These days, I feel like the most common marketing advice I hear, especially for personal brands, is “show up authentically” and “be vulnerable” to build a connection with your audience.
While this is true and something I agree with, that vulnerability and authenticity are good ways to build connection with your audience, a lot of the time this leads to “crying in the car” selfies and performative vulnerability.
Which, well, doesn’t work.
It’s not healthy for your marketing, and it’s not healthy for you as a human.
This problem irks me so much that I came up with a framework to balance boundaries and vulnerability in your marketing so you can show up authentically, be vulnerable, and do it effectively and healthily.
I call it: The One Sock Method. Because you don’t need to air all your dirty laundry in order to be authentic and vulnerable online. You just need One Sock.
What’s wrong with “crying in car” selfies?
Fact: as a highly sensitive, deeply emotional human, it would seem that I am the prime audience for a “crying in the car” selfie.
Fact: I am not.
For one, crying as a form of performative vulnerability just rubs me the wrong way.
Tears do not need to be the hallmark of ‘brave’ and ‘authentic’ connection, and if they’re going to become the gold standard, then I must be the bravest and most authentic person of all time as I cry at just about everything.
Jokes aside though, performative vulnerability is something we are starting to see more and more of on social media as marketing touts the importance of “showing up authentically” (WTF does that even mean… more on that later), and without some serious story strategy backing up the “vulnerable” moments, I feel like I’ve stumbled onto something Michael Scott would be doing in all earnestness in an effort to go viral.
For two, there is an implied social contract when browsing social media accounts and blogs that are public (no password or author-approval access or request to follow, etc).
The implied contract is that whatever your bio says about who you are and what you’re about, that’s what I can expect from you.
So someone who’s all cold, sterile biz talk in their bio (and if that’s you, we need to chat), with a feed full of their graphic design work and the odd vacation selfie suddenly posting a crying in the car selfie is absolutely going to make me take notice, and probably not in a good way.
There’s a break between what you have taught me to expect from you and what you are suddenly deciding to share.
While that can sometimes be effective when done with a strong narrative thread, more often than not, a plopped emotional selfie in a sea of portfolio posts is going to land like a sack of hammers. Hard, with a bit of a clatter, and eyes askance as we try to figure out who was dumb enough to carry around a sack of hammers.
If it’s not clear already, allow me to make it very clear (especially if you’re a skimming type reader):
- You need to share authentically and vulnerable online.
- You need to do so responsibly.
- And you can only do that by considering how that authentic, vulnerable shiz fits in to your messaging as a whole.
And a disclaimer here: this doesn’t mean you can’t share something that isn’t explicitly one-degree-of-separation from your business. Just consider the narrative as a whole.
This is the breakdown of The One Sock Method, the answer to folks who think that in order to create connection with their audience they need to air all their dirty laundry.
Hold that metaphor lightly and know this: you don’t need to air your dirty laundry.
You just need to choose One Sock.
The One Sock Method:
The best way to find your Sock (and build some serious online biz boundaries in the process) is to use the Human First Framework™ of Excavate, Clarify, Prioritize, Strategize.
Let’s start with EXCAVATE.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, and it won’t be the last time: social media is not therapy. Online storytelling is not therapy. Blog posting is not therapy. Pouring your heart out on the internet IS NOT THERAPY.
Thus, in order to ensure that you will NOT be processing therapy and expecting your audience to help you process any therapy shiz, you gotta do some deep cleaning and find all those hidden dust bunnies.
In order to find a Sock that’s maybe a little bit vulnerable, maybe a little bit personal, maybe a little bit messy, maybe a little bit close to your heart, you absolutely need to take an extensive story catalogue of where you are in your life.
That’s what we’re doing in this step.
I encourage my clients (and you!) to do this story catalogue for you AS A HUMAN and not just you as a business owner.
Because of course we’re going to be angling this narrative into your content marketing and brand story at large, but if you’re a small business or entrepreneur, who you are as a human is an integral part of that brand and story.
It might not all translate into a Sock, but laying out all aspects of your life while in this excavation phase of the framework will only help you to better craft the story you want to be telling.
Now let’s CLARIFY your Sock.
In order to CLARIFY your Sock, you’ll need to put aside the therapy shiz.
Note it, honor it, and tenderly put those stories away for now. They might come back to the table with some time and healing, but for right now they aren’t ready to be shared with the world online, and that’s really ok. They’re not a dirty or shameful thing that needs to be hidden. They’re a glorious part of who you are that don’t need to be shared for their own sake.
Respect yourself and your audience by drawing this healthy boundary from the get-go.
Now that you’ve lovingly set aside any therapy shiz from your excavation catalogue, start sorting the things that are left.
You can sort like with like, you could create a chronological timeline, you can create your own system! Truly, this is about what works for your brain.
The way I start my clients out with is three main buckets:
- Things you’re already sharing
- Things you’d maybe sorta kinda like to share
- Things that, while not a therapy problem, are off limits.
Similar to the beginning work of this phase of the framework, the final bit of CLARIFY is to take the things off the table that you know aren’t things you want to share – which is totally up to you!
The most important thing for you to do here is to start making some choices about what you could share – not what you should or need to share, just clarifying the possibilities for yourself.
Next, we’ll PRIORITIZE your Socks.
After laying out the possibilities, you’ll need to make some decisions as to which of the possible Socks you’d like to share.
In my and my clients’ experiences, the most powerful way to start to PRIORITIZE your Socks is by doing a body check.
When you look at the remaining Socks in front of you, check in with your body and ask yourself these questions:
- How does your body feel?
- Are there any that, when you read them, feel particularly exciting?
- Do you recognize any familiar aches or pains?
- Perhaps there’s a magical frisson of excitement and fear that’s usually my personal sweet spot of vulnerable storytelling?
Whatever the case, listen to your body. If there’s any blaring neon NO signs, honor them and put those Socks aside.
Once you’ve checked in with your body, do a brand/business check.
- What are your goals for this quarter or this year and how might this Sock complement those goals?
- Is there something particular about your brand/business that your Sock might act as a nice foil to?
- Are there any ways that immediately jump out as points of connection or potential narrative tie-in?
When in doubt, go with what your body tells you.
The most important thing here is choosing a Sock you are comfortable sharing, even if it’s a little scary at first.
There’s no point sharing a “good” Sock if you don’t actually like the story you’re telling (newsflash, we can all tell when you’re faking it).
Now we finally get to STRATEGIZE.
And now, finally!, is where you can start to STRATEGIZE that One Sock.
Begin by writing out the story of that Sock (everything is a story, but we’ll break that down in depth another day).
Whether you’re someone who does a spider-web-mind-map, or you like to chronologically track, or perhaps you just love a good ol’ brain dump – whatever the case, lay this story out and dig a little deeper than you may have in the initial Excavation phase of the framework.
Here’s some questions to get your brain going with your writing:
- How does this Sock contribute to who you are as a human?
- How does this Sock fit into your business and your goals?
- How can you create connection with your target audience through the story of this Sock?
The strategy of your One Sock is going to look a little different for everyone, but the most important part is to root your Sock in narrative.
Understand the overarching narrative of the Sock, of your business, of who you want your ideal clients to see you as, and how you want to leave an impression on your community.
And a moment, please, to emphasize that this final phase STRATEGIZE is final for a reason.
Notice how we didn’t start with the business goals?
Yes I want you to be goal-oriented, yes I want you to achieve higher engagement and grow your online community, yes I want you to make more money doing the things you love and do so well!
The most effective story is the one you want to tell, not necessarily the one that makes the most strategic sense at first glance (though arguably the most effective story IS the most strategic story, but that just becomes a paradoxical brain loop…).
The One Sock Method is here for you because you need to tell better stories online. We all need to showcase and share the most magical and mundane stories of ourselves to create the kind of connection and community that converts.
Tell the ordinary stories of your extraordinary life. Just make sure to do it with healthy, responsible boundaries for both you and your audience.
If you’re a note-taker, awesome, you’ve got this in the bag.
If you need a worksheet, I got you – I freakin’ love worksheets.
Learn better through interaction? There’s going to be another One Sock Master Class – keep an eye out on your email for first dibs.
Back to that crying in the car selfie: you very well might post one if you go through this process and it makes sense with your Sock and you understand the story that you’re telling with it.
And honestly? I can’t wait to read it.