I think that some folks seem to equate social media with advertising. Advertising is positioned to appeal to our aspirations. That's why people always look perfect in commercials, cars are always gleaming as they curve along sinewy roads and food looks better than in real life. We pay attention to commercials that show us who we could be if we had product X in our lives because many of us aspire to be more. This isn't exactly truth you're looking at. It's designed to appeal not repel!
On TV and other mass media -- people expect commercials in between quality programming. Most of us know that the providers need to pay the bills, so we accept them, albeit, begrudgingly.
Social Media is another form of communication, but because it's a two-way street -- the rules are different. You can't just start posting links to your products and expect to be successful. In this world, people expect to get to know you -- to understand what you are all about -- and only then will they be able to trust you and what you are selling.
Here are 10 things that can help keep you honest and authentic with your postings.
1. Read, think, and post. When you read something that you agree with, repost it and add your two cents. When you disagree, acknowledge the posters point of view and politely state your objections and ask for a response. This encourages a dialogue.
2. When someone asks your advice on something, use your answer as the seed for a new post. If you can give someone solid advice, you have the ability to acknowledge a problem and to think through solutions. That's the real you, use it!
3. Write for yourself, first. When you use your own language, your own tone, your own stories, you are consistent from post to post. You can't help yourself.
4. When posting about a new product you have to offer, use your manners. You would never shake someone's hand in person and then hand him a flyer, that would be rude. Introduce yourself. Share your expertise with your opinion. Then, and only then, let people know what you do and how you might solve problems for them.
5. Use your own name. Or consistently use a handle or pen name that represents the essence of you. (e.g., I'm TheDataDiva -- a name that reflects my knowledge and passion for gathering and analyzing data).
6. Use your own picture. A recent picture, please. Not fuzzy -- and without sunglasses!
7. Create a page in LinkedIn. One of the easiest ways to check if someone is who he says he is to review his profile. Not only should someone have a complete profile, but he/she should be linked to other people who worked at similar places or are in associations or groups. I have discovered several fake profiles over the years by simply looking around at the companies people claim to have worked for and following their "connections." You would be surprised how many people fake a profile and how easy it is to tell if you use some elementary detective work.
8. Change it up -- as you do in your real life! Engaging people talk about lots of subjects. They aren't always positive or always negative. They incorporate details that ring true to the tale they are telling. When you maintain the same fake photo, and post only links to other peoples posts or quotes you appear to be hiding.
9. Link to other people who share similar opinions and also to those who have opinions contrary to yours. This helps you keep perspective -- don't just drink your own Kool-Aid! It also lets people know that you are serious about the topics you follow.
10. Answer comments on blog posts. Forward tweets and posts on LinkedIn. Don't just "like" something, add your two cents. The world is so boring without a difference in opinion.
Being authentic isn't some kind of technique or trick. It does require conscious effort to stop reworking your words into a pale, bland heap of nonsense. The more you practice sharing, the better you'll become at it.