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Editor's Note: Got to Be Real
As the success of Funny or Die demonstrates, a successful social media strategy is all about an authentic relationship with your audience

In September, I had the chance to visit the home offices of Funny or Die-the comedy website that began in 2007 with "The Landlord" and has since grown to be one of the top video content destinations on the web. The offices are nothing much, but the people who work there are some of the smartest, most talented, and flat-out nicest people I've met in my years in this industry.

Indeed, though the creative office is in Hollywood, there's nothing Hollywood about the staff. Everyone is down-to-earth and all about the work, whether you're talking about Adam McKay and Chris Henchy-who, along with Will Ferrell, make up the production team behind not only Funny or Die but also movie hits such as Talladega Nights and The Other Guys-or Dashiell Driscoll, whose job it is to send out "seven and a half" tweets a day. These are people who are on the cutting edge of online video, entertainment, and social media, but who apologize when they use a buzzword like "trending." 

It's exactly that authenticity-the fact that it's in Hollywood but not of Hollywood-that makes Funny or Die's content so successful. "I liken it to going to see a band in concert, seeing the things they see between sets and the sweat on their brow," as COO Mitch Galbraith puts it. "You don't often get access to celebrities like that."

That sense of connection, that sense of genuineness, is also key to the company's social media marketing strategy, and that's one of the biggest lessons that any online video company can take from Funny or Die's success. If you're going to have a social media strategy, and by all means you should, it has to be, for lack of a better term, real.

"I think it's a policy for most companies to think like, ‘Just put up a Facebook page or just put up a Twitter account,' and push your information at these people," says VP of marketing Patrick Starzan, who'll be speaking at the Online Video Platform Summit in Los Angeles in November. "That's not the way social media works. If the word social doesn't clue you off it's about being social. It's about understanding."

The rest of Starzan's thoughts are worth printing in full:

"I always use a bar analogy. It's like going to your local bar, where you get to know those people and talk to them every single day, and when you actually have something to say they'll listen. As opposed to going to your local bar and then having the cigarette girl or the beer girl come in and try to push a product on you. That's very jarring. You won't respond the way they want you to respond.

But if you're there every single day and you love that bar and you love the people in it and you understand how they react to what you say or how you react to what they say, you have a much better, stronger connection with those people. And that's what we try to do. The thing that we've built for social media is that our people understand and love being there.

That philosophy holds true for every aspect of Funny or Die's business, and it's a philosophy that should apply to every bit of content you produce, not just within the video itself, but in all the elements that surround it. As Funny or Die's CEO Dick Glover says, "We're not going to do anything that destroys our relationship with our users. That's built on trust."

Without that relationship with viewers, without that trust, nothing else we do matters.