There’s a lot of value in authenticity, especially in today’s hyper-connected world. More than ever, consumers have the ability and inclination to research and evaluate their options before making a purchase. When you consider the influence of Amazon reviews, it makes sense why buyers feel the need to know everything about a product (or service) they’re about to buy.
In the small-business world, we don’t have Amazon reviews (although testimonials are worth their weight in gold!), but we do have our personalities that we can use to influence purchasing decisions. A lot of factors go into the decision to book with someone, and you are on the top of the list.
Planning an event with someone is an intimate relationship for months—even years—at a time. People want to know that they’ll be working with someone who meshes with their dynamic, so they first look to your digital personality (then, later, your real personality) to ensure that you’re the right person to fit into their expectations for the planning process.
Thus, our websites, social media profiles, and real-world conversations must convey who we are from a genuine and trusting manner. Yet, there’s still a need for boundaries--it’s important to recognize the line that separates work from personal life. In a culture of over-sharing, where is the line for the event professional?
Here are some expert tips that can help you to decide what, when, and how much you should be sharing with your prospects and clients.
1. Create comfortable guidelines.
When it all boils down, it really depends on how much—and how often—you are comfortable sharing personal details. Use your level of openness to create rules that dictate what kind of personal content you are willing to share, then stick to them.
“I create rules for myself as to what to share and what not to share,” shares Mary Angelini, owner of Key Moment Films. “Keep personal info peppered in between other professional posts, including only things in my personal life that align with my brand. For example, I will only share about these things: our pets, volunteerism, my twins, my marriage--keeping it light--traveling, and our style of shooting and working.”
2. Be careful with live stories.
Social media feeds are often highly curated and branded, whereas live 24-hour stories are where people can be a little freer and show some real-time personality. However, that’s not to warrant straying from one’s brand--stories are great for showing authenticity, but don’t lose sight of your duty to remain professional.
“Those super-honest posts about life updates, the messy hair, don’t care attitude, or how you are challenging yourself at your craft--your ideal client isn’t seeking to hire a work in progress; they are looking to hire a professional,” notes Taylor Bradford, event designer and stylist at Sugar Creek Creative and strategist for Women Creatives, Boss Girl Creative. “Please stop if you are presenting one image on your IG feed and a completely different version of yourself on IG stories.”
3. Step back from the filters.
In many ways, authenticity is raw--and that goes for photos, too. It’s not to say you can’t retouch your images before posting, but keep it limited to basic adjustments. Overdoing it with things like filters and “beauty” apps leaves clients wondering what the “real” version of you and your brand is really like.
“I’m really happy to see we are moving back to natural and real photos on Instagram,” says Michelle Loretta, owner of Sage Wedding Pros. “The curated, stylized photos all look the same. People want to see real life.”
4. Think about your clients.
When you’re sharing event photos, you naturally need to get permission from your clients--especially if it’s an identifiable element from their celebration. Your clients come first, so always keep their needs at the top of your priority list.
“If an NDA has been signed, nothing gets shared,” says Tara Fay of Xena Productions Bespoke Events. “If the client likes PR, then an image gets shared with appropriate hashtags. If the client has not been specific and it’s something that will identify their venue or event, we always ask first. Sometimes a behind-the-scenes Insta story is sufficient.”
5. Consider separate accounts.
If you love to share about personal things like potty-training your toddler or date night with your partner, it’s probably best to do so on a personal account where friends and family can follow and engage. Business-wise, keep it professional and on-brand to reach your target client.
“I feel keeping them completely separate is professional,” explains Oleta Collins of Flourishing Art Design Studio. “Too much over-sharing on a business account just clutters up social media. Your account should be professional and have fluidity always. The only thing I share on my business account that is personal are my pets and professional achievements. It takes a village to move and maintain a team to create and produce events. Nothing is done single-handedly by myself and I feel my business should never be just about me, it should be about what my team has accomplished.”
6. Ask yourself the important questions.
When in doubt, come up with a list of questions that can qualify whether an idea is share-worthy. If it checks all the boxes, share it without hesitation. If it doesn’t, ask yourself if there’s any reason to justify posting; otherwise, save it for your personal account.
Meredith Commender, owner of Significant Events of Texas, shares her “social media check-in questions”: “Will this encourage potential clients to hire my company to produce an event or want to get to know me better to see if we are a good fit? Will this make current clients feel positive about partnering with me for their event? Could this deeply offend someone or cause my business to be viewed in a negative or controversial light?”
7. Keep working at it.
Rest assured that finding the right formula on social media is a work in progress. You won’t get it overnight, but as long as you commit to it, you’ll eventually discover what truly resonates with your audience--and what doesn’t.
“I think you just have to find the balance that works for you, because everyone has their own ideas of what is over-sharing,” says Jamie Chang, owner and destination wedding planner at Mango Muse Events. “And social media is not easy! In the end, as long as you’re comfortable with what you’re putting out there and it will attract and not repel your target clients, then I think you’re on the right track.”
Being authentic in a business setting can be scary, especially when you’re putting it out there online for everyone to see. If you have a smart social media strategy in place, you can be genuine and open while still maintaining control of the conversation and directing followers in the direction you want them to go.
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.