What Iceland and Sweden can teach us about social media marketing: Trust & authenticity

Trust and authenticity.

You can’t buy it. You just have to earn it. And the only way to earn it is through being yourself and not hiding behind corporate speak or bureaucracy. That can be a challenge for some companies as they grow and figure out how to manage their message online using social media.

Enter Iceland and Sweden. Arguably, they aren’t corporations, but they are countries with a lot at stake. Tourism is a major industry in these far reaching northern areas, and nobody jets off there for a weekend like going to Vegas.

This spring, and continuing into this fall, Iceland is targeting global travelers with the help of a few friendly Gudmundur’s. 4,000 of them to be exact. Apparently there are 4,000 guys and gals named Gudmunder in Iceland out of a population of 329,000. Go figure. The Gudmunder’s have become “the world’s first human search engine.”


Launched as the #AskGundmunder social media campaign highlights the diversity of year-round experiences in the country by allowing people to submit questions on Iceland’s social media channels using the #askgundmunder hashtag, and one of 4,000 Gundmunder volunteers will respond to the question – unedited, and with authenticity. It’s a really cool initiative based on trust. Would you be willing to give the keys of your social media to 4,000 employees? Too scary? How about 5-10? I’m willing to bet for many readers, that is still scary enough. The approach is based on trust, and you know as a potential tourist, you’re getting the authentic goods. You can read and watch more about the campaign here.

Three years ago, Sweden launched a campaign called “The Curators of Sweden” where the country essentially allowed different citizens each week to tweet as the manager of the @Sweden Twitter account. The idea was to bring the voice of Sweden to Twitter. Arguably Sweden is a progressive country and socially liberal, but it was still an incredible act of trust to make such a move. It played out politically well too, as a demonstration of free speech in a world increasingly muffling citizens in many countries. You can learn more about the campaign through this recent NPR radio interview celebrating the third anniversary of the campaign.

But it’s what both of these campaigns have in common that really intrigues me: Trust and authenticity. Is there something to be learned here in our approach to social media for business? I think so. The more human you are, faults and all, the more authentic you will seem. People buy from those they know, like and trust. Authenticity is a huge part of that equation.





Mary Charleson

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