Authenticity is a word that's thrown around more than the dirty laundry I'm desperately trying to sort. It's seen and discussed so often that the true essence of the word has become somewhat convoluted.
So let's center this post on the actual definition of the word, which is "of undisputed origin."
That is what we're talking about when we say that online content needs to have more authenticity. Someone should see it, and it should be so uniquely original that there is no dispute as to who the creator of it is. There is a clear and distinct style that comes from a human personality. As you're reading this, you can probably think of a few examples.
Women or men, whom you know personally, and every time you read a social media post or blog post, you actually read it in their voice. Or certain colors -- as soon as they pop up on your feed -- you can recognize the individual's brand.
The more we get into content production, self-promotion or social media marketing, the more we tend to get away from this type of authenticity.
I have a few theories.
Theory Number One: because of all of the data that's readily available.
We consume numbers that tell us about target audiences, most popular content, highest engaging posts, etc. And we put so much emphasis on these numbers that we can quickly lose the core of who we are as actual human beings.
Data is important, but knowing how to use it can be even more critical, and it's a skill many don't take the time to develop. We put our trust into algorithms, case studies and research that other people have created, and we blindly follow where the numbers lead.
Theory Number Two: because of all the other "experts" out there.
I can't even begin to tell you how many people pop up in my news feeds, claiming that they alone have the secret to helping me generate $100K in income from Instagram alone. Or that they've quit their 9-to-5 and have made millions of dollars all from doing this "one simple thing."
I am all for taking classes and online webinars, as well as joining groups of like-minded individuals to spur the kind of creativity and inspiration you're ultimately seeking.
Where the problem lies, however, is allowing these sources to homogenize your content to better align with what everyone else might be doing. Someone is doing x, y, and z, and appears to be very successful, so I should copy their blueprint.
I can't tell you how many times I've been prompted to follow a group of influencers or top social media professionals and then become disappointed in the fact that as my thumb scrolled, I kept seeing similar, if not identical, content, filters, colors or images being used over and over again.
If we aren't cautious, a "best practice" prompt from these experts can turn us into average social users, rather than the leaders that we're trying to be.
What to do instead --
The other definition for authentic that I love is "true to one's own personality, spirit, or character."
Given that staying true to oneself is vital to the idea of authenticity, here are some things you can do instead of the theories above (or in addition to) to help you figure out how you can be more authentic online:
1. Think of things you used to love to do as a child. This is a good indication of where your personality naturally gravitates. I played a lot of make-believe and dressed up in my mom's clothes. I would also create elaborate scenarios for my Barbies whenever I played with them. Clearly, storytelling is something that is authentic to my personality. What did you use to do as a child? How can you embrace your little kid quirks to reframe your online content better?
2. Imagine you have zero obligations. Time is a significant hindrance to people truly being authentic and genuine online. Why is this? Because it's easier to automate social media rather than hand-craft each post or copy. What would your online presence look like if you had zero obligations? What would you do differently or in addition to what you're already doing? That's a great indicator of how you can put more authenticity into your content.
3. Avoid the tropes. Social media tropes are all around you. Particular styles and voices are prevalent on sites such as Instagram, as well as on popular blogs. It's why some marketers have called Influencer Marketing "hot people holding things." When we see that a person is thriving on a platform, we begin to emulate their style or voice. When enough people do that, it becomes a trope. It's the social media equivalent of the nosy next-door neighbor on sitcoms. It's been done to death. Use people as inspiration, but don't absorb their style. Just be you. If the hot-mess mom or #OOTD babe is genuinely you, proceed, but with caution. You have to put your own, unique take on these tropes in order to be authentic and memorable.
4. Become an expert curator. I love following people who not only create original content but who also know how to curate and share some really great stuff from other creators. People who can be amplifiers are fun to follow. They understand that a big part of social media success means interacting with others and sharing interesting content, whether it was their own, or whether they're sharing it while linking to the original source. They don't steal or emulate. They merely share the goods.
What are some other ways you have embraced authenticity in your blog or online content? I'd love to hear about it. Connect with me here or Tweet me @MareeJones.