Fake the Social Media Funk and Your Digital Nose’ll Grow

An image of a wolf wearing sheep's clothing.

It was Bootsy Collins, in the Pinocchio Theory, who said, “Don’t fake the funk or your nose’ll grow.” This doesn’t just apply to P-Funk Mythology, but on-line marketing. People are just far too savvy to believe blatant promotional campaigns couched as “everyday” life -- and it can have detrimental effects.

It’s entertaining to watch old TV shows and talk shows, where, just before going to commercial, the main actor or host turns to the camera, holds up a product, and discusses the benefits of said products. It’s hokey and quaint in a charming way that would totally not work in today’s environment.

But that doesn’t mean people don’t try it -- especially on social media.

And while embedded marketing has been around for generations, it’s equal part art and science -- and without understanding the art, any residual benefits or positive bump through affiliation can be lost.

Take a recent Tweet by David Rocco -- a “celebrity” chef not in the Gordon Ramsay/Jamie Oliver Pantheon, but likely in the secondary or tertiary level where the Roger Mookings of the world reside. He’s a guy with enough name-brand recognition that people like me -- who may or may not have the Food Network on for much of the day -- recognize him.

So I wasn’t surprised when a Tweet of his appeared in my stream, but the content proved to be so jarring -- not because it was offensive, but because it was so blatantly inauthentic.

Now, clearly, the Internet was not going to let this go and the negative comments, mockery, and leaps to referencing social ills immediately followed.

But what was lost is the opportunity. The Scotia product got lost in the conversation because the messaging didn’t ring true.

Advertisers do a lot of work trying to make their presentations seem either really natural or really intriguing. What they don’t want to be is fake -- and, on social media, lack of authenticity is the kiss of death.

That said, many businesses are told that social media is the Holy Grail of marketing -- a great way to reach out to multiple people and build brand fidelity. And, to a large degree that’s true. If it’s done right.


  • Be authentic -- write like a human for humans, using human behaviours. You wouldn’t go to a party and say, “Did you like the vegetable tray I bought? I purchased it at Loblaws using my Ultimo-Rewards MasterCharge, which gives me three per cent back on all purchases -- and four per cent when buying gas!” So don’t do it online.
  • Be honest -- if you have something to sell, sell it. People appreciate directness and if your content is helping to solve real-world problems, they want to know about it directly
  • Insinuate yourself where it makes sense -- your social feed should be where your customers are. You should be having conversations with them and sharing expertise where it makes sense. Lack of authenticity is compounded by inappropriately butting into someone else’s conversation. Be natural.
  • Prepare for backlash -- The internet can be vicious. It’s also a two-way medium. So if you’re going to put something out, make sure you’re monitoring the messaging and be ready to respond if things get out of hand. Two responses work: honesty and a genuine sense of humour. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.

Obviously, embedded marketing is not going away. And for certain markets -- fashion, for example -- the allure of a famous person wearing an identifiable garment, or a rapper imploring you to “pass the courvoisier” (yes, I’m showing my age -- but I couldn’t bring myself to bring in a Drake reference), can lead to an uptick in sales.

But what works for some, doesn’t work for all. Know your market, know your message, and -- most importantly, know you who you are and be authentic.

Questions Answered

How do I ensure my social media presence is authentic?

What are the risks of lack of authenticity?



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