Musings on Creating the “Perfect” Brand, Authenticity and Transparency

I recently got tapped to create and deliver a social media workshop for landscapers. As we were talking about what the workshop was going to look like, and how I could help them, one of the topics that came up was the ol’ “personal versus professional.”

When I’m teaching classes or workshops, I pretty much talk about this topic every single time.

You see, in order for you to be successful on social media, you can’t be just one or the other. If you spend too much of your time being “professional” on social media, you come across as only promoting your own agenda, and that can make you look robotic and frankly, boring. Social media is social. Facebook, especially, is about personal connections: my friends from university, other moms that my kid goes to school with. That’s why I’m there. So, as a business, you have to balance the professional with some personal stuff: using humour, for example, or ย posting photos of your office employees on Pink Shirt Day or their birthday, just to give a face to your business.

For those of us who are our businesses, the balance becomes trickier still. When people hire me to teach a workshop or to help them out with their social media marketing plan, they’re not hiring a ginormous corporation. They’re hiring me, which includes my charming and winsome personality. ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

Fancy, right? Not my everyday outfit...
Definitely my “public” persona.

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So, I’ll be honest with you–I think a lot before I post something to Facebook, even to my personal account. I want to be sure that I am publishing things that support my personal brand (which is social media and food).

If I’m feeling discouraged, depressed, or otherwise having a hard time, I often stay off of Facebook, because I don’t like to post things that are negative. I like for my overall energy to be positive on social media, so I try to stay away from things like passive-aggressive vaguebooking, or complaining.

But in a world where authenticity is held up as the gold standard, I have to wonder, how far is too far?

I was having a conversation with my friend Raj the other day, and she said “I’ll be you eat gourmet lunches every day.” I had to confess that, I, in fact, seldom actually eat lunch, let alone gourmet ones. I get so wrapped up in my work, and am so often under deadline, that I forget to eat.

There are tons of beautiful photos of me on Facebook, taken at foodie events I’ve attended. But my day-to-day uniform consists of yoga pants, a t-shirt, a cardigan that is developing holes in the elbows, and a ponytail.

It’s really important to put your best foot forward. It’s really important to create and maintain a personal brand. But I’m starting to question if we are going too far into the realm of projecting “my life is perfect and wonderful.”

I guess what I’m questioning, on a deeper level, is what role do our egos have to play, here? I was going to take a makeupless selfie to accompany this post, and I couldn’t make myself do it! Every “like,” every positive comment we get about how we look or how amazing our lives must be, or how jealous other people are of us is a stroke to our egos. There’s even a chemical reaction that happens in our brains when people like us (“really, really like us!”) on Facebook.

So… are we building personal brands, or just stroking our own egos? And if we are just stroking our own egos, is there something wrong with that? Truthfully, does anyone care about my boring day-to-day reality? Or do they just want to hear about the cool things I do?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments section below.

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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

Comments 16

  1. Yes, the whole personal vs professional thing on social media is a bit of a minefield. I do have a separation in accounts but have been blurring the lines a little recently. While I won’t share the strident stuff on professional accounts, a recent experience with having a very strong visceral reaction to something against my own values while in a professional setting has shown me that being true to my brand means working within my value system regardless of alienating potential clients. I suspect it might be an age thing though I do recognise it is also as the luxury of a second income thing too.

  2. This is a great article… got me thinking. I actively promote my personal brand online every day of the year, and every time I post something, I cross-examine it. Does this fit with the vision of “Sepy” that I want to relay? Sometimes you lose control when friends tag you in photos and whatnot, but if its that important to you, there are settings to govern who can tag you etc.

    I think the important thing to realize is that people might share 3 photos of themself in a week. Those photos are probably going to represent a milestone in some way… John might go to his best bud’s bday party on Monday night, have tickets to the Canucks game on wednesday, and then be going on a date night with his wife on Saturday. He uploads photos of himself at each of those, because he loves his family, friends, and hockey. That’s a taste of John’s personal brand. That doesn’t mean John is always on dates, always at parties or always at sweet events like hockey games. It was just a good week for John.

    I think the visual ‘public persona’ is important, but what can really dominate your online brand is a good message. Such as Rebecca sharing this blog article with us. This is what really brands you in that ‘social media’ category for me- moreso than photos from a blogger event.

    Thanks again for the opportunity to share. Sep

    1. Okay, wait. So, what you’re saying here, Sepy–just want to make sure I get this right–is that by posting stuff like this, I am being authentic and transparent?

