How do people like managers, salespeople and influencers establish the authenticity and credibility they need to be successful? In this knowledge dump, we examined 6 ways to build authenticity into what you create.
The cliff notes:
1. Have a mission, purpose, goal and principles and use them to guide decision making. Write it down.
2. Have consistency to the way in which you share information. Don’t give up when you are going against the grain and getting out of your comfort zone.
3. Take the pressure off of your “art”. Create for the right reasons, monetize naturally.
4. Create the same content - whether or not you are paid for it. Share brands when you are not being paid, so the act of making recommendations is completely natural and authentic to your being.
5. Be selective and/or decline partnerships that are not authentic to you. Know when something will damage your authenticity.
6. The audience matters too. Know what you know and own what you don’t to give audience more of what they want, allowing you to grow without compromising your own sense of self.
The long notes:
I was 25 years old when I learned what it meant to be an “authentic” human being. It’s not a word that was ever in a vocab test in school. It was not “fetch” enough to be a catch-phrase in my high-school or college years. Yet, as I am getting older both in life and business the word “authenticity” is EVERY WHERE.
Authenticity and believability are among two TOP, if not “the” top factors that contribute to your power of influence. What really “moves” the people you speak to - friends, family members, and strangers - is not only what you are saying, but how much you actually believe in what you are saying. And though this is coming from a sphere of reference around “online influencers” it can be applicable to really ANY situation where you are required to lead and move people - be it sales, team building, managing, etc.
To influence, move and create impact, you have to build trust bonds. There are 3 external trust bonds that are forged internally and then externally when you interact with a greater social sphere (like your team or customer of the internet):
1. Self Trust
2. Audience Trust
3. Brand / Partner Trust
Establishing genuine authenticity can be one of the hardest parts of being an influencing body. It requires either this natural, innate ability to fully express who you are on the inside through your online presence. Or it requires HARD WORK to find who you are on the inside and fully express that in your online presence. I have found that you do not have to be born with the innate ability to be authentic, to become an authentic human being and a powerful person of influence. Authenticity gets easier. That is SELF TRUST.
AUDIENCE TRUST comes from consistency in beliefs and messaging. If you are authentic, and true to yourself, audience trust can be built very easily and naturally. I haven’t always been a resource when it came to working out or sharing information about nutrition - and when I first started “learning” I didn’t pretend like I knew what I was talking about. But over time and with consistency, my “audience” saw me grow into a knowledgable source for health, wellness, fitness and nutrition advice. It’s probably the #1 thing people want to ask or talk about. There is a built trust in my beliefs and expertise from my audience that was built through self-honesty about what I know and don’t know.
The reverse is also true - people can sniff out fake. People know when you are trying too hard - especially as you are open to trying new things. People know when you are pretending to be someone you are not - if not right away, in the future. We’ve seen it in spheres of “influence” where people are caught lying and it can destroy their reputation to be trusted. Do you know that when interrogating witnesses to catch lies, detectives often ask the same question repeatedly, in different patterns, asks and sequences? This is because what is “true” to you or comes natural is often less cognitively taxing - you are less likely to mess up or be inconsistent with your information if what you are sharing is truth.
There have been studies done on people in sales in which they match the varying degree to which they believe in the products they are selling to their success in actually selling the product. Those who believe in the product and have greater expertise in the subject matter (through experience) were more likely to sell more product.
Brands or partners working with creators or sellers is its own trust bond. I have been on the brand side. I have sat with owners who want to assure that every dime they spend on helping to share “their baby” - a product THEY believe in and have labored over - is spent meticulously on vehicles that are going to ACTUALLY achieve it. Why should brands trust you with their baby - if you don’t trust you? We examine authenticity when choosing and short listing influencers for campaigns for this very reason - we want to achieve our goals of having success for all parties.
We studied some of the things that some of the most effective and powerful influencers and leaders do to help build and maintain authenticity. Whether it comes natural to you, or you have to work for it - it is attainable and will help you create stronger trust with your audience which allow you to make greater impact through social media.
Let’s get the harsh realities out of the way, k? You may lose people. People may not be interested in what you are going to say. But this is part of what being aligned and authentic is all about. Not everyTHING matters to everyONE. You have to be brave enough to shut out the fear around being the true you. This is the foundation of authenticity, believability and establishing trust with yourself and your network.
