It’s a hazard of my job that I spend a lot of time looking for specific examples of strange things on social media. It doesn’t take long to find them. Scrolling past image after image of an influencer holding this product and that, wearing this outfit and that one, can make one existentially weary.

(What do you want to be when you grow up? Not someone who teaches influencer marketing, I hazard a guess.)

For many business owners with a strong moral compass, an analytical brain, and acute sensitivity, social media marketing is a vexed activity.

It can provoke anxiety, bafflement, bemusement, and despair. All this technology, all these possibilities, but we’re still searching for the perfect dress to feel whole and worthy. It’s enough to run away to live in a cave in Turkey.

But there’s something that needs to be said, to help us sensitive folk to better navigate business and, particularly, social media marketing. There’s a lot about social media marketing that’s reminiscent of being back in high school, surreptitiously watching the cool kids to try to analyse why they’re cool. But there’s a simple thing that many do, which could be making life and marketing far harder than it needs to be.

And, it could be the exact same thing that’s stopping you from growing.

You are not the product

There are many online business ‘gurus’ selling their lifestyle as the product. They are on display, in all their photogenic, enviably-styled lushness.

The finer details of exactly what they’re selling are not.

Their work is oftentimes deliberately elusive. They’re selling their face, feelings, fashion, opinions, and beliefs. They’re the ones on sale.

And the winning marketing message? “I’m proof.” (No honey, you’re not proof. Proof is a repeatable system with predictable results. One person does not proof make.)

The misappropriation of authenticity

Authentic marketing has been in the spotlight for some years now (I wrote the Authentic Marketing Manifesto back around 2013). But authenticity has been co-opted, misinterpreted, and cynically rehashed as a cult of personality.

And the problem with putting people on pedestals – you make yourself vulnerable to being toppled. Or, worse, you start to believe your own hype.

No matter how small your online following, there will always going to be people who don’t like something that you do or resist a change you make. You’re never going to please all people. You’re never going to please all paying clients, let alone your social media fans and email subscribers.

When you share your vulnerability on the internet with the hope of being authentic, relatable, and likable, you can attract sycophants and fanatics who want to put you on a pedestal and perhaps reverse engineer what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

And while personal detail and personal stories are indeed important to creating rapport with strangers through screens, it’s not enough to build a business. It’s not enough to build sustainable business, and it will actively work against you as you grow and scale.

Sell your system, not yourself

Put your system in the spotlight. Communicate your system, process or framework that clients and customers implement for repeatable results. We are not the same and we are far from equal. Your process, methods, or techniques need to be effective for a range of people in a range of circumstances. They’re the outcome of years of work spent at your craft. They’re the process you’ve honed after years of working with different people.

My Hustle & Heart flagship program is a specific nine-step process that helps business owners to magnify the impact of their work by growing their professional reputation, building through leadership, and investing in their character.

It is a nine step system to achieve a specific outcome: to magnify the impact of one’s work.

Don’t buy because you like me

When your marketing focuses on communicating your system or framework, you’re creating sustainability. Because, as a wonderfully flawed human being, if I am selling myself, then I’m vulnerable. I’m going to be unreliable, unavailable or having an off day. At some point, I’m going to disappoint you. I’m going to disappoint myself.

When you put your work in the spotlight, you’re not branding yourself as the Lord and savior of sycophants who want your life. You’re selling a system, framework or process to achieve a specific outcome, for specific people with specific circumstances.

Scaling your system, not a cult of personality

As well as reducing the self-consciousness of marketing yourself online, reducing your vulnerability and risk, and deterring followers who want to be you, when you showcase your system, you’re making your business far more scalable.

Scaling isn’t possible with a lot of one-to-one work, and when you’re selling yourself, people don’t want to buy your system, they want you. When you’re scaling your system, whether or not you’re having an off day is far less important. It’s not about you, it’s about your work.