Brutal Honesty and Authenticity Builds Rabid Fans

Opinion: If you gain haters along the way, it’s a sign that you’re doing something right

If your social media is just a collection of followers and not a community of rabid fans, you’re probably not being brutally honest and authentic online. Do you want 1 million followers who don’t care, or 10,000 who drink your Kool-Aid? The latter is absolutely more valuable than the former, which is strictly vanity.

And if you want to build a community of rabid fans, you’re going to have to (really) stand for something. You’re also going to have to get comfortable gaining some haters. Because when you take a stance and you’re honest, you’re not going to please everyone. But that’s where the big wins happen—outside of your comfort zone, being authentic.

Authentic personality

We all know that behind your brand logo on social, there is a human punching keys on a keyboard. Yet you’re acting like there’s some magical filter that needs to happen between the real person and the outside world. You make it corporate. You stop being authentic and become mediocre. But you won’t build rabid fans through mediocrity.

Let’s look at Wendy’s as a great example of a brand that has an authentic personality and is willing to say what it believes. Someone tweeted at Wendy’s, “What’s best at McDonald’s?” Wendy’s response? “Leaving.”

Wendy’s gets it. It says what it thinks, it draws the line in the sand and it has no problem being snarky to its competitors.

Stand for something

Is your brand just punching out quirky tweets and posts that might have a little personality but don’t really stand for anything? You need substance—in real life.

When Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale went on an epic postgame rant about the referees following his team’s game-two playoff loss to the San Antonio Spurs, it garnered him a solid $30,000 fine from the National Basketball Association.

Sponsor and Memphis-based company ServiceMaster saw this as an opportunity to take a stand. It tweeted that it believed in the coach and would pick up the $30,000 tab. While it wasn’t able to pay for it directly, it extended its sponsorship during the playoffs, gained tremendous support from local community and made it into the national headlines.

Embrace the haters

When you take a stand and are brutally honest, it becomes impossible to please everyone. But the goal isn’t to please everyone: It’s to find the fans and customers who believe the same things you do.

You can love or hate LaVar Ball and Big Baller Brand, but he has taken a stand and isn’t worried about the haters.

When Nike, Adidas and Under Armour did not take up Ball on his sneaker partnership offer, the haters came out of the woodwork. He could have backed down or said he would try something else, but he didn’t. He stuck with what he believes is best for the brand (whether it is or not we’ll find out, I guess) and didn’t back down.

It takes a lot of balls to say what you feel publicly and not retreat, and even if he’s not selling shoes, Ball is still in the public conversation, which is what marketing is all about.

Drop the fear, be yourself

Brands are made up of people, and people are fearful of what others will think. You may not want to take the action and say what you (or your brand) really feel because of your personal fears. It’s time to get over it and be yourself.

People don’t buy from companies: They buy from people who are like themselves. If you’re trying to sell to everyone, you’re connecting with no one. And it’s never been truer than it is today. Drop the fear, be yourself and let your brand take a stand. If you gain haters along the way, it’s a sign that you’re doing something right—and your true fans will appreciate it.

So, are you collecting followers or creating rabid fans?

Brian Cristiano is CEO of ad agency Bold Worldwide.

Image courtesy of Elen11/iStock.