Have a mission, purpose, goal and principles and use them to guide decision making. Authenticity took me 25 years to learn and then a solid 5 more years to apply. I was taken aback when I realized on a scale of 1-100%, if you asked me how well I knew myself it would fall under 50%. There are things I KNOW I love and have been consistent in my life since I was young. I had a thing for listening to hip hop since I was 10 years old. I’ve always been extremely artistic and creative. I’ve never been a shoe person. I’ve been an ace at writing since I was little, scoring perfectly on the SAT Writing (which didn’t even count). Having a career and being financially independent have always been goals of mine and self-development has been consistent in my life for the past 6 years.
But there was a moment during my self-development work where I realized that, my purpose and mission for things like, WHY I spend time with friends and WHY I wake up and go to work on the job I do - was guided by what I have been TOLD to do. It has been guided by the way friends and family view the world and I had never fully focused, way deep down, on what I wanted, what mattered and what LIT me to my core being.
I know this comes naturally to a lot of people - but to many it doesn’t. Which is why I firmly believe it’s extremely important to really know things like your mission, purpose, goal and principles.
When I created Social Creates Impact, I really wanted a space where I could make marketing and social media be beautiful. Marketing changed my life - not because it was my career but that the concept of discovering information online through social networking gave me the resources and accountability I needed to change my health for the better. My goal is to change the perception of marketing and to give resources and guidance needed for social media to create life changing impact the way it did for me. I write that down and when I make decisions about what to write, how to speak, what content to put out - it will be guided by that mission so everything I do supports the end goal.
To be powerfully influential, what you do needs to support your goal and knowing what those are will make decision making a bit easier [but more on that below.]
Have consistency to the way in which you share information. Going from someone who uses social media casually, to someone using social media to STAND for something is incredibly hard. Your network was built on one premise, but you are ready to move to an all new premise. You are ready to start talking about things you are passionate about. You want to start building stronger community around what matters to you. It doesn’t happen overnight.
It may be weird to people to see you in this new way. But that shouldn’t matter to you - and thus, it shouldn’t change or make you question what you are doing. Being consistent in what you put out, despite it being out of your comfort zone helps to SHOW people this is who you are. It helps to SHOW people that this isn’t just a phase of trying to fit in or be cool (= inauthentic behavior). It helps to SHOW people that you are serious about this and therefore committed to it for the longterm.
I’ve seen friends on Instagram stories talking about something they are passionate about and their voice shakes a bit at first. You could tell they are a bit timid, but they then blossom into these confident creatures who begin kicking ass at what they set out to do, just because they stuck with it consistently.
Take the pressure off of your “art”. Elizabeth Gilbert said this a lot more concise than I ever could. When we take the pressure off of our art to perform for us, or sustain our lives, we are more likely to make decisions that are authentic to us, rather than driven by external factors and needs, such as money, recognition or desperation.
Some of the most impactful influencers we work with did not become an influencer by waking up one morning and deciding to be an influencer. Most solved problems in their day-to-day that grew larger than they could have imagined. Casey Ho starting Blogilates when her fitness class begged her to create a video they could do at home when she departed a job. Kandee Johnson’s early videos were in response to friends asking her to share how she does her make up (and Kandee is one of the most humbled influencers I have the pleasure of following!)
There was natural progression to the size of their growth and then of course to each influencer’s ability to monetize themselves as a brand through right-fit partnerships. Monetization was never the goal or the first step - providing something of value was. So take the pressure to monetize, be recognized, or impact people in large quantities off of your art.
Your art is yours. You love creating, you love serving - even if it’s a super-small group of people. If you continue to focus on value and establishing trust, you WILL be making social impact and the amount of people you can impact and opportunities to do so, will present itself on its own.
Create the same content - whether or not you are paid for it. A few months back, I really wanted to dig into why SOME influencers could sell-out brands and others could have no success at all gaining interest in particular brands. So I hit follow on some of the top and lowest performing influencers on a few campaigns so I could watch their content over a more extended period of time.
I found, those that effectively influenced their audience toward a certain brand or product and created value for our clients, did two things. #1 - They chose to share brands whether or not they were paid by that brand to it.
The act of promoting a brand as if you use it, must be an authentic action for anyone following you to really believe in what you are promoting. Therefore, if you don’t regularly share the products you use - whether you are paid to or not - how do you expect the audience to believe in your recommendation when you are clearly (by FTC regulation) disclosing your partnership with brand? The act of allowing your community to discover through sharing and recommendation should be authentic to who you are, if you expect to have success at producing results worthy of being paid by brand partners. Share what you love, regardless of whether or not you are being paid.
