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The Slow Truth to Building an Authentic Brand Online

October 25, 2016

If I got 10 followers for every person who asked me for social media tips, I’d probably have at least a million followers across social. Okay, clearly a gross exaggeration but it’s not out of the ordinary to get one or two requests daily for help with social media.

“How did you get so many followers?”

“How do I grow quickly?”

“What are your top strategies for engagement?”

On the one hand, I want to be helpful, but on the other I know that I’m certainly no expert. Yes, I happen to have a nice social media following, but if we’re playing the comparison game, I have a fraction of what truly encompasses a large social influence. I consider mine small but mighty.


When people reach out for social media tips, the advice I give them is usually the opposite of what I’m actually applying to my own social channels. It probably seems odd that I would give opposing advice, but it has everything to do with goals and what you’re trying to achieve with them. Stay consistent, know your niche, comment, engage with everyone. I do none of these things. I’m certainly not consistent, my niche is anything that falls under the umbrella of health (which I’ve subsequently decided is everything) and while I try my best to engage with my tribe, I just can’t and don’t want to spend my days commenting on channels and pictures I don’t connect with.

For the first couple of years of my blog, I felt the pressure to grow, and to grow quickly. Watching the numbers rise was the most tangible reflection of my success. But as with anything, if your goals are not in line with your values, they won’t give you the kind of internal validation you’re actually seeking. I saw the numbers rise, but the joy I felt did not even remotely compare to a single email I would get from a reader telling me they made one of my recipes and loved it or was inspired by one of my posts.

It took me a long time to realize this, but the relationships I build through social media are far more important to me than any number of likes.

This is not to say that I see anything wrong with aiming to grow your follower base or likes. As with most things in life, I’m of the opinion that #youdoyou. But if I’ve learned anything along my journey it’s that building an authentic brand won’t happen from any type of growth hacking. The process is slow and arduous and requires you to be vulnerable and accept that quality will always outweigh quantity.

slow-growth-authentic-brand-2I’m not perfect, and I certainly have my moments when I fall into the comparison trap i.e. a few weeks ago when I desperately texted Cassie “we need to figure out how to grow my IG FAST!” To which she responded “why do you feel that way?” (you know you have good friends when they challenge you in your most absurd moments), but I’m coming around to the idea that even though I see slow growth, I see true growth. And the connections I’m building are real and long-lasting.

But here’s the part that’s most confusing. There are people who I follow who are equally as authentic, but their growth happens in what feels like the snap of a finger. I can’t explain this truth. All I know is that it won’t happen for the majority of us and you shouldn’t expect it to.

What you can expect is that if you’re real and true to you, people will listen. Maybe not a lot but if you can connect with those who matter, those whose lives you’re trying to influence, you’re doing your job well.

Ask yourself if you’ve gotten too caught up in the numbers. Ask yourself “why?” Why am I doing this? Who am I trying to connect with? And if you feel like your numbers are crawling, let this be a reminder that there is SO much more to life than the double tap of a finger.

Even if you don’t run an online business, I think it’s easy to get caught up in wondering why one picture got more likes than another or why no one commented. That, my friends, is a big ole waste of time. There is no method to the madness, and even if there is, it is based far more on getting your attention and less on building a connection.

I truly believe that our relationship with technology is equally as important as how we nourish or move our bodies. Just as you wouldn’t fill your real life with fake, inauthentic relationships, don’t overwhelm your online world with unrealistic pressure to perform or half-assed likes.

Don’t just like, love. Love what you share. And love who you share it with.


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  • Reply
    October 25, 2016 at 5:26 am

    I love how real this is! Davida, you straight up admit that you’re not following the “social media growth rules,” and it’s obviously working for you. I love the personality that shines through you Instagram posts, not to mention the delicious recipes and beautiful photos! I began following you after connecting at the Food Entrepreneur summit. It’s been inspiring to watch someone actually make a living in this oversaturated niche through authentic content 🙂

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      November 5, 2016 at 12:04 am

      Sarah! Thank you so much for your support. It means the world to me. Truly. So sorry for the delayed response! Was travelling and just got home. xoxox

  • Reply
    Brie @ Lean, Clean, & Brie
    October 25, 2016 at 6:05 am

    Love this post. Definitely needed it and it came at the perfect time <3

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      November 5, 2016 at 12:04 am

      Thank you so much, lovely! So sorry for the delayed thank yous, been travelling and just got home! Your support means everything xoxo

  • Reply
    October 25, 2016 at 8:24 am

    If I’m being honest… Every once in awhile (or OK quite frequently) I will come across someone’s IG account that has such terrible photos and a huge following and it really does boggle my mind sometime! And question what people are looking for when they connect with others on Instagram. But then I try to remember why I love Instagram – sharing photos of nature is fun – and that certainly helps.

