Don’t Be a Pretender

I’ve spent a long time learning how to grow my social media accounts. I’ve spent even longer shaping my personal brand. Over the last year, being a behind-the-scenes figure at Tree Frog has allowed me to learn from customers both large and small. Those who fundamentally get it as well as those who haven’t the first clue about how to craft their online image.

Regardless, I’ve seen even some of our most clueless customers get surprisingly good results. But this post isn’t an advertisement for our service; It’s advice designed to help anyone who wants to cultivate a brand on social media.

At its very essence, what I have to say is quite simple: don’t pretend.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use filters on your photos. I’m not saying that you should feel guilty about only posting your best shots. It’s totally fine for your Instagram to exclusively contain the highlights of your life. Anyone who criticizes models for not showing their impossible eating habits and grueling exercise routines doesn’t quite get it. In the realm of Instagram, you are your own actor, and it’s up to you to decide how much of your life you share and how you share it. So long as it’s real.

When I reached a relative level of success early in my life, I often found myself at exclusive nightclubs and lounges. I quickly realized that nearly all of the young people around me were phony. The twenty-two year olds who sat in VIP and flew to exotic locales on the weekends had jobs where they were making $55,000 a year. Yet they affixed “work hard play hard” captions to their Instagram photos. Many of the older men who would try to woo the girls just out of college lived in Brooklyn with two roommates and wore fake–embarrassingly fake–Rolexes. Even more wore Hermes ties and claimed to be investment bankers while in actuality they indistinguishable from secretaries. These illusions played out the same way on Instagram. Admittedly, this must work if people keep doing it.

Recently, I took a trip to Aspen and went to Cloud Nine. It’s a bistro on the top of the mountain that serves Veuve Clicquot champagne. This tiny alpine shack is the champagne company’s largest client in the United States, which is quite a significant achievement. After my friends and I popped bottles, we found it funny that different groups of people stopped by our table, picked up the empty bottles, and then posed for Instagram pictures with them. They had to make reservations thirty days in advance and pay $50 per meal just to take pictures with somebody else’s bottles. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Listen, I understand the need to fake it ‘til you make it. The problem is that if you base your self-esteem, even partially, on a social projection bolstered by unauthentic means, you’re setting yourself up for a hollow sense of satisfaction if not a total detachment from reality. One of the reasons I like what Tree Frog offers is that we don’t send fake followers to people’s accounts, even when they’re struggling and might be on the verge of cancelling our service. Instead, we give them practical advice and help to align their expectations for our service’s performance with the way they have cultivated their online persona. The only thing worse than realizing someone you admire is a phony is having to face the reality that your own measure of self worth is a number inflated by people who aren’t real.

Tree Frog Social — Don’t Be a Pretender

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