Nobody’s perfect, and no-one should be. Even so, people strive to show off an almost flawless existence, both off- and online. Today I’ll tell you a true story about something I learned that perhaps will change how you think about your social media presence.
Once upon a time, I went out with a guy I had gotten to know very well online. We had dinner and a good time at a nice restaurant. At the end of the night out he was very honest with me. He said:
Obviously, the wine and the hours in the restaurant had taken my guard down. I was able to show the real me, and the real me was more likeable than my polite façade.
Sometimes when I tell this story, people get upset over the guy being so honest with me. But I’m sincerely grateful that he was. I’m still acting professionally nice when I’m feeling insecure, but I try to remember that being the real me isn’t so bad after all. The life lesson I’ve learned is that people tend to think imperfect is more perfect than perfect. And this is true both off- and online.
Who Are You Online?
Building an internet presence is much about shaping your very own online persona. One thing I like about that is that you can control how you want to be seen and avoid the real worlds’ prejudices and preconceptions about you, based on looks, socio-economic status or origin.
What I don’t like about online presence is that so many people strive to shape their lives to seem completely flawless. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about: Who hasn’t improved their life on Facebook? We tag ourselves in cool places (not when doing weekly shopping in the supermarket), upload only flattering pictures of ourselves (and perhaps less flattering ones of others) and craft our status updates so we seem successful, happy and popular (we don’t tell when we didn’t get the job we applied for, when we fight with our loved ones or when a friend doesn’t return a call).
Don’t Act Perfect If You Want to Be Heard
I have recently written a story on my blog about the un-me trend: a common quest for the perfect online existence where we can remove every unwanted part of our lives. But if you want to be heard online, if you want to stand out, I don’t believe in being perfect.
To avoid a superficial appearance, I have three pieces of advice for you for successful interactions online, whether you aim for building a customer base, act as a thought leader or just establish a social network:
1. Find Your Own Voice
Oscar Wilde once said: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” That’s very true. No matter how much you admire other bloggers, business leaders or friends – you’re not them. You don’t think like them, talk like them or act like them. Perhaps you’re similar to them, but you’re still you. And to be credible online, you must show your unique personality: your story, your quirks and your thoughts. Everything that makes you the one you are.
No one is perfect, but being yourself will make you perfectly you. And people like that. You will notice they’ll listen to you more when you have found your own voice.
2. Don’t Claim to Be a Guru
There are many gurus out there, claiming to know exactly what to do in every single situation. But remember: one size doesn’t always fits all. Write about your own experiences and your own struggles. Tell people your story. They will love you for being a person with shortcomings like everyone else and respond to you as friends do.
If you claim to be a guru, you risk losing valuable, stimulating and spontaneous interactions. Few people dare to contact a guru without long and proper concerns. You don’t want that kind of stiff relations online, do you? And - who needs a guru anyway?
3. Act Like a Friend
People trust real people. The Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey shows that 90 % of 25,000 consumers from all over the world trust peer opinions. If you want to persuade or influence people online, you must not only build relationships, you must act like a friend. And a friend is a real person, with all faults and imperfections of a human being. It’s someone who dares to show that he or she is just like everybody else. It’s a person who dares to be human.
What you want online is to be approached by potential customers or other people to collaborate or interact with, isn’t it? And if you use this advice, you will get there in no time. Think about what I learned: perfect is scary, but the real you is not.