February 9, 2016

Self Promotion – Does It Have to Feel Smarmy?

self promotionA couple of days ago, I had an interesting conversation about self-promotion with Julia Hull, Director of Customer Support for Bundle Post (the greatest social media management and curation software on earth). As I made my morning rounds for clients on Facebook, I saw Julia had posted a question in her status asking friends what they thought about self-promotion. She wanted to know whether we viewed it as a good or a bad thing.

Most of the people who replied said that self-promotion is fine as long as it’s done right. At one point, Julia interjected, saying she asked because she has seen an abundance of posts vehemently against self-promotion of any kind. Since business owners and managers must participate in some level of self-promotion to survive, she found this odd.

Sharing relevant, meaningful content with fans and followers represents one of the core aspects of digital marketing. Whether you own a small startup or manage a large social media marketing campaign for a national brand, it’s highly likely that you have some form of self-promotion in your marketing mix. If you don’t, you’re gonna sink! Like the Titanic!

It’s All About Me!

I think what turns some people off about self-promotion is that so many go about it all wrong. These people tweet about themselves well over 50 percent of the time and rarely engage in any authentic way. They are the ones always posting sales, giveaways, and promotions on Facebook and Google Plus with almost no meaningful content about anything outside of their world. I’ve seen several who ONLY talk about themselves and what they offer. It’s almost embarrassing to watch. #justsayin

No one likes to hang out with a person who only talks about himself (or herself). It’s tedious and boring and not a little bit annoying.

So how do you go about doing self-promotion the right way? To attract others and not push them away?

Make It All About Others.

Make your everyday all about others and how they inspire you, their successes, their achievements. Decide what you want to be known for; develop mad skills — expert ability — in that area that make you stand out from the rest. If you’re good, others will brag on your prowess.

Do it quietly. Keep your resume and LinkedIn profile updated and make sure your professional story is clear and complete. If you landed a great deal recently, say it outright. Talk about your successes and collaborations. This represents an easy, yet passive, way to promote yourself. When someone approaches you about what you do, you’ll have a polished and crazy-interesting career story to share.

Help others. Post content on your blog and social media platforms that offer meaningful information for others. You might want to mentor a couple of people in your niche. I love doing this and it’s always enriched me as much or more than the person I’m mentoring. Mentoring has a different feel to it than coaching and it can pay off big time. But don’t do it for the possible pay off. Do it because it gives you joy and fulfillment to share your knowledge and experience for others. Just because.

Stay positive and enthusiastic. Don’t tweet or gab about your bad day or other personal let downs on social media. People have enough of their own troubles and don’t want to get further bogged down by your bitterness or drama. If you need to vent or “let the tears gush”, do it face-to-face with a good friend, family member, or other familiar in your life. Once you’ve had your cry or chest beating session, move past it. Deliberately look for beauty all around you in the little things. Got joy and enthusiasm? No? Then, I recommend subscribing to and reading the Zen Habits blog by Leo Babauta. He shares so many great tips and truths for leading a mindful, joyful life that’s rooted in the presence.

Acknowledge and talk about others. Talk about people you’ve collaborated with on projects and give concrete ways in which they helped and made the end result better than ever. Acknowledge your heroes in the industry and in your niche. Recommend people in related areas to clients. As a content creator and marketer, I regularly recommend my favorite Web developers, graphic designers, and SEO professionals to my clients. I don’t expect them to return the favor. I do it because these are the best I’ve worked with and I trust their professional experience. It just so happens that they almost always do recommend me when the opportunity comes along, but that’s not why I do it.

The more I promote other people, the wider my path to success grows. It’s an amazing thing to watch – how talking about others creates more opportunity for my own entrepreneurial journey. Let others inspire you. Then tell the world about it.

self promotionListen. Listen to what your target audience says about their needs and pain. If you have a product or service that offers a great solution, strike up a conversation with them. Don’t sell. Don’t tell. Show. Show that you’re an expert in the field by simply discussing their issues with them from a caring perspective and without saying that you’ve got the magic wand to cure it all (even though you do). People are attracted to those who listen to them and who understand them. I guarantee you those that you engage with in this way will check your profile, pop over to your website, and see that you’re an expert. They’ll also appreciate that you didn’t try to sell to them like some sort of opportunistic vulture.

Admit your mistakes. One of the most critical leadership skills out there is the willingness to admit to failure and mistakes. Others will see you as more human and will connect to you on a more personal level. Humility and authenticity win the day here.

