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If you want your blog, website, social media presence or business to be successful, you need to be authentic. This starts with knowing who your brand is and how you get it across. You can’t be genuine without knowing who your brand is. And I’m not talking about the rapper. He’s a class act onto himself.

No my friends, if you want to actually be “authentic” online (aka successful) you need to reach deep inside yourself – or at least your brand identity – and get it out there in the right ways. One of THE biggest concerns I hear from my website design and social media clients is that they don’t know how to get more followers, comments or sales. Sure, we might build them a fabulous website design or set them up with optimized social profiles, but they can be at a loss as to how to use these in ways that actually get results. Here are 5 tips on how to actually be authentic on blogs & social media and reach your goals through fostering an online presence.

Tips on how to actually be authentic on your blog or social media - small business tips |  - | website design agency and blog & business mentor in Vancouver BC1. Find your voice. Or rather, use it. The thing about online media is there is no auditory tone. You have to communicate through images, copy and graphics that convey a story or message in the clearest way possible. Forget top-down models of business power dynamics because websites, blogs and social media aren’t hierarchical; They’re friendly and social. If you try to maintain a blog or presence on social media in a voice that isn’t authentic – in a voice that’s “business pro” forced, dishonest and un-true to you – you’ll lose interest. And if you lose interest, you’ll lose motivation. And you know what that means? Shit all. And you’re better than shit all.

2. Find your audience. Or rather, help them find you. Pick your topic niche (hint: choose something you’re passionate about), figure out who your audience avatar is and then go get ’em! The social media platforms you choose to be on are tools for you to connect with potential readers, sponsors, brands, clients and followers. Do a bit of digging – or pay someone to do it for you – and find out where the people you want to reach hang out. Then be there. Be social.

Side note: It’s true, you should know your audience before you start writing because your tone and voice will reflect who you’re speaking to. No doubt aboot it. But I list this as point two (not point one) because ultimately, though you want to appeal to your audience, you need to appeal to you first to maintain passion and drive.

3. Brand the shit out of your website and social accounts. I spoke at the Food Blogger’s Online Summit last Fall and while my talk spoke specifically on how to uniquely brand your food blog, it’s really relevant for any and all websites. Make sure it’s visually pleasing, mechanically intuitive, SEO optimized (for search engines) and generally awesome. Your website design and social media profiles matter. How they look, how they function and how they’re found. Invest in these – they’re your very first impression you make on your audience and you generally get less than 10 seconds to do it. So make sure you do it right. Right?

4. Use social media the right way. In other words, I don’t want to hear about you. I’m tempted to leave this link here and tell you to go read this post. End of story. It’s THAT important if you want to be authentic in your online presence (aka see successful engagement, revenue and results). But I’ll summarize (because I’m cool like that): Unschedule and unsync your accounts, listen to me, cut the bullshit, invest in your community and start giving back. Think of social media like a cocktail party – if you walk up and start talking about “me me me me me”, no one wants to be near you. Instead, inspire them to invest in you by investing in them first. Be social.

Tweet: “Let’s put the social back in social media!”Tweet:
Click to tweet this!

5. Empower the hell out of people.Β How do you do this? Listen. Think. Respond. By empowering people and treating them like equals – this is reflected in your quality content – you encourage trust from your audience. With trust, comes a relationship. With a relationship, comes success. Whether you’re looking to forge friendships with like-minded peeps, develop professional opportunities with peers or generate income from sponsors or clients, trust comes first.

Think cocktail analogy again; Networking – simply flashing your business card and saying “hey, I’m XYZ, call me!” – doesn’t work. It’s inauthentic and too used-car salesman. No offense, used-car salesmen. But no one wants to be around that guy and you certainly don’t want to BE. THAT. GUY.

Instead, create and nurture relationships built on trust over time – just like in real life – and you’ll see your voice, presence and influence bloom. Hello, super successful amazing authentic awesome person. AND super successful amazing authentic awesome audience. Win win, right?

Β Are you authentic on social media? How do you foster an authentic presence? What’s the most difficult thing for you when it comes to being authentic online? What has worked for you online? What hasn’t? Share your thoughts below and I promise to respond personally.

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34 Comments on 5 Tips on How to Actually be Authentic

  1. Catarina
    September 25, 2014 at 2:33 pm (3 years ago)

    Good suggestions on how to be authentic online. Personally believe finding a niche is essential. Far too many bloggers write about the same subjects and copy each other. Being a copy is not a recipe for success:-)
    Catarina recently posted…Do your customers recommend you?My Profile

    • Kristy Gardner
      September 25, 2014 at 2:54 pm (3 years ago)

      I agree Catarina – that’s key. I don’t think you can write about anything truly unique these days; it’s all been done before. BUT you can do it in your voice and that’s what makes it yours.

