In this week’s episode of Anatomy of a Strategy, the always entertaining Ron Tite (founder of Church+State and author of Think. Do. Say.), calls out one of his pet peeves on social platforms:

Winston Churchill was an amazing politician when the world’s best leaders for 50 years and we ended up with three quotes that other people will now reference. But (today’s) thought leaders are like, “I’m just going to jump ahead. I’m not going to do the years of work that go into coming up with interesting insights or stuff that maybe somewhere I ended up with two lines that other people repeat. I’m just going to quote myself.” ..and I’m, like, what?!

Oh boy, do I hear you, Ron. At some point, we moved from sharing ideas and connecting with one another to creating “personal brands,” a trend that I’ve never felt good about.

This has become such a phenomenon that there are legions of people who call themselves Personal Brand Consultants and many of us with an audience have seen a sharp rise in pitches from publicists representing individuals:

As we discuss with Ron in the podcast, the people who are picking up their cameras and waxing poetically on the side of the road or photoshopping their own “wisdom” onto shareable images of themselves are just trying to emulate the success of people who came before them, such as Gary VaynerchukAmber MacChris Pirillo or Marques Brownlee. But as Ron astutely points out, they skip the part where you spend years, passionately sharing, learning, growing and helping others, and want to jump straight into the fame and fandom part.

I get it. We’re all looking for the same thing: dignity, love, and security. We look at Gary and Amber and crew and think, “Man…they have all sorts of people adoring them and listening to them and this helps them build their careers. I want that, too.” And, yes, each and every one of the people you follow – whom the PR folks call “influencers” – has that stuff, but many of them toiled away for years and years, without any inkling that the efforts would lead to their success.

Ron brings up a mutual friend, Mitch Joel (whom we’re sitting down with this week for the podcast! Excited!), pointing out that he has published over 700 episodes of his podcast, Six Pixels of Separation. That’s amazing! He started Six Pixels IN SEPTEMBER 2003!!! Most people didn’t even know what a podcast was and how to listen to one. Mitch started the podcast because he was excited about the conversations he was having and he liked the medium. It took YEARS – like 10 years – for podcasts to hit a stride and start to become broadly adopted. If Mitch was in it for the fame, he would have given up long before that point. But he wasn’t.

And this is the point of all of this. What motivates you to make those videos that you’re posting to LinkedIn? Or start that podcast in 2020 (an oft-heard resolution this decade!)? If it’s the fame, the adoration, the success (or veneer of it), the followers, or other vanity metrics, then it’s going to be obvious to everyone who comes across your content and it will do the opposite of what you want it to do.

In other words:

If you’re creating content to gain followers or fame, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons and everyone will smell it from miles away.

Creating quotables of yourself is a form of what is called virtue-signaling. It’s right up there with sharing photos of yourself in business class seats, posing with your sports car, or humble-bragging about your enormous donations to the cause du jour.

In Think. Do. Say. (a hella fun read + VERY quotable), Ron outlines the importance of the thinking and doing part. Yes, feel free to say, but the saying shouldn’t precede the thinking and doing, which, if done right, will be said by others.

Let others quote you. Share because you’re passionate about that thing that you’ve learned firsthand, not to signal how knowledgeable you are. Drop the brag off of the humblebrag. Find that thing that you can really offer the world (as Nilofer Merchant calls your Onlyness) and share it. And share it because you love sharing it, because it may take a LONG time to find an audience for it.

Think of it like this: instead of dancing like nobody’s watching, post like nobody’s reading.

The thing that you think is the most trivial may be what someone else is looking for. You won’t need a personal brand consultant or a publicist when you land on this.

We’re all just human beings trying to find dignity, love, and security. You won’t find it trying to fast track fame, copying someone else’s style, or signaling virtue. You’ll find it where you’ll find it, which is as much as I know about this stuff…but Ron Tite has some cool things to say about it, too.

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  • Tara Hunt

    CEO, Truly Inc. / Market Researcher + Strategist / Author / Creator

    Truly Inc.

    Tara Hunt, CEO of Truly, has over 20 years of experience in market research and strategy on both client and agency side. She wrote one of the first books on how the social web is changing business, was named one of 2013's Entrepreneurial Women to Watch by Entrepreneur Magazine and one of the Most Influential Women in Technology in Fast Company. She has built an engaged and enthusiastic business audience online of over 345,000 followers, including a significant number of thought leaders. Tara combines a data-centric with a human-centric approach to building an audience, leaning heavily on insights into consumer patterns and behaviors while keeping an eye on online trends and changing expectations.