer who normally considers social media to be anathema. After all, people consume content in many different ways, and smart content creators write for as many of them as possible. He also recommends structuring your content around a hook > body > conclusion. It might seem simplistic at first glance, but it works. This post by Jean O’Grady of Dewey B Strategic shows how it can be done. The great thing about this structure is that it provides your readers with an orderly roadmap to follow.
Why authenticity matters
There’s lots of content on the web, and if you’re not careful, your hard work can be lost in all the noise. But producing authentic content will help you stand out. Find a brand voice and stick to it. Incorporate stories. Use original research whenever possible. When it comes time to actually create your content, think of the things that interest you and connect it to wider topics. Follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way to creating authentic and original content.
As mentioned above, using original research can help you hone your authenticity. For more information on original research, check out “How to use research to make your content stand out.”