What Does Being Authentic Online Mean?

What does being authentic online mean? Tips to being authentic online for your business.

I recently talked about being authentic online in a Facebook video (go watch it here: https://www.facebook.com/katcollinsdesign/videos/2388197674575635/).

But the questions that came to mind after I did the video is what exactly does being authentic online really mean? Why do I need to be authentic online? What will it do for me and my business? I mentioned some of this in the video but I thought I’d tell you a bit more!

What Does Being Authentic Online Mean?

It’s easy to say “be authentic,” but what does that really mean, especially in the online world?

Everyone wants to be authentic. It’s one of the new buzzwords and for good reason. But many of the people who preach its virtue often don’t understand exactly what the word means.

Authentic is defined as:

Not false or copied; genuine; real. Representing one’s true nature or beliefs; true to oneself or the person identified.
— Dictionary.com

In other words, being authentic means being your real, true self.

There’s never any doubt or questioning the integrity of an authentic person. Their behavior, in terms of ethics and morals, is as predictable as snow during wintertime in Maine. You know what you’re going to get.

When we’re looking to build relationships in life, we want to grow and learn from people of values. This means we identify and desire to find people who are honest, kind, and trustworthy. We don’t have time for those who don’t deal in the truth. We can sense fake people from a mile away.  And ain’t nobody got time for fake!

What Does Being Authentic Mean For My Business?

There’s a lot involved when it comes to marketing your business online - social media, data, analytics, content, product...the list goes on. All of these things are important, but it’s been proven that customers value authenticity more than anything.

Remember the quote above? Authenticity is a genuine voice, a dependable and reliable persona that carries throughout all your interactions with your customers. A customer needs to know that the way your business presents itself online is the same as it is everywhere else and especially in person.

Take a business coach who only posts online of how wildly successful and rich they are, everything looks put together and life only smells of roses. While we admire them and most likely, want to be like them, where is the authenticity? You can’t tell me that a business coach ONLY has perfect days forever and ever, amen. That’s not real. I would want that coach to show me their business struggles, to see that they were once in the place where I (or you) am and that they grew successful by doing certain things. Then I would be more likely to trust them and their guidance because I can relate to them.

Authenticity is being united in your mission statement, purpose, and conduct - and the ability to convey as much in everything from Facebook comments, to addressing online reviews, and everything in-between.

The more virtual our lives get, the more we hunger after something genuine. What people really want now is not just a product or a service, it’s an experience. An experience that is more honest and transparent …more authentic – and businesses are going to have to keep up with growing consumer authority and give people what they want if they want to survive.

Not only does being authentic make you stand out in a world of super saturated markets (because there's only ONE you!) but being authentic also builds TRUST with your followers and clients.

And trust is 100% necessary in their decision on whether or not to do business with you!

Makes sense right?

Authenticity works because…

  • It elevates your business above the competition

  • It builds your identity and image into something influential

  • It gives substance to your business, services, and products

  • It enables people to relate to your business

  • It helps people understand how what you offer is of benefit to them

  • It tells people that what you offer is of high quality

  • It marks you out as a reliable, trustworthy company

  • It encourages engagement and can turn audiences into advocates

It’s easy for most people to sniff out the brands and businesses who don’t take the time to invest in building an authentic voice. So, with the benefits (and necessity) of authenticity in mind, how can you be authentic online to grow your business?

How to Build Authenticity Online

Be Real. Be Human.

Seems obvious, doesn’t it? Yet it’s amazing how many businesses get this wrong. Share your passion and your mission. Get back to basics. Who are you? Build a purpose for your business beyond making a buck. Get back to your roots and apply your core values, goals, and beliefs as the heart of how you approach every aspect of your business.

Show your personality.

People like to do business with people they feel they know on a “personal” level. Try to find ways to show your personality in your brand and in the way you do business.

Show empathy.

Be warned - being real comes with the caveat that you must exhibit empathy and intuition in order to make this work. Idiots, bigots, and those lacking social graces need not apply. Take time to listen and understand those involved with your business, from your clients through to employees, peers, and suppliers. Take a moment to see it from their eyes and try putting yourself in their positions. How can you inject empathy into the interactions you have with your business and followers?

Develop and Use YOUR Voice

If your business is just YOU, then talk like YOU! If your business has a team, then develop a consistent voice for your brand.

Remember, be human! Don’t forget that behind your business is a living, breathing, super passionate and hardworking person.

Engage with your followers.

Find ways to engage with your followers as much as possible. Take time to respond to comments and make people feel appreciated.

Be responsive on social media. Spend a little time each day on social media engaging with your followers. Respond to comments and messages (even negative ones).

Be open. A big part of being authentic is being open! Be transparent in what you’re doing and how you’re doing it and people will trust you more. Don’t keep things hidden in the sketchy shadows like a cartoon villain! Especially if you make a mistake. Which leads me to…

Acknowledge and correct mistakes. Hey, there’s no shame in making mistakes - we ALL make them. Mistakes are part of being human and being real. It’s important to acknowledge them quickly and honestly. Don’t skim over the issue and don’t try to hide it. Admit the mistake, fix it, and apologize for it. Then move on.

Show them some behind-the-scenes stuff.

Notice how all of these tips are about being real? Don’t just show the carefully curated highlight reel of your business, show some behind-the-scenes stuff, too. People like businesses and people that they can relate to on a personal level (i.e. my business coach example above).

Share Personal Stories.

This is one of the BEST ways to not only differentiate yourself from others but to humanize your business by being relatable. Sharing personal stories help you to truly connect with your followers and build a relationship with them. And having an authentic relationship with your followers is KEY for gaining trust.

You can share stories on your website’s About page, blog posts, Facebook updates, Instagram captions, and more.

What is all boils down to is be a real human. Nurture and develop your online relationships just like you would in person. Open yourself up, admit to mistakes, be as helpful and kind as possible.

Change the way you look at how present you and your business is online and on social media. Use every opportunity you can to connect with people, tell stories, show your personality, use your voice, and have genuine interaction with your followers.

Do you struggle with being authentic online? I’d love to know your thoughts!

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Squarespace Website Designer Kat Collins specializes in website for creative professionals and small business that are clean, modern, fresh, user-friendly, and goal-oriented so that her clients have a successful platform to support what they love and do. If you’re interested in talking with Kat about your project, get in touch with her to schedule a chat.

On the blog, you’ll find a variety of topics that help you succeed in online business, such as website design, branding, social media strategies, blogging, email marketing, Squarespace design tips, and more.