Tweak Your Biz » Marketing » The Subtle Difference Between Authentic And Real

The Subtle Difference Between Authentic And Real



Ever notice how many bloggers tell you to be Authentic?

A quick search on Google returns 62 million results. So it’s obviously important. But what is it? And, more important, how do you become more authentic?

What It Means To Be More Authentic

The Subtle Difference Between Authentic and Real

Let’s start with InsideFacebook, one of the most influential blogs about Facebook marketing. When Facebook Connect was first launched, they noticed that: ‘blog commenting is becoming more authentic’.

InsideFacebook sees it like this:

  1. If your comments are connected to your Facebook identity, you’re not going to publish things you might say anonymously.
  2. Because comments connected to a Facebook identity are connected to a real person with a reputation (usually), they are more trustworthy (at least to the extent of that person’s reputation).

Not sure. But let’s take this one step at a time.

Fake It Till You Make It

When Hilary Clinton said, ‘Fake it till you make it,’ she probably meant things, like courage or self-belief. Or having confidence when speaking in public. Sometimes you need to adopt a persona and use that as a shield until you feel confident enough to be yourself. We’re all been there and understand where she’s coming from.

But this gets a little confusing when we start to manufacture what’s ‘authentic’.

Or when you cultivate an online personality that promotes its own authenticity. Then there’s Transparency. What’s the difference?

Michael Mortin has an interesting view on it:

Authenticity is saying things right. Authority is saying the right things. But transparency is saying everything. And it’s wrong. You don’t need to say everything to be transparent, and you don’t need to be transparent to be authentic and authoritative.”

I’m don’t completely agree with this: surely what’s right and wrong is subjective. But it’s heading in the right direction. Being Authentic and Transparent are a balancing act – getting the mix is the issue.

Why Authentic Matters

This leads us to the question: why do bloggers encourage us to be more authentic?

There’s a few good reasons:

  • It implies that you can be trusted.
  • It suggests that you value certain principles.
  • It implies that you mean what you say.
  • It encourages others to engage with you.

All of which translates into an online personality that is more respected, more accepted, more appealing.

And this is fine… up to a point.

The Problem With Manufacturing Authentic

But what happens when one creates an ‘authentic’ personality with the intention of misleading others.

Maybe misleading others is the wrong word but, as Sian Philips asked recently, ‘What do you think about someone tweeting on your behalf?”

Ghost tweeting (much like ghost-writing) goes on more than you’d think.

But, does this make the person, the brand, or the organization any less authentic? Let’s put it another way.

One of the paradoxes of cultivating your online ‘personality’ is that, whether you like it or not, you’re already authentic. You are what you are, right?

However, whether others like this ‘personality’ is another question.

My concern is that the race to be more authentic may be an indirect way to be liked (which is fine) or to manipulate others into trusting you (which is not so good).

Telling others you’re ‘authentic’ hits the wrong note. It sounds forced. Why would you do this?

Who Really Decides You’re Authentic?

But, being authentic does have its place.

I wrote this article after working through a rather complex brand definition process with a client.

When defining our strategy, we realized that her sales team had become slightly infatuated with this buzzword and didn’t see how, if used incorrectly, it could do more damage than good.

We dropped it from our Social Media efforts and instead looked at how our actions – not our words – would make us more authentic.

The decision was to present the company as authentically as possible – and let our customers decide if we’re on the right track.

Now, it’s wait and see.

What do you think?



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The Author:

Ivan helps people run their online business more effectively. Find out at www.ivanwalsh.com http://www.ivanwalsh.com

Add Your Comment

  • http://twitter.com/fredchannel Fred

    I don’t know why but being online for several companies also means a race for fans, friends, followers, authenticity, etc. It doesn’t have to be that way at all. nFocus on sharing great, useful content, on helping others spread the word, be there to answer questions from your community and behave like a real human when you write. That’s what’s important. If you do that well and then ask the majority, they’ll more likely say you are authentic. Otherwise, it looks like your plan is to push content and interact with the ultimate goal of being seen as “authentic”? (sounds very weird). It doesn’t work that way.

  • http://www.simplebutcreative.com Kevin

    Being authentic and original within your business is a great foundation if you want to be successful and stay in business for a very very long time. nnGood Post Ivan!

