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How To Self-Promote Without Shamelessly Self-Promoting

By August 5, 2013June 29th, 2015Writing & Content Marketing
How To Self-Promote Without Shamelessly Self-Promoting

There’s a difference between self-promotion and shameless self-promotion. A big difference.

Shameless self-promotion involves constantly mentioning your business, your services, your qualifications and your accomplishments without any real regard for the people your business is supposed to be helping.

In a nutshell, you’re a living, breathing, unending sales pitch – for yourself.

It’s the kind of thing that would make your mother proud but annoys the crap out of everyone else.

Shameless Self-Promotion Is Usually Unwelcome, Unlikeable And Very Often Insensitive And Offensive.

I’m a member of a number of local Facebook business networking groups. At least two-thirds of all posts in those groups are shameless self-promotion. Some people just post pictures of their business cards and flyers.

These posts tend to come from the same people, over and over, which is unfortunate because they often overshadow valuable content from people who use social media the right way.

And they wonder why social media isn’t working for them.

While Most Shameless Self-Promotion Is Rather Brazen And Tends To Bludgeon Us Over The Head, It Can Also Be More Subtle.

When Charles Ramsey spoke to the media after helping to free Amanda Berry and two other women from 10 years of captivity, he mentioned that he was eating food from McDonald’s.

McDonald’s soon tweeted, “We salute the courage of Ohio kidnap victims & respect their privacy. Way to go Charles Ramsey- we’ll be in touch.”

McDonald’s couldn’t understand why so many people were outraged. Maybe it was because three women were raped and tortured for a decade, and McDonald’s was an inconsequential part of the story.

Trying to capitalize on a horrific, tragic story is the worst kind of shameless self-promotion.

But there are ways to self-promote without shamelessly self-promoting.

Don’t Promote Yourself. Promote What You Believe In.

Promote your ideas and solutions. You create real value and interest by bringing something new, or at least a fresh perspective, to the table. Back up your ideas and solutions with real-world examples or statistics whenever possible.

Make sure your passion for what you do and believe in shines through in your content. Passion is both inspiring and contagious.

Let people know what you stand for, at least as it relates to topics that are relevant to your audience. Not everyone will like or agree with your ideas or approach, and that’s okay. They’ll never be your clients.

Respect dissenters, but don’t be afraid to challenge them.

Prove that you really care about solving people’s problems and making their lives better. Focus on helping people, not yourself.

Step outside business-related topics every once in a while and promote worthy causes. Good people want to do business with other good people who share their values.

But please – don’t promote a good cause by saying, “XYZ Business wants you to know…”

What that really says is, “This is shameless self-promotion dressed up as a public service announcement, and I care more about plugging my business than helping this cause.”

Above all else, make sure everything you say is authentic. People can spot a phony a mile away, and nobody wants to do business with one. Actually, promoting something you really don’t believe in is worse than shameless self-promotion.

When people start to believe what you believe in and learn from your expertise, they’ll get behind your business. You won’t have to shamelessly self-promote because others will do it for you.

Remember, when you say something about yourself, it’s a claim. When someone else says the same thing, it’s a fact. And that’s a heck of a lot more powerful than shameless self-promotion.

By promoting what you believe in instead of making boastful claims or rattling off a laundry list of services, you paint a clear picture that shows what kind of business you run, what you represent, and the true value of what you do.

And that’s why people will choose to do business with you.

How do you self-promote without shamelessly self-promoting?

Join the discussion 19 Comments

  • I agree with what you said “Remember, when you say something about yourself, it’s a claim. When someone else says the same thing, it’s a fact.” That’s why testimonials are so powerful.

  • Great article! I have shared it with an innkeepers online forum. We tend to see the opposite for B&B’s, they are not sharing ENOUGH about what makes them so special and unique.

    If they offer an awesome homemade breakfast that guests rant and rave over – they need to share that! People won’t know, unless they are here, and that increases the likelihood they WILL be here.

