A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: The Risk in Disguising Self-Promotion (“Right Hooks”) as Content (“Jabs”)

This post is also available at my LinkedIn page.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ensuring that I am getting my overall profile and message out to as many friends, colleagues and industry cohorts that I can – as a curator for interesting news and developments in the industry, and as someone who puts considerable thought into current issues in discussions and posts. I am not only interested in oil and gas law, however – though it is outside my bailiwick, the concept of content creation and dissemination through social media is very interesting to me. I am a fan of Gary Vaynerchuk (website here), and have made it an effort to increase my profile and exposure through extensive networking, honing my craft, and doing my best to serve others. There is one thing that Gary preaches that I really ascribe to – giving more than you take and providing value in terms of creating content without expecting anything in return, but occasionally making explicit asks; as he refers to it, “jabbing” and “landing right hooks” (providing great content, and then making an ask through a call to action).

Something that I have noticed lately amongst my oil and gas brethren is providing smatterings of content that are in actuality nothing more than veiled self-promotional solicitations or advertisements to engage their services. In my opinion, this sullies the purpose of content creation through providing considered thought and contemplation; it smacks of inauthenticity. That is not to say that there isn’t a place for telling potential customers or clients that you can provide a service, but to disguise it as content is not the way to do it. Jabs and right hooks are two distinct moves: a boxer jabs, jabs, jabs…then occasionally goes in for a right hook. Consistent jabbing opens up the avenue for an occasional right hook. Any boxer who goes into the ring flailing wildly looking to land nothing but right hooks is going to look like a fool, and I think the analogy is apt – if your blog posts or your content is nothing but self-promotional, you’re not going to win.

I would encourage anyone interested to examine the entirety of my published blog posts. If one does this, you’ll see that not one of my posts is a right hook – I’m exclusively jabbing. I push my own content because I enjoy thoughtfully considering the issues and topics in my industry, and my long term goal is to become a thought leader in the oil and gas space. Surely, I could easily turn a blog post about developments in NPRI interpretation in Texas case law into a solicitation for providing title opinions, but that wouldn’t give my readers value – people who know who I am (or who view my LinkedIn profile page) can probably surmise that I could provide such a service. Even after regularly aggregating industry content and publishing my own for over a year, I don’t have the audacity to go in for a right hook yet – I have not yet earned that privilege. In fact, I am looking to expand even further in my content creation through the use of video and public speaking about many of the same topics that I write about. And when I say “content creation,” I mean putting my own unique spin on news and case law – content aggregation is also part of the strategy, the curating of (hopefully) interesting but not necessarily obvious articles and reports that those in our industry might find intriguing. I would be remiss without observing here that posting memes and order-of-operations math problems represents a lack of understanding of why most professionals use LinkedIn, do nothing to build and foster relationships among said professionals, and fall into neither category of meaningful content creation or aggregation. One would be wise to repudiate such methods in building an awareness around her professionally.

In the end, it’s about how you want to use social media – as a short term tool for a slight uptick in business, or a long term tool in creating value for your readers and potentially becoming a thought leader in your industry. LinkedIn itself can play a key role in that strategy in terms of spreading your content. For me, it’s a clear decision…I am playing the long game.

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