Ahhhh, ‘authenticity’ – the buzz word of the year in ye olde blogging and influencer industry.
It’s a word that gets tossed around a lot these days, by bloggers, by marketers, by readers, and even by me – hell, I’m a self-proclaimed champion for authenticity and I say that loud and proud, my friends. But when we talk about authenticity online, when we declare someone as being authentic, what does that actually mean?
Well, the dictionary defines it as “representing one’s true nature or beliefs; being true to oneself “, and I’d say that’s pretty spot on (obviously… it’s the dictionary). But for me, when I speak specifically of developing a personal brand for bloggers and social influencers, it simply means being the same person online as you are in real life. A lot of creatives and bloggers mistake authenticity for sharing every part of your life online, but you can still maintain a level of privacy AND be authentic – it’s more about being truthful, honest and essentially… just being yourself.
So why is authenticity so important when it comes to your personal brand?
Well, first of all, because it’s a personal brand – it’s a representation of YOU! Building a personal brand means you want people to connect to what you have to say and share, and building an honest relationship with your audience. And if you’re developing a personal brand as a means of turning your blog or social channels into a business, you need to connect to your audience in a genuine way before they’ll be influenced to buy, try or believe in what you’re selling, whether that’s a another brand’s products or your own.
But it’s often easier said than done – in an online world where EVERYTHING is curated and we’re open to judgment from every angle, how do we actually maintain authenticity? Keep reading for 5 ways that I’ve learned to grow my personal brand and an active, engaged audience… all from simply tellin’ it like it is.
1) Be your honest self.
It really is that simple! If you’re the same person online as you are in real life, you can never go wrong, guys. And when it comes to creating an authentic personal brand, that means sharing the good, the bad and the ugly with your followers – aspirational is great, but being relatable is what creates connections. Here are a few ways that you can build your authenticity with your online audience simply by sharing who you are, what you believe in and what you love:
- If you’re having a bad day or struggling with something, share it with your audience! People appreciate honesty and it gives them the chance to relate to you on a personal level (thus strengthening your personal brand).
- Showing behind-the-scenes stuff is a great way to show off your personality, especially if your personal brand is all about beautiful, curated images. So if you’re an interior designer, hit up Insta Stories to share the scary side of a home reno. If you’re a fashion blogger with gorgeous, editorial images, end each blog post with a funny blooper/outtake from the shoot.
- If a brand asks to collaborate on a project, always ask to sample the product/service before signing on. You never want to be contracted to promote a product in a positive light and then discover after the fact that it actually sucks and now you have to gush about it to your followers. No bueno.
2) Post with purpose.
Posting a photo of a latte is pretty, or even a selfie when you’re looking shit hot – but how much more of an impact and connection could you make if you actually had something to say? Part of being authentic and creating a relationship with your audience is posting with purpose – avoiding filler content that doesn’t connect people to your personal brand. I used to stress DAFUQ OUT if I didn’t share something with my online audience every day, so I would search for something, anything, that might keep the engagement going and put me in front of people’s faces. I quickly realized, however, that the filler content wasn’t giving my audience the best of me and didn’t come off authentic or genuine – it came off as, well, filler. I quickly kiboshed that, and now before I post anything online, I ask myself – “What purpose does this serve? How am I connecting to my audience? Does this contribute to my personal brand?”
3) Speak like a human.
When it comes to blogging and creating your personal brand online, your voice is one of your greatest assets – how you communicate with your readers and followers is what will create a connection between them and your brand. But developing your tone-of-voice can be tricky. SO MANY bloggers I know gripe that they’re not writers, or that they struggle to come up with captions for sponsored posts so that it doesn’t come off sounding like a sales pitch. My advice for developing your tone-of-voice is simple – don’t overthink it! I speak to my audience the same way I would speak to a friend – informal, upbeat and often with an f-bomb, and I structure my sponsored posts the same way as my organic posts. You want people to relate to you and feel like they know you – it helps to develop trust so that when you do have something to promote (whether it’s a brand’s product or your own), your readers don’t feel like they’re being fed an ad, but rather an exchange of information between friends.
4) Be responsive.
Social media has the word ‘social’ in it for a reason – in order to grow your personal brand, you need to nurture your community and respect your readers the same way you want them to respect you, which means communicating with them regularly. Create conversations, answer questions, encourage discussion. Throwing up a well-thought-out post or a caption is great, but connecting one-on-one with followers and readers through their comments and DMs not only ensures that they continue to engage with you in the future, but allows you to continue the conversation in an informal, friendly way (and speak like a human!).
5) Balance your organic content with sponsored content.
Sponsored content is totally commonplace online these days, whether it’s a blogger sharing looks from a collaboration with their fave clothing brand, or a photographer sharing pics he took with a tech brand’s new smartphone. But if everything you post on Instagram is promoting a brand, or every blog post you throw up is a collaboration, your audience can’t build that level of trust with you – they don’t know if your opinion on a branded post is genuine, because they don’t actually know you.
If you’re sharing sponsored content (or selling your own product) on your blog or social media, aim to stick to the 80/20 rule – 80% organic content and 20% sponsored. This will fluctuate depending on contracts and post timings, but the key is to give your audience more of your original content (and personal brand) so that when you do get around to sharing a sponsored post, it comes off more authentic because they can recognize what your honest opinion looks like.
How do YOU maintain authenticity online?
Why do you think it’s important for bloggers to show their true personality?
Share your own thoughts on authenticity in the comments below!