Regardless of how you might feel about social media platforms, it doesn’t change their impact on running a business in the tech-centric era. I don’t know about you, but for a long time I felt really lost trying to use social media for my business. I’ve watched the platforms evolve over the last 15 years (when I finally joined the social media world) and often felt overwhelmed by endlessly changing “things to do” to stay afloat. It wasn’t until I actually learned how social media works in relation to business exposure, marketing and branding that I was able to make headway with less effort and bigger results.
Marketing trends will always come and go – and yes, if you have the energy to constantly tackle them then go for it, but the foundations of good, longevity marketing will always remain the same. One of those foundation pillars is AUTHENTICITY.
Building an authentic social media presence for your business will give you stable, continuous growth even as trends in marketing pass by. Please remember that trends in marketing are not bad. Leveraging them if you are able can help catapult your business growth. The problem with trends is that they often absorb a lot of our energy and time just to get results; which ultimately leads to burnout. A marketing tactic that you cannot see yourself sticking with for 24 months (at a minimum) is not one that you want to embark on. Our focus in this blog series and in our Make & Grow: The Marketing & Selling Masterclass for Makers is to dissect everything there is to know about marketing and making/selling products, and how to create structured marketing plans that work for your life and business goals long-term.
Before we dive into six tips for an authentic social media presence, let’s first talk about what authenticity even means in relation to marketing and our businesses.
Authenticity means creating a truthful representation of yourself and your business on social media. The pressure of society – especially with the highlight reels of social media life – often make us feel like we need to hide or be embarrassed by who we are, our opinions/beliefs and more. When something slips through that isn’t considered “okay” by someone’s standards, it becomes a target on the back of our business. As business owners, we are able to both create and control of the narrative around our business and the experience our customers have. Instead of creating a business “mask” of what you think people want to see, you create loyal customers by leveraging authenticity.
KNOW YOUR VOICE
Our voice – a.k.a. the lingo that we use, the way we engage, our branding and the products we post – tell our audience a lot about us makers behind the scenes. It is our responsibility to have an honest conversation with ourselves about how that can be perceived by our customers. Does our business come off as demeaning to other businesses or welcoming to community? Does our business appear stable and supported or do our posts seem desperate and struggling? Is our brand positive and inclusive or presenting the opposite?
Customers are more likely to follow and engage with your content when they find your “voice” welcoming to them. With massive diversity in mindsets and beliefs, you are able to attract your ideal customer by knowing your voice and constructing everything from your products to your branding to your marketing, to represent that.
If you are a soft-spoken, whimsical type of individual, then your products, branding and marketing should send that message to customers. If you are an aggressive, masculine, sporty type of individual – then your products, branding and marketing should send that message. Knowing your voice creates authenticity for your brand and attracts your ideal customer. An ideal customer is a longstanding customer – remember that above all else.
ALIGN YOUR BRAND WITH YOUR VALUES
Alongside of knowing your voice is aligning your brand and your values. Customers genuinely care about the values of the businesses that they support. Values does not specifically refer to political or religious beliefs. In fact, unless your business is built on your belief system, you should practice keeping it separate from your business. For example, T & P CO (formerly called Turner & Pooch) launched and maintains today that they are a social justice brand. All of their merchandise available on Etsy and Amazon amplifies their personal belief system. If you do not share their belief system, you are not going to support them – but they have not hidden it from you which creates an authentic business presence.
On the flipside of this, we have companies like Chick-Fil-A whom have been unmasked in recent years for their donations – both by the company and later by the owner of the concept – to anti-LGBTQ organizations. This company attempted to have a positive, welcoming, inclusive front-facing perception of their business and has lost support due to the truth being uncovered. We can argue that a person and their business is separate and should be treated as separate – but the truth is that the customer perception does not see it as separate. Now, companies like Chick-Fil-A are not exactly suffering for their political and religious beliefs in the shadows because their reach is broad and individuals exist on both sides of the aisle; but as small businesses, we don’t have that same luxury.
To create an authentic social media presence, your values and business should be aligned. This does not mean you need to or even should include your political or religious belief system (again, unless that is your brand target). It means that your audience perception based on your products and marketing should not lead them to believe you are someone other than you are.
I always believe in leading by example and therefore, can use myself and my business as an example. There is not a single person in our group of (currently) 60K people that knows what my religious and political beliefs are. My beliefs are not your business. However, I’m willing to bet that there is not a single person who thinks I am on the oppression and hate-filled beliefs team. That is because I have showed up authentically on my business social media as someone who cares, who creates community, who doesn’t tolerate ugliness, and who does their best to be inclusive of all people from the many corners of the world that are in our group. My desire to simply be a good human being is entwined in every inch of my business.
CREATE RESPECTFUL BOUNDARIES
Authenticity does not mean an open door policy. You have the right to choose what you share through your products and marketing. Often we see people who state that they do not want to share their lives outside of their business on social media but feel pressured. It’s easy to feel that pressure because there are influencers who build their entire income around sharing their personal lives. I will forever be on team privacy and encourage you to do the same for your own peace of mind. It is also much easier to show up as yourself when you have created respectful boundaries between your business and your life.
For me, I share pictures of Jasper, food and tidbits like an occasional kayaking trip – nothing else. I share my personal stories and experiences as a 17-year business owner in multiple markets as it relates to content I am creating. With respectful boundaries to myself and my audience in place, I am comfortable being transparent in ways that are helpful but do not feel compelled to “bond” over my private life. By removing that pressure to share too much, you amplify your authenticity in what you do share and connect with your audience over.
BE CUSTOMER CONSCIENCE
A good social media strategy is focused on the customer above all else. Customers want to feel included in your life and business because it helps them feel connected to your brand. The tips we’ve outlined above help guide us in what that can look like based on our business and audience. In everything you create, post and share – ask yourself “How does this benefit my customer?” or “How does this amplify my products and brand?”. Finding the middle ground for what is relevant and favorable to your customer and yourself increases that online authenticity.
ENGAGE & CARE
In line with being customer conscience is engaging with your audience. Sharing products or posts but leaving your customers in the wind is just bad business. It is also a strategy we see a lot among small brands in our industry. Your goal of sharing your products cannot be honed in on making a sale and nothing else. No one wants to feel like they are being constantly sold. Create engagement posts, respond to comments, share behind the scenes of making a product or packing an order – include your customers in the conversation. It is truly a small task that makes your audience feel seen and heard.
FOCUS ON QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
The absolute worst advice for businesses, in my opinion, is telling them to saturate their storefronts and social media feed with products and posts just to say they did it. Working the algorithm is complex – and yes, more is beneficial. However, quality posts that keep your audience engaged are more beneficial than that in the long run. It is very difficult to put out 30+ posts a month or products a week and it actually feel authentic to your customers. I promise, we can all tell when a business is just pushing something out to say that they did it. Don’t run your business checking proverbial boxes because you think it will lead to sales – it will not. Quality content is what attracts a quality audience – and lets your authenticity shine through.
Authenticity is a pillar of your business foundation because it’s one thing that doesn’t require any gimmicks or tricks. Just be yourself! It is much easier to be yourself and be consistent with how you use that in your business, than anything else. If you want to learn more about the kinds of content to put out, tailoring your products for your business brand, navigating offline and online selling and marketing and so much more than join Make & Grow: The Marketing & Selling Masterclass for Makers.