  • http://www.btbtraining.com/blog Niall Devitt

    Hi Ivan, really interesting post! Over the years, I’ve met many people offline that I was surprised to find were not at all like their online persona. In my experience this tends to happen more with people who are loudly opinionated online and then tend to much more reserved in one to one real- life situations. I think some successful/popular people online have got there as a result of being more controversial/more provocative than the next person but this behaviour is difficult to carry through to real life. nnIn the early days of BT, I was advised that the site should aim to be more controversial and that comments that agreed/supported/congratulated were less useful that those that challenged. Some people out there equate debate with saying something to start a row and then continuing by shouting and cursing in the comments. Observing some of these provocative for the sake of it styles, Iu2019m often reminded of how I use to sometimes behave as a child :)n

  • http://twitter.com/IrishSmiley Frederique Murphy

    Hi Ivan, nWhat an interesting post, and no doubt, that comments and feedback will be interesting to say the least.nWhen I talk about authenticity, for me, it means, being true to yourself and be as you are; so within my definition, I would disagree that all authentic person could be trusted for instance, as some non-trusty person could be themselves, hence authentic, and yet, I would not trust them. I realise this is my view of the word ;-)nFor me, authenticity comes across, it is almost a feel ;-) by being true to yourself, being aligned with your mission and vision, you’ll be authentic, no matter whether you can or cannot be trusted, you are being you, and for me that’s authenticity.nHopefully, that makes sense ;-)nFrederique

  • http://www.facebook.com/seanosullivan.eu Sean O’Sullivan

    Hi Ivan nnGreat article. Really thought provoking, and drives to the core of the social media phenomenon – which is still “phenomenal” in that it’s novel & changing, but which will disappear. Nope, I dont mean it will go away – I mean everyone forgets we are using it, it becomes invisible and we are left with who we, and our businesses, are. nnMy 2c..nn- companies and people can get real now, or get real later. either way they’ll get real over the next few years, because real works. approximations (I think) aren’t credibly sustainable.nn- if we assume a more transparent market, then the level/standards of competition are increasing. A lot of companies (including some I was involved in previously!) have to remodel or die. nn- whether marketed in a real, authentic or downright fake way, if a company’s strategy/positioning/value/service/execution isnt up to scratch, it’s best-before date is already gone. To avoid this reality, fake authenticity may act as a bandage but it isn’t a cure. nn- Bandages aren’t always bad though if they give the patient time to heal. nn- in my view, the online marketing consultancy industry gets caught in an odd position here; clients come for online marketing help, and even if it’s offered, they may reject more strategic level reviews or assistance nn- these may be rejected for affordability purposes, but (I suggest) more often because it can make for uncomfortable discussions. That creates a bit of a conflict; does the doctor agree to treat the symtoms if the patient ain’t interested in treating the cause? nn- Of course, there’s probably nobody qualified to treat all comers anyway; and the social media / online marketing consultancy market is a market without structure. It may even be a chronically chaotic market, with no prospect for real structure – because even if structure were somehow imposed (which it can’t be), the most advantageous positions would exist outside that structure. For another discussion I guess ;) nn- the divisions between business and personal personas, to whatever extent they ever were genuine, are fading fast – which is why social media in a business context is still so social, I guess. Ultimately this brings the focus back on the person, who THEY are. nnAnd, why on earth would we want to set up a persona online that isn’t who we Really are, just to have to maintain it? Hard work, when we’re already pretty amazingly complex just in real life. nn- somewhere in this collection of assertions lurks a point, which I’m rummaging for :) .. I think it’s this…if there’s something in our business, our personalities, our mindsets, that we need or want to change; pretty much ALL of the leverage comes from addressing that at source, and any attempt to mask it online is, at very best, a short term bandage. nn

  • http://twitter.com/RobertaBud Roberta Budvietas

    POWERFUL. The whole thing around authentic has been a real issue over the last year because I just keep feeling that too many people are really faking it because they have come to believe that is what is expected. We have become ashamed and embarrassed by who we are so instead of taking pride in who we are, we somehow fake things. I think, we only know when we are authentic but unless people see us or follow us on-line for a long time, they will never know if they can trust us and that is ultimately what it is about – trust.

  • http://www.heartyimc.com Sharon Hearty

    A fabulous post Ivan and at in its pwn way a Christmas message, be yourself, be real and so on….. One of the things I believe, and your post prompted this in my mind this morning, is that being ourselves is the only real differentiator we have. As a personal brand, which many are cultivating online, this is all we have and to be trusted is huge and powerful. Where there are so many competiting – all we have to stand out from the crowd is ‘individuality’. Being authentic (real authenticity) attracts some and repellls others, what is important is that we are comfortable in our own skin and happy to live by this. It should be easy to be real.nFor companies and brands, they are struggling with the new ‘online authentic world’, so to speak. This is where I believe that the heart of their authenticity is in their customer service and everything to do with the customer. Zappos in the States is an excellent example of fortune for a company coming from an authenic culture of ‘inherent excellent customer service’, for me this is a superb example of a brand harnessing authenticity.