    A few months ago I was actually part of a group on IG that would like each others pictures and comment on a daily basis. First, it was just hard to keep up with doing that and second, it really just felt inauthentic. While many of the people I followed already and would engage with, sometimes it was just forced making up comments. So thanks for sharing this honest post!

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      November 5, 2016 at 12:07 am

      Me too! I was added to one and think I lasted 2 days? It just felt so inauthentic and not at all how I wanted to use social media. And yes to the crazy overnight sensations. It’s either luck or bots. I’d rather do it my way 😉

  • Reply
    October 25, 2016 at 9:02 am

    I’m oh so guilty of the comparison trap. It can be hard with social media, I feel like I’ve been at this “forever” and there’s new bloggers and influencers popping up every day that double the following it took me 5 years to build in less than a year.

    I do my best to keep my eyes on my own paper and not give a crap about what’s happening to other people.

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      November 5, 2016 at 12:05 am

      I so get how tough it is. Just know that no matter where you are in the journey you will always feel like someone is doing it better. You can play the game or do it your way. I’d like to believe the latter comes out on top 😉

  • Reply
    October 25, 2016 at 10:12 am

    I feel this. I’m a strong believer that slow and steady wins the race. There are no shortcuts to the top!

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      November 5, 2016 at 12:06 am

      Amen lady! Sorry for the delay in responding! Been travelling like crazy and just got home. Thank you for always been so so supportive, lovely!

  • Reply
    Ashley @ Fit Mitten Kitchen
    October 25, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    As ALWAYS, on point. I can always count on you to bring me back to a normal space, and I mean that in the best way. You always help take a bit of the pressure off from this crazy blogging world. Everything moves so fast but I have to remind myself that it’s okay to slow down. <3

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      November 5, 2016 at 12:09 am

      Just so you know that when I originally read this it made my day. Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond! Literally just got home and finally have some computer time! Always appreciate your support, Ash! It truly does mean the world xoxo

  • Reply
    Emily @ My Healthyish Life
    October 25, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    This speaks volumes to me.

    I fall into the comparison trap so easily (it takes conscious effort to snap out of it) and it’s taken me a long time to look past the likes and comments and “calculated” social media movements. I’m perfectly imperfect, and so is my feed. As someone who is not a food blogger, it’s both weird and unnatural that I’ve grown my Instagram via food photos. I don’t want it to be that way, so I’ve been slowly shifting to sharing content I love. It makes Instagram more fun and my posts more authentic, which is of upmost importance.

    Totally went on a mini-vent session but this post hit home 🙂

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      November 5, 2016 at 12:17 am

      Do YOU, my dear! I’ve been on all sides of the coin, but being me, all of me on social has been the most rewarding. And never forget that no matter where you are on the spectrum you will always feel like the grass is greener. Always here to chat if you need some extra support! xoxo

  • Reply
    Ellen @ My Uncommon Everyday
    October 25, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    I needed to read this today, and will probably need to read it many more times in the future. Thanks, Davida ❤️

  • Reply
    Les @ The Balanced Berry
    October 25, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    The struggle is entirely too real with this topic. I have had what feels like the slowest growth (or lack thereof) of pretty much any blogger or person on social media. My way of navigating through that is resolving that I really don’t NEED a million (uhhh or even a few thousand?) insta-followers to feel validated. My dreams of being a full-time internet person may not be in the cards, but if I am putting goodness out in the world that a handful of people benefit from, it is better than keeping it all to myself. Thank you for sharing this post <3

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      November 5, 2016 at 12:24 am

      Girlfriend that is so not true! But it’s easy to get so into this world that we forget what we have achieved. I always laugh when a friend outside the blogging world refers to me as “famous” because anyone within the blogging world knows that my numbers do not even remotely merit that title, but from the outside I reach a lot of people and hopefully impact some of them. From this perspective I’m super proud even if it’s just 5 people. But easier said than done some days! Hang in there and always here to chat! Just shoot me a message 🙂

  • Reply
    Jo @ Living Mint Green
    October 25, 2016 at 6:43 pm

    Loved hearing your thoughts on this, Davida! Thanks for sharing your light & insight with us. Do you listen to the Big Magic podcast? Elizabeth G had a guest on recently who has a pretty big social following and she talked about how she’s often asked “how” to grow an online following.

