Dispute its reach if you like. Bemoan its shortcomings. Even refuse to participate (if you dare). But Social Media has exploded. And the reason should capture the imagination of anyone marketing a service or product.

How so? Because for all the hype, falderal, misuse and criticism swirling about, Social Media is, simply, about the dynamics of community.

Hence some confusion. And the challenge.

Is it community? Or is it media?

If media, complete with the prospect of reaching the masses, we immediately focus on the message. (A mistake in its own right; but that is another discussion.)

Community, on the other hand, is about neighbors, conversations and collaboration. It is about building relationships.

Social Media is both. And (this is one of those good-news-bad-news notes) it gives everyone in the community a voice. This is the reason for the explosion. And the source of difficulty.

The Challenge of Authenticity

The universal availability makes the social community a noisy place.

So if you aspire to communicate and market using Social Media, the first job is to develop a voice that will rise above the noise, and resonate with the target audience.

This is not unique to Social, of course. Students of speech will remember the story of Demosthenes, the orator of ancient Greece. To overcome an impediment that made it difficult for his audience to listen, he practiced achieving clarity of speech with stones in his mouth.

Then along came tools that could broadcast a message to the masses — which often only serves to amplify the challenge. Recall the story of King George VI, popularized in the 2010 film, The King’s Speech.

The fact is that not even pivotal moments or profound content can guarantee a message will connect. Or be received.

And now Social suggests we deliver a message 140 characters with millions of other messages swirling about. Or via a Vine or an Instagram. And who knows what a “Like” or “endorsement” really means?

Top 3 Keys To An Authentic Social Voice

If you spend time in any social community you’ve likely encountered the social broadcasters — the messengers too busy dispensing canned content to be bothered with conversation or collaboration.

You also know it when you encounter an authentic voice.

What is the difference?

I recently had the pleasure of doing a guest spot on the popular weekly Twitter program for marketers, MMChat. (If you’re a marketer, you might enjoy participating — check it out every Monday evening at 8:00 PM Eastern, using the hashtag #MMChat.) The topic was the Keys To Developing An Authentic Social Voice. It was a lively exchange, and here are three ideas to emerge from the conversation.

1. Listen Intently. As opposed to an initial preoccupation with what you will say, begin with a focus on listening. Pay close attention and your market is likely to reveal precisely what it takes to become relevant, what resonates with them, and what is dismissed as noise.

2. Engage With Your Market. This is the DNA of social communities. And one of the most dynamic forms of engagement is to participate in the dialogue and agendas most important to your market. This is the most basic form of collaboration. And supporting other authentic voices allows you to leverage their resonance and credibility.

3. Deliver Value. This is about more than the service, product or solution you’re marketing. Social is about building and nurturing relationships. Relationship is about trust. Trust has roots in giving. Seek to understand your Targets’ needs; then provide a solution. This is the ultimate in delivering value. And by the way — the value you deliver may have little to do with the product or service you ultimately provide. Value is defined by the community. Want to be part of the community? Understand what it values.

Social Media presents challenges, to be sure. But the more voices vying for attention, the more authenticity differentiates, and rises above the din. Practice these three keys with consistency, and your voice becomes more and more authentic. And this is the beginning of a marketing message that connects.