I’ve been struggling with this topic for the past couple months. The whole concept of self promotion feels like a dirty business.
Times are changing. First desktop publishing came along. No longer did you necessarily need to hire an agency to produce your print designs. Next came a flurry of products and solutions promising easy website publishing. While few deliver on that promise, it is possible to publish a website without going through a designer or developer.
And today we have social media. No longer do you need an ad agency to promote your work. You can reach thousands (and thousands) of potential customers yourself. Social media is nothing new. A few years back it was called “word of mouth.” With ad systems and business tools in place it’s a bit more complex than that, but the power behind today’s social media is still in it’s word of mouth style dissemination of information.
For businesses, entrepreneurs, and artists who thrive on word of mouth—that includes pretty much everybody—social media isn’t to be taken lightly. Many decide it’s not worth it and that’s fine, as long as they took to the time to evaluate it’s potential and didn’t simply write it off as annoying or as a fad.
But lately I’ve noticed something about the artists and musicians who I truly admire: their posts are starting to annoy me. Oh, the posts themselves are fine, and it’s not really about the quantity of posts. It’s the level of self promotion. From what I’ve read, they’re doing it “right.” They’re posting about their current and upcoming pieces and projects. And when somebody references their work, they retweet or repost. But as someone who already admires them, it’s starting to feel like too much.
I’m surely not the only one who has this issue, and as social media ages the accepted and recommended way of doing things will change. That’s natural and I’m not here to guess where it’s headed. But for this and other reasons, I’ve been examining my own social media efforts and online life, and have seriously considered leaving Facebook (and to a lesser degree, Twitter). Here I am thinking these poor thoughts about these artists I truly admire. Are those same thoughts being thought of me? What happens when I share my latest works, post links to my latest site designs, or tweet a thought on design? Am I simply getting eye rolls? Because let’s be honest—what I’m saying is, “Look at me!”
Advertising has a bad connotation. I haven’t watched Mad Men but I imagine the world of advertising has proven a ripe place for some seedy stories. However here’s the question: is placing an ad in the yellow pages any less shady than posting about your business on Facebook? In the past, companies were often a step or two removed from the process. They hired someone to promote them and that someone created ads and got them placed in magazines, on billboards, etc. Today there are fewer degrees of separation.
To use an analogy, I’m always bewildered by people who eat meat but are anti-hunting. You’re paying someone to do the dirty work for you. Morally, it seems worse than stepping up and doing the killing yourself. With that in mind, looking at today’s artists and small businesses who are promoting themselves somewhat directly, I want to appreciate their efforts. And personally, I’ve come to the conclusion that leaving Facebook would be a bad idea. There has been a shift in the way we communicate, and dismissing new, effective methods because I must “get my hands dirty” with self-promotion would be a mistake.
There’s a definite strategy behind it, and as referenced earlier, it can be done well and it can be done poorly. Even when done well, you may be looked down upon by the person who works for a larger company and doesn’t have to worry about self-promotion. But that same person is being paid because someone in his company promoted the service that he offers. He’s not above the system. So with the understanding that anything can be abused, let’s get past this whole “advertising is evil” concept.
While considering social media a necessary evil is a possibility, I feel it’s better to understand that pride is the big potential problem that’s in play here. It’s a matter of the heart and that makes the importance (and difficulty) of this topic skyrocket. At a base level, promoting your business is far from wrong. Doing it to boost your ego and your personal standing is wrong and is self-worship. Doing it to run a responsible business and provide for the needs of your family is smart and wise.