If you are a small business and spend any time on the internet these days, you can’t avoid articles and posts about building personal brands for your business. Personal branding and branding your small business are all the rage these days.
But what does it really mean?
The general wisdom states that your brand is your reputation, it’s how people think of you. Which makes sense. And its not a new concept. Way back in 1997 in an article for Fast Company. Tom Peters stated that “To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.“
So how does one do that these days? According to the prevailing hive mind on the internet, its Social Media. We have to raise our profile on social media to increase our visibility. And the key to all of that these days is “authenticity”. We are told that to succeed we have to share our authentic selves. There is a requirement to connect with people on a personal level. We must show them what makes us unique so they can like us and want to work with us.
Which sounds good at first. Unfortunately, as with most things, its not that clear cut or easy.
Is being authentic on social media really authentic?
Social media by its very nature is a curated medium. We post what we want the world to see. And there is a built in incentive to be selective in what you post on social media. Do you want potential clients to see you at your lowest points? Do you want potential clients to see your massive failures? (And before anyone screams, I realize that there are folks that do post about “failures” on social media. Even those are curated though. Usually that “failure” is accompanied by an inspiring quote on just the perfectly motivating Canva background. ) Do you really want your social media following to see you as anything less than talented and at the top of your game?
I think not.
As a society, we reward success. People want to work the best and the brightest. Brilliance is better than competent. We don’t want the runner up. We want perfection.
Which is why I think that social media and the obsession with “personal branding” is flawed from the start. I think its another fabricated way to sell courses and coaching and social media calendars with what you should be posting and when.
Let me pose this question to you. When was the last time you cared about the hobbies of your heart surgeon? And have you ever felt a deeper connection and more trust with your auto mechanic because you both enjoy artisanal cheeses? Lets be honest, what does artisanal cheese have to do with your mechanic being a good mechanic anyways?
What does being authentic on social media really mean?
What if your authentic truth is that you are a private person that isn’t interested in splashing your life across social media, curated or not? Does that make you any less “good” at what you do? Not everyone wants to be an “influencer”, and not everyone wants to live their entire life in public. Life is messy and imperfect and not always exactly what we are comfortable sharing with the world.
And that’s OK. Those experiences make me who I am as a person, and those highs and lows do shape and inform my outlook and how I approach things. But am I less talented, or less skilled at my chosen profession because I don’t feel compelled to splash all of those highs and lows across social media day in and day out?
I don’t have all of the answers. Honestly, I’m not sure that anyone does. It does seem that somehow “researching” folks on social media has replaced actually getting to know the people that we want to work with. I can promise that you the easiest way to determine if you want to work with me, is to just reach out and talk to me. Getting to know a new client and building up a friendship is different to me than living my life on social media. I’m perfectly willing to schedule a Zoom call so you can ask me any questions you may have. Just please don’t presume to know me based on the very limited view that I share on social media.
My talent and my skills are not defined by my social media presence.
I do choose to limit what I share on social media. My private life is exactly that. And while I do share little snippets of hobbies and generalities here and there, they are all carefully curated to keep my family and private life private.
It doesn’t mean that I’m any less authentic or capable of doing the work that you need done. And if that choice somehow negatively impacts your desire to work with me in a professional capacity, then I’d ask you why specifically my personal life matters to you so much? If I can meet your specs and your budget and your deadline, and you like what you hear, how does my private life and my social media presence really work into that equation?
I would also ask you how we are also supposed to keep a healthy work life balance if we are expected to live our lives and promote our “authentic brands” on social media 24/7 to “connect” with people?
I’m pretty much a “what you see, is what you get” sort of person, so if you think that I might be the right voice to help you with your next project, then please reach out. And if not, then I wish you the best of luck in finding what you are looking for on someone else’s social media profiles.