is self promotion and selling a flawed approach ~ discussion

I'm a regular contributor on most of the more popular social media networks as are most people today...

and it is evident through conversations that we all use them in different ways; keeping in contact with family and relatives, friendship and social connection, like minds through groups, local community groups, business promotion, and of course any combination thereof. 

Looking at the business use, all the big players Facebook, Google, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, YouTube... are all engineered these days to encourage us to market ourselves through their advertising tools and self promote what we do.

It is a real conundrum for business owners... It's almost like, do I step over the line and start buying advertising (dancing with the devil)... and if I do? will I ever be able to stop? will it be a never ending escalation as we chase the next sale? ... versus... I am going to use the social media platforms as they are and rely on my established connections 'tribe' (followers / likers etc.) and post regularly about my business. On the basis that combined with other marketing strategies it will be enough

The speed and ease of advertising / marketing using either strategy above soon ensures that social media becomes established as the default method of saying 'buy my stuff' for many people. Once we get the hang of whichever platform it is, and work out how to use it effectively, off we go... posting away.  

There is a difference though between promotion that is targeted at an audience that is already interested (or highly likely to be), and promotion that is put it out there to a general audience in the hope that someone buys. The latter can often be seen as filling up streams (walls, timelines, groups, feeds) and does sow seeds of sparking a negative reaction i.e. considered as spam

The Internet and running your own business

When social media first came out it was viewed as the panacea for the small business; scaling back marketing costs whilst at the same time increasing our reach (people who see the posts)... There were dreams of creating global businesses all from a back room with little to no overheads.

Of course dreams such as this have been realised on numerous occasions, but as the Internet has permeated every aspect of our lives, it has opened the door for a huge increase in the number of micro businesses ... Now approaching 7 million in the UK alone, and all looking to tap into this seemingly rich vein of low cost marketing...

The problem

Is it a rich vein though? ... Or are we actually aimlessly posting in the hope that some of what we do hits the mark... And often if it doesn't... we find more and more groups and communities to post into. Based on the theory that doing more of what we're doing will improve our results?

There is little doubt that the Internet (and social media) is very noisy these days. Whether we like it or not even those that we would consider supporters are turning off notifications as the timelines fill with promotion after promotion.

The challenge is how do we use social media effectively rather than coming across as an indiscriminate 'fly poster'? ... It's not easy to solve this puzzle and there definitely isn't a one size solution fits all either.

How might the recipients be feeling right now?

  • Another post?
  • I already know how to find out about that, if 'I was' interested
  • Do they not realise how annoying this is becoming?
  • This is now showing a lack of respect and is invasive
  • I really don't need to hear about this so often
  • When will they see that this is likely to have the opposite effect
  • That's it I'm never going to buy from this person / company
  • Right I'm going to unsubscribe, block notifications, leave the group, unfriend...
we have probably felt the above... without exception... and many of us (including me) are conscious of creating these feelings in others. It's a hugely challenging area.

So what happens next?

The problem is often... Nothing... The time and effort expended has come to almost nothing. About 7% of effort expended this way reaches 'some of our audience' ... And of that, an equally minuscule percentage of that percentage actually do something with the information being communicated.

What can we do? What's the alternative?

We know that referrals are the most effective method of obtaining clients. It is the best way to get a steady growing stream of customers coming to you, but it does take a lot of effort, and it doesn't happen overnight... Ever heard the saying? "your overnight success was the result of 10 years hard work" ...

One of the biggest challenges we have as a small business is learning to curb our thinking that success should arrive more quickly. Our desire for our project to be successful as quickly as possible, often means we either drive people away, or, often, we begin to dilute what we do (lose focus) which steers us away from the core business and purpose. Both can destroy the very thing we created and love.

The most powerful way for people to learn about your product or service is from "unpaid referrals" where it is of no benefit to the referrer whether they recommend you or not... Quite simply they believe in you, your service (or products) and... think you are a nice person to boot.

How could we increase referrals in a sustainable way?

Most of us rely on a happy customer to tell others about our product or service. It's pretty much left up to the customer though whether they do or don't. Very hit and miss and no real thought given to it... We can ask for reviews, testimonials, even offer a financial incentive... But this can feel like a bribe, and does cancel out the voluntary "unpaid" nature of referrals.

