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Self-promotion, Internet style

I had dinner last night with Frank Reed, whose writing graces this page each Friday. Somehow the conversation got around to self-promotion, a dirty little hyphenated word that no one really wants to admit to, but that we all must do to be successful. Frank and I admitted to each other that neither of us is very good at self-promotion, being old enough to have been profoundly uncomfortable with our various pre-Internet forms of self-promotion. (Many of us even refer to those who are good at it as “shameless” self-promoters.) But in thinking about our conversation, I think that both Frank and I are actually good at Internet-style self-promotion, because it stems from helping other people.


I told Frank the story of how I became a Distinguished Engineer at IBM, a situation that required self-promotion if ever there was one. When I first became aware of such a position, I (perhaps grandiosely) thought that I was qualified for the position in every way, but I had one impediment. I needed to collect letters of reference from other Distinguished Engineers. There was just one problem: I didn’t know any.
I was advised to just start calling a few up and ask them to write a letter for me. This struck me as incredibly awkward, and not at all the kind of self-promotion I am good at. So, I chose another, more Internet-age appropriate method, sending helpful e-mails to Distinguished Engineers when I came across information they would be interested in. And to ensure that I had such information, I set up elaborate Google Alerts for each of my targets.
It worked like a charm. Soon, I had no shortage of Distinguished Engineers who knew who I was, thought I was on the ball, helpful, and were now willing to vouch for me. Last night I realized that this is exactly what we must do on the Internet.

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Image by Gary Hayes via Flickr

Self-promotion must take the form of helping others first to be effective on the Internet. Someone who approaches me listing off credentials and ending with a request for a relevant job opportunity might succeed, but someone who helps me out a few times is guaranteed to get my attention in a job hunt. Similarly, on the Internet, putting out helpful information is what stamps you as an expert.
And the good new is that it isn’t uncomfortable. I make sure this blog has a post in it each day, for example, and I think this information helps those who read it. When people contact me telling me they have been reading my blog and now, “Could you do some consulting?” or “I have a speaking event that you’d be perfect for,” that is the result of successful self-promotion, but a kind that has done nothing but help people all around.
Self-promotion has a bad connotation, but perhaps the Internet will turn it around. If you focus on helping others, what you do will rarely feel uncomfortable and it will probably work better than anything else. Helping is the new selling.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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