Social media has long been a resource for bringing businesses and consumers together, opening communication and bridging the gap that once existed between a brand and their current and potential customers.

Social media, on almost every platform, is rich in both consumers and promotional opportunities. From paid advertising, product placement, celebrity endorsement, and more, there is no shortage of possibilities when it comes to building an online strategy.

One of the most exciting changes I have seen, however, is an increase in power among small boutique companies and everyday people rather than a domination from large brands and big-name celebrities. A small company that gains a lot of traction on social media usually means they are doing something creative and fun that caught the attention of a wide audience.

I believe that the increase in power given to small companies and individuals is largely due to the fact that people want an “authentic” experience – an idea that an image or lifestyle portrayed is attainable. This has become more challenging than ever as the line between self-promotion and marketing has blurred. Individual posters with a large following are now being paid by brands to promote a specific product, clothing line, makeup brand, etc. Unfortunately, this has caused an overall lack of trust online, which can put brands at a disadvantage.

Before, when consumers saw a “real” person posting, they tended to trust them over a brand. In recent years, however, the idea that what individuals post is an actual portrayal of their everyday life has gotten some push back, and the word “authentic” is now more of a joke, than an actual sentiment.

The Instagram account Socality Barbie is a great social commentary on individuals treating their personal social media account like a brand, making calculated decisions and posting what they want their followers to see in an attempt to shape a certain image. [Update: this account has recently closed]

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On November 2nd, an 18-year-old social media star from Australia, Essena Oneill, denounced her online persona, confessing that this image has lead to depression, obsession, and loneliness. She has a lot to say about the saturation of marketing and advertising in personal social media accounts and the negative effect it has on the poster, as well as his or her followers.

Her focus is now on her new website called “Lets Be Game Changers” to tell her story and encourage others to take charge of their lives. As marketers, we have to be aware of this younger audience and how their lifelong involvement in social media is going to change their engagement with brands online in the future.

A younger audience, who has grown up on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, is not easily fooled by what is an ad and what is organic or “authentic.” This does not mean that ads are not effective for this, or any other demographic, but there are two strategies to consider. In our culture, posing and posting is ingrained in our everyday activity. In order for there to be a positive reaction that inspires the viewer to share another individual’s or company’s content, there has to be some sort of emotional draw.

A good example of this is the Dollar Shave Club video that gained more than 5 million views in just three months. Beyond the fact that it features a bear (not real) and a machete (real), it has an undeniable appeal through character, comedy, and a blue collar message that appeals to more than just their target market. The majority of people who watched this video probably live in the United States and, even if a fraction of these viewers actually convert to customers, this video continues to provide ongoing, indirect value for their brand.

For a small company, a video like this can change the way people interact with your brand and elevate you to a new level. There is no equation for what makes a video, campaign or post become popular, but there are a couple factors to consider – emotion, message, and timing are all big, yet unpredictable, components in any digital strategy.

This doesn’t mean you have to create the perfect “viral video” to be successful. In fact, if you set out to create something for the purpose of it “going viral”, chances are it won’t have that authentic feel that consumers are attracted to. A great digital strategy would encourage the creation of organic content that resonates with your demographic in order to reach current and potential customers. Of course, this is not as easy as it sounds.

Emotion, Messaging, Timing

When brainstorming a new online strategy for a company, we start with ideas on how to use digital marketing in a way that has a positive influence to the target audience. Promotion and self-promotion is just a natural part of social media and online marketing, but as a company and brand, you should consider if there is a more organic approach that evokes a positive emotional attachment to your brand.

Passion can absolutely be felt by the viewers. Through the words, images and videos you post online, you are having a one-on-one conversation with every person your content is put in front of, so be sure to ask yourself, how is this helping the individual on the other end?

Be conscious of a few things:

  • What you want to portray
  • How you portray it
  • Who your audience is
  • How it helps the consumer
  • How it helps your brand
  • Why you want / need to post it


Giving your viewers a positive emotional experience is the most authentic thing you can do. Humor, compassion, inspiration, happiness, hope – these emotions play a huge part in a consumer’s decisions made both on- and off-line. Like Dollar Shave Club, if you are honest, show personality, and evoke an emotional experience, the engagement will be more natural for your customer and your brand. As this younger generation gets older and continues to influence how consumers behave online, there is no denying that a positive emotional experience will still be the best way to gain their loyalty and build relationships.


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