I met with Rocky Roark, a local illustrator in San Diego yesterday (here is a link to his work, enjoy!). As we conversed over Topo Chico and coconut cream iced tea, marketing came up. Rocky has over 40k followers on Instagram and he was shocked I had not made use of the platform for business. It's done a lot of good for him financially. Despite his success, it's still not going to be a part of my life anytime soon.
Here's why: I believe that platforms like Instagram and Facebook have made human social interaction harder and less authentic. The evidence for this is staggering suicide rates and anecdotal tales of the platforms being used to showcase what we wish our life was like rather than connecting with people. It's a mechanism that has propelled isolation and narcissism to heights we could not have anticipated.
I do not like those things. Not everyone, especially not Rocky, uses those platforms that way, but the evidence is overwhelmingly clear that loneliness and depression have skyrocketed parallel to the rise of social media. The thing is, people like Rocky are the exception and not the rule when it comes to those platforms.
I believe the world would be better if those platforms were used less. Granted, my view isn't going to change the fact that millions of people use them everyday, but it doesn't matter. I still believe that to be true. This doesn't mean I have a distaste for people who use the platform. I don't drink alcohol either, but have no problem with anyone who does. It's simply not for me. I'd rather drive to three networking events per week, meet 5 people, and spend 45 minutes talking with each one of them.
Here's the thing:
Have some conviction. If you feel strongly about something, don't let the expectations of others change that. Stand up for it. Defend your thinking. Be a champion for something different. Be a rebel.
When we think of the most confident people we know, be it a politician, an entrepreneur, a mentor, thought leader, or a friend we admire, I'm willing to bet they never claim to be the best at what they do. If they did, it would be hard to respect them as much because it feels like they have to puff up their chest to make an impression. What's strange is that most business owners take this approach in branding their company. They plaster words like "best," "quality," "choice," "preferred," and a gaggle of other superlatives that hold no ground. Why?
I believe that asserting claims like this is done to veil the flaws of these organizations. They can claim to be the best all they want, but it doesn't take away from the fact that they cannot be everything to everyone. Or that new companies with new ideas come up everyday that can beat them in price, speed, and accuracy. Their claim of being the best loses its validity the minute they stop thinking of themselves. As for consumers, the claim loses its potency once they see 30 other competitors that claim the same thing on Google.
Claiming you are the best is a feeble means at persuading someone to do business with you. Is that really the extent of your personality? Do you lack so much confidence in your brand that you have to cover it in a lie? Nothing connotes a greater lack of maturity and competence than such action.
Confidence is not saying "we are the best." Confidence is saying "we know we can't do everything and we can't help everyone, but this is who we are. Whether you like it or not is cool with us."
So, are you going to be the best or be yourself?
I admire the confidence of startup founders. Everyday, they get up and get after it in the hopes of doing something to change the world. It's inspiring. However, it's sad that most of them fail to see the obviously awesome things about themselves and their companies that would make them unforgettable. Instead, they try to focus on what they think people want them to be. It's an inauthentic approach to building a brand and it usually results in being labeled something they are not proud of. In time, they become something they fail to recognize.
I call it, "pickle syndrome."
Since they spend their lives in a jar, pickles have no idea what they look like from the outside. They also don't recognize the unique qualities that make them special either. They float in the jar hoping someone will recognize them and see their worth.
It's in moments like this that is pays to have an external voice chime in and tell you all of the things that make you and your startup significant. To give you a new label based on the obvious truths you take for granted.
You are still a pickle and you're freaking awesome at it. Don't be afraid to tell everyone.