Authenticity vs Positivity on Social Media

For personal brands on social media, it’s hard to know whether to err on the side of positivity or authenticity when things aren’t going perfectly and embracing one would mean discarding the other. How can small biz owners and entrepreneurs navigate this issue on Instagram?

Have you ever read an inspirational quote on someone’s Instagram and thought “oh, just shut up”? Because I sure have.

It’s usually the kind of person who is always ridiculously positive. They post “Good vibes only” pictures and constantly talk about affirmations and positivity and how great everything is and how thankful they are and— well, you get the picture. It can be a really toxic attitude, especially as it dismisses issues that people are seriously struggling through with a flippant “everything happens for a reason” or “find the good in this situation.” That isn’t always true or possible, and positivity can actually be hurtful in these circumstances.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with having a positive outlook. There may not even be anything wrong with the people championing perpetual positivity (not that we’d know if there was). But is this mentality the right way forward for personal brands? Or should we be embracing authenticity instead? Is it “instead” at all, or can the two go hand in hand?

The other side of the coin isn’t very fun either. If I had a tenner for every Instagram account I’ve seen comment on the drop in engagement or lost followers, I’d be doing pretty well. Authenticity is all well and good, but a lot of times it can just end up bumming people out.

A lot of accounts have decided that the feed is the place for positivity, while the “authenticity” (read: negativity) comes out in the stories. But I don’t think this is the right approach.

Consistency is so important, and while different platforms require different content and strategies, they shouldn’t present different ideas of what your brand is.

A while back, I listened to the first Armchair Expert podcast episode with Kristen Bell. It’s an amazing listen, so click here if you haven’t heard it. One thing Bell talks about extensively is her own personal moral compass, which revolves around the idea of happiness vs suffering. If doing or saying something will make someone else suffer (or be annoyed or be hurt or develop an unhealthy complex, etc.), she says it’s wrong. If it will cause happiness (or reconciliation or a healthy view or entertainment), then it’s right. Usually, when you examine something closely, it’s pretty clear which one of these comes out on top.

The thing is, tough times come along. Our engagement drops or our sales plummet or we struggle with loneliness and isolation and overwhelm, and it can be hard to present a strong branded front when all we want to do is scream into a pillow and have a duvet day. But I think when we’re debating just HOW authentic to be online and where positivity fits into the equation that this approach can be really effective. If you’re struggling in your business and want to talk about it online, think about the message you’re sending and how you articulate things.

Are you being encouraging to other people in the same situation? Are you bringing attention to a misunderstood issue? If so, then it could cause more happiness than suffering to share it. But if instead you’re just going to make people feel guilted into engaging with your content or purchasing something, or if you’re going to make someone else look or feel bad, or if you’re discouraging to others who may be dreaming of doing what you do, then suffering is probably winning out, and you may want to reconsider how you share, and if you should be sharing at all.

Support is hugely important for small biz owners and entrepreneurs, but remember that your social media is a part of your brand. Don’t damage that brand by being dismissively positive or spreading negativity in the guise of authenticity. Take a moment to consider before you press that button to record a rant on your Instagram story whether you’re causing more happiness or suffering by doing so.

If you need some encouragement or some help determining what’s right for your brand, DM us on Instagram. We’re all about a supportive environment and would love to do that for you.