  2. Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie)
    September 25, 2014 at 4:09 pm (3 years ago)

    So strange…I just left a comment on another blog about how being authentic is so important…find and own your own voice. So to read this now is very coincidental! I think folks can tell when you are parroting:) So I say always be fabulous you!
    Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie) recently posted…Divided… Where’s The Justice?My Profile

    • Kristy Gardner
      September 25, 2014 at 4:12 pm (3 years ago)

      How weird Jacqueline! I think this is a very timely topic – being authentic and true to you. In a virtual sea of online bullshit, the only way to really reach people is to be human.

      P.S. You’re so definitely fabulous, I’m glad we’re on the same wave length! πŸ˜‰

  3. Michele Harvey
    September 25, 2014 at 4:25 pm (3 years ago)

    I couldn’t agree with you more about fostering authentic relationships both on and off line. I particularly resonate with your points to inspire others to invest in you by investing in them first and to build trust over time.

    • Kristy Gardner
      September 25, 2014 at 4:55 pm (3 years ago)

      Thank you Michele! I think one of the biggest mistakes new bloggers make is expecting immediate results. It takes time to build those and each and every comment, share, retweet, like, etc… is a success. Keeping at it is the only way to build your following – nothing comes in the blink of an eye. And if it does, it probably isn’t worth having.

      Great to see you!

  4. Susan Cooper
    September 25, 2014 at 4:30 pm (3 years ago)

    I have never know any other ways. Not being authentic seems counterintuitive to me. It also has a ring of being a bit dishonest. I do believe others can tell when you’re trying to appear to other then who you are and it is a huge turn off. So being authentic is truly to only way!
    Susan Cooper recently posted…We Shall See: #StoryMy Profile

    • Kristy Gardner
      September 25, 2014 at 4:57 pm (3 years ago)

      Absolutely Susan. I’m so glad you put it that way: “counter-intuitive”. Can you imagine spending every day in a lie or pretending to be someone you aren’t?? I think that’s the biggest problem with business today – be yourself, be honest, be true and be awesome. Thank you so much for stopping by!

  5. Sondi
    September 25, 2014 at 4:57 pm (3 years ago)

    The biggest struggle for me with authenticity is deciding how much of my personal life to share online. I see many other successful bloggers and online entrepreneurs in my field who bravely lay it all out there, and are so open and raw. Of course I want to share and connect, but sometimes I see what other people write and think, whoa, I couldn’t put my s#@t out there as a permanent record on the internet for all eternity. So it’s definitely a battle to write content that is transparent, meaningful and impassioned, but protect my poor soul.
    Sondi recently posted…How to Save Money on OrganicsMy Profile

    • Kristy Gardner
      September 25, 2014 at 5:05 pm (3 years ago)

      Hey Sondi!

      I totally understand that. I think that’s a detail we all struggle with. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to be transparent and honest but ultimately, we ARE a persona online and like you say – once it’s out there, man is it OUT THERE. Permanently. So I think there’s some level of balance.

      i.e. Just because I tell you about my bourbon habit and make PG-13 innuendo jokes, doesn’t mean I’m going to describe my girly bits in detail to anyone. Write what you feel comfortable, be human, and don’t be afraid to hold back if you don’t want to share something (or let it all hang out if that’s more your style). We don’t typically tell our closest friends every single detail (until the bourbon kicks in), so not giving it ALL up is hardly dishonest. It’s in good taste and true to you πŸ™‚

      PS. Great to see you today!!

  6. Tim
    September 25, 2014 at 7:26 pm (3 years ago)

    Your comment on using social media the correct way is spot on. I see way too many folks just slap a link up and call it a day. No return of comments, not even a smiley face or a like. Reciprocation is one of the keys to success and you will find that in this group, BHB. Btw, I get to 95% of the blogs who post here and it makes for a fairly well rounded reading week. All the best.
    Tim recently posted…Surviving in the IndiesMy Profile

    • Kristy Gardner
      March 4, 2015 at 9:26 am (3 years ago)

      I totally agree Tim! Reciprocity is KEY in life and online and if people just take take take and never give give give, they’ll find themselves very unsatisfied. In more ways than one.

      PS. I’m so terribly sorry for the delay in getting back to you. There was a family tragedy this Fall and I’m just catching up on comments now. I’m a terrible person – forgive me?

