Authenticity Sells: How to Use It to Drive Conversions

By Myra Sugg, Ad Media Sales Expert

Every relationship is founded on trust, including the buyer-seller relationship. Consumers need to trust you before they buy from you, and even before they click on your social media ads. Social media platforms were designed to help people strengthen relationships from afar, and there’s no way to do that without generating trust.

The need for trust only increased with COVID-19, which left everyone feeling uncertain and vulnerable. The COVID-19 Edelman trust barometer reports that 83% of consumers want the compassionate connection from brands. One of the biggest drivers of trust is authenticity, with 45% of consumers saying it’s the most important element of a brand’s social media presence. For consumers, it’s the 2nd most important issue, but marketers only place authenticity as number 5 on their list.

It’s clear that brands need to work on authenticity, but that can be easier said than done when you’re promoting a business on social media. The bar is high, and distrust is the default setting for most media users. 57% of consumers say that the media they consume includes untrustworthy information, and 76% are nervous that false or fake information is used as a weapon.

Here are 6 ways that authenticity in social media ads strengthens your relationship with your target audience and drives more conversions.

1. It’s hard to be authentic when you don’t know the other party

You need to spend some time getting to know your target market before running ads, so that you can speak to them in ways that feel authentic and natural. It’s more important than you may realize, 54% of consumers will unfollow brands if the content doesn’t seem relevant to them.

Create personas and flesh them out as much as possible, then imagine that your ad is aimed at a market of one. It also helps to browse posts by people who match your persona so you can grow familiar with their tone, their concerns, and their issues, and understand them from the inside out.

2. Vulnerability is strength

Many business owners think that they always have to present a perfect face to the world, but nothing could be further than the truth. It’s not just “ok” to admit to your doubts and worries on social media, it’s a bonus.

Cori Widen, product marketing manager at Lightricks, advises SMB owners to “Be open and authentic about the things you are struggling with sometimes,” adding “People are more likely to want to connect with someone they feel like they know vs. an anonymously-run account.” Real people aren’t perfect, and they aren’t strong and confident all the time. When leads see your vulnerability, they’ll recognize it as authenticity.

3. Employees are more trustworthy than brands

Your business ads don’t have to be “written” by the professional brand every time. There are even some signs that influencer marketing may have started to become less effective. They’ll feel far more authentic when they come from a person, and it’s even better when that person is not always you, the founder and CEO.

Social media ads are an opportunity to showcase your employees and let their personal voices shine through. Consumers tend to feel more trust towards employees than to a brand, a business owner, or the marketing team. When you present real messages from real people, it adds authenticity and helps flesh out the personality of your business.

4. Authenticity begins with self-awareness

Let’s face it, it’s hard to be authentic if you don’t really have an authentic character in the first place. You need to feel certain about what your business stands for, your business’s personality, and what motivates you to run your business before you can communicate it to the rest of the world.

If your social media ads just repeat worthy “truths” that you don’t really feel, no one else will believe them either.

5. Real life is messy

Sad, but true. That’s why stock photos are so unconvincing. Perfection is unrealistic and definitely not authentic, so avoid images that are immaculately airbrushed and use a real-life selfie instead, with #nofilter.

“Showing the sometimes ‘messy’ behind the scenes of running a small business is interesting to your customers and will definitely help them trust you even more,” points out Widen. Don’t be scared to share the clutter that’s piling up on your desk, the toys on the floor in your home office, or the disarray in the storage unit you use as a warehouse. In the same vein, you can go behind the scenes and share the process that goes into developing a new product or service line.

6. You don’t always need a sales pitch

Nothing could be less authentic than a sales pitch, so don’t let it ruin your honest ad copy and real-life image. It’s ok to run ads purely to build a connection and raise awareness, without any overt sales pitch-like CTA or ulterior motive.

If you’re looking to build brand awareness, keep the sales pitches off the ad for a change and just share honest content with no “sell” at the end of it. Keep your marketing goals reasonable.

Real results come from the real you

Today’s consumers want to see the real you, so give them what they want. By sharing genuine moments of challenge or struggle, skipping the sales pitch, and understanding your audience and your own business, you can make your social media ads more genuine and relatable and drive more leads to convert.