On authenticity (or the Barbie Complex and social media)

I often equate myself with Barbie. No, not because I am a pneumatic blonde, but (bear with me) Barbie has lots of different facets to her character (yes, I know she isn’t real). So, there is Holiday Barbie and Work Barbie and Ski Barbie etc, etc. And I genuinely identify with her because I have lots of different parts of my life, different interests and different audiences to which those interests speak.

Why is this relevant you ask? Well a few months ago, I read two blogs in quick succession that really resonated with me on authenticity. This from Mark Hendy first, then this from Stephanie Karaolis. Unconnected, these posts came to my attention within a couple of days of each other and I had a strong urge to write something related, but I was also nine months pregnant and basically ran out of time…

So fast forward to now and this theme has been germinating for the past few months, particularly with regards to social media channels. Authenticity on social platforms is a much talked about topic and we have all seen the Instagram hacks like the below that supposedly show the ideal lifestyle but are actually a total crock.

To get niche about it (I like niche, niche is good) I am especially interested in the whole cross posting phenomenon. Tools like Hootsuite, of which I am a daily user, allow easy cross posting to different platforms but for a marketer (and Barbie Complex holder) like me, I am always reluctant to partake – despite the ease with which it’s possible to do so.

Social media and segmentation

Part of Marketing 101 is the concept of segmentation; identify your audiences and target them with tailored messaging that will appeal to their interests. Now I’m not suggesting everyone approaches their social platforms as a marketer (there is a whole other post brewing about marketing/selling via social media already). But aren’t we all on these channels to give people a little bit of what they want?

Originally for me, the segmentation was very neat. Linear. Facebook was friends and family. LinkedIn for work. Twitter was for work but possibly in a less formal style. Simple. But then…over time the boundaries have blurred for me. I am now fortunate to count a lot of people I have met through work as friends and these friends are now on my Facebook. So where does the line get drawn now? I am also on other channels now like Instagram and rarely go a day without touching Whatsapp (more on which below).

Cross posting

So, if the lines have blurred, surely it must be OK to cross post everything? Well no, actually. I also now have two children and I am unwilling to over expose them via these open channels. And as Stephanie discusses in her post, when personal circumstances change, our perception of what ‘good’ looks like and yes, what success looks like too, can shift pretty dramatically.

There is also the concept of dark social. This isn’t as twisted as it sounds (promise) and essentially boils down to the fact that things I might once have posted about via say, Facebook, I will now simply share amongst my closest friends via closed Whatsapp groups. And I bet most of you do that too.

Unwritten rules

It’s inevitable our use of these tools evolves over time because god knows the technology is moving at a heck of a pace. But for me the essence of the ground rules remains the same, if not quite the rules themselves. Facebook remains mostly personal and because I have it locked down (as much as one can) I feel comfortable sharing personal posts here and the odd photo of my kids. Instagram is almost all personal but shot through a bit of an artistic/creative lens where possible and because I am newer to it and have less followers there, I actually feel more liberated and less bogged down by the expectations of others there. But I still hold things back. I have another personal rule that I don’t post about politics or religion because I personally don’t wish to get dragged into debates on social platforms. And ultimately, I also think that some things should be kept just for real life. This doesn’t diminish my authenticity in my view, it just means I don’t lay it all on the line.

Now Twitter is something I am known for. I have been pretty consistent in keeping my content work related with a little bit of personal thrown in (a recent post about a butter dish garnered far more interaction than expected!) But it makes me laugh when some of my oldest friends follow me then ask me what on earth I am on about with all this learning and HR technology talk. I always tell them that I’m not talking to them and they’re welcome to unfollow me if they like…

Different parts of the same whole

I always remember a great learning influencer who happened to tweet about X Factor one weekend. Someone messaged him and said they couldn’t believe he could stoop so low as to talk about trash TV. But he responded by saying ‘if you don’t like it then unfollow me, this is part of who I am as well as the work stuff’. It doesn’t float everybody’s boat, but I love the random posts about cats and football and Sunday strolls and yes, butter dishes. It helps me understand who these people are. After all, one of the great benefits of a network like Twitter is its ability to breakdown barriers and let people engage in an informal way.

What’s at the heart of this post for me is that I can’t help but segment what I share and divide it up into the different facets of my life and post what will play best to which crowd. I don’t over think this, but I have a sort of playbook that I follow in my head. So, I don’t cross post as a general rule. But just because I am not always the same on each platform doesn’t make me any less authentic. These are all different aspects that are part of the same whole. Just like Barbie.

Intrigued to know your thoughts on this and how you view authenticity and use across your social channels. Any more Barbies out there?

About kategraham23

Start-up founder, writer, connector, librarian's daughter. Interested in learning, HR, technology, online, media, marketing, fashion and cricket. Not always in that order. The views expressed here are solely my own and do not reflect the thoughts and opinions of the company I work for currently, or those I've worked for in the past.
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2 Responses to On authenticity (or the Barbie Complex and social media)

  1. Sukh Pabial says:

    I think this pops up regularly as a topic for thought for people who have multiple social media accounts. I think you’ve pretty much nailed it by explaining your playbook approach. The different channels are designed for different interactions, too. Just because they fall under the umbrella of social networks, doesn’t mean they need to be used in the same way, and nor do you need to post similar content across them all. In the main, brands get this too. They tailor their marketing for each platform, but we don’t question if they’re the same brand.


    • kategraham23 says:

      Thanks Sukh. The brand analogy is a good one. I do still see a lot of cross posting – and that’s fine too. For me though, seeing the different aspects of people’s lives and personalities definitely improves the social experience and has deepened what might have otherwise only been superficial work based relationships.

      Liked by 1 person

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