Authenticity About Social Media Authenticity

In his The World's First "Authenticity Policy"? posted yesterday, 9/3/09, Mark Schaefer, author of the blog {grow}, posited about Handshake 2.0's Social Media Authenticity Policy – Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials (which I first explained and described here):

"As far as I know, this is the first published, legally-validated 'authenticity policy.'"

What has resulted from such an accolade and honor, besides generous traffic to Handshake 2.0, is queries about Handshake 2.0 and its business model.

Here we go.

Executive Summary in Bullet Points

  • Handshake 2.0 is a blog. Its subject matter is business.
  • At Handshake 2.0, we write authentically.
  • We’re open about our definition of authenticity.
  • Clients must agree that we will write authentically, or no deal.
  • Our mission is to create business results for our clients.
  • Given our mission, we choose clients and subject matter about which we can write positively.
  • As often as possible, we help clients use the strength of their own authenticity by helping them create their own content.
  • Can a blog post writer be paid to write and still be authentic? Yes.

“I wanted to live deep…”
- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Handshake 2.0 is a blog.  As such, it’s one of a number of sources of information and interaction categorized as “social media.” 

Handshake 2.0’s subject matter is business.  We have multiple authors who currently cover technologies developed locally and their companies and founders, the use of social media for business, entrepreneurship and start-ups, and general business topics.

Handshake 2.0 is an enterprise of Handshake Media, Incorporated, an online public relations services and consulting firm. 

What is Handshake 2.0 for?  The possibility and power of this scenario:

A search engine user types in a search term.  One of the choices in the list of results links to Handshake 2.0.  When the user clicks the listing, he or she discovers a Handshake 2.0 blog post about the topic of interest.  The user’s quick scan reveals the post is a) brief, b) shows who or what’s being discussed with an image – usually an amateur photograph or video of a person – and c) includes links that indicate research and support for the content.

Having made a good first impression with a warm, firm “handshake,” the post’s first line is read.  That first line either compels the user to read on, or quit and click away.

If the user stays, he or she reads on – continuing easily because the text is carefully written and error-free (as best as we can) – learns something cool or interesting about a company’s leader, product or service, collects a business principle or practice to ponder and perhaps apply in his or her own business, clicks the links and finds value in them, clicks back, and scans the post before and after the one of interest and sees equal quality, observing that the subject "keeps good company." 

The user concludes, “This might be someone with whom I could do business.”  The user clicks on the link in the post to the company’s site, clicks the site’s “Contact” tab, and sends an email or makes a phone call to the company.

How does a company get on Handshake 2.0 to create that possibility and power for itself?

Sometimes a company gets lucky and we write about it for our own reasons.  A company has no control over that.

Otherwise, to get on Handshake 2.0, the company pays.

This is where the questions arise.  Blogs have been perceived as written in one person’s voice about his or her own authentic thoughts, feelings, opinions, and experiences.

Can a blog post writer be paid and still be authentic?

Yes.  At Handshake 2.0, yes.  This is how and why:

Our writers must write, and clients must accept that they write, their own authentic thoughts, feelings, opinions, and experiences.  Clients take a risk in paying someone to write whatever he or she wants, but to quote The Transporter, “The deal’s the deal.”  If a potential client can’t accept the terms of our Social Media Authenticity Policy, then they don’t become a client.

We write positively.  Given our mission – described in the scenario – to create business results for the subjects of our Handshake 2.0 blog posts, and given that rigid authenticity policy of ours, we can only accept clients of whom we think highly.

As often as possible, we help our clients create their own content.  Given our passionate belief that the power of social media – whether for personal or business use – is that real people are really doing it, we coach our clients to write their own content or we interview them and quote them.  The more true to the company and the company’s leader their social media content is, the more likely they are to connect with the like-minded.  Online, if companies portray themselves as what they think customers want, rather than who and what they are and can do, they’ll attract customers who want what they cannot provide.  Handshake 2.0 simply becomes a placement venue for companies’ authenticity.

If a client paid to have a blog post created, the blog post says so.

Anne Giles Clelland gets authentic at the Kinetic Sprint Triathlon, Virginia, 2009 We mean businessHandshake Media, Incorporated, of which Handshake 2.0 is an enterprise, is a member company, and was founded under the auspices of, VT KnowledgeWorks, the business acceleration center and technology incubator at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg, Virginia.  I have articles of incorporation, a trademark, a business plan, attorneys, an accountant, advisors ranging from venture capitalists to marketing consultants, and aspirations to be a contributor to economic development initiatives gaining momentum in our region.  I'm not a fly-by-night, get-rich-quick slouch. 

The wise, insightful, and humorous Z. Kelly Queijo, a contributing writer to Handshake 2.0, left a message on my voice mail yesterday:  “Hello, this is the Authenticity Police.  I’m calling to find out if you’re for real.”

Yes, I’m for real.  And so is my company.

And, for me, Handshake 2.0 is a labor of love.

I decide.  I, Anne Giles Clelland, President and CEO of Handshake Media, Incorporated, and founder of Handshake 2.0, decide.  If content is in accord with my principles, values, and best judgment (and sometimes whimsy and delight), I post it.  If it isn’t, I don’t.

My company is a one-year start-up.  In ten years, may it be an established firm.  I think ultimately the success of a company falls on the shoulders of one person – the founder.  Both now and in the future, the strength and meaning of my company, and the value it provides to its clients, employees, and the greater community, will depend on my ability to cultivate and attend to traits in myself that help me evolve as a person of integrity.  I am trying.  Please wish me well.

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