The SECOND thing top influencers did:
Be selective and/or decline partnerships that are not authentic to you. When promoting the product they were personal in their context about why they chose to work with a specific brand and how it connected to core values. If there is no visible, believable connection here this can actual damage your authenticity. FTC law requires disclosure on all paid or gifted partnerships so your community has full transparency about your relationship with a brand. You can own the transparency by assuring that the partnerships you take on align with your mission, goals and principles.
The audience matters too. Er, say what Stephanie? You started this post telling me the audience DOESN’T matter, but now you are saying they do? There must be balance between not caring about audience perception to be true to yourself, and considering audience perception as a key indicator of how you can add more value, create stronger trust bonds with audience and overall create more impact through social media. When people feel connected emotionally - they share. When they share - you grow.
My favorite way that powerful influencers are doing this is still by being authentic to themselves first. If you are being asked to share something that really has not connection to your core mission and goal - don’t be afraid to recommend other powerful people who this IS authentic to. Knowing what you know and owning when you don’t can be a powerful way to give more of what your audience is looking for without compromising your own sense of self and authentic behavior in the process.
Have a mission, purpose, goal and principles and use them to guide decision making.
1. Write. Honestly just write down your light bulbs. It at least gives you the opportunity to revisit your thoughts and compile them in a more concise manner. Some writing prompts:
Who is the end recipient of what you do for a living? How does what you do - no matter how small, impact someone? The girl who takes my phone calls at SoCal Edison is my savior for keeping my lights on. The guy who delivers my Amazon packages makes my day (and I bet he doesn’t know it). Humans impact others because we co-exist, how do you?
If something happened and you ceased to exist tomorrow - what would you be sad you didn’t share with someone? What would you be sad you didn’t do?
When you make a decision, what “rules” are guiding it? When you spend money from your paycheck, what rules do you have? What do they say about your approach to money? When you decide what to do on a Friday night, what “rules” are guiding it? What do they say about how you approach your spare time? Furthermore, where are these rules coming from and do they really serve you? Were they created by mass society? Were they created by parents or friends? Or were they created in response to your own feelings and experience?
2. Intervene and examine what matters. Sometimes we have to physically allow ourselves to intervene with our own auto-piloted processes, so take about 1-week where you “examine” how you feel in your process. So when faced with a decision - even as little as what to eat for dinner, you can ask yourself what’s the premise of my decision and how does it relate to what matters to me? Do you elect to stay home because saving money matters? Do you elect to eat out because time and convenience matters? Do you eat healthy because your body’s health matters? Or do you eat what you want to eat because being satisfied matters? If you think about what you are doing in relation to what matters to you, you can easily find some of your own guiding principles.
3. Look to celebs/ friends / other influencers. What about others really gives you like a warm, supportive feeling? Chances are - you probably share a lot of principles, wants, mission and goals with these beings. Emotion is felt as a bodily experience, so chances are you can really FEEL this in the presence and through their content. I credit Ashley Stahl for lighting me up and making me feel really powerful about being independent, having a career and working hard. Other friends and influencers may do this too - create a time to really focus on noticing this.
4. Use ‘Self-Discovery’ tools. Whether or not the stars can accurately predict your true nature and behavior is still something I don’t really quite understand. But that doesn’t stop me from noting astrology, human design and other tools/test/contexts based on your birthdate, time and location from assisting in really understanding ‘self’. Much like you can look to friends, celebrities and influencers to provide feeling and emotion that indicate what some of your principles, wants, mission and goals are - you can look to these tools to do the same. When you read something that you can find evidence of in PAST experience and you feel a connection to what you are reading - the chances are this is something that is authentic to how you experience and exist in the world. Additionally, you can try on certain results to see how they feel to you. I’ve had a lot of discoveries through these tools that have really helped me hone in on what is working for me - and what is not - so I can be a more authentic being.
Have consistency to the way in which you share information.
1. Resist the urge to give-up. Give yourself a time period before you make any shift. Let’s say that your goal is to start talking about a new networking marketing company you have joined. Welcome to having to sell on your social assets. Welcome to the age where there are memes about you! But don’t give up! Make a calendar out and a goal to share via posts or stories at least 20x over 2 months and THEN assess yourself. Be consistent, no matter how uncomfortable you feel.
