Self-promotion is tricky. Whether online or in-person, you want to promote your business or cause, but don’t want to appear annoying or boastful. When does healthy self-promotion cross the line? How can you avoid common pitfalls that make you seem big-headed or bothersome?
From a personal branding standpoint, the first thing to remember is that your personal brand is like your reputation. You are not a bag of potato chips, so don’t market yourself like a commodity. Be honest when you describe your accomplishments, and don’t exaggerate the details. Often it’s best to let your work or product speak for itself: your first priority should be to deliver quality content, not to promote your personal brand. Communicate how you can help others; people want to know what’s in it for them. Make it about other people, not just you. Give credit to people who have helped you. Using testimonials (written responses by others that praise you) are much more effective than tooting your own horn. Make sure your self-promotion is relevant or helpful to the topic at hand. Respect your target audience. Your goal should be to make connections, not “win” supporters.
One of the worst things is to over-do it. Be careful not to be too aggressive about self-promotion; it’s a major turn-off. Relentless self-promotion can imply insecurity and self-doubt. Don’t post links for your websites on forums or sites too often or when it’s irrelevant. Be cautious about how often you “name drop” illustrious colleagues, programs, or companies you’ve worked with, since this can be seen as bragging. Don’t be the guy who spams in-boxes with tons of self-promoting emails, especially if those emails are impersonal and of the “one size fits all” variety. Don’t offer advice when you have limited or no expertise on a subject. Failure to sensitively self-promote can leave people feeling irritated and manipulated. If it sounds like a sales pitch, people are smart enough to know what you’re doing. Don’t post anything that will come back to haunt you.
There is a fine line between appropriate self-promotion and just being obnoxious. Gimmicks will fool some people, but not all. You want people to respect you enough to return to your website or services in the future. Be sensitive about how often you promote yourself, and how you go about it.
John Bradley Jackson
The BirdDog Group
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