When scouring the web for information about online marketing and community building, one of the topics that frequently surfaces is the importance of being genuine. The popular sentiment among online marketers and social media experts seems to be that being sincere is a key part of developing trust and building a relationship with a reader, a client, or an entire community.
This should not be a hard thing to do. In fact, being yourself should be the easiest and most natural thing in the world. Since it’s so widely discussed though, I assume that for a lot of people out there it’s not. And it’s not hard to imagine why.
For years, schools and businesses have told us to conform, to downplay our individual personalities and promote the values of the institution. Now, we are being told to be sincere—to be ourselves—but after years of conditioning to the contrary we find it difficult to do.
Sincerity is important though, and it’s important to take the time to get past whatever it is that’s holding you back from putting your genuine self out there. Are you used to operating by the “give the people what they want” philosophy? Well then it’s time to realize that what people want now are relationships with people and companies that are sincere and trustworthy. Are you afraid of criticism? Well then take comfort in the idea that the reach and the strength of your message can be measured by the number and the fierceness of your critics.
Why is sincerity so essential? It’s imperative because, like most healthy relationships, a healthy online relationship is based on trust. This trust is cultivated through displayed consistency and passion, neither of which will exist until you are true to yourself. Readers, clients or community members need to be able to trust that the information you give them is reliable, that the actions you take are taken with their best interest in mind, and that the products you provide do what they are supposed to do. If they sense that your online presence is not sincere, then having faith in the information, products or services you offer becomes difficult.
For some of you being genuine is no problem at all. For others this seemingly simple idea is much harder. For those people, I have thought of a simple, two-step exercise aimed at putting you back in touch with your genuine self:
Write 10 statements about yourself you know are true. These could be beliefs by which you live your life or simply things that you do everyday. Here are mine:
1. I wear flip flops as much as possible.
2. I can make up a silly song about pretty much anything.
3. I say goofy stuff to myself all day and make myself laugh.
4. I am a nerd.
5. I like change.
6. I don’t take anything too seriously, even the serious stuff.
7. I truly love my friends and family.
8. I think people who drink Budweiser are stupid.
9. I look good in blue.
10. I am a hippy at heart.
After you have your ten statements, print them out and hang them in a place where they’re visible while you’re working. When you are writing a blog post, commenting on someone else’s blog, or even posting a quick tweet, take a look at your 10 statements and ask yourself if what you’re about to share genuinely reflects who you are.