authentic social

How to Actually Be Authentic on Social Media

“Be authentic on social media!”

– Every Guru on Social Media

There’s just one problem: what the hell does ‘be authentic’ mean?

Over the last decade, we’ve seen social media celebrities and coaches all give different versions of the same advice: be vulnerable, be authentic, and be yourself.

This vague advice leaves a lot for the audience member to decipher. So, in this article, I’m going to talk about what being authentic on social media actually means.

But before we get into that, let’s talk about what being authentic is not:

  • Posting sympathy bait
  • Playing a character
  • Sharing every part of your life on social
  • Copying post frameworks and manufacturing stories

Sympathy Bait

This is when someone tells a story where they are the hero, getting knocked down and getting back up again on their way to triumph. These stories offer no lessons to the audience and are an exercise in self-back-patting by the creator. What may have been well intended ends up falling flat and coming across as a post saying, “LOOK AT ME.”

Playing a character

Acting Schitts Creek GIF by CBC

Don’t play a character online. For one, it’s hard to keep up, and two, people can see right through it. If you feel like you have to be something you’re not to find success on social media, you’re wrong. You have lived experiences and industry knowledge that’s valuable. It just has to be channeled in the right direction.

Oversharing on social

Being authentic does not mean sharing everything. If you are looking to build your following, you have to become known for a few things. Those are your content pillars, areas you can lean into. For example, I am a Minnesota Vikings fan, but creating content about the NFL isn’t going to help me or you. Plus I bet you wouldn’t follow me for my NFL takes, but you might take my marketing experience a bit more seriously.

Copying frameworks and manufacturing stories

It can be frustrating to see a certain type of content working on social, and you might feel compelled to copy the format, hook or general concept of a post. But what works for one person won’t work for another person. Instead of chasing the algorithm, you should create content that’s creatively fulfilling and matches your business goals.

How you can be authentic:

Okay, so how do you actually be authentic on social media? I’ve seen three ways work well.

  1. Personal Story + Lesson
  2. Subject Matter Expert
  3. Being a Topic Explorer

Personal Story + Lesson

If you’ve been through something in your career/life that’s interesting and gives a lesson/value to the audience, then post about it! This is the most common way to have success being authentic on social. The difference between this and sympathy bait is that it comes from a position of trying to help.

Here is an example:

Subject Matter Expert

If you have a professional certification, such as MD, CPA, etc., or have spent a significant amount of time learning a topic/industry, then sharing your expert opinion, predictions, and analysis is you being authentic.

Look at Dr. Nadolsky, an Obesity and Lipid Specialist Physician, talk about seed oils in the Twitter thread below. He can give his opinion confidently and from a position of topical authority.

And you can do this in your respective industry as well. If you’ve spent decades in the moving industry for example, you are a subject matter expert and have enough experience to give opinions on the industry.


If you don’t have the experience of a subject matter expert and haven’t gone through the fire to come out on the other side with lessons, then you can take the angle of Explorer in your content. An Explorer is someone who shares that they are trying something and reports back on their findings as they go through it/research it more.

Mark Lewis, a YouTuber, takes on physical challenges and documents them along the way. In the video below, he trains to see if he can run a 5 KM at the same pace as Mark Zuckerberg.

Mark takes us on a journey as he explores what it takes to get to the pace of Zuck.

So, if you’re testing out software, trying a new diet, or doing a writing challenge. Document what you’re going through in an honest way, and reveal your findings to your audience.

This article was originally posted on the Mind Your Marketing Newsletter. Subscribe to the newsletter below.