Authenticity on Social Media Will Get You Killed



Because people don’t really want brands, celebrities, and people to be authentic. They want them to conform to their own impressions of authenticity. But deviate from the “brand message” and you will suffer the consequences.

Ridicule. Boycotts. Finger-pointing. Reputation damage.

Those are the consequences of being “authentic.”

Just ask Tampa Bay Devil Rays starting pitcher David Price.

After suffering a tough 7-4 loss to the Red Sox during playoff game on Saturday, Price was clearly upset. The passionate pitcher went to Twitter to defend himself and, well, he was certainly authentic to his volatile personality.

Not only did he criticize baseball commentators and other players, he wrote decided to outline all his sporting achievements (never a good thing after you blow a big game):

“Trust me I don’t want sympathy…I got beat tonight…so be it..I’ll bounce back…3x ALLSTAR…2 time player choice…runner up cy…AND CY”


“not bragging…just a simple reminder RT @mpistark: @DAVIDprice14 you don’t have to brag man. Damn”

This type of authenticity has given Price a lesson he soon won’t forget. The media and fans have not been kind: they savaged him. He was forced to apologize the next morning and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays announced they were changing their social media policy for players.

Just ask Barilla CEO Guido Barilla.

Barilla, the head of the largest pasta maker in the world, told an Italian radio show that he would not feature gay couples in his advertising and in his subsequent apology on Facebook managed to continue offending gays and women as well.

This has led to a worldwide boycott of the brand.

Say what you will about his views, but Guido Barilla was just expressing his opinion and being authentic.

You hear a lot about the importance of authenticity on social media. You should ignore it for two reasons.

1. Social media networks aren’t about authenticity.

They are about message. They are about relationships. Everyone on social media has filters – even the most filterless among us. People post information about themselves on social channels that bolster their perceptions of themselves and who they want to be. They don’t post pictures of them yelling at their children or being impatient with their husbands. They don’t generally post about their failures and missed opportunities. That’s because social networks aren’t about presenting an authentic picture of our lives. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

2. Brands/people are punished for being authentic online.

As you can see from the examples above this punishment comes in many forms. The fans want the David Price they admire as an athlete, not the flawed human being upset about losing a game. Buyers of Barilla pasta want delicious pasta made in Italy not the ravings of antiquated CEO living in a world that no longer exists. What brands get rewarded for are being authentic to the “brand.” And every brand is manufactured by an army of communicators, marketers, and advertisers. There’s nothing authentic about a brand identity.

What do you think of authenticity online and on social networks?


USA Today “Price Realized Twitter Rant was a Mistake”

Reputation Can Be Lost in an Instant on Social Media

4 Myths of Social Media Authenticity

2 Responses to “Authenticity on Social Media Will Get You Killed”

  1. A good cautionary tale for those of us with short fuses.

  2. I think of you has more hair trigger than short fused, Whitey…

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