Authenticity and Social Media Transparency

Social media is all about being AUTHENTIC and sometimes being authentic isn’t about being “peppy” or “optimistic”.  Being authentic is all about being REAL!

Who are you really?

In this age of increasing transparency – it’s a question which, if it hasn’t already – will soon be reaching out to either move you forward – or haunt you!

A few months ago, one of my client’s “dropped” me and I’m certain she was surprised by how cooperative I was in turning over files to her new agency.  To say the breakup was “mutual” would be an understatement.

The other day, I went to visit her new “carefree” site which is how she was “lured” away from my stable of clients.

I was amused because she had totally embraced the whole “blogs are website magic” and had obviously insisted that her new agency include a blog on her otherwise static website.  The problem – her blog is as “static” as the HTML pages on her site.  She ported over the three posts from her previous blog and now has a beautiful shell style website filled with the same empty words you can find on every other media consultant/trainer’s static website.

A crippling fear of authenticity and transparency

This client lived in constant fear as we were converting her previous HTML website into a blog.  She worried that her former clients and former employers would find her and – gasp – communicate via her blog with her prospective clients.  (Let me reiterate – this woman bills herself as a communication professional!!!)

While my client never actually spoke the words out loud, there was definitely a thread which ran through virtually every conversation which revealed that her greatest fear wasn’t death or taxes – but rather total and complete transparency.

In hindsight, I should NEVER convinced her to convert her static website to a blog.

Her new web site is really sad if you ask me.  Not only has it dropped over 8 million spots in Alexa’s index, but the new website embraces the “cookie cutter template” look with a passion.  The content contained within is nothing special either.  It is virtually identical to her competitors and former employers website content.

Then, it hit me.  The whole “pursuit of the cookie cutter” is just a symptom of the true disease – this client is desperately cloaking herself and who she really is.

Is there an antonym for authenticity?

What’s really sad is I watched this fear of transparency absolutely DESTROY another promising business she tried to launch shortly after we began working together.

After I created her consultancy’s web presence, she hired me to develop the website for her newly launched greeting card company.  The cards were titillating, captivating and cute all at the same time and I thought she was going to be a HUGE success.  Unfortunately, she was TERRIFIED that her “corporate” clients would discover that she was the CEO of the new company and creator of the cards.

That crippling fear colored everything she did with the card company.  A PR professional – she never EVER promoted her business herself.  She hired sales reps to hit the streets with a single bit of marketing or PR to break the ice.  As a result, her business died a slow and agonizing death.  It was truly painful to watch.

The cards really did reveal a side to her I didn’t know existed.  It made me like her even more – but she could never ever let go of the plastic “barbie doll” image she had constructed in her professional life.

Authenticity takes the fear factor out of transparency.

To contrast the crippling fear of transparency my former client suffered, I’d love to direct your attention over to Tom Volkar’s blog Delightful Work and his most recent post “How to get on the right track.

I wish I were better at “deconstruction” right now because I wish I could break down all the elements in this post which “work” and document them.

But then I realized that perhaps – if this is your first time to visit Tom’s blog – you may not be as blown away by the post as I am.  Maybe the reason I’m blown away by his post is I’ve been reading his blog for about six months now and the real “beauty” of this post is how it ties into previous posts.

Or maybe – just maybe – it’s because the post really resonated with me.  For example, Tom writes –

Successful business building is not an exact science.  Opportunities present themselves in unexpected ways.  Discoveries and realizations often occur in the pursuit of other objectives.

As a 12 year veteran of the self employment wars – I can fully embrace the truth in this statement!!!  The entire posts resonates with a ring of authenticity, passion but most importantly – EXPERIENCE.

There is no “hiding” going on over at the Delightful Work blog – as is evidenced by some of Tom’s other recent posts.  Tom blogs about being angry, pissed off and off kilter – yet that while that transparency and authenticity weren’t always “pretty” they were always more than “real” enough.

If you’re in need of  “some raw truth and fresh direction” you might want to stop over at Tom’s blog.  He dispenses plenty of both for free at his blog.

By embracing authenticity – Tom has nothing to fear in the 100% transparency zone which is social media.