  • http://www.ivanwalsh.com Ivan Walsh

    Being ourselves is the only real differentiator we have. That’s a great way of looking at it.nnSomeone – I think it was Yaro -said you’re story is the only thing others can’t take away from you. nnI’ve thought about this and build my About Us page around this. You’d be amazed how many comments I get from others after reading the bio. nnStay warm & enjoy xmasnnIvannnn

  • http://www.ivanwalsh.com Ivan Walsh

    Hi Roberta, nnRegarding we have become ashamed and embarrassed by who we are so instead of taking pride in who we areu2026 one thing that helped was when someone said u2018we were all beginners onceu2019. nnIf I donu2019t understand something I ask so others on the blog (or in a workshop) get clarification, especially if the blogger have muddled up something. Not in a nasty way, of course.nnI think it can also be intimidated on Social Media sites where there is an Inner and Outer circle and, unless you have the connections, it can be hard to get u2018inu2019.nnOddly enough the real superstars, e.g. John Jantsch, Seth Tom Peters, will respond to your tweets and emails. nnMaybe thatu2019s why theyu2019re so respected. nnIvann

  • http://www.ivanwalsh.com Ivan Walsh

    Hi Sean, nnWow – thatu2019s a terrific reply!nnALL of the leverage comes from addressing that at source, and any attempt to mask it online is, at very best, a short term bandage.nnIu2019d second that. Another thing to remember is that Social Media is very new and in 20 years from now how we use it will be very different.nnI think weu2019re all wrestling with the tools and experimenting to see what works. nnAnd for those with the talent, there are real opportunities to help others navigate these waters. nnIn the end Social Media will ultimately become media in the sense we understand it today. nnPS – Philip K Dick covers this in some of his novels, which are great reads. http://www.philipkdick.com See the The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch nnRegards, nnIvan

  • http://www.ivanwalsh.com Ivan Walsh

    Hi Frederique, nnAuthenticity comes across, it is almost a feel :-) by being true to yourself.nnI think the way we treat others (online and offline) is observed by others more than we think. nnDuncan on BizSugar made the point that some of us arenu2019t great at u2018actingu2019 and heu2019s right. But, itu2019s a blessing in disguise as I’m not sure I want to spend my time faking it. nnMaybe Iu2019d make more money if I could pull as fast one on others, but lifeu2019s too short. There are better ways to spend oneu2019s time :) nnIvan

  • http://www.ivanwalsh.com Ivan Walsh

    Hi Niall,nnI remember Darren Rowse making the same point as heu2019s quite reserved and some thought he was a bit opinionated, whereas I think he was/is such as authority that they read more into his words than one would usually do. nnI made a bunch of videos when in China u2013 for personal branding and what not u2013 and looking at them now… hmmm itu2019s so strange as the Ivan in the video and the Ivan I know seem so different. nNot sure if the world needs to see these. Maybe they should ;) Ha ha ha han

  • http://www.ivanwalsh.com Ivan Walsh

    Thanks Kevin,nnAnd, as we only get one chance to make a first impression, it helps to make the right impression. nnIvann

  • http://twitter.com/IrishSmiley Frederique Murphy

    Ivan, nnI FULLY agree with you: do not spend your time faking it, as, and again, this is for me, 1, it will not come across as authentic, and 2, it is so much more effort to be someone you are not ;-)nOver the last 10+ years, I have come across many, many, many different type of people, both in life and business, and I’ve witnessed some (again, in my opinion and referring back to my own set of values) ugly things, acts, and sayings, and for me, being authentic means I am true to myself and when I look at myself in the mirror I like who I am and this results in my actions and sayings.nI remember, a particular situation at work, years ago, hen, one of my collegues stabbed me in the back and got a promotion, and the mirror idea grounded me: could I have done what he did and got the promotion? Yes, BUT Would I have pass my mirror test, No. ;-)nnFrederiquennPS it did take me longer, but I saw myself in the mirror everyday day and liked the reflection, and got the promotion ;-))

  • http://www.ivanwalsh.com Ivan Walsh

    Hi Fred, nnIt looks like your plan is to push content and interact with the ultimate goal of being seen as “authentic”? (sounds very weird). It doesn’t work that way.nnThatu2019s what was behind the article, actually. nnIt seems very contrived to intentionally develop a pseudo-personality when you should go with what you have. nnYou can’t u2013 and shouldnu2019t u2013 please all the people all the time. nnThese u2018user guidesu2019 to being authentic strike me as odd in that there is a demand for these thingsu2026 while the most successful bloggers are the least artificial. n

  • http://www.kherize5.com Suzanne Vara

    IvannnFantastic. I love this article as it make me think out loud and talk back to it. I agree with the transparency but yet I am a firm believer it has its limitations or maybe better said restrictions. People do not need to know every single morsel but yet they need to great a feeling of us. To trust we need to have an understanding of the person or brand. Does that matter who is behind it? For some yes but then I question do they think about the person behind it as there is always a person. Tweeting, blogging, FBing, is done by a person where the message from a commercial on tv or even online ads is from the overall brand. While some can argue that a blog is from the overall brand, it is still one person writing it who is representing the brand. They become the voice of the brand. Is that not being authentic enough? I think it is but then again I can sit remotely and be the voice behind a brand for a client and in an instant be the voice behind the myself. Maybe that is what makes people lose the trust or never really gain it?nnThank you so much for sharing this link on the blog comment as as I said there, your links always add to the original post and are a worthwhile read.