    Aside from addressing the “why”, she explained how, no matter how many followers you have, it’s all about serving THEM and not just broadcasting yourself. Which, you do a wonderful job at! 🙂

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      November 5, 2016 at 12:26 am

      Thank you, lovely! I listened to season 1 but haven’t gotten around to season 2 yet. I’m definitely going to give it a listen. Also next time I’m out in Banff I’m coming on a hike with you in Canmore 🙂

  • Reply
    Lindsey Bomgren
    October 25, 2016 at 10:06 pm

    Loved this post! I love my small and mighty tribe too and just how dang amazing they are! But I really struggle with the engagement part, I want to respond to every single person who comments, but like you at the end of the day I just don’t want to spend all my time on social media…that’s where I struggle! xo-Linds

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      November 5, 2016 at 12:14 am

      Oh totally! If someone takes the time to comment in a real and genuine way I think it merits a real and genuine response, but not at the cost of being present in my own life! It’s a fine line though and I’m certainly not perfect at walking it…

  • Reply
    Jessica @ The Real Food Dietitians
    October 26, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    You nailed, Davida! As always, very real and eloquently put with just the right amount of tough love. Of the 3 IG accounts associated with our brand (ours, mine and hers – i.e. Stacie’s) mine is by far the smallest because I’ve not given it the love it deserves and the time to grown it slowly. Finding my authentic voice for The Real Food Dietitians was easy – so not sure why it’s been so hard for my personal account?! But that too, will come in time. Thanks for sharing this today! xo

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      November 5, 2016 at 12:11 am

      Yes it will! Don’t force it. And remember who you want to be talking to. That always helps!

  • Reply
    rachel @ athletic avocado
    October 26, 2016 at 9:54 pm

    Thank you so so so much for sharing this! This really applies to me right now as I’m really struggling with blogging and comparing myself to others. I feel like I’m not growing fast enough compared to others and it’s making me feel like I need to work 24/7 in order to catch up. Thank you for this beautiful reminder Davida <3

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      November 5, 2016 at 12:22 am

      Hang in there, lovely! Know that no matter where you are on the spectrum you will always feel like someone is doing it better. You’re better off focusing on you and your journey rather than comparing it to anyone else’s. It will be far more rewarding that way!

  • Reply
    josh houle
    October 27, 2016 at 7:36 am

    K I’m going to call you Mav’s. Man, I flipping adore your posts so of course it drew me here. I love your philosophy. So I had to post on something that didn’t have food or ball bites for me to comment about. You’re awesome, if you ever need any advice for web/media. Come meow at me, I’d love to offer my hand in assistance. One love.

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      November 5, 2016 at 12:21 am

      WOW. Thank you so much, Josh! Your support is so amazing and I’m lucky to have readers like you!

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    October 27, 2016 at 7:38 am

    I for one appreciate you posting the non-food/ real life photos, despite the fact those never seem to do as well as the food. At least not for me anyway, and I could give a donkey’s booty about the number of likes. If you follow me, you get all of me, not just some staged food photo opp. The same is true when I follow someone on IG ,it’s because I want to see them along with their recipes. I like getting to know the person behind the IG account, funky acne and all. Plus we’ll always have #spudlove.

  • Reply
    Lee | LifeNaturalee
    April 5, 2017 at 10:32 am

    Just came across your wonderful blog and I guess nothing happens without a reason really! I truly needed to read this and so I thank you for this honest post which resonated with me so much. Much love from Portugal from a new loving follower 🙂

  • Reply
    June 26, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    I do not have a private practice yet or any type of following yet. However, I hope to have one in the future, the near future. I plan on having a private practice, as a registered dietitian upon graduation in the fall of summer of 2018. With that time approaching soon, I recently started a blog, Facebook, and instagram just two days ago. While it is so much fun and I love sharing my ideas and insight, I also am overwhelmed a bit already. I love your advice. I don’t want to comment, like, or follow just anyone. That specific niche is very important to me. That is what makes you special and passionate about what you are doing. Quality over quantity all the way. Love it!

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