Yesterday, I was stopped in traffic and looked over to see an old, rusted car.  What made this car remarkable was the fact that it was advertising a 500 billion dollar business opportunity.  My marketing mind nearly short-circuited.  Once I collected myself, and snapped a quick picture, I began pondering how social media has enabled people to create online personas out of sync with their actual personalities and lives.

How many times have you encountered someone that you have known in “real life” for years on a social network, only to find that they are a completely different person on Facebook, Youtube or Twitter?  What accounts for this disparity?

The problem is that many professionals and business owners have a completely mistaken viewpoint on the purpose of social media.  To be truly successful on social media, you have to be authentic—not perfect.  When you’re authentic, you appeal to those who can identify with you.

Two great examples of authenticity are Andrea Odom Campbell and Craig Price.

Andrea launched her lifestyle blog,, less than a month ago.  While she certainly leads an interesting life as a business professional in Houston’s social scene, she made a conscious decision to create a brand around what she knows best—being a busy mom.  Via her blog, she shares her life, her shortcomings, her struggles with parenting, discipline, cooking and anything else she sees fit to throw out her opinion on.  I repeat: she shares her shortcomings.  Why is this brilliant?  Millions of moms can identify with balancing a career, children and a social life while attempting not to have a meltdown resulting in evening news coverage. As a result, she’s had back to back television interview requests within days of her launch.

In a world overflowing with motivational speakers, Craig Price makes it clear via his website, social media and podcast that he is not one of them.  In fact, he is a reality speaker who gives funny talks on negativity in the workplace and how managers can use it to their organization’s advantage.  When organizations and employees tire of speakers who speak butterflies and hearts, they bring in Craig.  Why?  Employees and managers can identify with him because they know that that grumpy corner-cubicle guy does not “just need a hug.”  In fact, many of them are that grumpy guy.

People identify with authenticity.  If you want to create an engaging online brand, create dialogue around what you genuinely know.  In the rusted-car example, a much better advertisement would have been “Call me to learn how to make your car last 10 years longer.”  How many people are budgeting in this country and need to stretch their dollar and the life of their vehicle?  Seeing that car would definitely make me think that the person driving it could help me.  It would have been authentic.

Don’t create brand ambassadors who are destined be disapointed when they pull back the curtains and see that you are not the wizard, but an ordinary Joe.

How are you using social media to authentically connect?