by Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D. | Featured Contributor
“Authentic” has become one of those words everybody uses – and maybe over-uses. But it’s easy to get confused on what “authentic” really means, when it’s important and how to add authenticity to your online persona.
What is authenticity online?
Clients and customers have grown tired of old-time, hype-y marketing pitches. A lot of online marketers still rely on “click-bait,” such as:
“Your business MUST have this or you will fail!”
“We made a million dollars in three months!”
“In just 6 days this offer will be gone forever!”
But it’s easy to say what authentic copy is not. It’s harder to get a handle on what we mean by authentic copy.
What makes your online presence truly authentic?
Many of us were taught that being authentic means “share your vulnerability,” “admit your weakness,” or “just be yourself.”
But in a Harvard Business Review article Herminia Ibarra challenges these common notion of authenticity. Being true to oneself sounds good – but your business self probably isn’t the same as your “hang out with the family” self. Openness and self-disclosure can backfire, especially when you’re not established in your field. And, she notes, “identities are always on display in today’s world of ubiquitous connectivity and social media.”
So how do you come across as authentic?
Whether online or offline, being authentic means showing respect for your audience – the same respect you’d show a good friend or neighbor. Here are three strategies anyone can use when writing your website, sales letters, blog posts, or any copy targeted to your prospective clients.
(1) Sound like yourself – but choose any one of your selves.
Imagine you know a physician who also does standup comedy. She might feel more authentic as a stand-up comedian, but she brings out her professional self when she’s working with patients. Most people wouldn’t appreciate a relaxed, humorous style when they’ve just been diagnosed with something that’s more than take 2 aspirin and call me next week.
Is she being less authentic when she chooses one style over another? Actually, she’s just respecting her audience. You might choose different language for a family reunion or a church coffee hour than a TGIF happy hour, but you’re still YOU at each event.
(2) Be honest about who you are and what you deliver.
Almost anything can be googled on the Internet. One marketer liked to brag about being invited to a VIP celebrity dinner. A quick search revealed that she’d been invited as the plus-one of a friend — a notable accomplishment, to be sure, but not what she was claiming.
And a few business coaches who claim they were broke three years ago must be hoping their audiences have short memories: three years ago, they were promoting themselves as role models for success!
The same holds for promises of what you deliver. A well-known marketing coach – someone I used to admire tremendously – tell her audience, “If you don’t sign up for this program you might as well not be in business.” Now she was coming across not as a caring person but a faceless, hype-y sales person, using the language of clickbait.
When you’re authentic, you seem as real as your next-door neighbor. And when you deal with someone in person on an ongoing basis, you’re trustworthy and honorable. You don’t pretend to be something you’re not. You certainly don’t threaten, intimidate or make bizarre promises to them.
(3) Recognize and respect your own feelings about marketing.
In a blog post, Kristina Shands points out that audiences can sense your true feelings. Do you hate to hold webinars but feel you need to be out there? Dread your social media posts but force yourself to send out cheery messages every day?
When I started out my former career as a college professor, a senior colleague warned me, “Make sure you really want to do this. Students can tell if you really don’t want to be there.”
That’s even more true when you’re marketing. Prospective clients tend to be more sensitive than students – and they don’t need a grade! You can fake your enthusiasm up to a point but ultimately your audience knows.
I know a successful marketer who says, “I just love the people my list! I send waves of gratitude to them every day.”
Not surprisingly, she’s built up warm relationships with her followers… and she’s captured the real meaning of authenticity.
What are some of the ways you show authenticity in your marketing? What do you observe around the Internet?
Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., is a copywriter who helps solo-preneurs develop websites fast, so you establish a professional, authentic presence that attracts clients – your kind of clients! — without going crazy from overwhelm or draining your bank account with surprise fees. Visit Cathy’s website.