I first heard about Gary Vaynerchuk before The Thank You Economy and before Vaynerchuk Media was a huge deal. I heard of him in the 2007-2009 time frame, and his wine-based Twitter account was all the rage. Seriously. At that time, some of the biggest content leaders were pointing to Gary V and saying, “This is how you do social media.”
Here’s a clue: It’s not really about social media
I’ve watched Gary V’s videos, and I follow his Facebook account. I have no problem saying this, even though I’ve never met the guy personally: we’re fooling ourselves if we think this is about “social media.” It’s not. This is not a show for him. And it’s not a game.
It’s who he really is. I doubt he would be a good actor. I hope he doesn’t ever plan on it. No one screams “Typecast me!” better than Gary V. He is who he is. He’s always the same. Or, better yet, he is always authentic.
Authentic: Of undisputed origin; genuine.
How to be Authentic Online
Being authentic online is so hard, isn’t it? There’s so much judgment everywhere. No wonder people try so hard to show up in certain ways.
It is especially tough if you don’t really like who you are or if you think that who you are will turn off customers.
Maybe who you are really will turn off customers. What do you do then?
I know business owners struggle with that question. The thought of being seen as we truly are is difficult for anyone, not just entrepreneurs. We don’t always like ourselves.
Sometimes, and I think this is true even though I have no real proof, I think people go into business because they can be something other than who they really are. You get to stand behind a counter and wear an apron and sell sprinkled cupcakes and pretend to be extremely happy about life.
If you want to be as authentic as Gary V is, you absolutely must be yourself 100% of the time. You have to be willing to turn people away from you – not because you want them to go, but because you cannot be anyone other than you. And the reality is that some people will be polarized by you, while others are magnetized.
You have to let go of the need to be liked.
How to be authentic on your blog
Don’t write just for search engines.
Stop focusing on click bait titles, honestly. Listen, from one person obsessed with SEO to another, you have GOT to let that crap go. Yes, you need to write content people are interested in reading. And your blog is a SUPER way to get new visitors. But you don’t have to write every post in such a mechanical way that is really only attractive to search engines. Once people land on your blog, if you want them to actually do business with you, YOU have to show up.
Write about what you want to, FWIW.
You should write about things that excite you. Or, write about things that piss you off. Here’s a suggestion: Once or twice a month, publish a post that is meant to draw in new visitors through search. But pin something incredibly authentic to the top of your blog, so that when that reader starts clicking around, they see something authentic.
It will either turn them toward you or away from you immediately. GOOD. You should only want to do business with people who want to do business with you. Period. You’ll significantly lessen the number of a*hole clients if you are authentic from the word go.
Write about things that affect your business or your customers lives.
News still sells. And you want to know something else? Your opinion on that news sells, too. It’s important. Again: you may polarize people. So what? You do not have to be liked by everyone. You will never win this game if you are afraid to be and say and do things that are authentically you.
In being open, you attract people who are open or who like people who are open. In being fake, you attract people who are fake and who only like people who are faking it, too.
How to be authentic with your social media accounts
If you don’t want a Facebook page, don’t have one. (Isn’t it bizarre that NOT participating in some networks is considered radical now?) Whatever you do decide to use, use it as you – a human being.
Ditch the over-automated stuff. Scheduling, yes. Heavily automated, impersonal accounts? No. I got caught up in automated this and that and still do use tools, but I use them (me, not a robot). I say what to publish and what not to. And when.
Small business owners: Do not buy into the lie that automation sufficiently helps you manage social media. Nothing takes the place of a human being managing your accounts.
Also, Twitter friends: For the love of God, PLEASE stop using IFTTT!! (If you want to challenge me on this, choose ANY actual leader in your industry and take a look at their social media profiles and explain to me why you think they are using such a tool. They are not. I guarantee it!)
Post real pictures or videos of yourself doing something.
Show yourself doing something, even just walking or driving (or record yourself from the back of a taxi or Uber or some other kind of car, like Gary V). If you want to be authentic, you have to get outside of your brand for a moment to show that human beings work there.
Have you seen the pics Gary V’s team puts up of him? It’s usually him mid-sentence!
Gary V’s not smiling all the time in the pics on his account, or posing. If you see that, it’s usually for press photos. And on his Facebook page, so many of the pictures are just him. He doesn’t shy away from the camera.
People want to see you. That’s why they follow you. People like to see pictures of other people.
I know that not everyone has a posse whose job it is to take pictures of you for posting online. That’s okay. Make do with what you have, who you are, and what you’re capable of. That’s how to be authentic.
Don’t *try* to spark a conversation.
Here’s why so many corporate and small business Facebook pages fail.
First, they are inflated with likes that don’t matter. (If your account with 30 followers gets 3 likes per post, and your competitor’s account with 3,000 followers gets 3 likes per post, who is really winning here? You are!)
It’s not about how many followers you have. It’s about how many care. — Gary V.
It used to be that numbers really mattered – follower counts, etc. They still do, to some degree, but what matters more is engagement. Something is wrong if you have many followers but no one interacts with your stuff.
Second, those business are practically begging their followers for attention. Ineffective social media managers are running pages and posting questions like, “What are your weekend plans?!” to a following that is basically mute.
That won’t work. And the more they do that, the less and less often your stuff shows up in your follower’s feeds, until one day, it never does again.
Instead of trying to spark a conversation, do or don’t. Put something out there of value. If people want to say something about it, they will. Keep testing things. Some content gets more buzz than others. Stop pulling teeth to make conversation.
Don’t continue to ask your audience to talk to you. You don’t want to be the guy at the party everyone keeps walking away from. Listen more than you speak. (Hint: use curated content that is already making conversation).
Re-cap: It’s not about social media
Gary V and his team don’t wake up and think about how to be authentic on social media. I know, because I read The Thank You Economy and he specifically talks about authenticity and social media. You should read it if you haven’t. Here is a list of great ideas/positions from it.
So if you want to be authentic, wake up and think about your customers. Or yourself. The tool you use doesn’t really matter. Today, Facebook… tomorrow, something else. But you will still have to be you.
Get Help with Your Content
Small business owners: I help people like you create authentic content for blogs and social media in an affordable, easy way. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to connect with me, or visit the homepage (www.skylaconsulting.com) to learn more about the services.