Stop being a Robot- Be Authentic with Responsible Social Media


How honest can you be online? How honest should you be? Is transparency a good thing? How about authenticity? Is honesty and transparency the same thing? How do these come into play when you are marketing your business?

I discussed these very topics with the wonderful Ralph and Carol Lynn Rivera on their Web Search Social Podcast recently. If you haven’t checked out the Web Search Social podcast, then I definitely recommend it. Ralph and Carol Lynn like to (as they put it) challenge the status quo of marketing, and we certainly did that when I was a guest on their show!

intelligent authentic responsible social media

If you get the chance to have a listen, please do (just click the play button below). We discussed:

  • What is and isn’t ok to talk about online (politics, how your feeling etc)
  • How to be authentic on your social networks- but learn to share different aspects of yourselves to different audiences and networks.
  • Should you market your business on a Facebook profile or a page (or not on Facebook at all)? How does transparency come into all of this?
  • Is marketing automation a roadblock to authenticity? We discuss the good and the dark side of automation
  • Should you always be positive online?

Web Search Marketing Podcast – Episode 61

Transparency – Honesty – Trust

It is important to be as transparent as you can online and to be honest. Being honest and transparent will build trust among your connections and people are far more likely to do business with you if they trust you.

I take being honest as given. You should avoid deception at all costs, but I’d also avoid ambiguity as well. It’s important to be clear and direct about your views and the way you do business online. Don’t be a social media guru!

But when it comes to transparency, how far should you go? One dictionary describes the word “authentic” as being “of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine”. When you are being transparent you are being yourself- not trying to be someone or something that you are not. I don’t know about you, but there is a constant pressure to conform and to follow the herd. Some people find it difficult to openly disagree with others and end up warping their own points of view because they want to be “liked”.

I’m not going to tell you how to be authentic or how much you should share online, because that is going to be different for each person.

We are all individuals, but the truth is that we share different aspects of ourselves to different people and to different audiences. How would you describe yourself to a friend? Would that be different to a potential customer or to a competitor, to someone who shares the same interests as you?

Free your inner identities!

In my case I tend to share different aspects of myself to different people. With my “geeky” friends I won’t hold back on tech talk- I’ll talk openly and in a detailed way about different aspects of technology that I find interesting. However if I were to talk like that with a non-techie friend, I’d bore them to death.

We have different “identities” or aspects of ourselves: a father or mother, a husband or wife, a geek, a Christian/Jew/Muslim/Atheist…, a health food nut, a business owner, a social media enthusiast, a long distance runner and more. The question is should you share any of that on your social channels? There is no “one size fits all” answer to that question.  However it is important to think this through and work out which aspects of yourselves you are going to share online. If you run a business, then people are going to see you and people like to do business with other people- not robots! I know that sounds obvious, but it’s easy for common sense to bounce out the window when we get behind a computer, tablet or smartphone!

Making yourself vulnerable isn’t something you’d normally equate with business strategy, but sharing more about yourself online not only builds trust, but connections with like minded people.

Work out where your line is

However, you need to work out where your line is! Are you happy to discuss politics or religion/faith online? It’s not as simple to say you shouldn’t, but you should be aware of the risks. People can be very dogmatic in their responses- even abusive. However it could be more likely that people silently “unfriend” or unfollow you if they see an update they didn’t want to see or found offensive. My recommendation is to be yourself, but to avoid being dogmatic- try and be respectful and listen to your audience.


Want in on the latest tools, tips, hacks & techniques?

Get the Seriously Social Newsletter for Free!

You will receive an email no more than once a week.


About Ian Anderson Gray

Ian is a speaker, coach, social media consultant, web developer & Partner of Select Performers. In real life he is a husband, dad and geek and is rather partial to tea, coffee & Indian cooking. Find out more



The Seriously Social Community

What do you think? Join the fun & Let me know below...

