Plasterwood profiles

A couple of weeks ago, in a whatsapp group of ex-colleagues-turned-friends, we were laughing at a post on LinkedIn by a person who had worked with us and who never stood out as, shall we say, an example of what we would look for in a people & culture professional. She had been given an HR “award” and everything in that post was pure posing: from the text (which seemed to have been written by the communications department) to the photo, including the award itself (what an obsession to call “awards” to what is actually paid advertising). That inauthentic post suddenly reminded me of those renovation programmes where the walls of the houses are made of a material that can be easily knocked down with a hammer and I thought: what’s the point of having a  plasterwood-like profile on LinkedIn?

It is clear that in the networks we all come to offer our best version, by all means. In fact, I greatly appreciate when people curate their LinkedIn profiles with love, where you can see that the person has taken the trouble to put up a representative photo, has written a good summary, and where you can see the daily monitoring carried out in the first person (in the texts they write, in the comments they make, in what they share, in the likes they give, …). But it is one thing to apply yourself to have a good profile (and there are impeccable professionals who teach you how to do this) and quite another to “delegate” your profile, which is a typical trait of the plasterwood-like profiles. Let me explain with a metaphor.

LinkedIn is, now more than ever, like the town central square. It is open to everyone and we can all walk around it, greet other people who are also walking around, decide whether to stop for a chat or a coffee and establish relationships beyond greeting each other. There are well-defined codes of conduct that are generally respected. It is normal that to go out there you decide to dress up and offer your best look, but always being yourself. What makes no sense at all is to make someone else go out for you and even less sense to make that person go out wearing a mask pretending to be you. And that is what plasterwood profiles do: they make someone else walk in their place. And while we may not call that cheating, we can define that behaviour as fake. The profile does not show the real person, but becomes a kind of bot. And, in all honesty, what is the point of following a bot? Are we aware that when we follow these profiles what we are really doing is following the person who generates their content and manages the account?

It is easy to identify a plasterwood profile: magazine-style photo, post written in an impersonal corporate tone (the texts are usually copywriting from the communications area or similar), easy hashtags, zero generation of valuable content, lots of clichés and/or hackneyed phrases. They tend to be more an exercise in misunderstood personal branding than a contribution to the network, as they rarely interact generously by giving likes or commenting and limit themselves to making one-way publications. I wonder what these profiles really contribute to the network. What’s more, if they behave like this online, I wonder what they really bring to their companies.

Let’s face it: it’s perfectly legitimate that you don’t want to go for a walk in the town central square. No one is forcing you to do so. You can look at the square from your balcony to see what’s going on without going out, and that’s fine. But seriously, don’t make someone else go for a walk pretending to be you. Maybe it’s not illegal, but it’s not authentic either, and by now we should be considering the inauthentic as ridiculous. And moreover if we take into account that the plasterwood walls, as in the renovation programmes, fall at the first knock of the hammer.

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