Social media is communication on steroids.   It removes the conventional barriers to communication of time/space/distance.

Social Media is communication that moves at the speed of thought.

Is it any wonder that authenticity is a requirement in these oh so transparent days of social media?


  1. We talked about transparency, safety, poseurs, and lots of other (hilarious) online stuff over the weekend at the cabin. Between the six of us, three of us had online interactive experience for more than ten years. Wouldn’t it stand to reason that only someone with insecurity or something else about themselves to fear would be transparency-averse in this day and age? Presuming the normal privacy precautions of course… Great post, Kathy. Tom’s post was genius, too.

    Betsy Wuebkers last blog post..CALCULATE WHAT THE BAILOUT IS COSTING YOU

  2. Lots of people talk about authenticity, but this post of yours is the best I’ve seen. This is exactly what it means, and many people miss it, even after theoretically reading about it.

    They think it means “consistency” or “the way you truly want others to think about you” instead of it being honest and open and human. It’s just hard to define “human” sometimes — but you’ve done it here.

    I’m trying to do that more myself. It’s the failings and the fears and the tribulations that make someone real, human, interesting. And when they succeed anyway, that’s a story you can learn from. Thanks for the additional inspiration!

    P.S. I second your sentiment about Tom’s blog.

    Jason Cohens last blog post..Starting up while employed: Admit it

  3. Hi Kathy. I give Tom two thumbs up! He does a spectacular job on Delightful Work and deserves a round of applause <<<>>>.

    Authenticity is so important these days, because the market is becoming saturated with cookie-cutter businesses. Being authentic — being yourself — is the only thing that can set a person apart from the rest. Authenticity is the doorway to the niche. Too bad that this woman’s greeting card business suffered the way it did. It sounds like she had something special there.

    Nice to see The Quote Effect living in your sidebar Kathy — thanks!

    Davinas last blog post..The Morning Muse — Inspiring Hands

  4. When you choose to embrace authenticity, you are choosing to sing your own song, daring to lead the thundering herd, challenging yourself to BE different.

    The vast majority of the general trend of humanity is to kinda sorta blend in…not stand out in bold, dramatic colors and to say, to heck with what everyone else does, HERE’S ME!

    Social media offers one a double-edged sword – you can be fresh and vibrant BUT then have to proactively deal with the resulting commentary (good OR bad). It forces one to step outside of their comfort zone. ‘Course, to me…that’s only a Good Thing indeed.

    Data points, Barbara

  5. Betsy – As you can tell from the post – I’m still processing this whole “authenticity” thing. I’m like you- I am who I am – online, offline – it doesn’t change. It’s only when I start looking at clients who have run screaming from the whole blogging process that I can see that not EVERYONE online is living a truly “transparent” and therefor authentic life.

    Jason – You have totally made my day with your comment! Oh the power you wield!!! (BTW – your blog is a GREAT exercise in authenticity – and I definitely recommend it as another resource for “how blogging should be done to promote a business”.

    Davina – “Authenticity is the doorway to the niche.” You really hit the nail on the head with that one!!!

    Barbara – You’re right on as well. I absolutely ADORE the “singing your song” word picture!!! OUTSTANDING!!!

  6. This post reminds me of a conversation I had about how some of the “traditional” internet marketers are running scared from social media. They built their success using techniques that maybe worked well but were not at all transparent. They aren’t sure what to make of this transparency and authenticity movement or how to navigate it.

    This is only a portion of them, though. There are many smart internet marketers out there who have always embraced relationship marketing and full communication with their customers–and they are thriving today. Social media is just another way to connect and communicate the value of what it is you have to offer.

    Christines last blog post..Trademark Basics for Small Business Owners

  7. Christine-
    We’re definitely beginning to see the beginning of a new “era” and just as some film actors couldn’t make the “transition” to talkies – some internet marketers aren’t going to be able to make the “transition” from web 1.0 to web 2.0. Heck, it’s not just internet marketers who may have trouble making the transition! But that’s another post….

    Thanks for stopping by and adding your .02 to the conversation!


  1. […] continue to be amazed at the level of transparency blogging provides.  When a business owner decides to take blogging seriously, it provides a true window […]