    Some simple things we take for granted may be the difference in paying our bills. Example, those who have never sat on a big southern porch in a small southern town. They may be city dwellers and have no idea what it is like to have people pass by and wave and say hello…for no other reason than being friendly. -InnkeeperVA at The Claiborne House B&B of Virginia

    • @innkeeperva:disqus , that’s a well-crafted comment showing how to self-promote tastefully, and in a way that supports the original post’s intent!

      I grew up in Savannah, Georgia, and I know exactly what you mean about front porches vs. hotel rooms far removed from the local flavor. And yes, B&B’s need to share more posts showing that difference!

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Thanks! I think you make a great point – there are things we take for granted as business owners that our customers probably view as absolutely golden. It does go both ways – you have to focus on what your customers care about. Thanks for sharing the article. I hope they find it valuable!

  • Great post, Scott. I didn’t see that McDonald’s tweet to Charles Ramsey.While they may have meant to simply bless him in some way, their announcement via tweet doesn’t read like that because it was made publicly, which comes across as “look what we’re doing!” I don’t know if that was the intent, but that’s how it was received, sadly.

    Like you said, we need to let our customers and fans do the promotion for us. Far better for Mr. Ramsey to have been the one to say “McDonald’s contacted me privately and offered me a year’s worth of meals! I’m so grateful!”

    The Book of Proverbs speaks to self-promotion, too! “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2)

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Thanks, Michelle. Unfortunately, the true intent of McDonalds doesn’t matter. The public defined that intent for them, right or wrong, and McDonalds paid for it. In situations like that, you’re better off just keeping your mouth shut, right?

  • Sylviane Nuccio says:

    Hi Scott,

    Well this should be obvious to all businesses, right? I know the answer is no, but that really makes me shake my head.

    As an article marketer, that I used to be back in the days, I remember article directories being full of people writing articles that served only them. I always hated that, even it was fashionable, so to speak.

    But has you know back in 2010 those same article directories got hit by Google for tolerating such crap for so long.

    So, all of a sudden they said no more “advertisement type articles”. Too bad they didn’t realized that was bad before Google hit them on the head.

    When I see companies such as you are talking about, I still shake my head 🙂 Thanks for this great article.

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Hi Sylviane – I guess this should be obvious, but I think a lot of businesses still struggle with creating customer-focused content to promote their business. We all grew up watching, reading and listening to self-absorbed advertising content, which conditioned people to believe this was an effective approach. Like you said, Google rewarded this until recently. Most businesses now have to do a philosophical 180, which isn’t easy.

  • Great post! I’m afraid I have the opposite problem though. I tend to veer a little too far away from promoting my business at all. It’s kind of hard to find a happy medium, but you have def. given me some things to think about. Thanks for sharing!

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Thanks, George. I think that’s okay because promoting your business should be kept to a minimum anyway. Promote ideas and solutions, share personal stories and experiences, and let people connect the dots. If they hire you, they can take advantage of those ideas and solutions!

  • Kirsten Naughton says:

    Great article Scott. Super information for marketers looking to drum up business without turning off potential clients and customers.

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Thanks, Kirsten! That could be an alternate title to the post – how to drum up business without turning people off.

  • Aaron Wood says:

    So I shouldn’t shamelessly put a link to my graphic design work here, right? 😉

    Good article, btw. 😀

  • karthik nagendra says:

    I have a slightly different opinion here. This is more true for start ups & more so if your area of operation is very niche. in such a scenario many times it will be the “personal brand” that will win more business as people will believe you based on your personal credentials & success you have generated before embarking the journey of entrepreneurship. its only once that the organization matures when it become bigger than the personal brand & that’s when i think people should stop promoting self shamelessly!

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Hi Karthik – I get what you’re saying and I understand the urge to self-promote when first starting out. However, I have to disagree. You can weave your personal credentials and qualifications into your content in a way that’s relevant and meaningful to your audience as opposed to shamelessly self-promoting. I think we’re talking about a very subtle difference in technique and approach, but an important difference.