It seems like everywhere I turn these days, people are being urged to be authentic in order to grow their brand. I often hear “just be yourself and it will attract all the right people”. So I’m going to apologize in advance for being the one to pop the LA LA Land bubble here. The truth is that being authentic isn’t always a successful tool in brand building. In fact, in most cases authenticity alone simply isn’t effective enough.
I will admit that there are indeed benefits to exhibiting organic behavior, but “being real” isn’t a carte blanche to brand success, it’s only PART of the formula. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, I’m going to get straight to the “surprising” portion of this post. Here are a few theories that I hear often enough that I felt they needed to be addressed. I will also share the reasons why they may be TRUE or NOT TRUE!
1. Being authentic will attract a big audience (NOT TRUE)
While being yourself can indeed attract a lot of folks to your brand, the truth is you actually have to be likeable and/or relate-able first and foremost. Plus you also need to be either entertaining, inspirational or informative. I not happy about being the one to tell you this, but boring people don’t gain tons of followers (not usually anyway). So be yourself as long as your likeable and exciting, if not…. errr, welp I got nothing!
2. People are tired of fake posers and want to know the real you (TRUE)
With the rising popularity of Social Media, there has certainly been a shift in social consciousness and a greater demand for more organic behavior. The masses are tired of feeling duped by pretentious posturing that turns out to be a strategic farce designed to trick them into brand loyalty. While there is a limit to how much traction one can gain with authenticity alone, being fake is sure to stunt your brand growth all together. And don’t get me started on copycat brands with unoriginal content and services. Here’s a tip: BE ORIGINAL!
3. You can NEVER be too authentic (NOT TRUE)
Yepper, you can indeed be TOO authentic. You can only be as real as your audience can tolerate. After all, building a brand is ALL about your audience, they are the only reason your brand will thrive. It won’t pay to offend them or isolate them for the sake of “keeping it real”. For example, I have been known to have a serious potty mouth (don’t judge me). Now, imagine me at the local community center teaching a social media class to senior citizens then accidentally dropping the f-bomb! NOT CUTE right?! See!!! There IS a such thing as being too authentic. If you find your audience can not tolerate your being 100% real, you can do one of two things, pull back a bit or build a new audience. There’s no wrong answer here.
4. If you follow your passion then you can build a successful brand (NOT TRUE)
OMG!! I hear this one so much it makes my head freaggin’ hurt. I know you want to THINK this one is true, after all, what could be more authentic than your personal passions?! Passion is a GREAT tool for keeping you motivated and active. But there also needs to be real strategies and real solutions. For starters, your passion needs to benefit someone besides you, and it should also offer tools, solutions, support or resources in order to grow a viable, profit generating brand.
5. You Don’t Have To Be Perfect, Just Be Authentic (TRUE)
Raise your hand if you’re a perfectionist! C’mon, don’t act like I’m the only one here (getcho hand up!) The need to be perfect can keep you from your purpose. I’m going to give you permission to NOT be perfect, cause sometimes it’s just about showing up. Recently I sat on a panel at a business conference. I was late for the panel because I got lost in the hotel. When I was introduced I apologized to the audience my co-panelists and the moderator. I offered a brief explanation and ended with this statement “taking responsibility is a huge part of my brand”. Incidentally, I landed 3 clients from that event. Like I said, you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to show up.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the theory of practicing organic behavior is all smoke and mirrors, mostly I’m stating that there is a limit to how effective authenticity alone can be.