2. Acknowledge and own the process. Some of the people I’ve personally felt most connected to have really owned their emotion and discomfort in starting something new. I see this as radical truth, honesty and transparency and it connects me deeper to that person. Do not be afraid to own how you feel or be “real” - it’s a synonym for authenticity. Avoid what you SHOULD be saying or what others may be guiding you to say, and say what you want to say.
3. Look back on where people started, not where they are now. The best way to show yourself you WILL improve with time is to take a look down someone you admire’s memory lane. Chances are they were not perfect. They likely pivoted, grew, practiced - which will help restore your faith that you will too. As a podcaster, I like listening back to some of the early podcasts available from people who were self-starters.
Take the pressure off of your “art”.
1. Accept a secondary, temporary for permanent job or another income source. If you rely on your art as the sole source of income, you can sometimes relieve this by taking another job. It’s a big and bold move, but it’s really the best way to take the pressure off of your art to perform. Elizabeth Gilbert touches upon this deeply in Big Magic - if you are interested in the read. Gary V’s book “ “ is also filled with stories where people naturally progressed from job to passion at the point where the passion began making money. It’s also been my own experience. Having the status that I do at HireInfluence takes all expectation off of Social Creates Impact to perform so I am slower, more intentional and more precise.
It’s important to note that I also know those who thrived because they pull all their eggs in their own basket. They put all of the pressure on their art to perform because they had to - and it worked for them. Are you someone who thrives with space or pressure? Answering this could help you decide the best path to go down.
Create the same content - whether or not you are paid for it.
1. Create a paid sponsorship to non-paid sponsorship content ratio guideline. For example, 2:1. For every campaign sponsorship you do, you provide 2 unpaid to brands you love for no cost. This will help build your authenticity by assuring that audiences see your recommendations as authentic action.
2. Consciously share your favorite brands if you are not at the point of sponsorship yet. The best way to start is to consciously add value - so sharing brands, routines, books, drinks, activities, emotions - you name it - adds value. Has potential to change someone else. Get in the habit of naturally sharing so that sharing in general is not an inauthentic action for you.
3. Adopt the belief in the power of discovery. I am living proof that product recommendation can change lives, and to really bring power to your sharing, it would benefit you to adopt a belief that what you are doing, no matter how small - matters to someone and that people WANT you to share.
Be selective and/or decline partnerships that are not authentic to you.
1. Create a checklist or question list. If you know your guiding beliefs and principles, creating this can be easy. To partner with a brand, how must they align with you? When we work with clients at HireInfluence, we assure that clients are on the same page about adding value through their activation with influencers and are not trying to use influencers inauthentically. We know that to do so, would cause damage to our authenticity - we couldn’t back up what we claim. You can make a checklist including questions like:
Who does the brand speak to? Does it match my community?
Does the brand promote something I could see myself using?
Would this brand compete with something I naturally share and is this believable? For instance, if I frequently wear and share my Target $20 gym leggings, show myself shopping at TJMaxx and ogling over all my steals - will promoting $100 lululemon leggings make sense for me? Even if I WOULD purchase $100 leggings, is this believable based on my past action?
You can create lists to ask the brand or campaign manager as well. They can sometimes get you full details that are not evident in the request to see if you can align on something that is meaningful to you.
The audience matters too.
1. Establish a basis first. I firmly believe asking for audience feedback before you are established in some certain category or in a flow of authenticity can sometimes cause you to put out content for others with no focus on yourself - and can disconnect you from what the process means to you. So assess whether or not you have built a strong foundation and process of who you ARE before you invite in perception and opinion from others. You are the president of your board room (but it’s still smart to have a board room!)
2. Use feedback mechanisms. Our creative processes can sometimes be limited - and others can have great ideas. So if you are stuck or want ideas, pay attention to how the audience communicates with you. Make them feel as if their opinion matters (somewhat) to you and use them for starter fodder in which you can judge each idea by what feels authentic to you. Questions, polls, comments and making Direct Messages feel welcome are ways you can invite feedback and audience perception so you may tailor the value you add to audience need and want.
3. Turn negative feedback into constructive criticism. We have read through so many negative comments on influencer content. Some have no validity or basis - aka Hater-ade, envy, jealousy. Some are valid - such as whether or not it’s believable that you lost 10lbs JUST because of a supplement. Come on man. You can use the blog post that accompanies this PRACTICE IT for more insights as to whether comments around authentic behavior could be valid. And you can make the shift.