Stick to the 80/20 rule. The content you share on social media should be 80 percent about others and 20 percent about you. That is, curate relevant, meaningful content from others in your horizontal or vertical industry and share that with your network. Sprinkle in your own content (i.e. posts from your website, news stories that mention you, client testimonials) in there sparingly. Full disclosure, I usually share 90 percent about others, 10 percent about myself on social media. But that’s just my personal preference. It works for me.

Get out there. Be everywhere. Every single day. Engage on your favorite social media platforms every day. Have conversations…not just about business, but about so-and-so’s dog or their child’s achievement in a sport or academics. Open up dialogue to whatever and allow these things to spill over into you and connect you on a deeper level to others.

Live, play, work, create, post, tweet, share, and talk in the moment. The rest will all fall into place.

What are your thoughts on self-promotion? Tell me about others in your industry who have inspired you. Share their greatness with us. 

Me image from tckpublishing [dot] com

About Samantha Gluck

Not only am I the chief editor of this multi-author online magazine, I'm a content creator and social media marketing strategist with a background in journalism, finance, & healthcare. I began my content marketing agency, All Media Freelance, LLC, in 2010 and lead a well-rounded, talented team of multi-channel content strategists and niche writers. I've developed and managed print and digital content projects for health care, fitness, financial services, mental health, non-profit, and automotive publishers, as well as for biotechnology brands.


  1. “What do you mean it’s not all about ME?”

    Thanks to the internet and social media, we can share our accomplishments, products and services and blog posts in less than 2.5 second.

    We also expect everyone to “like” and comment on how wonderful we are, even on our personal social networks. But not so fast. While there’s nothing wrong with sharing accomplishments, products and services, reciprocate and acknowledge others. Also, share valuable information that will help your community and others online.

    Great post Samantha!
    Amandah recently posted..How Small Business Owners Attract Publishers and Literary AgentsMy Profile

    • Hi Amandah,

      I know, right? I want it to be all about ME! *stomps foot*

      In all seriousness, you’re right. This lightening fast, technologically adept culture has made many of us less sensitive to others and the amazing things they do. It would seem that it would help make us less selfish, but it seems to have done the opposite in some cases. However, I tend to think the same people who are selfish and self-centered on social media and other technology, are just as bad when not using technology. In other words, the digital world is a tool that makes people more of what they already are. Make sense?

      You hit the nail on the head when you talk about sharing valuable information with the community. Thank you so much for your comment!

  2. I want it all about you too Samantha because I adore you. But you already know that. ;) The funny thing is that it’s incredibly shortsighted to see only our own achievements or “worthiness” because there’s so many amazing people and stories being shared online every minute of the day. It doesn’t take any effort at all to find real value to share outside of our own brand. With that said, it is important to share our business as well. Like you said – 80/20. Nice article and great advice.
    Brian Hawkins recently posted..Try Songza for Focus and ProductivityMy Profile

    • Awwww….thank you, Brian! You’re always so sweet to me. I agree with you about the shortsightedness. And I think it’s also a bit of laziness. Perhaps our super fast-moving culture has (ironically) made us lazier? And, of course, we’ve got to build relationships around our own brands as business owners. It’s just that we can do that without excessive chatter about ourselves. Thanks for stopping by, Brian. Always an honor to see you here. ~Samantha

  3. Thank you for the tips, Samantha. I can’t stand people who talk about themselves. I have a low tolerance for that. I guess that’s why I don’t really advertise myself anywhere–even in face to face conversations–when people ask what I do, I take a few seconds to decide whether to tell them I’m a writer or be more general, like freelancer. While I realize now that I did not commit the mistake of talking about myself all the time, I didn’t let anyone know I exist either. And that sucks for a freelance writer. Thanks to you I will start small by curating content on my blog and social media accounts and socialize more.
    I’m definitely coming back here to learn more awesome stuff.
    Irwin recently posted..Ninja Branding: Learn How to Build A Brand That Will Make You A More Profitable Freelance WriterMy Profile

    • Hi Irwin,

      Thank you for your honest and insightful comment about your own experience. If people ask of their own accord, I say you need to tell them what you do and why you do it well, for sure. The problem comes in when the writer/designer/seo-expert exaggerates their expertise, or takes up the whole conversation with talk about themselves. That said, if you’re especially good at some niche area of writing, speak it! One of my favorite singers has a song in which he says, “It ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up!” That statement rings true for me. Thank you again for stopping by and for your kind words. And if you have any specific questions or just want to get some outsider insight into how to handle certain aspects of your business, do email me or hit me up on G+. I’ll be glad to give you my two cents worth of knowledge. ;-)

  4. Goodness, I don’t know where to start. As per your norm, Samantha, you’ve written a content-rich, meaty article (which I HIGHLY value, and I know your audience does, too, especially after reading the meaningful comments thread!).

