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Can you be both authentic and sincere in your use of social media?

February 25, 2014

Sounds like a crazy question. You’d think they’re one in the same.

Not so, says John G. Taft, CEO of RBC Wealth Management, addressing the use of social media in the financial services industry.

Authenticity is about being true to oneself (even at the expense of social connection). Sincerity is about connecting with others (even at the expense of personal truth).

Social is all about getting likes, followers, and connections. Being authentic, true to yourself, and speaking your mind can cost you socially. Authenticity can turn some folks off. I know that as well as anyone – just ask around.

But authenticity is critical when it comes to establishing trust online today. In both financial services and legal services.

In the wake of the financial crisis of 2008-2009, investors and other consumers of financial services care a great deal about “authenticity.” Increasingly, they are screening the individuals and firms they work with through the lens of whether those service providers have values that align with their own, and whether their behavior is consistent with their values.

Authenticity, today, is a differentiator. That’s true in business generally, but it’s particularly true in financial services… because authenticity has a lot to do with rebuilding and maintaining the trust that was damaged by and in the financial crisis.

Taft offers some sound advice on how you can still be authentic. Help.

[I]n order to convey “authenticity” through social media, one’s message and intellectual content need to be about helping others — whether by teaching, informing, enabling, inspiring — rather than about self-promotion.

Being authentically sincere — connecting with others out of a corporate mission and sense of purpose that is all about helping others — that’s how to differentiate in social media channels.

You can not only blend sincerity and authenticity in social media, you have to, per Taft.

Another way to put this is that both authenticity (personal truth) and sincerity (caring about and connecting with others) are required to build the kind of social media brand customers and clients are looking for these days.

We’re starved for authenticity in the legal profession. There’s far too much ‘political correctness’ in the use of social media. “How can I provide true insight or speak my mind without offending my partners, my clients, and the business community?”

The driving force of social media for many unfortunately is to get followers, connections, and likes to garner web and blog traffic – even if it means buying blog content, likes, and connections. That’s social, I guess, but it hardly seems sincere. How is that helping people?

You want to differentiate yourself from other lawyers and grow your business through your personal use of social media, heed Taft’s advice.

Blend authenticity and sincerity. Help — whether by teaching, informing, enabling, or inspiring.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Rudi Riet