The rise in popularity of social media over the last 15 years, has been nothing short of meteoric. However, this new phenomenon that has become like a drug for many people around the globe. It has culminated in what I call Alternative Authenticity Syndrome or AAC for short. This syndrome is defined as a person’s inability to differentiate between their true authentic selves and the alternative authentic self they created to seem more interesting on social media.
Alternative Authenticity Syndrome
This disease began slowly, as a way to gain more friends on sites like MySpace and College Club. But it has evolved to an all out epidemic, infecting millions of people. The effects of AAC reach far and wide and as of late, has begun to encroach into the world of business. Everyday I see more and more, business owners “faking the funk” if you will, on Twitter and Instagram, in hopes of getting customers.
The repercussions of exhibiting an alternative authentic self are, getting caught or a lie turning into something you do not particularly like; resulting in lost customers, lost revenue, and even potential loss of your company.
I guess by now, you can tell that I’m joking, sort of. While there is no real Alternative Authenticity Syndrome, the practice of in-authenticity on social media is real, and can affect a business. Because there is so much in-authenticity plaguing social media, I just assume whomever I’m engaging with online, be they an individual or business, is putting on an act.
The Silver Lining
But, I believe there is a silver lining, a benefit that can come from the madness. If a company’s competitors are going to show an alternative authentic self, why not show your most authentic self. Authenticity is the act of being who you are both in private and in public. Now, this only works if you’re a relatively good person in private, but that’s probably a discussion for another post. By showcasing your most authentic self, you are expressing a real consideration and caring for your customers.
When you are authentic with your customers on social media, it protects you from having to remember who you were supposed to be and how you were supposed to act. It suggests to them that you are open to being vulnerable and can put them at ease when it comes to spending their hard earned money on your products and services. Being authentic, is not easy because it feels weird. It is scary. You put yourself out there, in hopes that no one will exploit your authenticity. But with all the scary, icky parts, the benefits hold far more weight.
As a consumer, I want to engage with a company that feels human, real, caring, understanding, BUT authentically so. Your customers can smell fakery and frauds. Engaging with someone being their most authentic self is refreshing and soothing in some strange way. I suppose the mysticism behind it, comes from the fact that it isn’t something that’s practiced by very many people. If Justin Timberlake can bring sexy back, why can’t we bring authenticity back.
The Authentic Challenge
So, here allow me to post this challenge to all the small businesses out there. Take one week, only one week and showcase your most authentic self online. Engage with your customers, as though they are friends you’ve known forever. Assume they already know your flaws and blemishes. Don’t try to come across as the guru who knows it all, but admit that life is trial and error and sometimes you’ve got to let action and time figure it out. Don’t use “we” if you’re a solopreneur. When posting a selfie, post the third one you take, no matter how it looks. Be your most authentic self, have fun, and let me know how it felt. Good luck!
Quick side note: Being authentic is not a substitute for being professional.