By Bill Faeth
Social media has made it easier than ever to share stories, pictures, and ordinary moments of our personal lives with the people who would otherwise just see our professional sides. But all too often, people only publish the things that make them look successful, rich, and well-traveled, as though they only do interesting or enviable things outside the office.
They shy away from publishing the stumbling points in their lives that might make them look flawed or the misstep they perceive as tarnishing the credibility of their expertise—which are the stories that most others would regard as shared, humanizing experiences. Only letting people see your successes and brag-worthy good news can become exhausting as you try harder and harder to cultivate a perfect online image, as well as counterintuitive because people will eventually sense your strategic omissions and regard you as inauthentic.
Authenticity is one of the most essential elements of your company, and it’s a tenet of your personal brand that you need to share to connect with your community on a realistic level. If you don’t, people in the marketplace will tune you out. I’m not saying that you need to share all of your lesser moments; I am telling you to be authentic.
I learned the importance of authenticity a few years ago, when I was asked to speak at a Greater California Livery Association event in San Francisco, and again the next day in Los Angeles. Instead of using a chauffeured car service, I rented a car. And then I missed two appointments before my 5:30 speaking engagement because it took more than two hours for the rental car agency to get me my car.
If I had booked a chauffeured car, I would have been out of LAX immediately and onto my meeting. So what did I do? I created a video at the rental car agency, admitted my mistake, poked fun at myself, and educated the community on how to leverage my experience with their clients. That was important because this personal experience completely resonated with my community. Would it be relevant outside our industry? Not at all.
If you create relevant content and pay attention to your authenticity—the real things that make up your company identity—you can build a strong, reliable brand both personally and professionally for your business. In my opinion and experience, there is nothing more important than having a strong brand representing your company. And as company owners, a personal brand is one of the most important things we have: It can either help or hinder your company’s image, so it’s essential that your image grows from authenticity and self-awareness.
It’s why what you post online, how you dress, what you say, even the comments that you make on a Facebook thread are increasingly crucial interactions to be mindful of: They are open for everybody in the social media sphere to see. All of these components are part of your personal brand, which also impacts your company’s brand—especially these days, when more and more consumers want to support companies with ideals similar to theirs.
What this means is that you need to be cognizant of how you handle yourself online and within social media. Whether it’s a LinkedIn post, answering questions in a Quora forum, or commenting in one of the industry Facebook groups, people are assessing your personal brand based on how you interact with others.
What you say and how you conduct yourself all contributes to building your brand. Many people think that the brand of their company is solely defined by their colors, their website, and their logos. That is not the case: Your brand is determined by how your industry peers and potential customers alike perceive the way you interact with others and conduct yourself—both professionally and personally.
It can be hard to accept that, as business owners, we do not get to determine our brands, either personally or for our companies. Our actions influence the decision-making processes of the people whose business you rely on. The things that you say, the ways that you act, how you conduct both yourself and business at shows and conferences, the clothes you wear, the verbiage you use, how much you give back, or how much you take all reflect on your personal brand to influence how the greater community regards you.
You have to be mindful because your brand is a critical investment. The entrepreneurs who pay close attention to their brands become successful in the long term: They know that the integrity of authenticity is a cumulative, ongoing action that gets easier to maintain the more honest and transparent they let themselves be. [CD0120]
Bill Faeth is the founder of Limo University. He can be reached at