Wednesday 11 May 2016

A Question of Authenticity

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago (here) that I am trying to grow my @ShiftingStories twitter account, not least with a view to publicising the book in the run up to the launch, in the hope of shifting a few more copies. That seems a reasonable and sensible thing to be doing.

However, something else happened that made me realise the need to manage the boundaries and ethics of promotion (and particularly self-promotion) with great attention. Someone I don't know sent me a request to connect on Linked-In. Normally, I ignore these or turn them down, or if I am feeling nervous about whether it's someone I have met and forgotten, send a note asking when we met.

But this time, because growing my social media presence is on my mind, I accepted. I then got a message back, quite friendly, but very much about promoting this chap's business. Not too bad, but not quite the spirit of the thing, I think. But then, and this is what grated, he endorsed me for five skills: executive coaching, leadership development and so on. Yet, to my knowledge, we have never met, still less worked together.

All of which made me feel that this was somewhat insincere - untruthful even. And worse, that by accepting his initial request, I was colluding with this dishonesty.

The irony, of course, is that following this blatant flattery, I am much less likely to do business with him than I would have been if he had left it at the straight promotional plug - which at least had the virtue of honesty. Apart from anything else, why should I believe those quoted on his page as endorsing him?...

And that gives me pause for thought about how best to promote my book. Overt promotion is I think absolutely appropriate. I have written and published it for a reason: I think I have something of use and interest to say, and I want people to read it. Growing the book's Twitter account very deliberately seems appropriate too: it is transparently an account for the book, and it is in the nature of Twitter to connect with people you don't know. But there is clearly a boundary, and I think you cross it once you start feigning interest in things or people you are not interested in, and that you are way over it once you start giving feedback on people you have never met (or books you have never read, come to that).

Of course, I may be doing the chap an injustice: I notice we have several connections in common, and it may be that they have all been singing my praises to him, so he feels he can endorse me with total honesty. I would like to believe that, I really would. But I have my doubts...

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