word of mouth

Keeping it real: the power of authenticity

Every day you see the power of authenticity at work on facebook.

Last week, the teenage son of a high school friend got hit by a car while riding his bike. The hit and run accident left him with a skull fracture and a severe concussion. His dad, obviously distraught about the fact that the driver never stopped, posted a request for witnesses on facebook. Less than a week later, his post has been shared more than 4,500 times. His story made the online media the same day, print the day after. Luckily, his son is going to be okay.


The same week, a woman wrote a post on facebook about her mother and many other residents being stuck inside her nursing home for 4 weeks after the only elevator in the building broke down. The next day and hundreds of shares (many to media), the story made the newspaper: “Faulty elevator holds entire nursing home hostage.”


UPS Dogs is a facebook group with almost 1 million followers. Its admins are a group of UPS drivers who post pictures of their daily interactions with the friendly dogs (and other animals) on their routes. Judging from the thousands of “who is a good doggie” and “aww, I love driver Dave!” comments, it might just be UPS’ main source of goodwill online today.


What are the lessons businesses can draw from these examples? Here’s 3:

  1. Word of mouth has always been the most convincing and powerful form of communication. Authentic, emotional stories have always had legs. Social media made those legs much faster. So tell real stories that move people (to share). Yes, everything has an emotional side. See: elevators, shipping companies.
  2. If you are not telling or shaping your story, someone else will tell and shape it for you. Usually (ask the elevator company), this is not in your benefit.
  3. Contingency plans have always been a smart PR move. Now that crises form and move faster, they are an even better idea.


Communication is not about “creating content”, it is about building relationships. Real stories, real connections will do just that. It’s the power of authenticity, use it wisely.

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