May 10, 2020

Is Your Brand Authentic? | An Adventure

Long Post Alert:  Is your brand authentic?

If that isn’t a loaded question, I don’t know what is.  As both a photographer and a small business owner, I see a version of this scenario on a daily basis.  Whether it is working with a Commercial Photography client, promoting my own photography “brand” or just scrolling through social media in a personal capacity, authenticity is a really tricky thing.  Candidly speaking, most of what I see on social media is pretty fake, to the point of where I have at times actually screamed at the screen of my phone or laptop.

Most recently, I got to experience the “authenticity” conundrum up close and personal this past Friday.  I am always looking to up my social media game because, quite frankly, I am so uncomfortable with it on so many levels.  I never feel like it is really a natural experience for me.  I am an introvert deep down and don’t enjoy releasing curated snippets about myself, my life or my family into the ether.  I do it begrudgingly and on a limited basis because that is where the clients are.  I have to admit that Instagram attracts me as a visual person because it is so, well–visual.  And people haven’t turned it into a political cesspool yet.

So anyway, I was watching this webinar by a social media guru on creating an authentic Instagram presence (oxymoron if ever there was one) and attracting “your tribe.”  The first point this person made was your Instagram feed should be “totally authentic to you” while still looking professional.  It will then resonate with the people you want to attract.  OK–I do kind of agree with that.  I don’t want to ever work with someone who doesn’t “get” me.

They then proceed to show side by side examples of a “good” feed and a “bad” feed.  And what I noticed was–the “good” examples all looked the same.   The feeds for all of the “good” businesses were light/airy/pastel.  They all featured a block with a pithy quote every third post or so that looked like they swiped them right off Pinterest.  When there were photos of people, they all looked the same.  There were the obligatory “Behind the Scenes” shots of a perfect desk with a laptop and perhaps a latte next to it shot from above.  If there was a photo of the business owner, they were laughing, looking away from the camera in a “candid-yet-very-staged” look.  Sometimes the captions included a dopey question to generate engagement.  They all looked very slick and very calculated to me.  There were four different examples, all for different types of businesses–and they ALL LOOKED THE SAME.  And sorry,  none of them screamed “authentic” to me personally.  Quite the opposite.

Wow–mind blown.  Questions pop into my head.  Immediately, I am thinking, “How is this in any way authentic?”  If the clothing manufacturer, the travel guide, the influencer and the food people all look the exact same, how does anyone differentiate them?  Are all these businesses owned and operated by the same people?  Or are we so deeply programmed into thinking that only one way of presenting ourselves on Instagram (and in the world) is “authentic” or “professional,” or even “acceptable?”  Or was this just the personal spin of the presenter of the webinar and the kind of “tribe” she belongs to?

I must admit that this really distracted me from the rest of the webinar–kind glad it was free. Forty five minutes of my life I will never get back, so maybe it wasn’t “free.”   But I have been thinking about this for the last three days now, and that is a good thing.  I have even been looking at a lot of different Instagram accounts and my initial reaction has been sadly confirmed.  The accounts with the most followers seem to all look the same.  Again, this raises a ton of questions for me.  Does the amount of followers or “likes” really translate into more business?  I can “like” a post from a business, but will I ever really purchase a product or service from them?  As an example, if a shop posts a picture of their new puppy eating Frosty Paws with a cute question to create engagement, will that really motivate me into going there and buying something?  Probably not.

As a creative, I want to bring something different to the table for my clients, whether I am shooting a wedding, photographing a family, or doing product photography.  I don’t think my “tribe” wants me to give them the same old same old. Perhaps that is the point of it all.

Don’t get me wrong.  I like the idea of presenting a consistent image.  And I do like the idea of including a cool quote that resonates with me.  But–has social media really been a great thing for businesses/people, or is it just cramming us into smaller and smaller boxes?  Literally, Instagram is laid out as boxes.  How do we remain our authentic selves when potential clients may not be able to appreciate our authenticity, individuality or uniqueness if we do not fit into the box?  Or is that the point–attract or repel and move on?  So for now, if I post a photo of my desk, it will be messy.  I can guarantee any quote I post has a real meaning for me in some way.  And I don’t do the “candid-yet-staged” look for photos of myself because my work is not about me–it is about my clients.

I really don’t have any answers to these questions.  Leave a comment below if you do.  Want to talk about your photography needs?  Call me–(518) 584-4237 or use the Contact Form.

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