Jun 062012
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In a letter to potential shareholders included in Facebook’s pre-IPO S-1 filing, CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote this:

We hope to improve how people connect to businesses and the economy. We think a more open and connected world will help create a stronger economy with more authentic businesses that build better products and services.”

2_t-zuckerberg_apOn reading this, I was struck by Zuckerberg’s use of the word “authentic” to describe businesses. This adjective is more often applied to people than to companies. For a person, being inauthentic means failing to be yourself, which often leads to failing other people. For people who want to succeed in life, being authentic is considered a best practice. Yes, one can still achieve success by fooling some of the people some of the time. Even the un-fooled have learned to tolerate this fact. But it’s the “real McCoys” and “straight shooters” who earn our enduring respect.

Can the same be said of companies? Do straight-shooting companies also win in the marketplace? We could debate that question all day. But regardless of the current “truth,” Zuckerberg believes that in the future, authenticity will be a source of competitive advantage for companies.

These days, it’s easy to notice when companies fail their customers, employees, or shareholders. Would a more authentic business be less likely to let its stakeholders down? If so, the Authentic Business may become the new standard of excellence, due to the favorable business outcomes a commitment to authenticity creates.

And we’ll soon be tearing down cubicle walls.
And we’ll throw the cubicle walls into a burning forge.
And the burning forge will operate 24/7,

giving rise to a large new army of…

…Business Authenticity Consultants!

[I know that won’t actually happen. But do you think it could work as a Super Bowl ad?]

Ok, back here in our world, this leaves me with two (other) questions:

1. What does it mean for a business to be authentic?
2. How can companies use social media platforms, today, to become more authentic?

I’d welcome your thoughts (on question 1, question 2, or my Super Bowl ad concept/nightmare)  in the comments section.