Are You Really “Thinking Outside The Box” – Or Just Breaking The Rules?

This post is inspired by a phenomenon I am witnessing more and more on social media in general, and lately more specifically on LinkedIn – The use of a personal profile to represent a business or a brand.

To the untrained eye and the naïve or not marketing/tech savvy potential client, a LinkedIn profile with 3000 followers/connections, or even more, looks impressive. If a client asks the profile owner why or how they did that they sometimes get the answer “to reach more people with out of the box thinking” – nice slogan, isn’t it? Catchy and selling, but what does it mean?

Let’s break it down:

To gain personal connections on LinkedIn all you need is to connect your email, run a search, join some groups and be active – even just a little. You will be able to build a rather substantial network of connections. Easy! You don’t have to be the most interesting person, you don’t even have to create your own content – you can simply like and share other people’s content. You don’t need a specific strategy for that (if all you care about are numbers).

However, to gain followers for a company or business page you need to work hard. You must have a good description, you must have good content, preferably original (at least some of it), you must have a strategy and often you also must also run campaigns to gain new followers and make sure that awesome content of yours gets to as many people as possible. That takes time and money.

Most of those fake profiles are empty of content because there really isn’t much to tell and no CV, skills, languages, accomplishments for a virtual entity which is not a real person. Yet they manage to collect “connections” and impress people with their big networks.

Most of those fake profiles are empty of content because there really isn’t much to tell and no CV, skills, languages, accomplishments for a virtual entity which is not a real person. Yet they manage to collect “connections” and impress people with their big networks.

Now, here’s the thing… on LinkedIn (just like on any of the other social networks) it is against the rules to use a personal profile to represent a business. A profile must always represent a real person. A company page represents a business.

Obviously, it is easier to break this rule and take a chance, because using a personal (fake) profile will cost you less time and money to build and you can impress gullible clients. But is this “out of the box thinking”? No… it’s not. It’s just a blatant breaking of rules, preying on people’s need for services and especially when doing it in any other language than English (Hebrew for example…. For some reason this type of activity is prevalent among Israeli service providers), you’re also counting on not being caught….

To be a real “out of the box” thinker you must first know the box – know the rules, respect them and then be strategic and creative enough in your thinking to play outside them without breaking them.

Also, consider what this says about the people behind these profiles (the founders of these businesses) – if they are so comfortable breaking rules online, are they also breaking them offline? What values do they hold (or lack)?

The next time you encounter such a profile take a hard look and think:

  • Is there real information? Personal information that can teach you something about the person or people behind the brand?
  • Is there a strategy behind the profile and its content?
  • Is there even any content at all? If so – what kind?

When I choose a service provider for myself or for my clients, I always research high and low to learn as much about the business and the people in it as I can. I don’t want to pay someone who will just let me drift wherever the wind takes us, I want someone who is a real expert, with knowledge and experience and who can help me build a good strategy for my business growth. And most of all I want a person that is honest, pleasant to work with, authentic and with integrity. After all – we do business with people. Always!

And if you are a service provider – please know that you look much better with a great personal profile and a good company page (even if your page has only 100 followers, but the content and strategy on it are good).


Elinor Cohen
Elinor Cohen
ELINOR is an Engagement Strategist (a combo of Community Management, Content Marketing, Online Marketing and Social PR), dedicated to helping brands grow, evolve and engage. Focused on the Human aspect of anything and everything around us and remembering that all business is done with and between people, She works with brands to help them evolve and transition from the narrow B2B or B2C approaches to the broader B2P. Elinor also trains Executives in Social Media and Personal branding and the future generation of Engagement Strategists. She is currently operating from the world’s innovation hub – Israel, the Start-up nation – working globally with clients from around the world.

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