Generosity of Ideas Is Its Own Reward…Almost

One of my most successful posts on LinkedIn was something I never even posted.

Guess I’d better explain…

We’ve been talking a lot lately about the mark of a true thought leader is a willingness to openly and freely share one’s best ideas—without the expectation of reciprocation or reward. 

That’s tough to do. Many are afraid of sharing their ideas publicly and at no charge for fear that they are “giving away free advice” or allowing access to “the secret sauce.”

But here’s the deal: If you’re not sharing your expertise with the world, no one will believe that you have it. 

You can make claims to that effect in your bio on your website. Or in your LinkedIn profile. But until you actually demonstrate recognizable expertise and acumen—in a show me, don’t tell me sort of way—those claims are mere bullet points on a resumé: indistinguishable from anyone else’s claims of professional prowess (and not always as believable as you make them sound).

But the individual that does more showing than telling is much more readily trusted as the true thought leader. And the returns that come from earning such a reputation make all the “free” sharing of “secrets” worth your time, effort and openness.

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The Good Content Samaritan 

The approach that we not only espouse, but take ourselves, is this idea of freely sharing expertise with the world. Again, without doing so, how would something like the following be possible?…

I became aware of a LinkedIn post already ripe on the vine when someone tagged me in a comment. The original poster—who I’d never met, nor who was I connected to on LinkedIn—shared an article of mine with his network in the form of a post. (No idea how he came upon it.)

Apparently, what I had written resonated with him, and he thought highly enough of it that he wanted to share the knowledge, tips and approach with his own network, in hopes that it might help others overcome a specific business development challenge. (His post linked to this piece: “How [Not] to Use LinkedIn as a Business Development Platform”.)

He didn’t do that because he wanted something from me. He didn’t even tag me, or even alert me to the fact that he had done so. He didn’t ask me to return the favor. Again, we’d never met. He was just being a Good (Content) Samaritan.

Moving further back in the timeline, the impetus for me writing the article wasn’t so that this person (or others like him) would post this on my behalf. Nor did I expect people like him to ask their networks to visit my website. Or to consider me an expert on anything. I simply had a perspective to share that I thought might help people avoid some of the common mistakes I see on LinkedIn from a business development perspective.

But we were both Good Content Samaritans. My willingness to share tips and best practices led to a serendipitous discovery by someone who saw value in my content. That person, in turn, became a Good Content Samaritan and shared value with his network. 

The Closed Loop of Circuitous Reward

Naturally, I offered a comment. I thanked this gentleman for sharing my work with his audience. And I suppose I returned a small gesture of appreciation in offering an algorithmically beneficial comment to his post. But then something fortuitous occurred…

My comment stirred up a whole new conversation unto itself. My reply, to my surprise, elicited 126 reactions and an additional 33 replies of its own! Those are pretty good numbers for an original post, let alone a comment buried somewhere deep in a thread. People started conversing with me like crazy…more people who I’d never met. This went on for three days.

My follower count grew like the Grinch’s heart that day.

Now there’s nothing I do that has the expressed intent to generate vanity metrics. Nor do I set about writing content with the idea that this will lead to a new business opportunity directly.

Instead, I try to answer this question: “What are the issues that people are grappling with, and how can I help?”

The rest is easy.

The good Samaritans come out of the woodwork, not necessarily to help me, but to pay it forward. At the heart of this an authentic generosity and willingness to share. Not only is the giving its own reward, it ultimately comes back to you in unexpected ways and rewards.

It all starts with content. And the tinder spreading its wildfire is a large and active network of people who not only want to catch fire with your content…but to spread it as well.




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Episode 66: Lessons Learned from a Viral LinkedIn Post

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From strategic planning to writing, podcasting, video marketing, and design, Tom and his team help lawyers and law firms turn expertise into thought leadership, and thought leadership into new business. Get in touch to learn how Harrington can convert your firm’s expertise into thought leadership content that gets published on the media and platforms your clients and prospects turn to for answers.

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