  • Anonymous

    Ivan,nnI’m a bit late to this conversation but I wanted to comment anyway. nnPerhaps we forget how much we are communicating with actual people when we engage with social media. Communicating to a faceless entity can embolden some, as Niall pointed out, to say things that they would not say in person or they might word differently. nnBut are we really being ourselves? And which self do we pick? We often show different aspects of ourselves in different environments. Are we somehow less transparent or less authentic if we pick our words carefully? For example, humour can be difficult to communicate when it’s ironic or tongue in cheek. We also bring our ideas of how to act professionally and this isn’t necessarily due to feeling embarrassed or ashamed. nnSocial media isn’t monolithic. Blogging, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other sites have their norms and being authentic may mean showing the “right” part of myself in each platform. This doesn’t mean that anyone is less authentic or transparent than if we saw them in person in different environments.

  • http://www.michaelgholmes.com Michael Holmes

    I love the transparency and wisdom behind this Ivan! I only wished I had the time to deal with it in depth like Id like to…but this was a good post! Happy New Year!

  • Bob

    Very interesting case study Niall. And a great result for you client.nInteresting question from Beatrice below about smart phones. I weasn’t aware of this–will look out for your reply. I am in the process of launching an online TV station for 15-35 year olds and will be using a variety of online media for this.nFacebook will form the core of the marketing strategy and I would like to get an idea of what a campaign such as you ran for Mykidstime would cost me.

  • http://www.tweakyourbiz.com Niall Devitt

    Hi Bob, please call me on 087 7750405 to discuss.

  • http://www.tweakyourbiz.com Niall Devitt

    Depending on where you a read, a customised welcome tab increases likes by up 100%. You need to remember that the two places people will potentially interact with your content is first, when they decide to like your page or not and thereafter it’s via their newsfeed, most fans will rarely re-visit your FB page after they like it This is the reason your welcome needs to stand out and communicate your USP quickly. As regards smart phones, check out any of the smart phone companies on FB and they will all have a customised welcome tab, I’m sure :)

  • http://twitter.com/beatricewhelan Beatrice Whelan

    Hi Bob,nI look forward to hearing more about your online TV station. I recently did an interview with Kildare TV who are about to relaunch their website. You can see details on my blog at http://www.beatricewhelan.ie/blog . When you have yours up and running send me details as I would love to do a story on it.

  • http://twitter.com/beatricewhelan Beatrice Whelan

    Customised tabs it is then :)

  • Tonysoprana

    My Kistimes ??? edit Niall

  • http://www.tweakyourbiz.com Niall Devitt

    Thanks Tony, done :)

  • Luke – Tiles.ie

    Hi, Niall excellent article and case study. As I’m very shortly turning my attention to our facebook page after the new website( and blog…. Gulp!) completes I am very interested to fond put the answer to the question Beatrice posed as my own usage and experience is broadly similar.

  • http://www.tweakyourbiz.com Niall Devitt

    Hey Luke, happy to provide any heads up I can?

  • http://www.smartsolutions.ie/blog/ Elaine Rogers

    Hi Frank, this is a great post — I am looking forward to Part 2 already. The tips are well timed, as more and more people are using online technologies to provide demos, information sharing and brainstorming, and trainings.

    However, I am a little confused by Point 8 – “Use your email auto-reply in the days running up to the session to give information to people who are having difficulty and attempt to contact you via email.” 

    Could you expand on that for me please? How an auto-responder can deal with queries, or is it an FAQ style email hoping to address most common challenges for attendees? Thanks you Frank.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment Niall.  It’s a big step up going from being a presenter to hosting/running.  Since I’ve written this article I just came across this interesting Virtual Presenters Group on LinkedIn - http://www.linkedin.com/groups?home=&gid=2971222&trk=anet_ug_hm

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment Elaine.  With regards to using an auto-reply my thought here is that in the days running up to the session you could have a standard auto-reply that direct people to a webpage containing FAQs about the logistics of the session.  If you are expecting lots of questions this could be a great time saver in reducing the need to reply to every single question.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Nathalie.  Much appreciate it.

  • http://www.smartsolutions.ie/blog/ Elaine Rogers

    Yes Frank, I would agree – a sort of “how to” which also provides the opportunity to address common issues and questions.

    Thanks again