Have you ever dabbled in online dating?
If so, you’ve seen how important it is to nail your presence right from the get-go—to capture the essence of who you are and what you’re looking for in a handful of assets, with the goal of making a mark before your dream partner swipes left.
Some call it superficial. They’d rather meet their future spouse for the first time IRL, at a bar or intramural pickleball. But those folks are missing something: There’s real value in mastering the art of building an effective persona—online and off.
Since I graduated college, 80 percent of my relationships have started online. To me, it’s intuitive: Why should I waste time waiting to uncover a person’s essence through hours and hours of pretend sports when I can get to the heart of the matter instantly? And then, when I know we have a connection, we can take it to the court. That way, everyone wins.
But how do you actually do that? And what enables you to find your people online, whether you’re looking for partners or followers?
Just Be Yourself
When we’re talking to potential clients, they tell us about how much they have to say. They’ve seen so much, and they’re ready to make an impact with what they’ve learned.
But connecting online is about more than just putting everything you’ve ever learned out there. If you don’t bring your full self to the table, your voice will fall flat. Without constant introspection, reflection, and forethought, your content will read as false, hollow, or worse. You will build an arc for yourself that is incongrunet with who you are.
And importantly, you won’t build trust or connections with your audience, necessary components to reach your goals. And while you can’t necessarily measure flatness in the form of likes, comments, and subscribers—or lack thereof—you can certainly feel it when it comes to taking things to the next level: Think closing an important deal, making a hard-to-get hire, or securing sponsorship … or putting a ring on it. To turn back to our dating analogy, someone might swipe right on a perfectly lit photo of your abs, but if there’s no substance to anything else you share, things probably won’t go further than that.
All relationships take trust, and building trust (especially online) means sharing the stuff that really matters so that a stranger on the screen is open to taking the next step.
It’s important to note, though, that saying you want to build trust with your audience and actually doing it are two different things.
Close the Gap
So, if you’re really serious about making this whole relationship thing work, what do you do?
First, you need to know what you want and where you want to go. And then you need to identify a strategy to get there. There should be macro and micro components to this approach—what moves do you need to make today, and what will you need to do over the next five years? Understanding both will help you identify the relationships that you need to make.
Once you know who you need to connect with, it’s time to tell a story that will resonate with them. Great storytelling is authentic to who you are and to your journey. It often takes some time to land on the right thread.
But most of the time, when people feel the urge to put themselves out there, they want to push out a bunch of content as fast as they can. They think they need to share for the sake of sharing, that being loud will help them rise above the noise. While I’m all for big platforms—we’ve built them for many of our clients—putting more out there isn’t necessarily the way to do it. It’s not unusual to see people with smaller followings and more intentional content have the most impact.
The magic happens when you leverage authentic storytelling to meet people where they are, bridging the gap between your journey and theirs. This is fundamental to building your arc—knowing where you want to go, understanding the people who will help you get there, and identifying the stories you need to share to bring it all together.
Go Forward with Intention
When you’re ready to tell your story, you’ve got to be as intentional as possible. Otherwise, you risk missing the mark. Sharing your message improperly can actually have real, long-term damage. And worse, when you’re the one doing the sharing, it’s easy to overlook its impact. With that in mind, this is the time to check your ego at the door and get real about how you want others to receive your message.
Effective personal brands involve constant reflection and a willingness to be vulnerable, sharing the human stories in which others will find themselves. These brands demonstrate experience, expertise, and wisdom, but they also show struggle and mistakes and challenges—it’s those moments of imperfection that provide crucial lessons to ourselves and others.
Here are a few strategies that will help you share more honestly—and effectively.
- Think big—and small: I spend a lot of time thinking about our industry, where it is today, where it needs to go, and why. Because if I can spend time at 20,000 feet, I can be a lot more effective at 5,000 ft and 500 ft, taking those micro actions for maximum impact later on. That’s exciting—and meaningful—work.
- Lean into personal development: Understanding exactly who you are is essential to your ability to connect with others. Draw on multiple resources to dig into who you really are and reflect on your actions personally and professionally. A personal brand isn’t just how you show up online; it’s everything you do. When your core values in work and life line up, you’ll know you’re on the right track. For instance, our executive coach often says, “A company’s growth often hinges on the personal development of its leaders.” I couldn’t agree more. Everything is made up of energy, and what we bring to the table dictates what we create, how we show up, and ultimately, what we’re able to achieve.
- Expect evolution: No matter what we’ve achieved to date, none of us are done learning or growing. Your brand will continue to evolve alongside you, and you’ve got to keep that in mind as you build version one. With that in mind, fresh insights only come when we roll over what stands in front of us. Keep doing the work and you’ll be amazed by what you uncover.
What strategies for authentic connection would you add to the list? I’d love to hear from you.