As a social media influencer, authenticity is key. At Forbes Women’s Summit, Kim Kardashian — the social media queen herself — related that she messed up by taking too many sponsorship opportunities. Savvy consumers saw that she was not discerning when it came to her endorsements, and stopped trusting her recommendations.
Consumers, especially millennials, have an inherent “distrust of people and detachment from traditional institutions,” as Pew Research revealed. Only 19 percent of millennials believe that people can generally be trusted, which is less than half compared to boomers.
Though they almost completely ignore traditional advertising, 68 percent of millennials admit that they’re somewhat likely to make a purchase or take an action after seeing a friend’s post about a product. Genuine opinions matter. Authenticity matters. That’s how I’ve gained my following, even before it became a trend. Though it wasn’t always easy to be so real.
Even if you’re not an influencer, it can be hard to be authentic online when broadcasting content to groups of people that include your friends, colleagues, potential clients and family. We simply have different behavioral repertoires, depending on our audience, and they’re difficult to reconcile. So, listen up. Here are four key ways to be true to yourself online.
1. Understand That Each Social Media Account Has a Purpose
You might use Facebook for keeping in touch with friends and family. It’s perfect for this since your circle is wide. You have control over who sees the semi-private content, so you can post a bikini pic and your potential boss isn’t going to see it — as long as you’ve got your settings straight!
If Facebook is getting too convoluted and you don’t want your nieces seeing what you post with your adult friends, get in on the beta test of Capsure. It’s a family friendly social platform for sharing personal events in private and reminds me of Ohana, a company I advised several years ago that was acquired by Facebook. It’s designed to partition your posts between specific groups, because none of us talk with our cousins or friends the way we do with our grandparents or managers. And no matter how cute your new baby, there’s a limit on that too.
Twitter is my favorite place for following (read:digital stalking) public figures, finding articles from sources you trust, and engaging in political discourse (read:digital shaming). It’s the choice social media tool of journalists who are remarkably responsive, and the restrained character count keeps debates brief. Just remember, what you tweet is public — so choose those words carefully. Be professional. Your future boss may be watching and it only takes a second to capture the moment forever in a screenshot.
2. Partition Your Public/Professional Life From Your Personal
LinkedIn may be the bran flakes of social media, but it can still be good for you. That is, as long as you use it correctly. Treat it like an online resume, and don’t upload anything you don’t want in the hands of potential colleagues and seniors, clients, or the press, for that matter. Even if you’re not famous yet.
In fact, that’s a good rule of thumb for all of your social media accounts. Be clear about what accounts are public and private. And remember, it’s not inauthentic to have a public face (assuming you aren’t pious at work and doing keg stands every weekend). And don’t tweet about weekend plans on your work Twitter account. It’s just best to use good manners.
Also, try to keep a roster of work colleagues who have ‘friended’ you (including bosses, who uncomfortably do this sometimes). You can apply restrictions to that list, so you’re free to accept a friend request without actually having to share your personal life with them.
3. Share Vulnerabilities With Discretion
This is really rule number one, which we should all know by now: resist the urge to overshare! Even the friends with whom you’re emotionally intimate will probably feel pity and embarrassment on your behalf if you overshare on socials.
Constantly broadcasting your woes on the internet is tasteless and does nobody any good. You’ll also more than likely get into an uncomfortable situation with some of your contacts and lose some friends. Remember, authenticity doesn’t mean spilling your guts without discretion.
When you want to share personal vulnerabilities on social media, make use of closed platforms like Capsure. You can select who you share your news with and make sure it doesn’t expose you to the masses and provoke a situation you will regret later.
4. Take a Breath Before Posting
Never post anything reactive. Breathe in… and…
Aaah, doesn’t that feel better? That post wasn’t necessary after all. Your online persona looks more respectable already!
You’ve worked hard to be your best self during the rest of life. So, don’t let that effort go to waste just because you log on. If you need a lesson, look no further than Yale Dean June Chu, who was put on leave after leaving derogatory Yelp reviews calling people, “white trash,” and “low class folks.”
If you are going to post, remember the Golden Rule: Own Your Words. Be prepared to stand in the fire for every word you post, own it, back it up and defend it, but allow people to try and change your mind with logic, reason, facts and passion.
These few simple steps will put you in good standing with the social media world. Whether you’re building a personal brand as an influencer or not, you’ll know that every post is intentional, appropriate, and authentic. And that is the beginning of being your best self online, as you are in daily life.