Due to the nature of social media, remember that online advice may be more designed for engagement, not necessarily value.
The same advice might work great for one person or team and not for another.
Treat online advice as an idea pool, not an action plan; build your plan from ideas that work for you.
If trying on an idea that’s out of your comfort zone, that can be great (you want new approaches if you’re pursuing new ideas) but if after trying it on, it really can’t feel genuine, try something else.
Use what works. Don’t berate yourself if something you read online doesn’t work for you.
(read on for more)
The only thing I struggle with more than being asked for advice without context is reading “expert” online opinions suggesting what everybody in a certain field must do (now! of course) to be successful. Once the domain of personal social media accounts, this engagement trend has taken over professional platforms in a big way. This type of content uses particular structures and engagement-driving language to grab your attention and share the big secret to solving a specific challenge or reaching a desired goal. Some online content is just hogwash, to be frank. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t value out there.
I have resisted publishing recruitment advice or career content for precisely this reason. Online advice is… tricky… because what may be the key to success for one person or organization isn’t necessarily the best approach for another. It could actually work against your objectives. But the truth is, there are some great ideas out there and shifting market trends worth being aware of, as some of our recent workshops demonstrated this summer. So my first proper “blog post” I felt should be my own standing disclaimer on advice. Online advice in particular. From anywhere. Including me. An underlining context for anything posted forward-going.
Advice on Advice
My advice on online advice is not to ignore it. (I am a consultant, after all.) And if you’re working with a coach or consultant, advice is exactly what you’re seeking – but this is informed advice, after investing in understanding your background, context and objectives. Not blanket online opinions positioned as universal truths.
I recommend treating advice (especially online) as ideas, approaches, techniques you can deposit into your pool of inspiration to draw from at the right time and in the right context. Don’t take anything as gospel but as potential insight or as challenge to some underlying presumptions. Try on anything that you think might fit for you. Experiment. If it pushes you out of your comfort zone, that can be good. New approaches quite often will. But if you really can’t wear it and feel it’s genuine to you, it is unlikely it will drive the progress you’re seeking. Which is all that matters in the end. Even a good idea you can’t effectively use isn’t good advice – for you.
Is that Post Engagement or Value Driven?
All content has some engagement focus. Few people will spend their time creating content for an audience of none. But some content is so transparently focused on clicks and shares without actually providing useable insights. We are bombarded these days by content promoting claims and outlandish successes wrapped in a pretense of advice, some magical insight that will solve that one big challenge. The hallmark of engagement-over-value content. These enthusiastically shared “paths to success” are positioned as universal truths, which are best left to philosophy, spirituality and science. Not LinkedIn. Guiding principles are one thing, and there are excellent newsletters and podcasts online sharing insightful strategies and tactics for everything from marketing to HR to business development. But specific ideas drawn from those principles need to be applied individually, tailored for specific context. You’re unlikely to differentiate yourself with a one-size-fits-all approach. An obvious but often overlooked nature of general audience online content.
I often joke that you can ask three recruiters the same question and get six different answers. And this is true. Context is key. Whether it’s a client or candidate consultation, there are some generalized concepts and trends I frequently share. Despite my reservations, this is why I’m investing in developing some online content – to share ideas, trends and observations that might be useful in a general way to anyone who seeks assistance in these areas. But even great ideas need to be tailored to an employer brand or specific career aspirations. Nobody knows your company or your career as well as you. No two companies or careers are the same.
How to identify higher quality content? First, look for principles (not humble brags.) Seek out content that shares solid foundational concepts from which to build differentiated approaches. Be cautious of anything that is positioned as a magic bullet to anything. Qualifiers are positive indicators – is the author suggesting that an approach can help drive progress in a certain area but might not be applicable for some circumstances or objectives?
The very best ideas, in my experience, can sometimes be recognized when they ring with a sense of the familiar, a reminder. Concepts that you may have considered in passing but didn’t implement. Maybe the timing wasn’t right or you didn’t feel you had enough justification to try it. Or it’s something you were aware of but didn’t have the framework for until the reinforcement and articulation encourages you to take the step forward with it. Advice that reinforces something you felt at some level you had reason to be doing anyway is often one of those truly valuable ideas worth pursuing.
If you’re interested in an excellent example of practical, insightful online content, check out the marketing newsletters by our friends at Kelford Inc.
Read. Tailor. Use What Works.
Draw from everywhere. Read plenty of diverse views. Check sources. Skip over universal magic fixes or anything clearly clickbait that doesn’t provide practical insight you can use. Try things on. Use what works. Park the rest (you may recycle all or part of it later.) Keep adapting. But keep it genuine for you. Genuine works. And never goes out of fashion.
But don’t take it from me. This is just another piece of online advice.