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Welcome to Season 2 of The Book Marketing Action Podcast with Becky Robinson, where we give you information that you can immediately implement to increase your influence and market your books more successfully. This month, we are focusing on the topic of social media. In this episode, we are joined by Jenn Grace CEO and Founder of Publish Your Purpose Press.
About Jenn Grace
Becky: Today we’re focusing on the topic of social media and authenticity. Welcome, Jenn. Could you tell us about yourself, before we dive into today’s topic?
Jenn: Thank you for having me. I am a publisher. I’m the founder and CEO, as you just said, at Publish Your Purpose Press. I am also a six-time author, myself. I just most recently, within the last couple of months, won an award for my book. So, I’m super excited to now say award-winning author, which is fun. Prior to my book experience, my publishing experience, I ran a consulting company for a number of years starting back in 2006. I’ve been kind of in the space of serving others, kind of in the entrepreneurial space, if you will, for I guess, 15 years now, which is fun to say.
What channels do you find to be most effective and enjoyable?
Becky: Before we dive into the specific topic of authenticity, as it relates to social media, I’m curious if you could tell our listeners as an author, what channels you found to be most effective for you as an author? And which ones you enjoy the most?
Jenn: That’s a really good question. For myself personally, and for the authors that we serve, LinkedIn happens to be a really good avenue, just because there are so many B2B opportunities if you are being authentic on that platform. I think there’s a lot of people on LinkedIn that are very sales-y, very inauthentic, and people can figure that out very quickly. But for me personally, LinkedIn is really where I spend a good amount of my time. And then you know, the others, Facebook and Instagram, we have a lot of authors that are really doing really well on each of those platforms individually. So there’s not really a one swooping like, “Hey, everyone’s doing awesome on Instagram,” it’s more of a case-by-case basis.
What does it mean to you to be authentic on social media channels?
Becky: That’s helpful, Jen. So, you’ve already given us a hint, as you referenced, what it looks like on LinkedIn to be inauthentic. So could you talk to me a little bit about what it means to you to be authentic on social media channels?
Jenn: The best way that I would talk about authenticity is by talking about it both online and offline. Because I think a lot of times we, and we all probably know someone who falls into this, where you meet this person at an event, and they seem so amazing and so dynamic. You’re in a group of people and you’re like, wow, this person is so magnetic. Then you actually catch them in the elevator, just the two of you, or you catch them in the lobby, and they are miserable and grumpy because they’re not putting on the show that they were putting on previously. So, I think to me, that is a little bit of what authenticity is. Are you the same you in all areas where you show up? So how are you the same Becky, that is sitting here? And you and I are having this conversation for others to listen to, versus how were the two of us when the audio wasn’t rolling? Versus how would you interact with your neighbor when you’re bringing your garbage down on garbage day? I think that it’s important to be that same person in all of those interactions. I think why it’s important is because it’s more authentic, it’s more genuine, people really get to kind of feel and know who you are. But I also think, just from a mental health perspective, it’s exhausting trying to be different people and show up differently in different scenarios and different settings, that you end up wasting all sorts of energy on trying to be somebody that you’re not and that’s really unproductive for any area of your life, especially business.
How do you show up as your real self on social media?
Becky: So, as you’re talking about that, that makes a lot of sense to me. But I know that there is this kind of overall perception people have that social media, just in its essence is inauthentic. So, I’ve heard people say everyone only puts their happiest pictures on Instagram, or they only put their best foot forward when they show up on social media channels. So for some authors that I meet, they’re reluctant to get involved in using social media as a means of sharing their messages, because they feel like the channels themselves lend themselves to the opposite of authenticity. Would you have some tips for people who want to show up as their real selves on social media? And how do you navigate that belief or assumption that people think they can only share what is happy and good in their lives on social media?
Jenn: That’s such a good question. The authors that I work with all own businesses and the majority of them are also public speakers. There’s a couple of outliers that may not be public speaking, but the majority have businesses. And they’re thought leaders in their space, which is a lot of the reason why they wrote their books. So, they can kind of expand their reach, and scale what they’re doing.
There is one author, in particular, and I will not say her name, specifically, but I have known her for a very long time. We have worked together well before working on her book together, and I constantly wanted to strangle her because I was like, nobody knows who you are. Nobody knows the real you and it’s driving me absolutely crazy, because I know the real you. We’re friends, we work together, we have this long history together. I know other people have that same fondness of who you are as a person, but when you’re on social media, you are so washed down and so watered down for who you are, nobody can really connect and relate with you because no one really knows anything about you. It was a multiyear dragging her out of her comfort zone and out of her shell, convincing her that this was the right thing to do. And in doing so, I was able to convince her to start sharing personal details about herself. I was like, I’m not going to really throw you into the deep end and make you really make a 180 and start sharing things that seem so out of your comfort zone. I think it would be a little bit alarming to an audience to have like this very, kind of robotic way and like very impersonal way, and then suddenly, you’re like, oh, wow, they’re sharing information that I don’t know if I should actually know. I really started to coach her and guide her into doing that.