What might enable more referrals?

  1. Being very clear about what you want to be referred for, this takes work. If two people were having a conversation, what would they be saying that would prompt you to say... that is exactly what I do!
  2. Ensuring that information that clearly describes your service is available on all the platforms where you want to be found... On and offline. So when people arrive they find what they expect
  3. Making it very simple for others to share your information with others
Doing a first class job of course is mandatory... But providing people with simple and effective ways to pass on information that they think could be relevant to others is really important.

Make friends

Many in business make a quick assessment of whether the person they are speaking with holds any promise of business, or is of direct value. In reality every single contact has value. Everyone has challenges, and everyone needs support with something or other. 

In most networking situations people follow what they see others do, coupled with our enthusiasm to find a new client, it's easy to see how we're quickly deflected to business, business, business.

It is rarely explained about 'discovering other people' and building deep solid relationships. This is a skill though (and one that rewards over and over, in many ways)... Our initial expectations of instant business from networking are often way higher than reality delivers, quickly leading to disappointment, and conclusions that this type of thing only works for the networking organisers.

The deeper our conversation and the more we get to know someone the more likely it is we can serve them... Either (if we are fortunate) directly or... By 'referring' to others. Our value multiplies 100 fold if we seek to serve (give), not sell. In truth we don't have that much in our own tool box anyway, but the more people we know... The larger the toolbox becomes... In the end we can just about serve everyone we meet in some way.

Guess what... When we give to other people... They end up becoming our friends... And of course when it comes to referrals most of us would only recommend someone we like anyway!

When we do what we say we will do... Give without expecting anything back... And genuinely serve others, this builds characteristics that are priceless... Integrity, humility, generosity... If you think of someone in your life with these character traits... You will probably smile with fond memories... the challenge is to be more like that person for others...

Friendship is on our doorstep and on every street corner

The only difference between a stranger and friend is just 'Hello', and the best place to start to grow our friends is where we can meet often and have conversations regularly; our local community. If everyone in your community, knew you, liked you and understood what you did... I'm sure that things would be different... consider the following things.. 

  • Growing friends in your local community, not quick but long term and highly sustainable and resilient
  • Get to know and use other local businesses. If we work together, we can achieve far more than we can on our own... share knowledge, experience, expertise and introduce our connections to others (Business Development Network)
  • Develop away from competition and scarcity towards abundance and collaboration. Seek ways to give back without expecting return


None of us really like selling. Selling often comes with 'bigging yourself up (ego), comparing ourselves against others (competition & scarcity) and a focus on doing things only when we get paid (money focus). For me, personally, it is heading in the wrong direction... 

If we're honest with ourselves and busy on social media we might think we're over selling ourselves but what comes back in our mind very often is...
  • Everyone else is doing it
  • It won't hurt, people expect me to promote what I do
  • I feel like I'm spamming but it is quick, easy and hopefully, I will be forgiven
  • I'm having to post more because less people are seeing posts now
  • I've got to do something to get business in

Social media is a great tool... And it can help us enormously but it's become a noisy crowded place of people flogging their things.

Final words...

So what is the answer? ... I don't know for you and your venture. Each situation is different. It does perhaps require consideration though and careful analysis of how we operate... This would include how to use each social media platform in a way that encourages people to not only connect (like), engage (talk to you), but, most importantly REFER (share things you post because they like you, believe in you, and want to support you)... not drive people away. 

When people share what you do, it can open connections with a whole new group of trusted networks of people. It's definitely worth putting the effort in.

10 years in and then some... Social media (and the Internet) continues to evolve. New products and services, various age groups identifying with different platforms and platform owners seeking to get us to pay for advertising to rise above the noise (and the others).

It seems like competition and money are the important drivers once again... even on the new 21st century social media phenomenon... But do we have to succumb to the same drivers?

If we build a business which is heavily reliant on other people's technology... They only have to change a few things (and because they offer them free they are at liberty to do as they please) and all that good work could be wiped out overnight...

Maybe resilient and long term sustainable businesses can be built using a combination of strategies including more traditional 'old school' approaches; conversation, relationships, community and contribution... even in today's fast moving world.


Popular posts from this blog

Unvaccinated journal

The passing of Queen Elizabeth II

The common cold finally defeated...