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Five Ways to Stay Authentic in Social Media

By Stacey Ross

Less than a handful of years ago, I had the privilege of meeting social media brand consultant, best-selling author and online guru Gary Vanderchuck. His infectiously energetic passion and unmatched charisma filled the Dove library in Northern San Diego with the kind of inspiring words and stories that tend to motivate one to, whatever degree, indelibly make one's mark on this earth.

So Q & A time was approaching and he called on the gal in the pink. Here was my chance: "So, what is your take on posting blogs based on analytics vs. just sharing what you think you need to get out there?"

He noted that both are important and that neither should be ignored. But what he came back to,  as he always does, is that in the end it is crucial to show your authentic self in a space where people keep coming back for more.

In an article on Tamarathorpe.com he hits the nail on the head: "So don’t feel like you have to fake it or be something or someone different to be successful; just find what it is you love that fits the 'real' you and do that all day long."

I tend to agree, as people looking for online staying-power tend to build upon what they already possess vs. manifest a false persona, but it surely is a live-and-learn process.

The following are five top ways to keep it real in social media as you grow your personal brand:

1. Be yourself

As you evolve, your voice will grow right along with your experiences and the passionate part of you will come out if you work with it. Consider that you will need to find a way to stand out from the rest, so knowing one or two things that give you your personal edge will be your secret sauce; own it and polish it regularly. What is your shtick? Be provocative, evocative, personable, humorous, educational – or whatever best amplifies your already bad self – and keep it up! Also, try to show that same side in real life for continuity, as it can be a real buzz kill to experience a totally different persona than the one you have grown to appreciate online. (This goes for online dating too!)

2. Diversify (to a degree)!

If you are known for being a go-to person for a particular topic, you need not limit your scope so long as you acknowledge your larger target niche. A blogger who writes almost exclusively about kids' toys can beautifully expand his/her horizons by freelancing for educational websites, for example. Imagine that you are filmed in a daily v-log; what companies would be looking for product placement on your desk? Speak to those audiences and mention things that interest them, too, as that is your community, as well! Sure, don't go too off topic but certainly broaden your horizons strategically.

3. Be generous

Try giving and engaging without any strings attached. For example, maybe go above and beyond the call of duty by acknowledging a person online, adding an extra something to an order, share a video that your colleague just produced, congratulate your colleagues online when they are celebrating milestones and direct your followers to their websites. Have promotional products that would be perfect in your followers' hands. Choose a few influencers on a regular basis and send them a small gift in the mail. Connecting on a personal level with those whom you already find interesting can go really far!

4. Speak your mind

Have your opinions, but engage in such a way that you respect other peoples' viewpoints. No need to slam the door on someone who wishes to engage! Keep in mind that if you are representing a business, however, you now have even more reason to respect peoples' differences and yet still make your points known. Consider how much controversy you wish to stir up, however, as in the long run it might do more harm than good. Or maybe the opposite!

5. Engage!

Social media offers an ideal opportunity to meet and engage with folks who not  only enhance your online voice, but also help expand your audience. Tell your story, listen to your fans and consumers, and avoid defaulting to antiquated tactics of correspondence! The key to building discussions is to encourage your audience to participate; prompt them with questions, nostalgic photos, videos, a personal anecdote, etc. How they relate as people as well as how genuine you come off in responding to them is important because they are building a form of trust – a virtual relationship, if you will.

Nicolas Johansson, founder of the startup Bar-deli shares in his blog, "To be authentic means letting your true voice be heard. By definition it entails going out on a limb, exposing yourself as vulnerable, so it can be a scary thing."

In the end, regardless of how "big" you are aiming to be, your test of authenticity (both online and offline) is validated by the trust, reliance, and believability your colleagues have in you. Oh, and have fun!

Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of SanDiegoBargainMama.com. A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.

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