One of the biggest posts that blew up on her platform was, I don’t know if it was an anniversary post, or if it was a Valentine’s Day thing, but it was this love letter that she had written to her spouse that previously she never really talked about. I had to really force her to talk about her spouse and it was beautiful. It had a bunch of photos of the two of them together. They’ve been together for a long time and it was one of the most liked, commented, shared posts, because it was so authentically who she was, and everyone that’s worked with her or worked around her was like, finally, she’s finally showing up as the person that we know her to be. At the same time, that was bringing in other people who were like, “Oh, wow, who is this person? I don’t even realize it’s the same page that I previously liked.” And that was like the foundation because it gave her the validation to say, wow, when I do share something personal, positive engagement occurs. So with that little push got her more comfortable actually sharing details about her life that are not necessarily directly tied to what she does for business and it was like a huge aha lightbulb moment for her.
What are the benefits of showing up with authenticity?
Becky: What a powerful story, Jen. I appreciate you sharing that. I’ve had a similar experience in partnering with clients, and that idea of showing up is very closely connected to authenticity. It’s stupid and cliche by now, but I often will tell clients the magic happens when you show up. So, let’s talk a little bit more about that. Jen, what do you think are some other benefits of showing up with authenticity? Because of the story you just referenced, when you show up with authenticity, you open this possibility that people can connect with you in a new way or remember you in a new way. What else do you see as a benefit of showing up with authenticity?
Jenn: To me the biggest benefits, in addition to what I had already said about, just the amount of mental energy that you’re draining by not being who you are, where you want to be, is from a Marketing 101 perspective. That we don’t want to reach everybody. We don’t want to capture every possible person. Every possible person on the earth is not a client of mine and they’re not a client of yours. So what we want to do is we want to either attract them or we want to repel them, and by being authentically who you are, you are going to do one of those two things. I think a lot of people are afraid to have a message that repels somebody. At the end of the day, that is absolutely what you want to do. Because you don’t want to be wasting your time, resources, energy, or efforts trying to bring in a client, that is not going to be somebody that you’re going to enjoy serving to begin with. I think from just that standpoint, the more authentic we are, and to me I’m always I’m like, what you see is what you get. Like I said before, how you and I are right now, is exactly how I am with any other interaction I’m going to have today, because it’s easier for me. But also people will either like me, or they won’t. And that’s a beautiful thing because you don’t want to serve everyone.
From a marketing and messaging standpoint, I have it in my marketing and messaging all over the place that we serve the underrepresented voices most often, which oftentimes are LGBTQ people. They’re people of color, people with disabilities, and that’s very intentional because, as a queer woman myself, I don’t want to work with someone who doesn’t like me based on who I love. So the more I can be outspoken about that, the more I’m going to repel. That audience is not going to want to do business with me. I think when we’re talking about sexual orientation, gender, identity, race, those are like the big things. But there are other things, maybe environmentally conscious, like you don’t want to work with people who don’t have the environment front and center. So, if you are authentically you and the environment is something you’re really passionate about, talking about it, sharing it, being true to who you are in all those areas, it’s going to repel the people who could care less about the environment. So, you see what I’m saying, does that make sense?
Becky: Well, yes, and it’s a really interesting take on it, Jen, that I’ve never thought of before, that one of the benefits of showing up with authenticity is it helps people figure out if we’re the right fit for them. It sounds a little counterintuitive that we would create an online presence on purpose, to repel the people who aren’t our people, but it’s so brilliant. So the downside is, if we’re not clear about who we are and what we value, then it’s not easy for people to decide whether or not we’re the type of organization that they want to work with?
Jenn: Yeah, and I think that comes down to the products and the services that we offer. It comes down to who we are as people. It comes down to who our team is, as people. And all of those are factors in whether somebody wants to do business with us. I think from just a clarity standpoint, the clearer we are on who we are, who we want to be doing business with, and what we offer, all of those things in conjunction with each other are really what makes somebody say, “Yeah, I want to do business with her” or “Oh, hell, no, I want nothing to do with that.” And either of those scenarios is a good scenario because then you’re not wasting extra kind of time and energy from a business development standpoint on people who just don’t fundamentally like you.
