Buying Authenticity, Verification Badges & the Future of Social Media
Social media - for brands, creators and publishers - is a tool to build trust and credibility. All of the tips and tricks about building an online presence essentially boil down to those two things.
Will a new fan trust that you can publish consistently? Can you convince a reader that you’re credible enough of a source to listen to? Will a potential buyer think that you’re a trustworthy brand to shop with?
Posting schedules, niching-down, social proof, reach - it’s all about trust.
Social media has taken that important aspect of in-person relationships, and turned it into a system that can scale.
Ever since brands became able to buy followers / engagement (metrics of trust), users have become more skeptical…less trusting. Enter the verification badge, a easy way for brands to prove they were authentic.
Verification badges used to be symbols of credibility and authority. It meant that you were vetted. That people trusted you. That someone, somewhere did there due diligence. It wasn’t a perfect system, but the system effectively created an in-group of authority figures. To be a part of that group made trusting you a much easier.
Now, platforms are starting to sell verification badges. Similar to how followers and engagement can be bought - so too can authenticity. Platforms are attempting to make trust become a commodity.
For better or for worse, human beings are strikingly aware of the status quo. We understand almost immediately how we fit into our culture’s social hierarchies, and are naturally good at mentally modeling social systems.
Authenticity may seem superficial - now that it can be bought, but I would argue this will have the opposite effect. Users are becoming aware of the crumbling trust-structure of social media. Influencer marketing is less genuine, verification badges don’t signify a brand has been vetted, and artificial intelligence is capable of vomiting out an unlimited supply of unimportant, low impact content.
The social media structure is imploding on itself. Now, more than ever, it’s important to put real thought into how you show up online and for who. To use social media effectively, you must build real connections, with real people. Until recently there were just systems in place that either allowed you to do that easier, or to cut corners for results. But cutting corners doesn't work anymore.
Posting twice a day and filling up your content calendar will only get you so far - because you’ll never beat artificially generated content on frequency.
Getting a verification badge or an influencer shoutout won’t make you seem more trustworthy now that those services are cheap - in fact it will likely make you seem less authentic.
If you’re going to use social media seriously as an artist or a brand, you need to be religious about building real connections with real people. Decide where you show up and how often, then create for the group of people that really care about what you have to say.