I was voted off the lunch table in 8th grade >> survivor style. This is the first moment I remember feeling absolute, total vulnerability. Once a popular blonde running student council, I was now alone, with nowhere to sit in a crowded room. I was voted off because I went against the grain, against the crowd. My best friend at the time asked me to lie about the number of reps she did in the gym, right after our teacher threatened to flunk the next person who lied. So…I didn’t lie. Apparently adhering to my ethics was suicide to my dreams of maintaining my junior high popular status. She convinced all of our AP friends to vote me off of our lunch table and spent the rest of junior high finding any way she could to bully me. It was hell. And I felt vulnerable. On top of that, I was unaware I had an advanced chronic disease and wandered the halls feeling as though I was going to faint at any moment. I struggled to keep my head up in class, as I ran high fevers and the room began to spin around me. I developed a fear of getting from one class to the next, of even finding my way home at the end of the day. This only gave my bully more material to work with. Having grown up a straight-A, talent show winning blonde, the sense of rejection and health issues made me feel naked in front of the entire school. Finally diagnosed at the Children’s Hospital of Denver, I spent two years between school and homebound, being told I would never graduate from high school, yet alone be able to go to college. Well, I did graduate from high school with mostly As (only one B in my school career) and graduated from the University of Miami (over 1000 miles from my hometown in Wyoming.) I listened to God, instead of the doctors, and I survived and thrived. I turned vulnerability into my strength and pushed past the obstacles. I tested out of the high school I was supposed to go to and tested into an honors program at a different high school. I thought I would be finally free of my best friend turned master bully, but she also tested into the honors program at the high school across town and was in the room when I went to high school orientation. She tried to bully me in high school, but these kids at the new school related more to my vulnerability and less to her, well, bitchiness. I was free.
Years later, I had to shave my hair a few weeks ago because I started losing half of it due to a chemo I am on. Once again, I am standing naked in the middle of a junior high cafeteria. I feel vulnerable as I struggle to survive something that is killing something bad in my body but also killing some things that are good. Brene Brown is the queen of vulnerability saying, “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” Let me tell you something >> there is nothing like presenting your imperfect self when you are a makeup-less baldy that feels like she is going to vomit at any moment and is on four different medications to help with the side effects of the chemo. Brene Brown also says, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” I cannot tell you how much love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity I have received by being open about my health journey. See, by remaining naked in the junior high cafeteria and letting people see me for who I am, I have opened the door for them to give all of these beautiful things (love, belonging, joy, etc.) right back to me.
Okay, so what does this have to do with a professional brand on social media? Well, look at the last source of vulnerability that Brene sites >> authenticity. And what makes a brand stellar on social media? Authenticity. So that means for a brand to be truly authentic, it needs to be vulnerable >> aka honest, transparent, real.
Here are five ways your brand can be ‘vulnerable’ on social media:
Admit Your Wrongs
This is numero uno. You must, MUST be transparent when it comes to a crisis within your company. Don’t try to hide it, don’t cover it up with a ‘no comment.’ Admit what happened, apologize, correct your mistakes and move on. I will forever refer to the DiGiorno social media mastermind who royally messed up and OWNED it. It was the best thing DiGiorno ever did. You can read more about that here >> How To Survive A Social Media Crisis.
Strip Yourself Down To The Core
Seriously, though. Don’t pull back just one layer >> pull it all back until you find the very core of your brand and then share that with your followers and fans. Don’t try to sugarcoat everything and make it pretty. Just share the raw, authentic story of who you are and what you plan to do with your brand. Consumers are craving a bland that reveals its core, instead of one that tries to PhotoShop every moment before sharing it online.
Ask For Help
It seems counterintuitive because you are your brand, so you should know the most about your brand. However, social media provides a wealth of knowledge for your R&D teams and also for your communications teams in general. Ask your fans and followers what you could be doing better >> and then be ready to deliver results. This is one of the most effective ways to use social media to both connect with your fans and improve your branding and products.
It’s always ‘Build Community,’ right?! Well, you need to also ‘seek’ community. You need to set up listening streams for topics important to your consumers and jump into third-party conversations. It’s always nerve-wrecking to join a conversation with strangers at a cocktail party, but it soooo necessary to build your community. Seek out influencers and consumers relevant to your brand and ENGAGE with them, no matter how uncomfortable it feels. Don’t just sit there and wait for them to come to you.
Stand Up For What You Believe In
Yea, so obviously this got me voted off of the lunch table, but hopefully, it will yield better results for your brand. We are living in a highly tense political climate, and brands are finding new avenues to insert their opinions into their messaging. (See my post on when and how you should meddle in politics here: Should Your Brand Be Discussing News & Politics On Social Media?) If something is going on in the political environment conflicts with your brand values >> speak up. Granted, this will have consequences by alienating consumers who disagree with you, but that means these are consumers who also disagree with your brand values so…whatevs. It is so important to speak up and show that your brand has a backbone.
There you go. Five tips for being more vulnerable on social media that (hopefully) won’t get you voted off of the lunch table. No promises, though 🙂
– Marji J. Sherman