Becky: That is so helpful, Jen. For those of you who are listening, I’d be curious what action steps you can take away from this. So, if you have been in a place where you’ve hesitated to show up authentically, or there’s been a hesitation to share the details of who you are as a person, I hope that this is inspiring you to consider how you might choose to show up with more authenticity.
What are some tips for increasing authenticity in how we show up online?
Becky: Jen, I want to circle back to an earlier part of the conversation when we were talking about how social media channels, in and of themselves, kind of fuel this pressure to be bigger than we are or better than we are or happier than we are. So, what do you think about sharing the more difficult things in our lives? And how can we be sure that we’re doing that in an authentic way as well?
Jenn: Another really good question. The people that I know, the people that I follow, and the people that I respect, I personally find that they share a balance of both of those things. I would say it’s probably like a two-thirds situation where two-thirds of the time it’s something positive, uplifting, exciting, some accomplishments they’ve recently received and then there’s that third of the time, where it’s like, I’m having a crap day and here are all the reasons why. I feel like social media has been around for a long time. At this point, I feel like it’s still treated as if it’s like the newest thing. But in reality, it is not the newest thing at all.
There are new platforms, there are new ways of doing things, but the idea of social media is not new, and I think we’re still all operating from that. When it first came out, the standpoint of, “if I post on here, it has to be all of the happy positive things,” like that’s all only what people are looking for. I think there’s a balance because you do have those people who are on social media platforms, and all they do is complain and you just you snooze them because you want nothing, like okay, enough already, you’re having a rough day. But the people who have that balance, where most of the time they’re uplifting and positive, and then occasionally they put a post in there like, listen my business isn’t doing great right now, because this happened and this happened or I had to let go of an employee because of this happening, or this happening, or whatever, those authentic, real-time things have been happening, even if it’s familial issues, talking about those things, a lot of times those posts are the ones that get really really high engagement.
I know for me, personally, I have the Publish Your Purpose pages, and all the different places, and then I have me and all the different places. I will intentionally share just to me, I like to highlight just entertaining stories of my child saying the most ridiculous things to me on a regular basis because he’s smarter than his years. But then he says things, and I’m like, that’s really profound and so there’s like that happy uplifting side of things. But just the other day, he got Student of the Month, which I’m so proud of him for, but in what I was writing about, about him being student of the month, I also address the fact that he has debilitating anxiety, like severe anxiety, where it is an uphill battle every single day of his life to function on a basic level. So my point in sharing that was like, hey, you can still have all of these struggles and you can still work through these struggles, and you can still be recognized for your ability to work through those struggles. And I could have just done what every mom does, and like, “Hey my child’s amazing, they got student of the month,” and let everybody cheer. But I was like, no, this is an opportunity to show up and let people into that struggle that we have on a daily basis around his anxiety. What that does in my world, in someone who’s listening, and to this world, is that when I’m talking to somebody, or maybe they happen to see that post, or maybe they’re listening to this, and they go read the post, they’re going to know something about me that I couldn’t have put in the marketing material. They’re going to know something about me in the sense that I know how to work with people that have mental health challenges of any kind. Because I deal with this on a day to day basis.
And so that’s the really cool part about being authentic too, is that you’re letting people into the really rough, jagged inside and edges of who you are. But it also shows who you are and what you’re capable of. So if we’re looking at publishing professionals side by side, one person has this polish, “I’m amazing, I don’t do anything wrong” persona, and then you have the other person who’s like, “listen stuff happens and I’m dealing with this mental health crisis at home.” And the person that’s debating like, who do I go with? They’re going to explore the person who has a similar challenge that they have, rather than that person who’s looking perfect. So I think that’s huge.
Becky: So what you’re saying is that when we let people into the struggles that we have, we become more accessible to them. We become more relatable to them because none of us feel like that polished one.
What are some choices authors or thought leaders have in expressing their authenticity through social media?
Becky: I want to wrap up by talking about the choices that we have, as it relates to showing up with authenticity, because there may be someone listening who says, “That sounds great, but I can’t talk about XYZ on my social media channels as a business person.” So Jen, what would you say to someone who has some areas of their life that they want to wall off from social sharing? Is it still possible to show up with authenticity even when we make choices to keep some topics quiet?