Leave a Reply

31 Comments on "Stop being a Robot- Be Authentic with Responsible Social Media"

Notify of
avatar

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
trackback

[…] How honest can you be online? How honest should you be? Is transparency a good thing? How about authenticity? Is honesty and transparency the same thing? How do these come into play when you are marketing your business?  […]

Adrienne
Guest
1 year 4 months ago
Hey Ian, I always go by the motto that honesty is the best policy. Granted, I’m not going to go out of my way to hurt someone’s feelings because I don’t agree with them but at the same time that I am who I am. I’m a very open, honest and genuine person. I come across that with everyone that I meet offline and online. As you mentioned about certain conversations with different people, I can relate to that. I’m not going to go into my blogging mode with someone who doesn’t have a clue what it’s about nor cares. Why would I! On the other hand, I refuse to talk about certain topics because I know how passionate people are when it comes to things like politics and religion. They aren’t changing my mind and I’m not changing theirs so there is no need to even discuss it because it almost always ends up being an argument. I have only had one person say something ugly about me but I learned a lot time ago breath and step back before I respond or I go instantly into attack mode. Luckily for me with that particular instance my friends came… Read more »
Ian Anderson Gray
Guest
1 year 4 months ago

Thanks, Adrienne. Honesty is definitely the best policy, although that brings up a whole other subject! Should we be totally honest with someone if it could hurt their feelings? I think it probably depends on the situation and the person, and I think there are ways of being honest in a kind way.

Sorry to hear you had one person say something ugly. There’s often more to it than meets the eye. When people attack, it’s usually because they are hurting or have issues they are dealing with. It’s always better to step back and think before responding. Sometimes it might just mean removing the comment or maybe replying in a kind way. I usually find responding to a nasty comment in a kind and gentle way diffuses the situation.

I am sure this is a topic we could discuss for a long time! Ian

David Hartshorne
Guest
1 year 4 months ago

Hi Ian,
Transparency, Honesty and Trust are all important attributes/virtues/qualities (however you care to label them) and in my opinion are ones we should have in both our personal and business lives. There can be a tendency for some people to hide behind their virtual online profile, but as you point out, at the end of the day we stand more chance of growing a business when we build relationships with people that Know Like and Trust us.
What exactly you share depends on what you are trying to achieve I guess, and that is where our human judgement must come into play and prevent any robotic actions!
Good discussion topic!
– David

Ian Anderson Gray
Guest
1 year 4 months ago

Thanks for stopping by, David and leaving such a helpful comment. As you say, being transparent, honest and trustworthy are all important character tics in business. Deciding how far you go in terms of sharing is something only the individual can work out. I think it depends on the situation. Basically, it comes down to common sense and actually thinking- and being good at reading other people. Thanks! Ian

Melanie Kissell
Guest
1 year 4 months ago

Heard of brevity, Ian? Brevity is my friend … and it can be YOUR friend, too! Just yanking your chain, Ian, but whew! This one is windy – but windy in a wonderful way. 😉

These words hopped off the page:

“Making yourself vulnerable isn’t something you’d normally equate with business strategy” NO, it isn’t. And we’d best be careful in how far we choose to go with exposing our vulnerabilities online.

Let’s face the music … some folks take it to extremes. When that happens, I’m left feeling rather awkward and somewhat uncomfortable. Know what I mean? I’m a gal who’d prefer you keep your deep dark secrets and your most personal struggles to yourself. I’m not on a need-to-know-basis about how you crumbled and fell apart during your divorce. And although I taught childbirth education classes for three decades, I really don’t care to hear a blow by blow graphic description of your recent labor and delivery.

Fabbytastic read and great topic! 🙂

Ian Anderson Gray
Guest
1 year 4 months ago
Sorry, brevity, what’s that?! Actually, this is one of my shorter blog posts! Please do encourage me on the brevity front though- as well as long and detailed posts I do want to write shorter ones too! Thanks for your input- so important. You are totally right about some people taking it to extremes. It is so important to share only what is required and helpful to your audience. I suppose I just think that is common sense, but it does need to be said. If you have gone through a difficult time (a divorce, a bereavement, a struggle with additction or something else) then you need to know when or if it is appropriate to share. If someone had a gambling addiction, it might not be best to share that with a potential customer as soon as the walk through the door (and probably ever if you’re a financial planning company). There are always going to be lines, and particularly in real life you need to be a very good reader of people and where their comfort zones lie. Online, it’s slightly different. I do share personal stuff on my social networks, but I’ll choose which audiences I’ll share… Read more »
Melanie Kissell
Guest
1 year 4 months ago

What?! You didn’t hear the news, Ian? “Common sense” is now extinct. It was eradicated with the inception of the internet (and social media). 😉

You’re SO right about “reading people”. Some have mastered that skill. Others may never master it. It’s all about the nuances of human nature and psychology, Ian, and being able to read between the lines. There’s oftentimes a lot hidden “behind” what people say.

