Trading online - be careful with your message
Being authentic in a sea of virtue signalling
Firstly, I am not a Physiologist. However, I had completed an MBA thesis several years ago, a part of which was on how consumers present themselves online in relation to e-commerce. I have read more studies than you can imagine (and they are not easy reading:)) and have presented at an academic conference on the topic.
So it is a pet topic of interest for me and as such, I have learned a thing or two. The reason I caveat my experience is that many like to title themselves as experts after watching a Ted talk. It takes years of research, reading and doing to gain that experience. I do not present myself as an expert but I want to highlight some key observations that you may want to take on board when marketing, in times of economic and social unease.
The importance of tone
I can't stress this enough, most people can smell BS. They also deep down, do not like boasting and backslapping. When people are searching online and looking at social media they are doing so through a lens of their self concepts* and their values & beliefs.
For example, we like imagines that enforce our 'ideal-self' but buy based on our 'actual-self'. I.E. I might like a Dior handbag - my 'ideal self', what I aspire to. However, I will buy based on my income what I can afford or can justify, as needed - my 'actual self'. It is a cliched point, but a like is not a buy.
Now if I can justify buying the Dior bag, I will. But I will be unconsciously shopping as my actual self. Our brains process a lot of information to make a purchasing decision, more than you realise.
Circling back to how you can present your business in an authentic way. You need to be mindful as to who your customer is. If you are appealing to the ethical luxury market, you can't be seen flying on private jets and sourcing from sweat shops. What you say has to match what you do.
Tactics to avoid
It is very tempting to feel that you must post daily about how you are managing Covid-19, or any social event, telling everyone else what to do etc. There is a fine balance, as you want to avoid - Virtue Signalling:
As per the Cambridge dictionary:
an attempt to show other people that you are a good person, for example by expressing opinions that will be acceptable to them, especially on social media
As per the Colin's English dictionary:
behaviour that is aimed at demonstrating one's own enlightened attitudes
In a nut shell, saving the planet isn't the sole duty of 1 person. We all have our part to play, all actions matter. Therefore, be careful that you are not preaching and posting as if you are the only person doing all the work. Instead, if your brand already donates 5% of profits, then you can of course say that.
However, do not jump on a bandwagon to appear 'virtuous'. No point giving to charity if you are not paying your staff well and not giving a great product/service to your customers (it will come out). Support people you respect, but don't big yourself up, others will do that on your behalf, if you are making a difference:)
Another observation of virtue-signallers, in their rush to show everyone how 'good' they are, they will often share invalidated advise. Make sure you only share official verified advise, if you saw it on Facebook, perhaps best not to share:). Quality over Quantity.
Don't come across as a Narcissist
It is a rare person who doesn't enjoy hearing a 'thank you' or 'well done'. It is perfectly normal to want credit for hard work. However, customers will get tired of constantly having to validate you and your brand if you are giving off Narcissist vibes. So, what is a Narcissist?
According to Merriam-Webster they are:
extremely self-centred with an exaggerated sense of self-importance : marked by or characteristic of excessive admiration of or infatuation with oneself
What I want to stress here is that it is OK to celebrate a milestone, but make sure you don't forget people who helped, don't claim credit for something others did. Humility and empathy are qualities customers respect.
Therefore, very much linked to virtue signalling, a Narcissist will feel their opinion is more important and need to excessively self promote. Therefore, do check yourself, are you giving credit to people who deserve it, acknowledging others who have done something similar and let others have the last word. No harm getting others to read your marketing language and posts to come across as more genuine and authentic.
Focus on building respect over being put on a pedestal.
In times of economic stress and uncertainty, make sure you look at planned posts. What can you cancel? I saw an email the other day saying 'enjoy payday with our special offers'!! It was a clothing brand which does mostly party wear. With 3 months of self isolation ahead, that is the last thing a person wants to buy, especially if not getting paid.
Be mindful and kind in your posts. Empathise with people. Try focus on positive messaging. You can still sell but change the angle. Consumers will still be surfing for things to cheer themselves up and plan for when they can go out again. However, be sensitive in your messaging and make sure you are avoiding the traps of coming across as virtue signalling and narcissistic.
*an idea of the self constructed from the beliefs one holds about oneself and the responses of others
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