The most important lesson there is to learn in social media advocacy is this: you must let the truth get in the way of storytelling. Whether you are advocating a cause on social media or creating a branded story for a company, I would urge you to remain steadfast in telling the truth. Don’t let a creatively brilliant white lie overshadow your message when it later blows up in your face. There are a hundred more creative options.
There was a time when a brand’s mere presence on social networks signalled brand authenticity. But nowadays, with everybody aboard and Likes are bought for a bargain, it has become even more important to send a clear message amidst the noise. Many do this by purposely putting out captivating branded stories that appear to be real – unstaged – but in reality, they are simply ads that were conceptualised, directed and produced, and distributed. One of the more recent examples is Pepsi’s Test Drive video.
Is fake OK if it’s funny? Is ‘creative fake’ the new form of authenticity?
I have mixed feelings about this. I was (am?) a fan of Blair Witch and thought they were brilliant with creating viral effect by using fake news on its website. That’s no different than what Pepsi has done. But the more I think about how I feel about it, the more uncomfortable I get. Entertaining, definitely, but ethical?
Unless satire is the message, I think it’s unethical for advertising to use misinformation or pretend that what they’re showing is real footage and not staged. There are other ways of being creative.
Same goes for those using social media for advocating social change. While the pressure to simplify issues is great and in some cases, justifiable (since social networks love simple, emotional and visual content), today’s connected world demand transparency. Remember Kony 2012? They had to release a second video to address the criticism levelled against the first one. Many people from the non-profit world had the same musing: “…if they’d only told the whole truth in the original video, as opposed to what just made for the best story, there might not have been a need for the second video.“
Let the truth get in the way of the storytelling.