You know you don’t want to be that guy in social media: constantly broadcasting your accomplishments, hawking your wares – being the salesman at a cocktail party. But there will come a time when you’ll need to self-promote. You have to get the word out about your new product. You need your followers to vote for you for a peer-elected award. These are core functions of marketing and PR.On the occasions where you need to be a salesman, how do you do it without becoming that guy?

Try a phone before a megaphone.

Reach out to individual followers first with a personal request for help. Ask your friends with powerful networks to promote your cause. If you’ve taken the time to build networks based on relationships, you’ll have followers willing to help your cause.

Be a teacher, not a salesman.

Serve your followers first, ask their help second. Ask yourself, “Why would someone want to read this post?” Don’t just throw your pitch at them and expect them to embrace it. Write an educational piece related to your self-promotional announcement, with actionable tips or relevant stats readers can use themselves. This provides genuine value that’s likely to be shared with your readers’ social circles.

The contributors to HubSpot’s blog do an excellent job of this. In a post promoting a new feature of Twitter Grader, blogger Dharmesh Shah presented some interesting stats about gender difference in the use of Twitter – interesting, relevant data that is hard not to share.

Make it easy for your network to spread the word.

Make it easy to share. (Flickr photo credit: krazydad / jbum)

Once you’ve created something you think is highly shareable, make it hassle-free for readers to do it! Lower effort equals higher content spread. Tools like AddThis create easily-integrated share buttons for your site that allow for effortless sharing on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Pay it forward.

You can’t ask your followers to support your cause if you wouldn’t support theirs. (Well, you can, but you’ll be met with uncomfortable silence and curt rejection.) Be responsive when followers reach out to you, and they’ll return the favor.

what's your ratioChris Brogan says he follows a 12:1 rule. “…I promote products, people, services, things that I think are cool. I don’t do it for money. That’s my friend, Ted’s company. I just like promoting good/interesting things. I promote my stuff, too. I do it at about a 12:1 ratio (12 them, 1 me).”

Effective social media strategy is built on relationships. On the occasions that you need to engage in a bit of self-promotion, treat your online followers like your offline friends and you’ll never have to worry about becoming that guy.

Speaking of which…

We hope you found this post useful and easy to apply to your own social media efforts. We have many more ideas to share, and we’d like to do so at SXSW Interactive. Please take a moment to vote for our panels!

6 Responses to “How to self-promote in social media without being “that guy” (or “that brand”)”

  1. It is all about serving others first, and build a network that based on quality not quantity. Thanks for sharing this great post.

  2. Cultivating real , relevant relationships with clients and participating in “marketing actions” that create value are core principals in brand development. Now those principals have been folded into social media strategy..

    Really, Social media just made it easier to make your “relationship marketing” more public and allows you to leverage your relationships more thoroughly

    Cheers!
    Jason McVearry

  3. Cultivating real , relevant relationships with clients and participating in “marketing actions” that create value are core principals in brand development. Now those principals have been folded into social media strategy..

    Really, Social media just made it easier to make your “relationship marketing” more public and allows you to leverage your relationships more thoroughly

    Cheers!
    Jason McVearry

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