Authenticity can be a double-edged sword when it comes to personal branding. That’s because self-disclosure can have a negative effect if it’s inconsistent with your brand. And who amongst us live lives we’d be happy for our clients to witness 24/7?
Honestly sharing your thoughts, feelings, and experiences can be invaluable in forming a connection with clients. It can be very motivating for them to view you as relatable – as someone who has faced similar struggles to them.
But what if personal disclosures are ill-timed and not thought through? They can actually have the opposite effect, alienate clients and harm your reputation. Plus, it also leaves you exposed to people who may take advantage of the information for nefarious purposes.
So how do you get the right balance?
How do I come across as authentic, not offend anyone, and still maintain my privacy?
Many people believe that to be genuinely authentic implies there shouldn’t be any disconnect between your personal and work personas. They believe that this is the opportunity presented by social media – to bring the two together. This is referred to as an open strategy. It can be effective but risky.
An audience strategy, however, advocates that personal and business contacts should be kept separate. This approach allows you to post different content to different groups of people. The groups can be kept on different platforms. For example, you may choose to restrict clients to LinkedIn and reserve Facebook for friends. Or you can set them up as different categories on the same platform.
A content approach is where no distinction is made between social and business contacts. However, all content is carefully curated. It is less spontaneous and can come across as lacking authenticity.
In the end, the right approach should be a combination and a personal decision for each health coach! Whatever fits well with your style and personal branding is always going to be the right choice.
But, when making your decision, you should consider the following:
Know how you want to be perceived
The first step in knowing what you should and shouldn’t share is knowing how you want to be perceived. Your brand story isn’t just the story of your business. It encompasses everything a client experiences, and it should evoke the desired emotion. It is the reason clients chose you over your competitors.
Have you given any thought to how you want people to think and feel when dealing with your brand? If not, this is the first place to start. Once this is in place, it will be much easier to know what you should be sharing. Anything that doesn’t fit with your brand story doesn’t belong on platforms that your clients and prospective clients have access to.
People who successfully use self-disclosure carefully choose what and when to share to achieve a specific objective, not purely for self-promotion.
So ask yourself: Is your content relevant? And what do you hope to achieve with it?
Top Tip: Get into the habit of googling yourself regularly. What do you seem to be saying, and what are other people saying about you? What impression will people form of you, and do you like it?
Social media is an expressive, real-time medium. People who lack self-awareness can plunge themselves into hot water and realise too late that it might have been better to hold back. How aware are you of the impact your words have on others?
Do you have strong opinions that you struggle to hide? Do you take criticism to heart and want to fight back? These are characteristics that could get you into trouble on social media with your personal branding.
However, knowing your weaknesses can help you formulate strategies for dealing with them.
Top Tip: Waiting 24 hours before responding to events or unfollowing triggering personalities are practical ways to manage destructive impulses. To find out how you score on self-awareness, try this quick quiz.
Figure out what is and isn’t taboo
Many of us were taught to avoid talking about politics and religion in public, but how you tackle difficult subjects comes down to your brand. But it also depends on your target audience.
Do you know what subjects are taboo for your audience? Or what they may or may not be comfortable discussing online?
Here are a few topics to think about:
- Sharing views on politics, religion, and other controversial topics can alienate followers who don’t share your views. Before commenting on, or liking such topics, or affiliating yourself in other ways, consider whether it is something your clients need to know about you, or whether it’s going to help or hinder you.
- Avoid embarrassing, revealing, or negative photos of yourself or others. You may know you’ve come a long way from playing drinking games at university – others might not.
- Relationship or family drama is inappropriate to expose to clients. If you want to share a personal story about trauma, make sure you’re framing it in a professional and constructive way.
- Vulgar language isn’t always a no-no, however you have to know your audience intimately to know whether they will appreciate it or not.
Intimacy doesn’t create relationships
Many of us have a critical turning point that changed the direction of our lives. It can help share our experiences with clients, but they are often of an intimate or revealing nature. A battle with mental illness or the death of a loved one, for example.
In deciding whether to share such experiences, it is essential to understand that intimacy strengthens relationships. It doesn’t create them. Timing is everything. Content that is sensitive to the stage of a customer’s journey can be powerful. But if timed incorrectly, it can backfire – leaving you vulnerable and the client anxious.
Top Tip: Beware of automation software that indiscriminately reposts across all platforms. Not everything is appropriate for every platform.
Loose lips sink (relation)ships
The saying “loose lips sink ships” dates back to World War II. Civilians freshly appointed to military posts had to be reminded to be prudent with information. These days, it’s a good reminder that relationships are fragile things.
Never share someone’s story without permission. This includes posting on other people’s accounts or tagging them on yours. And even when you have permission, handle the subject sensitively and respectfully. Clients will be wary of working with a health coach who doesn’t respect their privacy, and often your services will be more sensitive than most.
Top tip: Confidential discussions should be reserved for private messages or taken offline entirely. A phone call or email may be a more appropriate form of communication. And if you wouldn’t say something in a social or professional setting, don’t say it online. Keep your tone positive and avoid bad-mouthing people.
Are you sharenting?
Fellow parents often connect and form lasting bonds over their children. This can be done safely face-to-face. But sharenting, that is, sharing pictures and stories about your children online, creates a digital footprint for them before they can give consent. It’s a practice that’s increasingly frowned upon in professional circles, especially when it is done for commercial purposes.
Interestingly, the appropriation of childhood is not a new phenomenon. A century ago, A.A. Milne wrote the Winnie the Pooh books basing Christopher Robin on his son. The real Christopher achieved worldwide fame at the age of seven but was bullied and teased his whole school career.
As an adult, he resented his parents’ use of him and refused to take any money connected to the books. His story is the subject of the 2017 movie “Goodbye Christopher Robin.” It is based on the book of the same name by Ann Thwaite.
Top Tip: If you’re sharing information about your children consider using a pseudonym or hiding their faces until they are old enough to have the conversation with you. Also decide if it’s actually worth it for your business or not.
Are you putting safety first?
Personal details like birthdates, personal phone numbers, addresses, bank details, hometowns, and schooling should never be shared on social media. This is less about damaging your personal branding but this is the information that can be used for identity theft and other crimes so it’s important to be aware.
Making your daily routine available online can leave you and your home exposed to criminals. Similarly, letting people know when you’re away on vacation is not a bright idea. And women should be cautious not to make it known when they’ll be home alone.
Top Tip: At all times, it is your choice who you accept to engage with on social media. If someone makes you feel unsafe, block them immediately.
Your digital footprint is a permanent record
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that whatever you post online is potentially on record forever. Even if you have a post deleted, it is probably backed up somewhere. And you have no control over who may have noted, copied, screenshotted, or forwarded it while it was up.
And it’s not just your clients looking at your social media accounts. Increasingly employers, credit institutions, and government organisations look at social media profiles to inform their decisions about individuals. When it comes to disclosing items of a personal nature on social media, always think twice whether you’re posting on your personal or business accounts.
If you need help redefining your personal branding or making sure your platforms and websites reflect the true you, drop me a message and see how I can help.