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Stop being a Robot- Be Authentic with Responsible Social Media

Stop Being a Robot

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.


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[…] 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?  […]


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 »

David Hartshorne

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

Melanie Kissell

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. πŸ˜‰

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! πŸ™‚

Melanie Kissell

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). πŸ˜‰

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

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

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.


Lisa Sicard

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!

Brooke Ballard

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 »

Brooke Ballard

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 »

Brooke Ballard

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!).


Brooke Ballard

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

Carol Lynn Rivera

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 »

Carol Lynn Rivera

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!

Carol Lynn Rivera

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 πŸ™‚ On another note… how crazy are we as humans that we… Read more »

Carol Lynn Rivera

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.

Melanie Kissell

“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. πŸ˜‰

Melanie Kissell

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.) πŸ˜‰

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

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