Melanie Kissell
Guest
1 year 4 months ago

Yesssssssss! I must have that face that says, “Please share every minute and every gory detail of that last baby you delivered.” Believe me, they don’t hold back — they tell ALL. LOL!

Andy Detweiler
Guest
1 year 4 months ago

Hey Ian,

Thanks for the thought-provoking stuff as always.

Staying firmly in the box and never wanting to rock the boat works perfectly well for the majority of people — it’s just not going to get those people terribly far in terms of impact/accolades. Attempting to be different for the sake of being different is likely to land you in the same place, if not worse.

The trick is finding that happy medium – being, saying, and/or doing something different because you truly believe in it – and you’re not afraid to stand up for those beliefs.

My two cents.

Andy

Ian Anderson Gray
Guest
1 year 4 months ago

Thanks, Andy. Your happy medium is so right. Don’t just be different for the sake of being different. That’s not being authentic at all! As you say –

being, saying, and/or doing something different because you truly believe in it – and you’re not afraid to stand up for those beliefs

– that’s good advice! The problem, so many people feel the need to conform out of fear. Fear of being thought of as weird or not liked. I think more often than not, when we’re honest and transparent, people often resonate and empathise and trust develops.

Lisa Sicard
Guest
1 year 4 months ago

Ian, I believe people have to have trust in businesses ( which are made up of people) in order to do business with them. Recently I changed my name, back to maiden name, my customers were intrigued why and it led to many interesting conversations. I appeared more real and more sales followed.
I think its tough with politics and religion though, a gray area for sure.
I think online we have to share some of our human side even though it may make us more vulnerable, after all we are only human.
Great topic!

Ian Anderson Gray
Guest
1 year 4 months ago

Thanks for your comment, Lisa! It’s interesting to hear a real life story where being real had the result of more sales. It’s interesting, because it often feels that allowing ourselves to be more vulnerable will put people off and sales will plummet as a result. I don’t think that is the case as your story demonstrates!
Ian

Brooke Ballard
Guest
Brooke Ballard
1 year 4 months ago
I have to agree with your sentiments here. I think we all (most) want to be liked deep down inside. Sometimes we may not readily admit that. I know I can get my feelings hurt if someone decides to attack me or my way of doing things without really getting to know me or having any sort of conversation with me. But, in that regard, I also usually get over it pretty fast because those people — more often than not — turn out to be people who I wouldn’t invite into my circle of trust. I share a lot of my personal life (and can even over share at times) online. I don’t have much to hide, and quite honestly I’m proud of the person I’ve become. I’m proud of my family, my life, my friends … and therefore I have no issues inviting others in to share in those things. I know not everyone agrees with being that transparent. I just don’t see the point in guarding it all for myself. Tomato, toe-MAH-toe — it’s what the person feels is most comfortable for them. I don’t mind disagreeing with people. The ones who will remain in my circle… Read more »
Ian Anderson Gray
Guest
1 year 4 months ago
Hi Brooke, so great to have you stopping by hear on my blog! I think the only people who don’t need to be liked at all are pyschopaths. I was reading a few books on pyschopaths (specifically corporate pyschopaths) last summer (just as you do)- and believe me, I think it is good to want people to like you a bit- because the opposite is too scary! I loved what you said about if people hurt you, you get over it pretty quickly, because you wouldn’t invite them into your circle of trust. Two things on that- 1) I’ve noticed that sometimes people can come out with some very hurtful things because they either lack social skills, are dealing with something themselves (i,e. their hurting) or they’re just not nice people. You might be able to deal with the first two characters although it can be hard to deal with people who lack social skills (but I still love them!). However, a lot of the time, I have to deal with people who just don’t listen. They don’t read your email or article- or they just skim read it or just read the title. And in so doing they totally… Read more »
Brooke Ballard
Guest
Brooke Ballard
1 year 4 months ago
Well, yeah. The opposite of wanting everyone to like you is probably just as sick (if not more). Though a certain degree of not caring is good, not caring AT ALL is why our country gets itself into much of the (corporate/business/money) trouble it does. 1) Hurting people is often because you yourself are hurting. I get that. I come from a tough background and can be 1000% honest and say I used to be very good at hurting people. I could have continued to blame my past and the hurt that I experienced, but instead sought help to overcome those issues to and try be more introspective rather than lashing out. I can admit that, and my other failures, freely because that’s part (probably the BIGGEST part) of what made me who I am today. And like I said, I’m proud to have beat the odds in so many scenarios to be an educated, secure, good-natured person. I think that’s part of the problem, too. We like to label people all too quickly. Often times people think things were handed to me because I live a comfortable lifestyle now. They have no idea (because they rushed to judgement) that… Read more »
Ian Anderson Gray
Guest
1 year 4 months ago