    As Brian says, “It doesn’t take any effort at all to find real value to share outside of our own brand.”

    And as you point out, you ” … tend to think the same people who are selfish and self-centered on social media and other technology, are just as bad when not using technology. In other words, the digital world is a tool that makes people more of what they already are. Make sense?” <- Yep, it does!

    My deeper dive into social media started around 2008 (6 years ago? wow), and social media has built momentum since then. I feel that it truly crescendoed in the past couple of years – to an overwhelming level. With that, the people, I feel, who are the most unselfish (as unselfish as they can be despite human nature's bent toward being a little bit 'me, me, me'), have stepped back and re-strategized ways to ensure their public face (and private, too) isn't being tainted by a totally me-focused ADD attempt at being 'everywhere but nowhere.'

    With so many platforms now (Facebook, Twitter, G+, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn + MORE), I think people get so overwhelmed, they (we) lose focus if we're not careful. And that focus is what I feel you refer to in your excellent blog post!

    So, while "business owners and managers MUST participate in some level of self-promotion to survive," there are ways to do that keep the spotlight mostly on others. I love the idea of making "your everyday all about others and how they inspire you, their successes, their achievements." Samantha, YOU are the mistress of showcasing others, while also exuding your own sparkle and strategic/creative writing talent.

    As well, and I think this is the heartbeat for ME when reading your article, "Decide what you want to be known for; develop made skills–expert ability–in that area that make you stand out from the rest. If you're good, others will brag on your prowess." (Side note: years ago, colleagues endearingly tried to sway me to focus more on coaching–and I DO intuitively weave coaching into my strategic resume/career writing–but I intentionally decided that 'strategic, creative writing' was my MAIN focus and what I wanted to be known for. I believe that has allowed me to be clearer with my audience as to my value proposition (as well, it allowed me to recently add a 'sub-brand' creative writing business separate from my main brand, CareerTrend (H/T to you, Samantha, for help me clarifying with the term, 'sub-brand').

    Finally, Samantha, back to you – I see your freelance writing, creative writing, business writing, healthcare journalism and copywriting, social media content management/promotion and prowess, every single day. I am awed by your intentional focus, as well as your ability to express yourself with such dazzle and uniqueness.

    Thanks for your continued commitment to being the best possible role model in the social media sphere!


    • Hi Jacqui,

      WOW! I’m impressed by your insightful and generous sharing of your own experience and thoughts on this topic. I agree wholeheartedly that the abundance of platforms that others tell us we must participate in can cause paralyzing overwhelm if we’re not careful. Just as individuals respond differently to the same nutritional program or fitness regime, not all social media platforms are ideal for every business. What works for a retail clothing store may not work so well for those of us in content marketing and writing oriented industries.

      Thank you for your kind words about my dedication to sharing and spotlighting others. I’m inspired and energized by so many people out there, it seems like there’s just not time to talk about all of them the way I’d like to. You’ve become such an inspirational light in my everyday as I check out your professional and personal posts on FB and elsewhere. Your enthusiasm and positive energy continues to feed and build my own and I can’t thank you enough for that.

      We’ve talked briefly about the coaching aspect of your CareerTrend business and I think you’re right to “weave coaching into [my] strategic resume-career writing”. Coaching should come with the core service and not a separate thing. After all, as the resume writer and career storyteller, you know the client and his/her needs far more intimately than any outside coach would. Love that you’ve created a sub-brand that includes your love of creative writing.

      Thank you again, Jacqui, for taking the time to share on this thread. It’s always an honor to have your insight and professional genius here and elsewhere.


  5. Great post! One of the things I always tell writers to do when they are making a proposal is to start with something that can help your potential client identify with you a little bit. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, just once sentence basically to show that you aren’t just giving them the same proposal you give to everyone else. I have found this technique to work better than many of the other writers who start off with, “I’ve been writing for this many years and I have this education…” Although that might be good information, starting with, “I see you are looking for writers for a fitness website, that is a topic that is a personal passion of mine…” It shows that you actually pay attention to what they need.
    Thank you for your great article!
    Michael Levanduski recently posted..Do You still have the Employee Mindset?My Profile


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