Authenticity and the Big O

A user from Hacker News recently asked about how to increase the conversion rate for his website for Organic Chemistry study guides.  There were a ton of great suggestions, and one user in particular mentioned that it’s important to claim expertise on the topic.

For smaller businesses, the best way to do this is by showcasing the people and passion behind the brand.  Authenticity stands out, so share who you are and what you believe in.

Here’s a screenshot of the website:

Here are my suggestions from a branding perspective:

1. What prompted you to create this O-chem guide?  Did you have trouble with the class until you developed your own set of organized notes?  Are you working in the field of chemistry now?  A lot of people have expertise, but demonstrate your passion too.  Include a page where you highlight some of your co-authors’ backgrounds and interests so that they aren’t faceless people.

2. Social media isn’t just about creating a Facebook or Twitter: it’s about what you want to say with these vehicles.  I lived with 3 biology majors in college, and each of them had strong opinions about the notoriously difficult course.  Similarly, your Facebook page should have a distinct point-of-view instead of just directing users to your website.  Invite students to share their rants/raves and find stories that will create a shared sense of suffering community so students can relate.

3. Describe the process of how you ruthlessly edited your guide down to 29 pages.  This demonstrates your thoughtful approach, which further builds your credibility.  What criteria was used in the peer review?  How did you prioritize content to keep or cut?  Customers are more likely to invest time/money in a relatively unknown business if they understand the strategy behind your process- it makes your product less arbitrary and therefore less risky.

For an example of an authentic personal brand voice, check out Penelope Cruz’s Brazen Careerist blog.  I wish I had discovered her blog sooner and am now making up for lost time.  Penelope discusses everything from networking to marriage counseling, all from a career perspective.  You’ll learn a ton while satisfying voyeuristic tendencies. 

Also take a look at Guy Kawasaki’s writing style, which reflects his no-BS attitude as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur with a lot of passion and not a lot of patience for crap.  His work is refreshing to read because there are only so many times you can see buzz words like “best-in-class” without puking.  Every page of my copy of Art of the Start is flagged, which completely negates the usefulness of the bookmarks.  I just realized that Guy has a blog and other books so I’ll be checking those out myself.

Authenticity is a topic that I’ll definitely revisit in later posts.  Until then, what do you think are examples of authentic brands or people?  Are there any brands that could use help in the authenticity department?

Follow me on Twitter: @winniekao