"12 time-tested strategies to double your business in the next month! A [thread emoji]"

"My company has sent 150,000+ emails for our clients! Want to know how we're crushing it? A [thread emoji]"

"How to build a million-dollar side hustle in 12 minutes! A [thread emoji]"

My wife recently showed me two of her friends on social media. Both call themselves financial advisors, and both run their own shops. While impressed that they each run their own business, she couldn't put a finger on why she feels she can trust one more than the other.

One, we'll call him Geoff, spent serious cash on professional pictures of himself and his coworkers. The pictures feature notable architectural landmarks of his city, and everyone is smiling in that "tilt your head just a little" professional way. He's won a bunch of awards to list on his website, and he always has a perfectly tied Full Windsor knot in the publicity photos. His posts are impeccably written and seem to be run through Grammarly or the final boss in Word spellcheck.

Ken, on the other hand, is usually in a t-shirt or maybe an untucked button-down. Most of his pictures are taken on his phone and are often selfies or candid shots featuring his family, friends, and coworkers. I'm not sure he has ever applied for any awards, and his writing is a little rough around the edges. His posts come off as from-the-heart and on-the-go.

In the past, especially pre-internet, it's likely that Geoff's polish and air of prestige would have made him more appealing than Ken for many prospective clients. Grammatical mistakes in a printed marketing piece or showing up to an in-person meeting wearing a t-shirt would have been... career-limiting.

But in the internet age? Ken is more appealing based on one key trait: authenticity.

Geoff likely has good intentions, but because everything about his business is behind the polish, you rarely see the real person. Do a little digging, and despite calling himself an advisor, he's a broker with links to life insurance sales. He is not required to work in his clients' best interest and can sell products that benefit him, even if there are more suitable products for the client.

Ken's shop is a registered investment advisor (RIA), which means his firm has a fiduciary duty to its clients. Those are $10 words that mean the law requires him to work in his clients' best interest. Ken charges a flat fee to clients, so he gets no commission for selling products. What you see is what you get.

This isn't to say Geoff doesn't offer his clients good service and quality products. I have no idea. There is nothing wrong with professional pictures or Full Windsor knots or selling insurance. It also isn't to say Ken is a perfectly altruistic advisor.

It is simply to say it feels easier to trust and believe Ken because of his authenticity. He doesn't hide who he is or what his goals are.

It's the same feeling I get when I see social media algorithm hackers posting (and re-posting) threads with clickbait-y titles. It's not to say they don't have quality content or sound advice. It just feels like there's a sheen of polish and a lack of authenticity compared to those that share good information, show their personalities, and express their true goals in their interactions.

There seems to be a magic formula to online authenticity, regardless of profession:

  • Share knowledge
  • Make friends
  • Ask questions
  • Help when possible

...all without expecting anything in return.

Oh, and one more thing:

I learned how to be more authentic online in one week. YOU CAN, TOO! A [thread emoji]: