In a world full of Instagram filters, rented Lamborghinis and recycled content, it's easy to think truthfulness and transparency have taken a backseat when it comes to building a presence for yourself and your business online.
Despite this tendency, there are influencers across social media and beyond who are fighting to put an end to the phoniness, and one of the people leading the charge is Josh Fechter.
Fechter is a serial entrepreneur, three time author, co-founder of one of the nation's fastest-growing marketing agencies BAMF Media, and marketing influencer whose LinkedIn and Quora posts have been read and shared by tens of millions of people around the globe.
Fechter's work has proven many things, but for the sake of this article, there's one thing in particular which stands out: for entrepreneurs, more than ever before, vulnerability sells.
Through recounting stories of his lowest moments, lessons learned from his failures and more, Fechter has become a top voice on both Quora and LinkedIn. The topics of his anecdotes cover everything from his eight failed startup attempts to the time he was forced to move into his dad's small apartment to him being let go from a previous job, and that's just the beginning.
Fechter's posts on LinkedIn have resulted in him gaining a voracious following on the platform, and this particular storytelling style is beginning to spread like wildfire as others share their own personal experiences on what has been dubbed 'The New LinkedIn'.
Why vulnerability works.
"The internet should be treated just like any in-person interaction, but rarely is." says Fechter. "The conversations that bring you closer to friends and loved ones are often the ones where you 'open up'. The conversations where you're most vulnerable."
During any in-person interaction, trust is often built by having conversations about issues that are tough to talk about. Close friendships arise after we tell others about our insecurities, family issues, our failures and other touchy subjects. Very rarely do close friendships arise as a result of discussing how bad traffic was coming to work or how your neighbor's dog won't stop barking after 10pm.
As Fechter said, the same principles that are applied to in-person relationships should be applied to our online relationships. After all, the internet connects humans with other humans; something we often seem to forget, whether consciously or subconsciously.
Additionally, Fechter says being vulnerable is also a sales tactic. By bringing yourself down to a level your audience and potential customers can relate to, you'll be much more likely to gain their trust.
This ties into one of Robert Cialdini's "six principles of persuasion:" the principle of liking, which states humans are prone to say 'yes' to the people they like. According to Cialdini, one of the fastest ways for another person to like you is by the two of you having similarities.
We've all been through struggles. We've all had days where we want to throw in the towel, days where we don't know where our next paycheck is coming from, days where our past successes seem like nothing more than memories.
By opening up about these experiences with your audience and customers, you'll automatically be making yourself more similar to them.
Here's how you can apply vulnerability to your marketing efforts:
1. Recount the trials you've faced.
We've all made huge mistakes and gone through times of immense distress throughout our lives and careers. Despite that, I'm sure the majority of the greatest life lessons we've learned have come as a direct result of these rough patches.
Don't let these stories die. Instead, leverage them by sharing these accounts with your audience. Focus on the knowledge you've obtained from the experiences. This could be on your company blog, across social media, at a meetup you host, in an ebook or anywhere else.
How much is too much, you ask? Well, Fechter says you should be open to sharing anything with your audience as long as it provides value to them, so don't hold back...well, everything except religion and politics. Keeping that to yourself will always be a good idea.
2. Rethink your definition of oversharing.
In business, we're taught to never overshare, to keep personal matters and experiences completely separate from our professional lives. While there are indeed situations where this apprehension is valid, it might be time to rethink your boundaries when it comes to what you're willing to share with your audience and potential customers.
As proven by the success of Josh Fechter and other influencers like Tim Ferriss and Lewis Howes, being transparent about your failures creates an authentic connection between you and your audience. Use this as validation, as inspiration for you to share the things you've learned during all moments of your career: the good, the bad and the ugly.
We live in a world where we're one Twitter or Facebook search away from knowing what Tom Cruise had for breakfast. In the online world, visibility is all around us, and hiding or disguising your past failures will only grow tougher as the years go on.
Instead of running away from this trend, embrace it. Use it to your advantage by being vulnerable in your online marketing efforts. If you do so, you'll put yourself in a terrific position to reap all the benefits content marketing has to offer.