We’ve all heard it, and here at Gwe Cambrian Web, we have certainly preached it. The words “Authenticity” or “Genuine” are often tossed around as ways to boost your social media presence and business gravitas, with people often saying that getting to know who they’re buying from is a big reason that spurs them to buy. Stats of course say this is important, and it is vital when building a community around your brand on social media that your customers get to know you.

But what does it really mean? What does “getting to know you” mean?

Well, that is perhaps where it gets more complicated.

In a world where AI writes posts and creates art, and we often see people showing their “best selves” on social media or the polar opposite, their life stories, what does it mean to be genuine on social media and in business? And is it really as important as we think it is?

Before listening to a talk by Debbie Doodah in Atomicon, I might have had the simple but, perhaps longwinded, answer. Show your face, make Q&As, post pictures behind the scenes to show that you’re a “genuine” business with nothing to hide. Turns out in many ways, it’s more simple AND more complicated than that. Yes, a bit of a contradiction, but let me explain.

Debbie set out by asking us how many of us had iPhones – guilty as charged. She then asked if we were aware of the suicide nets around the factories where they’re made which only tells you this: Apple, rather than improve their workers’ conditions, decided just to put a net around the buildings to prevent them from escaping, if you will. Do I still own an iPhone knowing this? Yes. I do. The same applies to Amazon – we all know how they prevented their workers in America from unionising, how they time toilet breaks and have their employees standing for hours on end with timed breaks. Do we still pay into Prime? Yes. Many of us do.

So do customers ACTUALLY care about “authenticity.” It wouldn’t seem so, would it- if they did, these companies wouldn’t exist. Or at least, there would be far more public boycotts for them. So, what DO your customers care about then? Or is it a luxury afforded by bigger conglomerates who don’t care if they lose a few hundred customers to the odd bad PR moment?

The answer is: values.

The values your company has are important, and they must match up to that of your customers. When they do, you create a perfect storm which creates the sought after loyalty you need. So, when thinking about your audience, don’t just think about their age, gender, what they do for a living, really sit down, and consider what their values are and what yours are as a company.

It was suggested that as a business owner, you need to sit down and write down a range of things that are important to you, your values if you will. Then, narrow it down to ten, and then to three. Those three will be your company’s core values.

For example, if you were to search for Lucy and Yak, the first thing that appears is their website and, alongside it? Their three core values: independent, organic, and recycled clothing. You click onto that website expecting those three things to be what the company stands for, nothing else. They may represent all shapes and sizes in their modelling for example, or care about paying a fair wage to their employees, but do those things make or break them as a company? No. Are those the three things they’ve promised to you? No. Whilst it may affect their rating if it came out that they don’t in fact pay their employees fairly, it wouldn’t come across as much of a betrayal if say, you discovered that the polythene used to make their clothes is in fact not recycled, or that they’re in fact owned by a larger conglomerate or that they are not in fact organically made at all.

This is because at this point, you would feel lied to. They have made you a promise but have not stuck to it – they have not been “genuine” or “authentic.”

So, if we look to a company that we’ve mentioned who aren’t so squeaky clean, let’s look at Amazon. They in fact list four values: “customer obsession” rather than competitor focus, “passion for invention”, “commitment to operational excellence”, and “long-term thinking.”

Their focus appears to be customer based, going on to then state that they want to be the “Earth’s most customer-centric company.” They do state that they STRIVE to be the Earth’s best employer and safest place to work – likely in response to the recent backlash, but have they listed it as a core value? No. Have they promised to do those things? Also no.

So, when you come to consider your core values, ensure they align with the core values of your company and your brand, and doubly ensure that they’ll align with the values of your customers too. That way, you won’t be tempted to promise things you don’t really care about, and you’ll stick simply and narrowly to the ones that you do, ensuring that your company remains genuine, yourself and authentic.