      Because I guess I am, but I never really thought of it that way, because I was too chickenshit to take a photo of myself without makeup! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. I think personal is still more ‘persona’ online..especially with channels that are more work than me talking to my cousins on fb. I don’t think the world needs to see or hear us at our worst unless THAT is what our ‘brand’ is….as long as our persona and our true selves are fairly consistent in message..ie…people would question me doing an organic food blog or spouting about only natural foods etc when they saw instagram photos of me n the kids at McDonalds or using chemical cleaners. There has to be honesty in the online persona…we just don’t need to share our yoga pants too

  4. Another insightful post Rebecca – and I hear the same consistently from clients. Like you, I am my brand. For me, I try to adhere to the 80/20 (or 90/10) rule for positivity/negativity in my personal postings, so that the vast majority of the time I am posting in my usual (and also authentic) rigorously optimistic way. The other 10% I leave for the odd rant, or day when i feel a little discouraged, tired or need to feel a little extra cyber-love.

    A big challenge for me can be video – I tend to want to appear ‘perfect’ on camera (which I know I would never feel I had attained). A couple of years ago I decided to do ‘pajama videos’ which are consistent with my brand. I would create little videos first thing in the morning while still in my jammies and housecoat. it just made sense for me. I decided since I could never be perfect, I would be fully imperfect ๐Ÿ™‚

    What I love about your approach to posting and social is your honesty. This post is a great example – sharing your journey, including the doubts and side roads along the way. I’d add that I think your natural energy is positive – therefore all that positivity is authentic – to you. And I have a hunch you do pretty much love your amazing life. Thanks for the glimpses…

    1. Oh, Vicki. You rock. I love how you always have such great insights. Thanks, lady.

      Oh, and PS. I do kinda have a cool life. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Some of my most shared blog posts are the personal ones. So I’ve dedicated at least 1 post/week for this which is great. It depends on your brand and what you want to put out there, but also what your readers want to hear about too. So it’s great that you wrote this! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. I think about this a bit too, but because I am not a person who can suppress my feelings or opinions well, it’s probably best that people who might work with me on a professional level know that. I also feel like telling people about my struggles & posting less-than-ideal selfies is honest & helps other people know they’re not alone in their imperfection.

  7. Personal versus branding, is there a difference? I honestly don’t think there is. I try very hard not to post on negative “stuff” either, but to show your human is not a glaring error in brand identity, it’s showing you’re human, and in being “human” you’re being authentic. The point is, to not overdo it. Personally, I don’t like a ton of complaining from anyone, whether they have a “brand” or not. I generally unfriend those people because, let’s face it, real friendships are the ones that carry on off-line, and I see no reason to live through someone else’s issues if I haven’t even shared a coffee with them. My opinion is this; choose your timing on something less positive and do it sparingly. The same goes for your stance on political topics. Think twice, and if it’s something you feel you ABSOLUTELY have to express, then feel free to post and be prepared to live with the consequences. BUT, showing that you’re human? It’s OK, because it’s in our humanity that connection is made, and it’s through connection that those of us who are self-employed stay that way.

  8. Yup, yup, yup. I wrote a blog post about this last week. I’ll send you the link when it goes live later this week.
    I like my online space to be a happy one. I also don’t want to do anything that could embarrass or put down my kids or my husband. But that results in a false sense of what my life is really like.
    So to answer your questionโ€ฆ in my case it is a branding thing and not just an ego stroke. But I’m also going to be a little more conscientious about putting a little more ‘behind-the-curtain’ stuff out there too.
    And I just read through the comments and everyone else said it somewhat more eloquently than I did. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. Hi! Loved this post! Something that helps me determine what goes on Facebook or Twitter is this: What is the intent behind my message? I try to keep my intent positive online just as I do offline. For example, if I’m having an issue with someone I don’t post about it online (vaguebooking annoys the heck out of me and blatant public-shaming makes me cringe) BUT I might post a lesson I learned out of the whole deal. And that totally is my brand because so much of what I write falls under the personal development genre. I post about the funny things my kids do or say but also about the tough days of having a newborn and two other kids to manage in a sleep-deprived state. If I truly am pissed off about something, I blow off steam in my journal or vent to my husband or dad and that’s as far as I go. It’s not about hiding my flaws, it’s about being responsible with the powerful tool that words are. That philosophy is also my brand. I can’t separate the two.

  10. A few years ago someone said “do not share anything on social media that you don’t want your mom to know”, I guess he was referring to think before you post. I have been doing social media since the IRC and icq, text chats, etc… I always thought Facebook, Twitter, etc…was a waste of time but on the contrary it has been a great tool that has helped me developed many skills even though there are some that I still need to develop, because sometimes is easier to hide behind the screen. I generally see business owners sharing their successes only because they want people to think that they are doing well. I do it. Although I sometimes feel the impulse of sharing how I feel, I refrain myself from sharing because I stop and think, is this really important, am I looking for emphathy, help, feedback, does everyone need to know what I am thinking?
    I was just taking to someone about this a few hours ago and I am glad you shared your experience too. I also do my best to not post when I am feeling down not just because I am building a personal/ business brand but because I want to keep it positive for myself too.
    Great post Rebecca!

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