Photo by my friend, Lisa Neighbors.
I was chatting the other day with a woman who is just beginning to build an online presence for her sewing business. She was having a tough time with social media because she just didn’t feel comfortable talking about herself all the time, yet that’s what platforms like Instagram and Facebook seem to demand of a business owner, especially a solo entrepreneur.
I’m a relatively reserved person, too. I don’t like to be on stage or have everyone staring at me (doing karaoke or playing charades is my nightmare!) so I totally relate to what she was saying. Who cares what I had for breakfast? Or what I’m wearing this morning? I don’t want to share every aspect of my life with the public. But I do want to have a thriving business online and there’s no denying that social media has got to play an integral part in making that happen.
The way I’ve worked myself out of this conundrum is to develop an online persona. My online self isn’t inauthentic. It’s me. It’s just a particular version of me. The social media me lives a really crafty life, a life full of fabric and thread and pretty handmade things. And I do love all of that, but online I love it more. It’s my real life, just craftier.
I run my business by myself and a big part of the brand is me – my personality, my ideas, and my point of view. Maybe you’ve got a similar situation? If you think about it, that’s a really vulnerable place to put yourself. When your business is you then when someone isn’t happy with your product or your message it feels like they aren’t happy with you. The frustrated customer’s angry email makes you feel personally criticized. A reader’s antagonistic comment on your blog post feels like a personal blow.
Really we create personas in our in-person interactions all the time. When I was a public school teacher standing up in front of my 6th grade class I was a certain version of myself. When I go to a party for my husband’s work I’m another version of me. And when I’m on the phone with my sister, yet another version. Some are more vulnerable, and some more carefully controlled, but they’re all me.
The online persona separates your true self from your business self. A friend of mine even uses a different version of her name when she’s her online self – her nickname plus her maiden name. It’s her, but not all of her. The persona provides a layer of protection, keeping your true, vulnerable self safe while allowing your business to weather the public storm.