What does that mean? How do you know when you are being authentic? There is no authenticity meter on LinkedIn. But we do know don’t we when someone is being authentic.
Let’s start by reminding ourselves why we are here. LinkedIn is a professional networking platform whether we are looking for a new job or a new customer we are here to promote ourselves and find new opportunities. People who are successful on LinkedIn understand that it is primarily a relationship-building tool. We do business with people we know, like and trust, who can bring value to our businesses. The way we represent ourselves on our profile or in our posts can build or destroy that trust.
If someone is prepared to show a little vulnerability and tell us something a little more personal about themselves that helps us to relate to them and builds trust. It could be a light-hearted anecdote or the story of a life-changing challenge that they overcame but this is LinkedIn, not Facebook so it does need to be framed in a business context e.g. the lessons learned.
In February 2018, David Flink, a Director at LinkedIn published a post titled:
“My name is David Flink, I am a leader in Tech and I am an Alcoholic”.
That was a very brave post, but the response was incredible and very supportive. He talked about the challenges he had faced in holding down a top job at one of the world’s leading tech companies. Tens of thousands of people read and responded to this post. There were many comments expressing gratitude to David from other high functioning alcoholics sharing that his post had been a great source of inspiration and encouragement. I guess also that it is one characteristic that authentic posts share they make us feel it’s OK to be ourselves.
Another example is a post shared recently by Lauren Chiren. Lauren is a single parent, her posts described how in her early 40s she began experiencing what she thought was the symptoms of early-onset dementia, and the panic and distress she felt at the prospect of not being able to look after her 8-year-old son. Thankfully it turned out she was going through early menopause, not dementia. Subsequently, Lauren set up a business to work with female leaders and organisations to create a more supportive work environment for women experiencing menopause.
That last point is important. There are many authentic posts on Facebook and other platforms that would be out of place on LinkedIn. The post needs to be framed in a business context.
Here is another example, a post by Julian John tells the powerful and inspiring story about overcoming not one but many adversities.
This post had more than 9,000 comments and 19 million views!
A really important point which applies more generally to posts which feel authentic, Julian was not trying to gain huge exposure he was simply sharing his experiences. The response took him by surprise.
You can’t manufacture or contrive an authentic post it just doesn’t work.
One final example post and again it comes from a senior LinkedIn executive. Josh Graff is the UK Country Manager for LinkedIn. He is gay. In 2014 he published his first post on LinkedIn titled “Why coming out is good for business” inspired by reading the Glass Closet a book by Lord Brown former CEO of BP about coming out at work. Josh wrote about his anxieties about coming out but also the freedom it gave him to be himself in the work environment.
This is one of the comments posted on Josh’s article:
“We need more people like you, who lead –through example– the way for a more authentic world, who make the path easier for those less fortunate, who understand that there is no true life if we are not true to ourselves first. Thank you for taking the time and the courage to write this and share with us all”.
The authenticity formula
If you were reading this article hoping to get a formula for how to be authentic on LinkedIn I am sorry there isn’t one. Only you know how to be you. Authenticity is not a device to drum up likes or views, and posts that share your experience or come from the heart often resonate widely as in the examples above. Hopefully, this post has given you some encouragement to have the courage to share a little more of yourself.