I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this: “being yourself” is not a lucrative social media strategy.

Social media used to be all about fun and connection. It still is, and it still can be—but social media for business use is a totally different beast. If your goal is to grow your brand reach, convert followers to customers, and make sales over social media (especially Instagram), “just being yourself” on social will not get you there.

Here are my top reasons why “authenticity” should NOT be part of your brand strategy on social, and some tips on how to build a strong, genuine brand identity that resonates with your audience.

People are complicated. Brands are simple.

You’re a whole person who has varied interests, complicated emotions, and contradictory opinions. You contain multitudes! Your brand should not.

In order for your brand to resonate with your target audience, it needs to be simple. You already know this: it’s why you have a consistent color palette, a set of fonts, and unique logos. The same can be said for your brand’s voice, tone, and content on social media. The narrower your guidelines are on these aspects of your brand’s identity, the more often you’ll hit the mark with your target audience.

Hot tip: Make a list of things your brand shares on social and things it doesn’t. The things you do share should all tie back to your brand’s personality and your strategy for that social media channel.

For example, in my real life, I’m really into skincare. But I’ve made a rule not to share about my products or my routine on Instagram, and I don’t spend a lot of time following or engaging with skincare brands (except Dieux, because their brand strat is gorgeous and ✨on point✨). Why not? Because my main goal on social media is to educate small business owners and creative entrepreneurs about content writing and digital marketing, and sharing about skincare doesn’t align with that goal.

Authenticity fluctuates. Brands are consistent.

Being “authentic” means a lot of different things, and trying to decide if you’re “being yourself” at any given moment on social can be kind of existential. Would I really say this? Or am I just saying this because it’s what people want to hear?

As a brand, your main function on social should be telling people what they want and expect to hear from you. A brand’s greatest asset is its consistency—your followers and customers need to know exactly what to expect from you on any given day when they interact with your content.

Let’s say that your brand is upbeat and positive, featuring lots of yellows and bold text and emoji. And when you sit down to film an Instagram Story, you’re in a bad mood. If you film a frustrated rant and post it to your brand’s page, your followers aren’t going to applaud you for being authentic—they’re going to be confused.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t feel your feelings—you absolutely should!—but I am saying that your feelings at any given moment are not going to be aligned with your brand strategy. And that’s because…

You are not your brand.

Oof. That one hurts, right? For so many of us—especially solopreneurs and small business owners whose name is part of their brand—it’s easy to blur the line between “this is my brand” and “this is me.”

I’m a firm believer that the clearer the line is between who YOU are as a person and what your brand’s identity is, the happier you’ll be as a business owner. Here are some positives I’ve experienced in being very clear about the separation between Erin the human person and Erin Bensinger: Content Writer and Social Media Strategist on Instagram.

  1. I don’t take rejections as hard, because they’re less personal.
  2. I don’t take losing followers as personally, either.
  3. At the end of the day, it’s easier to put work away and be present with my family.
  4. I don’t feel uncertainty about undersharing, oversharing, or what I “should” be sharing on social.
  5. I have no problem outsourcing or delegating tasks when needed.

It’s ok for your personality and your brand’s personality to overlap (mine definitely do!). But that Venn diagram shouldn’t be a circle. When you’re clear about the line between yourself and your brand, you’ll see the metrics boost you’ve been craving. Nothing personal, it’s just strategy 😊

But, Erin, authenticity is my brand identity!

Many brands claim “authenticity” as one of their brand personality traits. The thing is, authenticity means a different thing to everyone—and it’s pretty damn hard to be truly authentic when your ultimate goal is to sell products or services. Sometimes trying hard to be authentic can make your brand come off as fake.

Here are some words, ideas, and goal points to move toward as you move away from positioning your brand as authentic:

  • Genuine. A brand is genuine if it’s sincere and kind.
  • Transparent. A brand is transparent if it’s clear about its practices.
  • Relatable. A brand is relatable if it shares personality traits with its target audience profiles (although, aren’t all brands supposed to be relatable to their own target audience? 🤔)
  • Critical. A brand is critical if it’s open about its critiques of trends and competitors. (My brand, and my actual personality, are pretty critical 😊✨)
  • Cynical. A brand is cynical if it’s openly distrustful or pessimistic. Don’t knock it—this totally sells in some niches.

Ready to rethink your brand’s social media strategy and stop stressing about “being yourself” on social? Let’s chat.

Written by Erin Bensinger

I’m a freelance content writer & social media strategist whose passion is helping small businesses connect with their audiences.