Authentic – it’s a word that circulates social media a lot. We all want to authentically build our brand or audience and strive to engage authentically. Let’s face it, authenticity sells and brings connection. But are we really being authentic with our curated feeds, semi-planned captions and filtered images?
Authentic engagement is essential for online presence, connection and growth. It gives permission for flaws, mistakes and well, realness. By showing your true self, you’ll attract the right people and they’ll be more likely to hang around. This is how online communities develop and grow. If people are connecting superficially, as a means to an end, I think it comes through. In a previous conversation with @mademoisellenomad, she spoke of treating every engagement on social media as a real life conversation; and it comes across in her engagement too. Authentic engagement is about being reciprocal and having a mutual conversation, as well as being intentional in your wish to build and grow your online presence.
While it’s always a pleasure to find and engage with new accounts, it’s important to continue engaging with those who follow you. Following hundreds of accounts can make this challenging as they don’t always come up on your feed. By keeping these people in mind you are building your online relationship sincerely and holding on to what they value from your content.
Naturally there’s a need to consider how we present ourselves online. There would be no point in me posting a photo or writing a post on nail art, for example, or how to knit a cushion because I have no clue about either of these things. I wouldn’t be reflecting my voice or considering what my audience value. Plus, it would be a hard act to keep up.
But where do we draw the line?
When it comes to photos, there’s a need to consider what they represent and how this can be portrayed in an authentic way. For example, I always have to make room on my dining room table for photos as it’s a perpetual dumping ground. Does this make my photos less real? I rarely take a massive tray of croissants, cheese, meats and jam back to bed with me in the morning either but these pictures regularly pop up on my Instagram feed. In my defence, I do have breakfast in bed when possible and embrace the opportunity for slow weekends. So it’s partly about what the image represents and how this connects with our online presence or brand.
When it comes to photos, I think a certain amount of curation is okay and doesn’t make things inauthentic. We’re all striving to showcase our best photos on our feed and websites. I think curation brings creativity, inspiration, and a motivation to do better. It’s good to play around with ideas as long as you’re staying authentic and true to what you’re trying to represent and the audience you’re wanting to attract and engage with.
It’s not always easy to find something to say every day and it’s fine to say so. Some days I don’t feel like giving chapter and verse, whereas on others, the words just flow. I think whatever is said should be real and sincere whether it’s a line from a song or an openhearted honest account of a personal experience. Instagram promotes engagement rather than likes or follows, so there’s a drive to comment and have conversations. Sometimes it feels like the pressure’s on to find a question or call to action but I find that you don’t have to. If your caption is thought provoking and meaningful, comments will happen. It goes without saying that if someone takes the time to comment, it’s a lovely gesture to reply (and that’s how it’s done!)
Instagram Live and Stories
With Instagram Stories, IGTV and Live videos becoming more popular, authentic engagement will inevitably be more immediate. People like seeing behind the scenes and I’m making a concerted effort to talk to the camera more. Instagram Stories offer a glimpse into the life behind the photos. It also allows us to widen the scope of our Instagram accounts and include things that don’t fit into our feeds so well. It’s also brilliant for spontaneity, and a glimpse of “this is me now”. As some things on stories or IG live may be less curated or more impulsive, it’s naturally authentic and real. Remember to add a hashtag and your location for more views. It really makes a difference.
Is it really hard to be authentic online? I don’t think so. Be intuitive and celebrate what makes you and your brand different. This in itself is a reflection of authenticity. Engage with others meaningfully and consistently and share your expertise alongside your real experiences. In time you’ll find your audience and communities and engagement will grow.