  7. andleeb
    September 26, 2014 at 3:44 am (3 years ago)

    All tips are very nice to make one a successful blogger. I just love to read and then I thought to find my voice as well. I started writing , I know that I have so many mistakes, problems with my grammar but still I am trying to speak and find my audience. I am learning with each and every post that I am reading or trying to write. I always learn to improvement from other bloggers with such posts.
    This hopefully will help me build my confidence by following these suggestions.
    Thank you.
    andleeb recently posted…VIP Culture in Pakistan.My Profile

    • Kristy Gardner
      March 4, 2015 at 9:27 am (3 years ago)

      Definitely Andleeb! I think that’s one of the most exciting things about blogging – the evolution of our voices, content, focus, etc… It takes time for sure but if you stick with it, you’ll figure it out. I hope you’re doing well!

      PS. I’m so terribly sorry for the delay in getting back to you. There was a family tragedy this Fall and I’m just catching up on comments now. I’m a terrible person – forgive me?

      • andleeb
        March 4, 2015 at 10:16 am (3 years ago)

        It’s ok. I can understand.

        I am happy that you are trying to catch up when free. I hope everything is fine now with you and family.
        andleeb recently posted…#Life: Do not stop Questioning.My Profile

        • Kristy Gardner
          March 5, 2015 at 8:29 am (3 years ago)

          Thank you Andleeb – I appreciate that. I hope you’re well too πŸ™‚

  8. Lenie
    September 26, 2014 at 11:42 am (3 years ago)

    This is very interesting. When I first started blogging, I was told I was very stiff – which actually is me because I`m the same way in a new crowd – but it came across as being arrogant and phony. Now that I feel more comfortable with blogging, I am starting to be more relaxed as I would be with friends.

    • Kristy Gardner
      March 4, 2015 at 9:28 am (3 years ago)

      I think we all do though Lenie! I think we get so caught up in wanting to be professional, we sound like we’re writing for an academic journal or something. Blogs – while they can be a hobby or a professional tool – are so much more fluid and personal. Using a friendly, conversational voice is key to having a successful blog. I think you sound fabulous πŸ™‚

      PS. I’m so terribly sorry for the delay in getting back to you. There was a family tragedy this Fall and I’m just catching up on comments now. I’m a terrible person – forgive me?

  9. Don Purdum
    September 26, 2014 at 2:33 pm (3 years ago)

    Hi Kristy,

    Really good stuff here!!! Being authentic is the key to growth and you hit it hard in a few key areas for me.

    First, I encourage my clients to work through this process. But be warned it takes time;

    1. Know what business you’re “really” in.
    2. Know what problems you “really” solve
    3. Know who you specifically solve them for
    4. Know how your products and services are part of the solution
    5. Meet them where they are at.

    To me, being authentic is making genuinely about others. If you talk with them and not to them and then give them reason to engage with you… you’re on the right track. Share, share, share and give your audience a reason to want to know you better.

    The way you said this was brilliant! Empower people. I agree with you 100% about building trust. But, I think many of us forget that there is a step before trust. You have to demonstrate compentency. If you’re proven to be competent then you can earn trust. But if your not competent it doesn’t matter how much they like you or trust you in other areas if the area you want them to asks them to open their wallets or checkbooks.

    One other thing you said I really want to affirm… just be yourself. Stop being the “expert” you learned from. Be who you uniquely are and communicate in your own special way.

    I really enjoyed your post Kristy! I’m sharing it out.

    ~ Don Purdum
    Don Purdum recently posted…Why I Don’t Worry About SEO for My Business To Business WebsiteMy Profile

    • Kristy Gardner
      March 4, 2015 at 9:31 am (3 years ago)

      Oh Don! Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment! I’ve seriously considered what you wrote here and implemented your key tenants into my own business strategy. Too often we get wrapped up with making the sale, rather than getting to know our audience, client or prospect. Really understanding them DOES take time and competency and I think you’ve absolutely nailed it here.

      PS. I’m so terribly sorry for the delay in getting back to you. There was a family tragedy this Fall and I’m just catching up on comments now. I’m a terrible person – forgive me?

  10. William Rusho
    September 26, 2014 at 3:25 pm (3 years ago)

    I think the hardest part, and most important, is finding your audience. We as bloggers, have a tendency to get other bloggers to visit our sites, in return we visit theirs. We seem to gather more readers, but it is US who is doing it. You need to expand to more readers on the web.