I wish I could work out what level of not caring is the best level. I suppose it also depends on what you’re not caring about!

You’ve given some amazing thoughts, Brooke- and I appreciate your honesty. You’ve been honest, transparent and authentic there without giving us the full details. That’s still honest and transparent- and that is a powerful thing.

I won’t reply to all the points you made, because they really stand out on their own. I really resonated with what you said in (1). We definitely do all label people all too easily. I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt and ask myself questions about why someone is the way they are. However we can also invite labels upon ourselves- we can warp our character and become someone who we are not- that is not authentic.

Anyway, I am not going to add anything more, because you have spoken- and that is all that needs to be said! Thanks so much!
Ian

Brooke Ballard
Guest
Brooke Ballard
1 year 4 months ago

I could talk about these things all day. Human behavior is truly one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever had the pleasure (and pain) of dealing with. I don’t mind being honest and transparent — but yeah, too much emotion and too much information can often lead to a reverse/negative feeling (just look at the bomb Nationwide dropped during the super bowl — TOO FAR, TOO FAR!).

🙂

Ian Anderson Gray
Guest
1 year 4 months ago

Definitely- I am with you on that one- definitely fascinating.
Living in the UK I was totally shielded from the Super Bowl (in fact most Brits probably just think Americans eat cereal from extra large bowls on that day!). I hadn’t heard of the ad, so I Googled it and watched it. The ad started off so well- beautiful cinematography and acting and then…. what? Lost for words. How can you sell insurance by marketing the death of a child. In the UK we have similar ads, but they are government sponsored ones which aim to reduce traffic or household accidents- not sell insurance. Wow. I take it that it didn’t go down terribly well?!

Brooke Ballard
Guest
Brooke Ballard
1 year 4 months ago

Ah. I didn’t know if you had seen the backlash on social media. Awful sauce. People were pretty unhappy!

trackback

[…] Read Ian’s article and throw in your two cents: Stop being a Robot- Be Authentic with Responsible Social Media […]

Carol Lynn Rivera
Guest
1 year 4 months ago
Must be karma…. I pilfered some of our conversation for my blog post this week, too! There was so much really good juicy stuff, we could talk about it all day. And since it’s impossible to say right vs wrong, it makes the debate that much more interesting. Here is the next thing I want to take on: “I want people to like me.” We say that a lot like it’s a case of hives. EEEWWWW, don’t conform! Don’t try to get people to like you! That’s so Breakfast Club. But really, what do we want more as human animals than to be accepted into our own herd, liked and appreciated? So where do you stop wanting to be liked and cross over into maybe TOO contrary or “unlikable” for your own good? There is still a balance between social niceties and social conformity. Yes, be yourself. Yes, stand your ground. But you still have to be liked, even if it’s only by the spare few. After all, don’t we always say that people do business with people they “like”? But to your point, I do think it’s important not to bend for the sake of being accepted. That’s basically… Read more »
Melanie Kissell
Guest
1 year 4 months ago

“To conform or not to conform – THAT is the question!” (Can’t you just picture some deep-voiced orator perched on a podium shouting that out?) LOL!

We’re humans. It’s normal to seek approval. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. 😉

Ian Anderson Gray
Guest
1 year 4 months ago

Great! So basically, my article should have been….

We are human.
Be a human.
It’s normal to seek approval.
Don’t worry about it.
The end.