Jenn: I think that’s a tough question. I think without getting into political beliefs, I think the politics of what’s happening right now, in and of themselves, make that really difficult for people because there could be people that you look at, and you’re like, “wow, we’re really aligned, we have all these great things in common,” and then all of a sudden, they post something that’s in opposition to what your political views are. Then suddenly, people make very sweeping decisions about who that person is, without really spending the time on like, “Hey, that was somebody that I really respected and loved prior to knowing this information about them. What is it about knowing this that made me change?” I’m being very neutral about this but I think that’s where it can get really challenging. So I think politics is something that generally speaking, that’s not something that you need to talk about. That’s not something that you need to bring into any of your social media dialogues and I don’t think you’re being inauthentic by not doing that. I think you’re being respectful by not doing that.
You could also probably put religion into that same category, because regardless of whether you’re spiritual, where you are on any religious spectrum, they’re still going to be people that have a knee-jerk reaction to who you are, what you believe in, etc. So again, I don’t necessarily think unless that’s baked into what you’re writing about, what you’re speaking about, what your business is about, I don’t think that necessarily has to be on social media either.
I think if I were to say here’s a formula to follow or steps to think about it would be to make a list. So start by making a list of the things that you’re passionate about, it could include that you’re passionate about politics, and it could include that you’re passionate about your religion, but you really just make that list of those areas that you’re passionate about. And then kind of go through with a red pen and cross out the ones that really aren’t going to further your objectives. Many of them might not actually further your objectives, I think you’re always safe sharing about your significant other, I think you’re always safe sharing about pets, sharing about children, like those are very safe. Just sharing about your pets and children alone can really help people get to know who you are on a deeper level and you don’t have to go into any of the political, religious, any of those hot topic issues that are going to get anybody burned by doing it, unless you’ve been doing it all along, then you’re fine. But you don’t want to have all of the things walled off and now you’re like, “Okay, I’m gonna make a beat, I’m gonna put my toe in this pond of sharing a little more about myself,” certainly do not go into the hot topic area, just post a picture of your cat, just start small, and like really work your way into it.
Becky: That’s really helpful advice. So I want to wrap up this episode, the way that we do all of our episodes, because this podcast is called the book marketing action podcast. So I’m wondering, Jen, if you could identify a couple of action steps that authors could take today to increase their authenticity on social media.
- I’m going to go back to the thing I had just said, so I would start with a list. I think that’s step one action. Step one is just start with a list of the things that you are already comfortable with talking about, like just do a spreadsheet that has some columns in it, things that you already talked about, you’re comfortable with things that you are super passionate about. Then make that third column, the things that you will actually start to do, and don’t go hog wild and go all in right now. Just one step at a time, say, “All right, this week, I’m just going to post a picture of my animal and just see what happens.” See what people say, and if we’re talking about book marketing, grab your book, put your pets in front of your book, the book behind your pet, do something with your pet. Right? We have an author who wrote a book called What Are You Waiting For?: You Don’t Have 9 Lives! and it’s very much like Who Moved My Cheese? but she’s using her cat as the way to tell the story. And my cat one day just hopped up on my desk and had his head like peeking behind the cover of her book and almost like in the same way that the cat on the book looked. I was like this is like the best photo op and I wasn’t even staging it. Now she uses it in all of her marketing, because it’s a tie in, but even if your book is a business book, you could be like, “Wow, look at who else is enjoying this book today.” You can be really light hearted about it. And it doesn’t have to be this big endeavor, and then just see what happens, see how people are kind of reacting to it, then you can make that decision of like, “Okay, what is my plan from here.” It’s almost like doing an assessment, you kind of assessed what you’re not sharing and what you are sharing, and you’ll decide what you’re comfortable with, and then deciding what platform.
- So step two to me would be deciding what platforms you’re willing to share personal stuff on, because LinkedIn is not the best place to be sharing personal information. So if you have a Facebook, or an Instagram, that’s where you should be really doing that personal sharing, but doesn’t mean that you can’t share a little bit of personal stuff on LinkedIn here and there. But they’re very different strategies and very different audiences. So then it’s a matter of saying, alright, if I want to start sharing these things, on what platform am I going to do that. And so you can kind of decide from there, I think just starting with those two steps alone can be really, really helpful.
Becky: Those are really great next steps. If you’re listening today, and you decide to try them, I’d love to hear what you come up with.
- Connect with Publish Your Purpose Press on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter.
- Follow Jenn T. Grace on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
- Learn more about Jenn on her website here.
- Click here to learn more about Publish Your Purpose Press.
- Check out Jenn’s memoir, House on Fire, here.
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I am the founder/CEO of the Weaving Influence team, the author of Reach: Creating the Biggest Possible Audience for Your Message, Book, or Cause, and the host of the Book Marketing Action Podcast. I’m a wife and mom of three kids, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, coffee, and dark chocolate.