By Anastasia Warren, Guest Author

Social media, Instagram specifically (my personal favorite), is constantly flooded with images of “perfect” scenarios. Perfect office settings, perfect days off, perfect vacations – everything seems to be pretty perfect. As a brand, or even as an individual, appearing to be “perfect” can be fun, challenging, and visually appealing to your audience… while simultaneously leaving you feeling, well, less than authentic… and definitely less than perfect.

Authenticity is one of the main drivers of my communications strategies (and my life). Always has been, always will be. With the importance of visual aesthetics, excellent content, and overcoming your competition in the over-saturated world of social media, how do you stay true to you (while also getting that much needed ROI)?

1. Define your “why.”

Why are you using social media? What is the purpose behind your brand? Do you want to create a perfect grid, do you want to sell clothes, or do you want to spread a message? Think about why you do what you do, and think about how that translates to your posts and interactions.

2. Follow the trends… but only if it aligns with your brand.

Things trend on social media daily. It might be a new hashtag, video, eclectic food, dance move – you name it. By all means, stay up with the trends and participate, but ONLY when it applies to your brand, your values, and of course, your “why.” For example, if you’re an advocate of local shops, you might not promote the new Unicorn Frappuccino at Starbucks.

3. Experiment.

Here’s the thing. Social media is FUN! You get to cultivate and develop your brand while creating awesome visuals and a voice… and then you get to share it with the world. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different grid styles, color palettes, and voices as you find what fits best with your brand. If you look through my Instagram, you can visually see the phases I have gone through creatively as they all weave together to form one cohesive look. Below you can see how I went from a clearer, city-esque look to a more faded, outdoorsy feel.

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4. Don’t lose yourself and your motive (your “why”).

There are endless brands, bloggers, and accounts our there with amazingly curated content. There are a multitude of styles, niches, and interests they go after. It is easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing with their social media and forget how awesome your account is looking or what your aesthetic is. Don’t lose yourself amidst the information, and don’t ever, ever, lose sight of your “why.”

5. Take a break.

That’s right, I said it. Take a break from social media every once in awhile (maybe even a little every day). Remember who you are as a brand outside of the easy-to-fall-into comparison of others. Try apps like this to get your mind off of social media, and really, everything for a few minutes a day. Your creativity, brand, and social media presence will be better for it.

Overall, don’t become overwhelmed with remaining authentic, rather, think of it simply. By not overthinking it, you have the freedom to simply be on track with yourself or your brand with every post you make.

Happy social media-ing!

Anastasia Warren is the Director of Marketing at local HR firm The Applied Companies by day, and writer, blogger, and goal-seeker by night. Anastasia strives to tell stories and inspire audiences through her work and comes from a background of ad agency life and long nights in the J School at the University of Nevada. On her off time, you can find her goal-setting, listening to podcasts, designing her future home, or exploring Reno/Tahoe. Anastasia’s personal blog depicts her experience of “figuring out life” as a young professional coming into the “real” world, with the goal of relating and helping others that may have similar experiences. We love Anastasia because she is authentic and real, and keeps social media SOCIAL!