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Being Authentic and Empathetic in a Digital World

Apr 21, 2017
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Marketing is about way more than lead generation and conversions. Sure, those are extremely important metrics to track, but at the end of the day, marketing is about creating connections. People want to do business with people the trust and know they can count on. This is the main reason behind why personal referrals are still the best for of marketing. So how can we use digital platforms to create authentic and empathic connections? 
 
Humans are, at their core, social beings. We thrive and survive on our interactions with others. When two people get together to have a conversation, there is so much more going on than just talking and listening. Factors such as body language, tone and mirror neurons are all playing a factor in the interaction. They cause feelings, emotions and different types of reactions for each party. This is what makes communication so powerful. 
 
Because of the complexity of what goes on in our interactions, we learn at a very young at the difference between authentic communication and shallow communication. Even kids know when someone is faking it. When it comes to creating a story and messaging around a product, service or brand it’s extremely important that your message comes across as authentic. They best way to achieve this is use empathy. 
 
em·pa·thy
ˈempəTHē/
noun
         the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
 
 
Empathy is about stepping out of your viewpoint and into the viewpoint of another. It’s about putting your feeling or assumptions aside and learning what the other person is truly experiencing. While on the surface, this seems like a simple exercise, but in reality, it’s much harder to do. It takes practice, patience and a lot of humility to be empathetic, but it’s a skill worth investing in. 
 

Empathy Online

 
Because digital interactions take place behind a screen and across many different platforms, it is extremely difficult to create connections like this that happen in person. Chat and text just don’t carry the same emotional weight as a conversation in person. So in order to create empathetic connections online, we have to think differently about how and what we post. 
 
If we are going to create more emotionally connected content, we have to truly understand the people we are talking too. Are great tool to get you started is “The Empathy Map”.  This tool will help you understand how your audience experiences life through their senses and feelings. By getting below the surface and mapping out what their life is truly like, you will have a foundation to build a better message. Learn more about Empathy Mapping here.
 
As with any tool, they only work if you use them. The next step is to take what you’ve learned from your empathy map and put it into action. Use the data to filter your ideas. Think about what platform and types of media are going to speak to your audience the most. Then start testing your assumptions. 
 

Delivering an Authentic Message

 
Whether it's a tweet, blog article or a video, authenticity is the key. After you’ve discovered what your audience’s viewpoint is and you begin creating content for them, you must be authentic. You can still be yourself while delivering an empathy-driven message. If you try to use your information to manipulate or trick, you may get some short-term success, but in the long run, you’ll loose your credibility. 
 
Understanding the needs of your audience helps you know how you can best serve them. It’s not about you becoming like them. When crafting your message, be aware of your tone, the words you use, the creative elements and so forth but also make sure that it comes from you. People respect those who are not ashamed or afraid to be themselves. 
 
The reason empathy and authenticity work are because it helps create a human connection. For thousands of years, we have used different mediums to connect with one another. Many believe it’s impossible to create meaningful connections online because of the lack of tangible interaction. I disagree. Before phones, texts, tweets and other digital media, we had books. Classics are classics because of they way they made people feel. The great thing about the internet is that we all have a chance to tell our story to anyone at any time. 
 
To learn more about my approach to empathy and authenticity, check out this episode of Edge of the Web radio I was blessed to be a part of.
 
Ryan Shelley - Edge of the Wed - SEO 
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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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