Who? Founder of Moz, an SEO company
Why is authenticity an important part of any successful social media account?
I think there’s a natural human tendency toward people who we can identify with. People whose words and actions match up. People who are consistent and brands that are consistent.
Related: 8 Tips for Being Authentic
Where do you think businesses or people go wrong when it comes to conveying authenticity on social media?
I think there are cultural tendencies that inhibit authenticity. Some of those center on the desire to carefully curate a crafted, artificial image. People don’t take photos and share updates of their everyday life; they share photos and updates of the one amazing minute in an otherwise dreary day. Thus you get a very different impression of what your friends and family are like, and I think that can lead us into a world where we believe that this crafted curation is inherently opposed to authenticity, and I don’t think that’s the case. You can be both. You can share the remarkable parts of your life and still be authentic, but certainly there’s a tension there.
Another cultural aspect surrounds fear of vulnerability and appearing perfect. I think that’s a very frustrating cultural standard, but one that’s hard for people to overcome.
Those are forces that make it very difficult to embrace authenticity—you’re afraid of not putting your best foot forward, you’re afraid of showing what you’re really like and having people reject you or judge you or criticize you. And as a result, we get these fake images.
How do people or brands succeed at being authentic on social media?
I think when authenticity is at its best, it’s displaying things that are vulnerable, things that people can feel empathy for and also things people feel a connection to. But it still has to be attention-worthy. It has to be something people care about. You can’t share everyday drudgery unless the way you’re sharing the everyday drudgery is powerfully useful, interesting, speaks to your audience in a unique way or creates a strong emotional connection.
Does any particular social media platform lend itself more to authenticity?
I think short-form makes it harder than long-form. Twitter and Instagram, and Facebook, to a certain degree, make it challenging. I think the place where I see the most impressive authenticity is often blogs. They’re longer form and they have flexible content demands. You can mold them to whatever message you need to deliver.
Photo by Kristina Keyser
This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Jamie Friedlander is a freelance writer based in Chicago and the former features editor of SUCCESS magazine. Her work has been published in The Cut, VICE, Inc., The Chicago Tribune and Business Insider, among other publications. When she's not writing, she can usually be found drinking matcha tea into excess, traveling somewhere new with her husband or surfing Etsy late into the night.