To many of us, the idea of self-promotion makes us nervous. The reason is simply because we don’t like talking about ourselves.
In 2008 I made my professional ‘speaking’ debut. At South By Southwest. On the main stage. In the same room where 24 hours earlier a certain Mark Zuckerberg made his SXSW debut during the infamous ‘why is everyone coughing?’ interview by Sarah Lacy.
Did I mention I am introvert? That I was terrified? That this was the first time since college that I had spoken in public?
Did I mention that I absolutely love public speaking?
What changed? I mean, you don’t find many introverts who are into public speaking, and even fewer that love it.
What changed for me is I learned to stop putting myself in the spotlight. This is why so many people hate public speaking, because they feel like everyone is looking at them. And of course they are! I got past the nervousness of public speaking by putting the spotlight not on myself, but instead on my IDEAS. There’s nothing more satisfying than having an amazing idea to share, and then seeing the lightbulb go off over someone’s head. They GET why your idea is so valuable! For me as a speaker, there’s no better feeling!
So if you are uncomfortable promoting yourself or the platforms that you own like your blog or newsletter or podcast; there’s a few things to think about.
1 – If you are worried about being ‘that guy’ when it comes to self-promotion, there’s roughly a 99.9% chance that you are NOT ‘that guy’. The reality is that the shameless self-promoters don’t see themselves as such, and don’t CARE if you do. So if you are asking if you might be ‘that guy’, it pretty much guarantees that you are NOT.
2 – If self-promotion makes you nervous, keep in mind that growing your platform means you will have a bigger platform to promote the IDEAS that you are passionate about. Remember, don’t focus on yourself, focus on the ideas.
3 – If self-promotion makes you nervous, keep in mind that growing your platform means you will have a bigger platform to promote the PEOPLE you are passionate about. I love leveraging this blog and my newsletter Backstage Pass to put the spotlight on smart friends and peers who I think deserve your attention. Or put another way, the brilliant Carrie Wilkerson once told me you make more money so you will have more money to support the people and ideas you believe in.
If it makes you nervous to self-promote, don’t think of it as self-promotion, think of it as promoting the ideas that you are passionate about. And as your platforms grow, you can use them to promote the people that you are passionate about.
In 2006, on my first blog, The Viral Garden, I started a weekly ranking of the ‘top’ marketing blogs. I called it ‘The Viral Garden’s Top 25 Marketing Blogs’, and updated the list weekly. I ranked the Top 25 marketing blogs each week according to some criteria, at first it was number of Technorati ranks, later it was Alexa score. As you might guess, the list became very popular, as the blogs on the list were quite happy to promote their inclusion, which brought more attention to the list.
But over time, something irritated me a bit. I loved that the Top 25 list gave more exposure to the blogs on it, but I felt there were a lot of blogs that were left off the list that deserved our attention. So I started something called ‘The Z-List’. I started with a list of a few blogs that I thought were awesome, that I wanted to draw attention to. I invited others to take the Z-List that I started with, and add a couple of their favorite blogs, and link to all. This would be a way for the list to grow, and for all these deserving blogs to get some additional links and attention. The Z-List became very popular, very quickly. So much so that a certain international thought leader approached me about moving The Z-List to his own platform.
The point in all this is, don’t fret over putting the spotlight on yourself. Put the spotlight on the ideas and the people that you want to lift up.