Nature’s not the only one that abhors a vacuum; so does the Internet. That endless verizon is, like Rumpole’s wife, She Who Must Be Obeyed. (Look it up.)
To the rescue is all manner of digital detritus, but nothing gratifies the digisphere's craving for junk content quite so much as what's generated, shared and discussed amongst marketing's B2B crowd.
There are glimmers of wisdom out there to be sure, but so much of it is simply content for content’s sake, filling the void, feeding the beast with empty calories.
And when it comes to old school bait-and-switch tactics, few do it better than professional marketers who clog LinkedIn groups with answers to unasked questions. Through "white papers" they promise insight into everything from increasing ones business to making your video go viral. (Speaking of which: while there may be commonalities, as The New York Times recently discovered, reaching pandemic proportions has as much to do with serendipity as savvy; there is no guaranteed formula for success. And if you think there is, there are plenty out there ready, for a price, to generate a report that proves you right.)
Chalk it up as an occupational hazard: this is a group that is always selling. That's the business. In this case, they're selling free insight. (And if that doesn't scream caveat emptor, what does!) Articles by LinkedIn "influencers" often begin with numerical come-ons like “5 Things Every – pick it: Marketer/SEO Specialist/Advertiser/Brand – Must Do” or “6 Ways To Improve Your – pick it: Social Media Strategy/Brand Profile/BizDev Pipeline.” A more accurate headline might be "10 Minutes Of Your Life You’ll Never Get Back”.
These articles typically kick off with stirring pronouncements about how the Internet “has forever changed the way people interact,” that “social media has forever transformed the way we communicate” and that “consumers engage with brands through multiple channels” followed by pages of quantified banalities - complete with infographics - too obvious for serious consideration.
True story...this just happened: as I write this an email notification came floating across the top of my screen from one of LinkedIn’s groups for marketing professionals, carrying the subject line: “Is blogging working?’ (awesome timing, LinkedIn!) containing a list of downloadable "reports and white papers" – all of which come at the mere cost of your own personal information – that build nothing but the publisher’s databases.
Discussion threads are a whole other shade of pablum, initiated primarily by those hoping to bring attention to themselves, perhaps positioning themselves as a thought-leader, but who often reveal their own shallowness. These posts elicit an enormous amount of self-promotion and outright solipsism among their respondents. Discussions tend to run along the lines of simple, broad-based questions like “What do you think is the most common mistake marketers make on social media?” But these are harmless time-killers, so long as you don’t consider that an oxymoron.
Some of these items are unintentionally inspiring. For instance, one LinkedIn influencer posted a piece this week with this headline: “The Simplest Way to Avoid Wasting Time.” I wasted no time acting on his advice: I didn’t read it.
A recent discussion post asked “What is the meaning of Social Media to you in one or two words?” It generated 8,222 comments. As my wife says to my son when he forgets to pick up the toilet seat: “Seriously?”
To be clear: I rely on LinkedIn to stay in touch with colleagues and for new business generation. Yet in marketing as in life, I think we tend to overthink things on the one hand, talk too much about them on the other, and produce far too much paper about them overall. One LinkedIn marketing group generated 4,236 discussions through the first half of May suggesting that there are way too many in this profession with way too much time on their hands. If I were a client and found some of the comments left by my consultant and others on my payroll, I’d run for the hills…or at least to somebody else with my account.
These are not isolated incidences; they predominate. I invite you to check them out. Unless, of course, you have anything better to do.
My advice: avoid those who have all the answers. Especially if they can be reduced to a Top 5 list.
Finally, props to one Bruce Condit, a corporate communications executive, who asked the question that’s been top of my mind: “What do people do on LinkedIn that irritates you most?” Now that’s a discussion I’d want to have.
Oh, wait a sec… I just did.