Updated: Jun 19
Let's imagine for a moment that you're at a networking event. There's a sea of new faces, and you've just been introduced to a successful businesswoman that has a talk show. You admire her work and really want to make a lasting connection.
Before shaking her hand, you pull out a flashcard from your pocket. You read an elevator pitch that you found on google. She tries to get a word in, but then you begin to read off reasons why she should invite you on her show. Needless to say, the rest of the conversation doesn't go well.
If you wouldn't do that in person, then why are you doing that to your followers?
If your posts are made up of insistent calls to action, carefully curated images, and one-sided conversations - are you really being you? Or are you just fishing for likes or followers?
I'm sure you'd rather leave a lasting impression on your followers and, ideally, make a community that has your back.
Like a relationship in real life, being authentic can get you a long way digitally as well. Here are some steps to take your brand to the next level.
Own Your Voice
Your voice doesn't have to sound like Apple's or Google's. Even though inspiration is the highest form of flattery, in this case, it can hurt more than help. You don't want to look and sound like a carbon copy of another brand.
If you're stumped, take the time to sit down and envision what kind of person your audience would like to speak to. Are they serious? Or more laid back? What are they knowledgeable about? After you figure this out, it's time to identify what makes you different.
Find Your Secret Sauce
KFC's signature fried chicken is made with 11 herbs and spices. One of those 11 spices was such a heavily guarded secret, that they kept Colonel Sanders handwritten recipe in a vault. Not only did this add an air of mystery, but it set KFC apart from its competitors. Like every great family recipe, your brand needs to have a secret sauce.
This sauce will attract the right people, so choose wisely. What makes you different? Are you just another donut shop? Or a shop that only makes vegan donuts? Try to get as specific as possible, since this will be at the heart of your brand's identity. Ultimately, your identity will guide how you speak with your audience.
Have Clear Intentions
Now that you know who you are, let's set some goals. Intentions and goal setting go hand in hand. Take a moment to visualize a few things and make these intentions crystal clear. In an ideal world, what is your brand doing? What conversations are happening around your brand? ? More importantly, what does your audience love about following you? It's okay for these goals to change. Let's take Dove for example. While Dove started as an affordable personal care company in 1955, their intentions have evolved over the years. With their #ShowUs campaign and Self-Esteem project, Dove is trying to challenge modern beauty standards. Now they want their name to be at the forefront of tackling larger societal issues.
Be Human (Don’t Curate)
Brands aren't people, but there are ways to seem more human like. Humans aren't perfect. That means you shouldn't over-curate your content to the point where it feels stiff. Or even worse, repetitive. "Curated" is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days, but it looks like its days are finally numbered.
According to The Atlantic, “Fast-rising young influencers such as Emma Chamberlain, Jazzy Anne, and Joanna Ceddia all reject the notion of a curated feed in favor of a messier and more unfiltered vibe." This movement away from perfection applies to brands too. At the end of the day, you want your brand to be recognizable and relatable. Relatability comes from owning your shortcomings and honesty. While consistency is important (we'll get to that later), allow some room for creativity and experimenting.
Learn The Art of Listening
Communication is a two-way street. It involves knowing when to speak and when to listen. If you've only been bombarding your followers with calls to action, then something needs to change. Don't forget that your audience is more than just a number. . All of them have needs, interests, and opinions. Get to know them, so your communication reflects their interest.
Step away from your analytics page and talk to some real people! Answer some comments, message your followers, or at least skim through old threads. What types of conversations are they having? What keeps them up at night? Do you notice any patterns? Ask yourself how you can add some value to their discussions.
If you've ever been the new kid at school, then you know that fitting in takes some time. You're lost. You don't know anyone's name yet. You're trying to figure out where you belong. Establishing your brand identity can feel a lot like that sometimes.
Finding your audience and creating a genuine following doesn't happen overnight. In the meantime, show off who you are. It will take several impressions to establish your identity, and the best way to do that is to make content you care about.
This tweet by @g_marguglio phrases it best:
Consistency is key here. You wouldn't talk about how much you love puppies one day, and then declare they make the worst pets the week after. That's why finding your voice is such a crucial step. Making a detailed content plan can make this process easier and hold you accountable. If you don't know where to start, find ways to put your own spin on timely memes to start breaking the ice. You have a sense of humor, so why not use it to your advantage?
And besides, you won’t be “the new kid” forever.
If done right, these steps can get you on the path to being authentically you. Remember that authenticity looks different for everyone. This is not a “one size fits all” process. At its core, being authentic means that you are aligned with your vision and your identity. That means you aren’t trying to be something you’re not (or cycling through another brand’s greatest hits). In the words of Shakespeare himself, “This above all- to thine own self be true.”