Authenticity is a little like love. No two people think of it in the same way and there is no set way to ‘get it.’ Yet all of us aspire to have it. At the Washington D.C. Roundtable discussion, The CMO Club members discussed what it means to them – and shared some factors to consider when evaluating the authenticity of your brand’s online presence.

Is it transparency? Not really – although being transparent with your audience will certainly lend to a stronger following. Is it honesty? Again, not exclusively.

True authenticity isn’t so easy to define. Your content, your talk, the talk of you employees and your online behavior must all be consistent and true to “the brand.”

Otherwise, consumers will receive mixed messages, feel your brand doesn’t care or possibly feel betrayed.

Today, brands select social media platforms based on the specific ‘tribes’ that uses each one. Be it Facebook, LinkedIn, SnapChat or Vine, each platform’s tribe has determined what is authentic and important to them. As the tribe of each message becomes more segmented, being authentic becomes more important.

Science Finds the Tribe, Art Attracts It

There are many tools to tell you which platforms are best for your brand’s message and personality. Beyond that, it is the CMO’s job to determine how to creatively interact with that tribe in order to have them approve of your content.

Once this happens, they will become your loyal brand ambassadors. They may share your blog, interact through posts and leave positive comments about your company.

Authenticity Involves the Entire Brand

Who is tweeting for your brand? What is your CEO saying online? A single, poorly stated tweet from a brand’s executive has the power to alter the way a tribe thinks about your company and brand.

All members of your company must consider this before logging in to social media. Being pro-active and setting a plan in place before communications are sent could prevent a branding catastrophe.

At the End of the Day, Be YOU

Tribes will figure out quickly if you are not being authentic with your online communications. Get acquainted with your audience before approaching them. Figure out what they like, dislike, what they do, why they do it – the more information, the better.

It comes down to truly caring about your tribe and letting your brand’s identity shine. Don’t get too hung up on having the perfectly packaged message every time, because the interaction is more important anyway.

The best part? Like in love, when your brand does make a mistake and own up to it, today’s customers are surprisingly forgiving.