Social Media: The ultimate vanity press?


AND PLEASE, DO NOT COMMENT. I WILL DELETE IT (unless I *really* like what you say).

I recently made a quite innocent comment on a brand forum on LinkedIn.  Well, if not innocent then certainly with a well-meaning, wry smile.

I had performed a quick scan of about 100 posts and comments, and to somewhat to my surprise I roughly calculated that about 80%+ of the comments were either explicit criticisms of work being done / that had been done by others, bitchy comments basically, or thinly-veiled attempts at self-promotion, usually at the expense of someone else or their work.

The thread ended up getting more comments than any discussion on the forum.  I dropped out of the group after it became apparent the dialogue was only going one way (downhill, very defensively, and very fast) but I still got notifications about comments.  This thing ran for weeks. It was quite amusing to observe (from my Ivory Tower of Inscrutable Superiority, of course. It’s nice when you Know Everything and are smarter than everyone else).

I’ve blogged before about “vanity posting” – you know, we’ve all done it – where you make a comment on a social media platform not really so much to contribute to the conversation at hand, but one way or another with the intention of putting down some kind of a marker… “Look at me, look how clever I am, I can do this stuff too, I should be famous.” I hate to break it to you: most of the time it damages your brand, not enhances it.

A little self promotion is a good thing.  We all have a shingle to hang out, we all have a personal brand to develop.  But do a quick exercise: look at say 50 or 100 conversations on your favourite groups.  Do a little assessment.  Is the comment in question for the benefit of moving the conversation forward, is it making a useful challenge, clarification, addition or input? Or is it just a quick promo for the person posting? Or a quick jab at someone perceived to be a rival – for thought leadership, or for actual business.

Hey, I’m sure I am as guilty of this as anyone else. I co-created shameless self-promotion.

But still …

And this is probably going to sound like I am a mean and unpleasant person.  I don’t think I am.  I hope not. But anyway:

There are about a dozen people, give or take, who I know on LinkedIn and related groups who contribute to the dialogue. They have something meaningful to say, and when they say it I tend to sit up and take notice. These people change my mind a lot of the time. They are real drivers, real thought leaders, they make insightful and inspiring comments.  The Adam Hibberts, the Mary Boones, the Indy Neogys, the Tim Richs, David Armanos, the Dan Grays and some others.  (<- please don’t be offended if I didn’t name check you, it’s a Sunday and I’ve drinking lovely Mulled Wine).

And yet, for that dozen, there are 120-240 active “participants” who might as well be posting “blah blah blah, link HERE for my website” characters.  And you know what?  I hate to use the term, but I’m going to … almost invariably they are the bottom feeders. They aren’t usually the ones leading amazing work for amazing clients, or pushing the boundaries and developing new models for their small and as-yet-unknown SME client. Nope.  They are the wannabes, the also-rans, the would-be-has-beens. The ones who can poke holes in anything going, but haven’t contributed to the profession, the dialogue, in a material way.  They all-too-often have some high falutin’ office in a (note: Voluntary) professional association and sit on Important Committees with Other Very Important Committee People doing Important Thinking. Some of them speak at conferences a lot too, it seems.

I can’t for the life of me figure out where they find the time.

This, I think, will emerge as the real conundrum of social media.  There are ads we all want to skip – way north of 95% – to view content. There are the empowered voices that, you know what? I don’t want to listen to. Yet I just *know* they will be there with their little remark wherever and whenever I make a comment.

I’d like to say it doesn’t bother me. But it does. Not much, but …  like those little flies in restaurants when you are having a nice meal but they are there, hovering, enough to be noticed and become an irritant.

I suffer, as we all do, from information overload and information fatigue syndrome.  Everyone gets their fair chance, newbies are more than welcome, but the other users on the forum or discussion group are not there to provide you with the oxygen of attention.  Think thrice, edit twice, post once (or not at all).

The question: Are you posting for YOU, are are you posting for THEM?


3 thoughts on “Social Media: The ultimate vanity press?

  1. Anxiously reading, then relieved to discover I make the cut. As I wipe away the cold sweats (and with no intention of relativising your point) I’m reminded that information may be free, but meaning is contextual … social media assumes the former, and is therefore confounded by the latter.

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