    • Kristy Gardner
      March 4, 2015 at 9:34 am (3 years ago)

      Definitely agree William. Deciding who you want to read your blog, going to where they hang out (ie Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, etc..) and talking with them there is paramount to reaching the people you want to get in front of.

      PS. I’m so terribly sorry for the delay in getting back to you. There was a family tragedy this Fall and I’m just catching up on comments now. I’m a terrible person – forgive me?

  11. Ken Dowell
    September 26, 2014 at 10:48 pm (3 years ago)

    I was watching a panel discussion on livestream earlier this week and the moderator asked a woman who was social media editor at the LA Times what their goal is in social media. She said,”Make the LA Times a person people want to talk to.” Seems to be exactly your point about being authentic. Another way to say it is be human. I’m not sure that’s something that comes naturally for marketers.
    Ken Dowell recently posted…A Baseball Fan Memoir Chapter 3 – On the Banks of the CuyahogaMy Profile

    • Kristy Gardner
      March 4, 2015 at 9:36 am (3 years ago)

      Totally Ken. The days of top down faceless business are over. At least they are online. People want to know the people behind the brand. They want value, effectiveness, excellent client service. And if you’re the kind of brand people want to talk to, you already have half the job done to securing new clients. Great insight!

      PS. I’m so terribly sorry for the delay in getting back to you. There was a family tragedy this Fall and I’m just catching up on comments now. I’m a terrible person – forgive me?

  12. Patricia Weber
    September 28, 2014 at 1:26 pm (3 years ago)

    This authenticity is so important for the more introverted. If we avoid it, people intuitively (or maybe uncertainly) know something is off. I’m usually on the fence about how much to share. It’s not so much the what or how, but how much.

    Thanks for insights.
    Patricia Weber recently posted…Introvert in Business to Business Sales: Take the Hard Way OutMy Profile

    • Kristy Gardner
      March 4, 2015 at 9:38 am (3 years ago)

      Oh Patricia! I think that’s something we all struggle with. The way I think about it is, if you’d be okay with your Grandmother reading it, then share away. Some of us are more comfortable with that then others (ie i regularly joke about poop on my food blog – appetizing? no. endearing to my readers? yes) and you have to do what’s right for you.

      PS. I’m so terribly sorry for the delay in getting back to you. There was a family tragedy this Fall and I’m just catching up on comments now. I’m a terrible person – forgive me?

  13. Sara Fenoglio
    December 6, 2014 at 12:14 am (3 years ago)

    It is such a fine line for me. I try my best to be real, open and honest with my readers about struggles I’ve personally had with my health, but I don’t want to divulge everything, nor do I want to sound like a know it all. I want to be comfortable in what I share, but also don’t want to sound ‘stiff’ as someone stated above! Great post Kristy! πŸ™‚

    • Kristy Gardner
      March 4, 2015 at 9:40 am (3 years ago)

      Nor should you my friend! Being authentic doesn’t mean we tell everyone the nitty gritty craziness. But it does mean that we open ourselves up to the people who we could connect with. Top down privacy brand crap doesn’t work online. These days, you have to be human. You don’t have to tell them the details of your morning poop, but you should make it apparent that you’ve got both successes and failures; joys and loathes; life and death.

      Good to see you – thank you for commenting!

  14. Amanda
    January 12, 2015 at 12:55 pm (3 years ago)

    This reminds me of that Maya Angelou quote that basically says that people will forget what you’ve said and done, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel! Such a great post!
    Amanda recently posted…Why Don’t You Go Outside and Play?My Profile

    • Kristy Gardner
      March 4, 2015 at 9:41 am (3 years ago)

      Absolutely Amanda. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Obviously. Because Maya Angelou did. As usual πŸ˜‰

  15. Debra
    February 28, 2015 at 5:55 am (3 years ago)

    I really enjoyed your post, Kristy, and everyone’s comments and I’m taking this all to heart. Being more social is the thing that I find a little difficult. From what I have gathered, I need to find a few favorite blogs and visit them repeatedly in order to forge friendships.

    • Kristy Gardner
      March 4, 2015 at 9:44 am (3 years ago)

      Thank you Debra!

      Absolutely. Creating real relationships with other bloggers (and readers) is the KEY to being successful online. I know it’s difficult to reach out and be vulnerable that way but that’s how you get seen, how you get more traffic, how you make money blogging, etc… Everyone knows the guy who got the job because “he knew a guy”…. Blogging is exactly the same way. Luckily the people you have to be social with – other bloggers in your niche, industry leaders, brands, readers, etc… – all love the same thing you do. So that’s an excellent starting point πŸ™‚