Inspiration from a great post
Do you ever read other people’s content and your brain starts working?
That happened to us this week, as we were sorting through our social media posts we came across this awesome post by Mark Shaefer. He spoke about a recent talk at an event he attended, the subject was focused on the idea of audience vs authenticity.
Now, this sounds a little bit convoluted, but essentially – if you are writing/creating on the internet then you are writing for an audience. When you write for an audience, you are providing them with something they are looking for, this can range from tips to entertainment all the way through to information. The post that sparked the inspiration was talking about the struggle between writing or being the person that the audience wants you to be and being authentic.
What is authenticity?
Authenticity is all about being true to yourself or your brand. This is a topic that comes up a lot, especially in marketing as many people believe that a company or person (influencer) should try to portray themselves as authentic. Doing this as a small business is usually a lot easier, there will be a limited number of people working there and, in some cases, only one. When this is the case the person behind the company will often become the face, which is great for authenticity. Things become a little trickier once we look at big businesses, for example – McDonalds has a huge amount of visibility, there are lots of tangible locations where a person might interact with the face of the brand (employees) and as we all know, humans aren’t always the same!
Influencers are a bit of a tricky one as well – someone might be internet famous and considered an influencer for taking beautiful shots of them on their holidays. When they blow up and get a large following, big brands will reach out and offer sponsorships or ask for the influencer to do paid advertisements on their pages. The audience following this person will also expect that they continue with a similar kind of content. However, this causes a bit of a struggle as the person behind the page often has more to them than their ad deals and pretty pictures and often, they feel like they can’t share their “authentic self” with their audience.
Can a persona change whilst staying “authentic”?
Often, when you create content, you do so as a persona. Many influencers (you might find them on lots of social platforms but often YouTube and Instagram are the big ones) start off with a persona as well – but and this is a big but, they do adapt. Let’s take a little dive into this –
JennaMarbles is a YouTuber who started out on the platform back in 2008/10. Since that time, she has grown her channel, she’s become one of the most popular content creators and is still raking in the views to her videos. However, during this almost ten-year period she’s made many changes to her content and obviously still has the community cheering her on. So, how has she done this?
Jenna started out creating videos that related to people in her age group, there were lots of videos relating to being a young adult and lots of making fun of herself and others. Over the ten years she has made changes to the production of her videos as well as the content itself. These days it’s more likely that she can be found doing whatever beauty craze she comes up with, giving tours of her plant zoo or going the extra mile for her dogs. In this case, Jenna has evolved and the community that watched her videos has evolved with her. In fact, Jenna is now a YouTube creator, podcaster, Twitch streamer and a radio presenter – many of these having different followers and communities.
Jenna is an example of many people who have grown alongside the internet and their communities. Think about some of your favourite creators and the journey that they might have gone on. If you look back at their early videos/images/written content, you will find that there is a stark change!
A look at adaptation from a small business standpoint
So, you’re a small business owner, how does the journey of a woman who went viral on the internet ten years ago have any impact on you?
Well, the article this post is based on describes an influencer discussing his fear of changing persona to suit his own whims and wants. This is something that many people on the internet will have to deal with at some point, especially if you’ve been doing it for a long time. In life, it’s a simple fact that we all change. I urge you to think back on yourself about ten years ago on all kinds of topics and see how your opinions, outlooks and ideas have changed.
Let’s think about a real-life example for a minute. You own a pub in the local town and have done for over 20 years. In that time, the town itself has seen major rejuvenation and thus has had a fairly large change in demographics. This is an opportunity for the pub owners as there is a new market to tap into that is likely to have disposable income. So, the pub decides to make some changes to attract new customers. They take some inspiration from new built pubs/bars and give the establishment a fresh new look, they change up the alcohol offering with more cocktails and craft beers and they put on events throughout the year to encourage new punters.
The image of the pub changes over time, as do the customers. The same thing goes for your business, if you’ve been around for 10 years – it’s likely that you’ve adapted over that time to changing markets and to the needs and wants of your customers.
The fact is, change is something that we can’t control. It’s not tangible and as we grow, so does the rest of the world. Those customers that were there at the beginning of your business will change along with you. The same thing goes for a community that you might be building – things won’t always stay the same.
5 key tips for change management
- Be fully aware that change will happen whether you like it or not. As a business, your success is pretty much built on your ability to adapt and make changes when needed.
- It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Change happens gradually, if you want to avoid coming off as unauthentic then make those changes over time.
- You don’t need to fear change – it’s a natural part of life. If you’ve got a following on a social media platform and you feel that change might be jarring for your audience, take control of it. Tell your audience about your dilemma and slowly transition into the change you want to make. If your audience/community cares about you, they won’t mind if you adapt and grow!
- Changing can help you come across as more authentic. Staying rooted in the same space can come off quite stoic and unmoving. When it comes to social media, you want to be personable and change is a huge part of being human.
- Prepare as well as you can. Think about the reasons for changing your brand/focus/products etc and put together some sort of a written plan for how you want to proceed. This is a great way of taking control over how you (and your audience) experience change.
I totally agree with Mark’s assessment that attracting the right audience is important and when you do that there will be way more space for you to make the changes that you want. Fear of change is difficult to overcome, it’s much safer to stay in a comfort zone but we learn and grow by stepping away from it.
With that in mind we’ve written a little guide with some steps that you can take to alleviate your fear, as well as a list of questions to help you realise what direction you want to go in. If you are thinking about making a change to the way you do business or the way that you come across, hop in and take a look at our guide to avoiding fear of change!
If you’d like to discuss taking the next steps with the image of your brand in terms of design or marketing, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will set up a call from there to chat through some strategy with you!
Thanks to Sydney Rae on Unsplash for the image!