It’s a word we hear often when it comes to blogging and social media. It seems weird, doesn’t it? We’re human, right? Aren’t we authentic?
Well, yes – and no. Here’s the thing. Some professionals create personas – false public images of themselves – in order to present a front to the world they think is more palatable than the ‘real thing’.
You might be surprised to hear that some CEOs of major companies take acting classes in order to present an image more in keeping with what the marketplace is after (or so they think). And we all know the ‘public image’ of many a Hollywood actor is manipulated and airbrushed to within an inch of its life.
Now, we all want to be seen in a good light, that’s only natural; but the last thing we want to do is create a disconnect with our audience if they continue to see us in different lights, as it were.
Authenticity can manifest itself in a number of ways.
Firstly, there is ‘what you see is what you get’.
This should be a given as far as I’m concerned. You want to be confident the person whose blog you’re reading, podcast you’re listening to or video series you’re watching is the ‘real thing’.
Author, entrepreneur and wine guru Gary Vaynerchuk (pictured below) is a perfect example here. What you see is what you get with ‘Gary Vee’. He’s a super-passionate guy, a hyper-active straight-shooter who knows his brash in-your-face style puts people off some people, but he’s not about to change.
Vaynerchuk says you have to embrace your DNA. For five years he hosted a daily video blog called Wine Library TV. If he wanted to manage his image for mainstream public consumption he would have toned down his loud personality and changed the way he presented the show to be more ‘vanilla’ and in keeping with what people are used to on TV. But he didn’t, and as a result he cut through the ‘wall of beige’ in a big way, standing out in a sea of boring me-too cardboard cut-outs.
And the results have been palpable: One million+ followers on Twitter, three best-selling books, a fast-growing company in VaynerMedia and a bulging portfolio of big-time speaking gigs are testament to Vaynerchuk’s ability to attract and grow an audience.
Now, Vaynerchuk might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but his fans – those who like his swagger and can-do attitude – are behind him all the way.
Self-confessed “snarky brand strategist, author, and columnist” Erika Napoletano is a good example of a big personality who lets it rip on and offline. She is a sassy lady with a distinctive voice who has built a large (and growing) following for her ‘tell it like it is’ style. For example, Napoletano’s Redhead Writing blog features categories called Bitch Slap and Redhead Rants; her book The Power of Unpopular is about how to (in her words) “build a brand you can love and have it loved by the people who matter the most…the ones you built it for in the first place” – it’s a great read!
So show your personality on stage, through your blog and via social media channels. If you’re into cheesy ’80s pop music, don’t hide it – stand up and be proud! Talk about the football team you follow, the passion for origami you have, your obsession with Tasmanian shiraz; if you’re a mad keen runner, weave it into your narrative. If you love photography, incorporate this aspect of your life into your content creation efforts.
A second form of authenticity is a person’s ability, or more importantly, willingness, to be open and transparent.
This can become can of worms because today if you live your life online as many creative entrepreneurs, business professionals and thought leaders do, then it’s super-difficult to separate your personal life from your professional life. Indeed, many high profile individuals have endeared themselves with their audience because they’ve taken people ‘behind the velvet rope’ and shown them their personal side.
Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith talks about the importance of drawing a distinction between ‘personal, professional and private’ when on the social web; she says mixing personal with professional is good for her business because her community gets to know her on a deeper level when they see her habits, interests and quirks.
However, she also says: “Each of us has a private life too and that’s where the line should be drawn”.
Just how far you open the kimono is up to you, but be aware that being open about your life and business is attractive to your fans and followers (i.e. readers, listeners and viewers of your content).
Aside from showing your true personality, this might be as simple as letting readers of your blog know you’re friends with a particular author when you give their book a glowing review, or of the mistakes you made when launching a new product, for example.
Pat Flynn (left) from Smart Passive Income regularly publishes ‘How I Make a Living Online’ income reports , while author and entrepreneur Jonathan Fields takes his fans and followers deeper into his life by publishing a personal ‘Annual Report‘.
Bottom line: Expressing your true personality online and offline will help you connect more genuinely with people, while being open and transparent will ensure you build trust over time with your community.
Both aspects are important foundations of a strong personal brand.