A recent assignment brought me to one of the latest “museum” phenomenons in San Francisco: Candytopia.  Where giant candy pigs fart rainbow confetti from their behinds, guests jump into a pool of 250,000 marshmallows and oggle at the intricate gummy-bear artwork of Snoop Dogg.

It all made for irresistible and endless selfie and photo taking opportunities.  Beaming, jumpsuit-clad staff were always on hand to assist in capturing those  Insta-worthy moments. (It really is a brilliant concept.  Have the patrons of your business be the ones to market it online for you.  Talk about win-win.)

After my shoot and before a board meeting for the non-profit I volunteer for, I went back to the museum with a friend in tow.  Denise and I hadn’t seen each other for months and I was looking forward to catching up over some Laffy Taffy and the 16-thousand jelly bean statue of an Egyptian sphinx. But as we wound through the maze of SweeTarts, chocolate crispies and life-sized sugar shark, it became apparent something was on my friend’s mind.

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Eventually she confided in me. “Dion! I’m so stressed with work, my boyfriend’s parents dislike that I’m not Jewish and I sometimes think I should move back to Atlanta where it’s so much cheaper!” exclaimed Denise through a mouthful of cherry gummy rope.

It occurred to me as we passed by the giant replica Golden Gate Bridge see-saw installation: here we were in this manufactured cheery mini amusement park and here was my friend, hurting on the inside.  But when it came time for posing for pictures and selfies, she’d smile wider than a Cheshire Cat on hallucinogenic substances.

All anybody would see on social media would be the latter. An effervescent, energetic yoga teacher without a care in the world, lollipop in hand. But it wasn’t what she was really feeling…at all.

This reminded me of a social media strategy I spoke to about 100+ journalists about at an Asian American Journalists Association national convention a couple years back.

What do we want to convey to our audience? Authenticity.

Whenever I plan a post to any of my 26-thousand Facebook fans, or 13-thousand+ Instagram followers (you can follow me @dionlimTV and @newsladyeats, shameless plug) I think “how can I make this authentic and relatable”.

While there’s nothing wrong with an account full of driver seat selfies or full body OOTD pics, (it works for a lot of my colleagues and friends, so if you want to do it, go for it) but I’ve found an audience will generally respond more and engage more frequently if we present our true selves on these platforms. It just takes a bit more substance.  It doesn’t have to be all the time.  It doesn’t require TMI or giving up your privacy.

Okay. Posting a photo of myself after an ear operation with a giant head bandage and high as a kite in the hospital may be a little off the deep end for some.  But a little nugget of reality in say, a caption can be just as effective.  I think of the smiling snapshot in a live truck with a viewer after a particularly challenging day.  We had an equipment failure and my computer crashed. There was no restroom anywhere so I had to hold in my pee for three hours.  But without having to mention either of those things, I touched upon what my day was really like. (See caption below.)  It helped my audience remember I’m a real person. A real person who deals with the same real issues they deal with. By being who you are in real life and being able to translate it to the ‘gram or anywhere else online is a freeing and powerful thing.