Forget the diet and dating ads; I think some of the most deceptive marketing there is online are the very marketing experts that continue to criticize brands and preach transparency online.
They’re anything but transparent.
I’m at an interesting time in my life. My business is doing well, my personal life is great, and my health is getting better which each passing month. That said, our business and my personal life still have enormous challenges. I joke that, now that I’ve started a few businesses that I’m unemployable, I’ll never return to full-time employment. Because of that, I don’t have to masquerade and maintain a perfect brand online.
In the last month, I’ve had conversations with a few folks where they highlighted my conversations online. On Facebook, I discuss and debate politics and religion to the horror of many. I’ve had quite a few folks in the industry unfollow me for comments I’ve made or articles I’ve shared. People that disagree with me tell me I’m hurting my business by talking about guns, God, and politics. People that do agree with me quietly pull me aside and thank me for the input… although they don’t dare like or comment on the stories that I share.
I often share with both folks that I had a different upbringing. I grew up Roman Catholic, but half my family is Jewish. My father was a staunch conservative, Veteran, and patriot… but my Mom was French-Canadian with a European liberal family. I was encouraged to speak out and debate. And respect for alternative opinions was demanded by both sides of my family.
This was either a blessing or a curse. Growing up, I never feared respectful confrontation. It got me in quite a bit of trouble in high school. After I graduated, enlisting in the Navy taught me discipline and respect. When I joined the workforce, I was mentored by leaders who encouraged autonomy and personal responsibility. Add all of this up, and it makes for quite a firestorm. That’s translated into my online presence.
Enough about me. Ironically, that’s a pet peeve of many industry leaders online. Their endless sharing of their perfect life bores me.
Perhaps it’s our divisive political climate that’s added to the dishonesty online, but I think it’s terrible. Not only is it just plain bullcrap, but I’ll also go so far as to say it’s both a disservice and even dangerous. Perhaps your religion and politics are personal and not something you wish to publicize; I can respect that. But what I can’t respect is an endless stream of how perfect your life is and how incredible your business is doing.
Can you imagine being a person working on your personal and professional growth, and all you see online is the folks you look up to online never struggling? It seems to me that it would be debilitating. I believe I’m both personally and professionally more successful than many of these people – but you’d never know that by comparing our profiles online. Perhaps it’s because I measure my success by how many people I help, not what beach I’m sitting on.
And for some strange reason, my honesty online is somehow seen as a detriment to my personal branding by many in my industry. The very industry that touts words like transparency and honesty. They’re anything but.
Over the years, I’ve unfollowed hundreds of people in my industry, and there are a select few that I continue to engage with. They share their personal, sometimes very private, mental health struggles. They share their health struggles and transformations. And they share their business challenges. I encourage them, and they inspire me to be a better person, a better leader, a better father, and a better business person.
How to Be More Honest Online
I’m surprised that I’m even writing those words, but I believe they’re necessary. Here’s what I’d love to see marketing leaders do with their online presence:
- Admit their weaknesses and challenges. We all have them, and it’s inspiring when the person you look up to shares theirs.
- Ask for help. Everyone needs help, quit trying to pretend you have all the answers.
- Share the spotlight more. With the audience and reach these influencers have, how incredible is it when they acknowledge those that struggle to get attention online?
- Inspire others that they can accomplish what you have accomplished. We’ve all overcome adversity to get where we are, sharing how you got to where you are let’s them know they can do it, too.
Social media offers this incredible opportunity to build human connections online. There’s nothing more human than humility, failure, redemption, and weakness, is there? I may not have as many followers as others in my industry do, but I can assure you that I have far deeper relationships with the people that do follow me.
Sure, I could craft a fake persona, only share our business success, and attract a lot more followers. But I’d rather have the real relationships I’ve developed over the years than pushing an unattainable lie.