How to Present Your Complex Self on Social Media
Women often feel pressure to present a polished image. What does that mean for social media branding?
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Like many other women in business, I've grappled over the years with the best way to present myself on social media. Do I express my honest opinions? Do I share personal photos as well as professional snaps? Should I maintain multiple accounts, sharply dividing my work life from my private life? How can I engage with my audience in a way that helps grow my business, while feeling true to who I really am?
Related: It's OK to Not Be OK
These questions swirl in the minds of female entrepreneurs, CEOs, leaders and professionals because we women feel indirect and direct pressure to cultivate a powerful public image. Many of my friends and colleagues feel that they must carefully curate their social media persona, and understand the ramifications of failing to do so. Data confirms that global internet users are spending more time on social media sites than ever before -- currently averaging 135 minutes per day. A leader without a social media presence is missing a key opportunity to reach potential customers, partners, influencers and talent.
So, creating and maintaining a social media brand is important. And there's a wealth of information out there for those who want to build their social media presence and run it effectively (these tips from Sprout Social are a great start). But, what specifically do female leaders need to keep in mind about social media?
Up to now, you may have maintained separate social media channels for your private life and professional life. For many women leaders, this translates to a fairly active Facebook page for friends and family, and a sporadically updated LinkedIn page for professional networking. This is a decent baseline, but you shouldn't be afraid to upgrade from the norm.
Related: Women: Here's How to Overcome Your Fear of Your Personal Brand
If you're ready to take things to the next level, I'd encourage you to set up an Instagram and/or Twitter account to marry your personal and work life into one unified presence. Both of these channels boast a significant user base, and are frequently utilized by prominent CEOs and leaders for exactly this purpose. If you already have a presence on one or both of these sites, consider augmenting your content with more personal, accessible details and posting more often. As an example, my Instagram page features posts connected to all aspects of my life -- ranging from business achievements to days out with my kids. I post to this account often, I don't shy away from sharing personal details about my life and I actively engage with my followers. As a result, I now have an audience of more than 36,000 and consider Instagram to be a major pipeline for funneling new customers to my product website. But, none of this would have been possible if I hadn't set up the account in the first place, or if I had relegated the account to only business updates or product news.
Own your individuality.
As women, many of us were given the message (sometimes repeatedly) that we needed to mask or downplay our femininity and authenticity in order to be successful in business. Perhaps a leader or colleague commented on your style of dress or speaking voice. Or maybe you were given feedback about an emotional encounter, your after-work hobbies or your office decor. These judgments and criticisms can be subtle or overt, and unfortunately they still happen to women across the country every day.
Thankfully, when it comes to social media, authenticity is a virtue, not a liability. A recent survey found that 80 percent to 90 percent of U.S. consumers (range dependent on generation) value authenticity from brands. Fifty-seven percent of those respondents said that less than half of our well-known brands create content that resonates as authentic.
Related: The Founder of a Macaron Bakery Used Her Past Experience As a Photo Editor to Build Her Instagram-Ready Brand
What does this mean for your social media pages? Followers (including potential customers) want you to be real. The more true you are to yourself -- expressing the complexities, challenges, vulnerabilities and imperfections of your everyday life -- the more you'll successfully ingratiate yourself with your target audience. This is a proven tactic, and the brands and leaders that embrace it are positively thriving.
For me, being authentic has often meant showcasing my highly feminine side. I've always loved "girly girl" clothes, ladylike design details and the color pink. It's just who I am. And because I know that authenticity will make or break my social media brand, I choose to freely share that part of myself with my audience. Your version of authenticity may or may not be related to femininity. Perhaps it's your chosen hobby or favorite sport, your obsession with animals or your quirky bookish side. Whatever makes you you -- it's time to take a chance and reveal it to the world. I promise you'll be pleased with the results.