Maybe there is hope for me on the brevity front?! 😉

Melanie Kissell
Guest
1 year 4 months ago

Ta-Da! Brevity is now your new best friend. (And be sure to make a note of your mastery of brevity in your portfolio. It leaves a lasting impression.) 😉

You’re a delight, Ian. Wish there were more folks like you on the net.

Ian Anderson Gray
Guest
1 year 4 months ago
It’s perfectly acceptable to pilfer our conversations! If it makes your blog posts more juicy then I am all for it! I admit it, I do want people to like me. However as I have become older (yes, it does happen to all of us), I’ve managed to partially free myself from this. At the end of the day, you can please everyone, and there will be some people that just won’t like you. At some point I’d love to write a blog post on “The Love Languages of Social Media”. I don’t know if you know much about the 5 Love Languages book, but I found it really interesting. We all give and receive love in different ways and I think the same can be said for the way we relate to each other online. I do like to affirm people and I like to be affirmed back. That is a good thing, but you also need to be happy for who you are. For some people that can take a long time, but if you can find that confidence it will help you to be confidently authentic online. Being a social doormat is definitely not a good thing.… Read more »
Carol Lynn Rivera
Guest
1 year 4 months ago

I’m with you on the “as I get older” part. It’s funny how things you say make me think of oddball stuff but I was thinking about how when I’m driving in my car alone I like to sing loud and horribly off key (no Sound Cloud account for me!) but then when I get to traffic lights and there are other cars around I stop so people can’t look over and see me doing it. Well, that is easily remedied “as I get older”. These days I’m all about being loudly off key. I am beginning to understand those utterly eccentric, opinionated, bristly old people – at some point you just stop thinking about what everyone else thinks!

Ian Anderson Gray
Guest
1 year 4 months ago
I am so much more at peace with myself than I was when I was a teenager or in my 20s. However I do know a few 20-yr olds who are totally comfortable in their skins and walk around like intelligent and mature 50 somethings. I don’t think that is fair of them at all! 😉 I laughed at your singing in the car anology- I am the same. Singing along and then I stop when I am at the traffic lights. I don’t want people to look at me and think I am weird! But, what is “weird” and shouldn’t we embrace that? I think it is becoming easier to embrace our weirdness- age helps, but I think that it is easier to be yourself in this age of the geek. I don’t think it matters whether you feel you can sing or not, I sometimes feel conscious because I have a loud singing voice. I’ve even caught myself deliberately singing quitely at church because I don’t want to look like I am “showing off” or being to load. How silly is that? Thankfully as I have become older, that is less of a problem! I wonder how any… Read more »
Carol Lynn Rivera
Guest
1 year 4 months ago
Now this brings up a whole other and slightly dangerous topic. Millennials. Do you use that term in the UK? I’m not sure if we made it up here but those are the kids coming into the work force after the change in the millennium. When you said “confident 20-somethings” it made me think of them. The problem – and I most certainly am not speaking for ALL of them – is that they tend to be a little TOO comfortable. They know more than us old people, you know, the ones who have been in business for 15 years. They are more creative. They are wittier and more confident (in the absence of achievement) and they think they are rather indispensable. Again, I’m not generalizing to all but in my experience working with, hiring and firing them – and this goes across the board for my colleagues and friends who range the spectrum – they are extremely difficult to work with. So before I get in trouble for saying this out loud, I’ll leave it at that and we can always chat about it some other time 🙂 On another note… how crazy are we as humans that we… Read more »
Ian Anderson Gray
Guest
1 year 4 months ago

Oh yes, we have the term millenials. Aw, bless them!
I actually wouldn’t put the 20-something-year-old I know in the millenial box. They really are mature and level headed – really like a 50yr old in a 20yr old body. However, that’s not usual. The stereotypical millenial (and of course we are generalising here!) thinks they know it all because they’ve always had the internet. I think the opposite is true- I know everything, because I remember the birth or the World Wide Web and how it came to be what is today! 😉
And yes, we humans are crazy. Better that than being normal though…

Carol Lynn Rivera
Guest
1 year 4 months ago

True story: every semester Ralph has to teach his college level web development students how to download a file and how to right click and how to use keyboard shortcuts to copy and paste. Then he gets to the really, really, really hard stuff like saving a document and finding it again later. Because you are right – we grew up and learned “computers”. It is somehow assumed that just because someone was born and lived in a room with one, that they know anything about it.

wpDiscuz