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‘Un-produce’ It!

Social Media

When I was just out of college – technically, while I was still in college – I had the good fortune to be hired by IBM. Big Blue describes its three core values as:

  • dedication to every client’s success;
  • innovation that matters, for our company and for the world; and
  • trust and personal responsibility in all relationships.

My time at IBM taught me that if you share those core values – which are written down and accepted by fellow IBMers – you’d better live them. Putting clients first, innovating for the sake of mankind, and trust in all relationships all sound like great aspirations, but I saw them in action every day. That’s because theywere both genuine and authentic.

As a result of that experience, I’ve held IBM and its research in the highest regard. I know the quality of its data is both world class and, more importantly, something from which we can learn and take action. For example, a recent IBM study of 4,800 “CxOs” (i.e., CEO, CFO, COO, CIO, CMO, etc.) asked this question: “What is your biggest barrier to an integrated digital-physical strategy?”

The overwhelming response? Sixty-three percent said they lack a cohesive social media plan. What does this tell us? Determining where social media fits in your existing business is really hard. What you say (messaging), where you say it (platform), and how often you share (frequency) are all factors — among others — that determine your success. Without a plan, though, how do you know what success really looks like?

Going a step further, if you observe a company actually doing social media well (i.e., large follower counts and high engagement on posts), it may be a little tough to determine why it’s actually working. Should you simply emulate what they’re doing? What if the techniques they’re using are not appropriate for your target audience?

There’s one strategy you can implement today that will make things dramatically easier for you. Most of the emerging social media platforms (like Instagram Stories and Facebook Live) can be summed up in one simple word: unproduced. Instead of content that is highly edited or refined by a graphic designer, users are typically uploading photos or videos directly from their phones with very little concern for lighting, sound quality or finishing touches. If any editing is done, it consists of simple captions, a filter to emphasize feeling or highlight a particular location, or even drawings on the screen.

Read more commentary by Spencer X Smith here

What does the rise of these emerging platforms tell us? People using them desire simple, raw content. They value authenticity first, and production quality second. They want to see if you really are who you say you are.

For example, I regularly advocate or make assertions about steps that, if put into action, can lead to greater success in the realm of communication.To support my assertions, I provide proof on social media documenting how I actually do these things myself. I take a quick snapshot or video with my phone, share the proof with my audience, and get back to work. 

Every one of us with a smartphone currently owns our own media company. At any time we can show the world what’s going on around us, and our audience can share in our experiences. 

As both an individual and as a representation of your business, what are you sharing with the world? Do you highlight your outstanding customer service as a component of your business? Prove it. Show your audience that you’re practicing what you preach. Do you tout the quality of your products and production process? You don’t need a professional film crew to create a documentary. Use the smartphone in your pocket to provide proof.

Regardless of which social media platforms you use, adopt a culture of genuine, transparent behavior. This mindset will position you as an outlier in the most positive sense possible, and you’ll engender trust with your target audience. When developing your social media strategy, start with this word: authentic.

Spencer X Smith is the founder of He’s a former 401(k) wholesaler, and now teaches financial services professionals how to use social media for business development. This column originally appeared in the Spring issue of  NAPA Net the Magazine.