If you're a writer or content creator yourself, this is bound to happen to you too at some point.
I published an article some time ago and someone left a comment on it.
That's not the interesting part.
The "thing that's bound to happen to you" lies in the content of this particular type of comment.
Here's what it said:
"Great article. I like your style. I found this to be the most useful article. Please support and follow, thanks in advance."
And then he left a link to one of his own articles at the end of the comment for me to take a look at.
This, dear readers, is a prime example of what not to do when you're trying to grow your own following, audience, and brand.
Kick your selfish goals to the curb for one second
While I frown upon what this guy did, I totally get it.
As writers and content creators, we're all trying to make it. We're all trying to grow our audience and expand our reach.
It's not an easy journey by any means, and anyone who's been in this arena understands the hustle and the struggle.
There are a few reasons why this is a distasteful practice:
- It detracts from the original author's domain. You're telling the author and other viewers to leave the author's domain and come to the commenter's instead.
- It brings nothing to the table. Even if whatever you promote is relevant to the original material, the comment itself isn't contributing anything. Anyone who spends a second looking at it is just going to see someone self-promoting.
- It doesn't indicate a genuine interest in the author's work. Take a look at the comment I got. This guy could've posted that comment on literally any article. Nothing in it shows invested interest in anything I wrote about. Thus, why would I, the author, want to see what he wrote about?
While I can empathize with the desire to grow, sometimes, you have to kick your selfish goal of growth to the curb for one second when you interact with others online.
This isn't to say that promoting yourself has absolutely no place online. More on that below.
But for the reasons I listed above, don't go about it the way this guy did with his comment.
Make an effort when you leave a comment.
Bring a new topic to the table, or expand upon one that was written about.
Show that you've read and that you care about the author's work.
When you show people that you care about what they produce, there's a good chance that they will show an interest in your own work.
I've watched people grow their audiences online by putting effort and care into their interactions with others.
I myself have helped people grow when they've done the same for me and my work.
You just have to give a damn about something besides yourself.
This is how you promote yourself
Like I said earlier, promoting yourself online does have its place and isn't taboo in every scenario.
Here's how you get this done right.
#1. Format it as a call-to-action (CTA) or link within your own work.
I'd recommend putting one in every piece of content you produce.
But make sure the content and the value come first.
Once you deliver the value, then worry about the CTA.
- If you write an article, you can put the CTA at the end of the article.
- If you post on LinkedIn, you can leave the CTA as a comment of your own post.
- If you post on Instagram, you can leave the CTA in your bio and in your caption.
#2. Put your links within your written work.
See what I did with the last two bullet points above?
But these links are also relevant to what I just wrote. I didn't put a link to my LinkedIn page in a random sentence.
If you talk about an article you wrote the other day on a different topic, you can link that article in the same sentence in which you talk about the other article.
If you talk about what you've been writing about in your newsletter or on a different platform, you can provide links to those too.
However, you don't want to overdo it. Don't put a link in every other sentence just because what you're saying is relevant to something else you made or have.
Once again, you have to deliver the value first.
#3. Exchange promotion with other creators.
I haven't had a chance to do this yet, but I'd love to.
I've seen vastly successful writers pull this off as well as recommend it.
You can negotiate self-promo with another creator while you also promote them.
This often looks like mentions in newsletters, where Person A gives a shoutout to Person B in Person A's newsletter, while Person B gives a shoutout to Person A in Person B's newsletter.
Thus, each person is exposed to the others' audience.
If you have a newsletter like I do and you're interested in doing something like this with me, feel free to leave a comment on this article ;-).
These are just some ideas of how you can promote yourself online without coming off as a generic, spammy, self-absorbed bot.
We all want to grow and do well, and that's totally fair and understandable.
But there's an art to distinguishing networking from self-promo, and mastering that difference will make all the difference.