The Importance of Authenticity – Simple Strategies to Improve Your Online Self

Recently Corbett Barr over at Think Traffic asked his readers in his excellent post How Much Of Your Self Do You Have To Reveal To Succeed? Corbett asks his reader:

When it comes to your “voice” online, does it pay to reveal your full personality? Do you have to be fully self-expressed for your business to succeed online? Can you hide who you really are and still be interesting enough to grow a following?

It got me thinking quite a bit about my recent outing into the blogging world, how that’s impacted opportunities in the “real world”, and got me thinking about the general nature of authenticity on the internet – which spurned this post today.

I used to be really shy about revealing anything about myself online, and I initially struggled with putting myself out there.  Many businesses put up company logos and marketing jargon without revealing anything about who is behind the business.  I think that’s the wrong approach, after all – people buy from people, especially when it comes to buying products & services.  From my experience I realized that the more authentic I was the better people responded to me and the more opportunities came my way.  If I wanted to get more clients or increase blog readership -  I needed to show more of myself.  People buy from people, not from companies.  Referrals are based on what people have to say about you first and foremost, then they’ll say what they think about your product.  Yes the internet has in a lot of ways depersonalized the act of buying – cutting out interaction between buyer and seller.  I think this is a lost art form,  which is why the blogging community is so great.  You get to know the person before buying from them and you definitely can’t fake authenticity.  It’s the interaction with people, the emotion of buying, and the authenticity that people respond most to.  As soon as I started thinking about it less about Company XYZ that I represent, and more about Mike Inc. – it opened up a lot more doors for me that I didn’t imagine existed.

It’s the anonymous nature of the internet which has made it all seem so spammy.  It’s gotten better — because of social media and social proof – which is why people are being googled and everyone wants to find out what everyone else thinks of them.  It makes complete sense.  You wouldn’t walk into a Radio Shack and buy from a guy with a paper bag over his head and a smiley face , along with a name tag that says “Hi My Name is DarthMaul88″ would you? Seth Godin said an incredible idea would be to develop a whole new internet where everyone was forced to give their real name and email.  It would result in a whole new level of authenticity and pull people out from behind their computers and force them to be real – they would have no choice – like in the “real world”.

I try to reveal as much about myself as I can without going too personal on my blog, the only reason being is that talking about personal things strays from the subject of this blog. But I think a lot of my personality comes through my writing style and I pepper the blog with pics of myself and some details of who I am.  I always tell everybody — reveal as much or as little as you’re comfortable with.

Then take baby steps -  start out with a blog and start writing about what your passionate about.  Check your online pseudonym to your real name.  Open up your facebook profile and make friend with strangers who share your interests.  Put up a few pictures on flickr and start put up an avatar of your actual picture when you post on forum.  Then see what happens. Most of the time initially its nothing.  But that’s the point – many fear their privacy will be invaded or that they’ll  become stalker fodder.  Doubtful.  The point is to get yourself out there (not just on Facebook) and a world of opportunities will open up to you. You never know who you’ll meet, who will recognize your name, or who might see you and think, damn he’s good looking =).  Are you a business owner? Professional poker player? Corporate employee or aspiring Computer Programmer?  It doesn’t matter what you do. Just put yourself out there a little bit at a time. For example as soon as I started using my real name on forums I started see getting more clients and my blog readership increased.  They typically won’t trust a pseudonym -such as  “DarthMaul88″ as much as a real person. Why? People appreciate authenticity.  Show your personality, and be as authentic and transparent as you can. It will pay in spades, in business and in life.

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