The line between authenticity and deception is blurred when it comes to social media ads. The only real way to tell the different is by learning if the person or brand is a true practitioner. Are they simply talking about it or are they actually living what they say?
Are you a headline reader or a practitioner?
It can be easy to fall into the trap of new flashy best practices, tools, processes etc. It can also be very easy to romanticize over what other “more experienced” professionals have wrote in an article or said in an interview as being the source of truth. You see, when you are early on in your career it’s important to learn from others so that you do not make the same mistakes that they did. This is how you get ahead of the competition that does not have this information at their disposal. The one thing that I've learned to stay away from is the notion that a flashy headline or idea can solve all of my problems. For this reason, I have committed myself to constant practice of new ideas and tools, to hopefully debunk the chasms on my own. I’ll admit it, a few years back, I was a headline reader. I loved to talk about all of the new tools and prototyping coding languages in the market, until I realized that talking can only take you so far. For example, Adobe came out with Adobe XD in 2016 - and I freaked out because I used to be a huge Adobe fan - the press coverage made this new tool seem like they were trying to own a piece of the ui/ux space. It wasn’t until I actually began using the tool that I realized that it was too premature in its lifecycle. The tool was not usable enough to make a real dent in my workflow. If I had not taken the time to try the tool for myself, I would have never learned this - I mean really learned this. I don’t mean, read an article or watched Adobe live videos. You see, it’s not until you try and fail, fail, fail and fail again that you realize that the tool is not quite there. Adobe XD is very much usable today in the tail end of 2018. Although, there are still other tools in the market that work equally if not better. But don't take my word for it. You should give it a try on your own and come up with your own conclusion. My point is, if I had just settled for the hype and never used the tool, I would never really be able to have an original thought about it. Also, if you only spend your time reading headlines instead of trying something for yourself, you will never really know if you have been deceived.
Become a student, not a follower
The beauty of being alive during this time is that we have so much information available to us. One major caveat to this is the fact that the more we learn from others, the more we become like others. They say that we are the makeup of the 5 people that we spend most of our time with. I would take it a step further and call out all of the 19-21 year old "life coaches" on instagram that call themselves gurus. It’s naive at best and laughable at worst. I give them the benefit of the doubt and empathize with them because if you look at all of the social media influencers that have influenced them to behave this way, they talk and come off as experts/leaders. Everyone wants to come off as an expert even if they are getting started because it feels like the right thing to do in order to get attention. But is that really the right message for your audience? I would argue that being authentic can lead to greater results because being human/relatable is always a good strategy. Meaning, being real and showing people who you are, even if it’s ugly. Becoming an honest and transparent version of yourself is 10x more likely to resonate with your target audience than becoming a copy of someone else.
Documenting > creating
I learned this from Gary V. Lets face it, creating is a very difficult thing to do consistently for long periods of time, which is exactly why I began the #OneMinuteDesigner hashtag on instagram as a digital diary for myself. I ask my followers to hit me with a new questions every week about tech, design, digital products etc. and I respond with a one minute video vlog. I don’t do this because I want the attention, but rather to engage with my audience first and later I will branch out into discussions that I believe are worth covering. Notice, I'm not creating all of the content from scratch - I'm first engaging with my audience and tagging them in each post. The question is outsourced, which makes it a lot easier for me to stay fresh and constantly creating. I believe that the concept of documenting over creating is key because you are forced to put yourself out there in a vulnerable way at all times. This can be extremely powerful to not only personal brands like Gary V, but also large brands / corporations too. If the logic that “People want the burger, they don’t want to meet the cow” was valid, then Chipotle would not be as popular as it is. Does it make you feel better to see your food being made in front of you? I’ll admit it, it makes me feel really comfortable. What if brands took you (as the consumer) along for the journey of making a new product? Maybe not in the early phases for obvious reasons, but perhaps one week before the product launches show a small 5-10 minute documentary about how all of the moving parts came together. I could be wrong about this, but my hypothesis is that consumers will feel much more invested from the start, which will lead to increase in sales / adoption of that product or service. More importantly, it will highlight the fact that creation is messy. When I was in art school, I learned about a special practice in Japan that originated back in 1191. This practice was named, "wabi sabi". It means to make and find perfection in the imperfect things. Documenting the process of making can be one of the strongest advantages as a personal or established brand.
the biggest issue with being alive during the Information Age is that the line between authenticity and deception is blurred. Why? Because the only way to come off as authentic is by being a practitioner. Unless you are a practitioner, you can never really be authentic because the information will always be second hand knowledge.