Starting a new online business is often a crash course in how to provide the best products or services, how to do marketing, how to utilize social media, and how to master webpage creation and maintenance – simultaneously. Whew! The amount of information is simply overwhelming. It is easy to lose sight of what you love about your business, and why you started it in the first place. It is here, when we are stumbling, that authenticity may take a back seat to the learning process. That is okay – temporarily. But let’s take a look at the value of authenticity in your online business.
Authenticity in Your Products and Services
Regardless of whether you offer products or services, there are two things all entrepreneurs have in common:
1. The desire to be your own boss.
2. And the desire to add to your income doing something you truly enjoy.
And so we begin honing our product or service. In the desire to improve, we begin studying how others have “made it.” Always a great idea to study success. But this is where our authenticity can take a hit. When we began, we had an idea that was uniquely our own. I’m not talking about something never having been seen before (unless you are Elon Musk), but a product or service that will bear your personal stamp.
For example, I create handcrafted jewelry. It’s hardly a rarity on Etsy! And so, I began studying other jewelry makers that seem to do well. Doing so made me doubt my vision. I like beaded jewelry and jewel tone colors. I appreciate jewelry that is whimsical, and I like jewelry that has meaning. Would anyone care for the pieces I made? I found myself toning down my vision. Then one day just playing around I made the earrings shown in the photo above. I was pretty convinced that no one but me would like them, but decided to put them in my shop anyway – and for a price that represented my effort.
They didn’t sell immediately, nor were they in my shop overly long. But more importantly the sale reminded me of why I started my Etsy shop. I started making jewelry, because I could never find pieces I liked. This led me to the realization that there were probably others like me, looking for jewelry pieces that spoke to them. Some of them would like my style. But after all my second guessing, I began minimizing the style that made my pieces uniquely mine! Literally, the only thing that separates my work from everyone else’s.
Authenticity in Your Online Interactions
In a marketing course I took from Kat Sullivan, she pointed out that people purchase products and services from those with whom they’ve formed a positive relationship. This is true whether the business is conducted in person or online. Almost all businesses now have some kind of online presence, and the majority will interact on social media to some degree. It is just as important to be authentic online as it is in person. People form an impression of you based on how you interact and operate. If you are sacrificing your authenticity, your business may suffer.
I will use myself as an example. There are a number of services that will post on social media for you on a schedule. I understand the popularity of these services. Trying to keep up with the main venues – Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter is a full-time job. And yet for me, I found that using these services put a dent in my personal feeling of being authentic, because I felt removed from the people with whom I was striving to form a connection. Perhaps in time, I will learn to use these services and still be authentic, but for now my feeling of authenticity requires that I do the posting myself.
The above is just an example of where I felt my authenticity was jeopardized. But each person is different. My point is not discourage you from utilizing scheduling software, but to encourage you to listen to yourself. If you aren’t happy about the way you are doing business, it will show, even in cyberspace.
Beware of the Lack of Authenticity in Others
As in real life, a lack of authenticity is revealed in the difference between what people say and what they actually do. And it is often just as obvious in social media interaction as in real life. The behavior of some on Instagram is an example that I find amusing in its pettiness – those who follow you in hopes that you will follow back, and then unfollow when you do. The issue isn’t serious. They were never going to become your client or customer anyway. But it shows a lack of integrity. I guarantee that behavior like that insures that they won’t get my business either. There are many people offering the same products and services as they are, and I will give my business to those who operate with authenticity.
This post is about my own thought processes and experiences with authenticity. I would love to hear yours! What am I missing? What am I getting wrong? Or do you relate?
EDIT: After I posted this blog, I came across the following article on Twitter posted by Mike Allton “2018 Social Marketing Tips From 23+ Marketing Experts.” Several of them allude to what I have been trying to say in this blogpost – and the rest is just good advice.