Self-Promotion and Social Media

Earlier today I was taking a look at my Facebook page (because sometimes I am that self-absorbed) and I realized that in the last few days, most of what I’ve put there are links. A YouTube video here, a song widget there…but for the most part, it was all stuff that I’ve written either here or elsewhere, and subsequently plastered to my Facebook page for friends, acquaintances, and the like to see.

For a few moments, it actually made me really uncomfortable.

See, I have a hard time with self-promotion, especially when it comes to social media. I understand why it’s necessary; its not like the work I do is going to spontaneously develop an audience without a little bit of effort. Writing and hitting publish is only the beginning. And when it comes to certain channels, I have no qualms about it. Back when I was running VLM* I felt no uneasiness over tweeting out every new post, ensuring I was appearing on Hype Machine and all those other networks. That was fine, in part because everyone else was doing it, and because I was able to claim ownership of that work in a unique way. It also helped that I’ve only met a small percentage of my Twitter followers in real life (which is not to say they are any less flesh and blood than I am, just that there’s no personal connection there).

But when it comes to my friends and family, it’s a different story. I know most of them go to Facebook and Tumblr and WhateverElse as a means of escape. They go there to release themselves from the everyday bullshit that jobs, responsibilities, and the rest of it entail. So when I show up with my digital megaphone hawking my wares in their general direction, it feels like a violation of sorts. I’ve broken into their safe space online in an effort to make a buck.

(This was a point I frequently tried to make in front of The Powers That Be at my old employer. Being marketing people, they had no hesitation putting advertising in front of as many eyes as possible, regardless of whether or not people wanted to see it. As someone who reached adulthood with Facebook and has watched it evolve, I was far more concerned about the intrusion having a negative impact. Take a guess who won that debate.)

I realize I’m probably thinking too hard about this. The vast majority of my Facebook friends probably never see it when I post a link, and many of the ones that do are plenty supportive and want me to keep sharing the work I do, because they enjoy seeing it. And I’m grateful for their support and willingness to share in this part of my life. But it still gives me pause, because I don’t want my only interactions with certain people to be “Hey! Listen! This is a thing I made! Lookit!” If nothing else, I don’t want people to see my name in their newsfeeds and roll their eyes or groan with dread.

Part of it also has to do with the unique nature of what I do. My programmer friends aren’t going to share every line of code they write because a) few people would understand it, and b) few people would care. But in writing, the goal is to write things that resonate and are easy to care about. So much like the act of hitting publish, it requires faith. Faith that what you have to say is worth any potential annoyance that promoting it would incur, and faith that your audience won’t feel put upon by having you share The Thing You Made.

I’m curious to know if other creative people experience a similar discomfort about sharing their work online, or if I’m just unusually sensitive on this one. And for the record, yes, I’m aware that when I hit publish, WordPress is going to push out an update to my Facebook, informing my friends of another thing I wrote, thus starting the cycle over again. The irony is not lost on me.


3 thoughts on “Self-Promotion and Social Media

  1. I do feel the same, And it’s funny but I seem to be a poor judge of what’s going to resonate with readers. Posts I’m sure will do well don’t and posts I’m unsure of usually exceed expectations. I also feel uneasy posting things on FB for the reason you mentioned (Hey, lookit. It’s a thing I made). The thing about FB, and I don’t know if they pull this with everyone, but the number of viewers that see my posts is significantly fewer than the number that follow my page. That makes it a little easier.

  2. Everyone feels that hesitation, TJ. We are taught not to puff up ourselves lest we be accused of egotism and hubris. And because we have this drilled into us when we are very young, when we hit adulthood, it can be *very* hard to put ourselves forward. But what you need to remember is that the key element is *how* something is presented. If you post an item and rant about how stellar the work is, people will assume you’re arrogant. If you post the same item, in a slightly more modest fashion, the readers will think less about your attitude and more about what it is you are saying. That’s a key difference. Be proud of what you produce, but maintain a sense of perspective as well.

  3. Marketing perspective: Facebook chokes your readership anyway, meaning even if your post is available for all your Facebook friends to read, only about 10% who actively engage with you actually will.

    Have you considered creating a a promotional page for yourself? That way people who want to follow your work can opt in, and the rest of your connections will only get your personal stuff. When you’re freelancing for a bunch of different editorial sites, it might also be a nice way to see your recent work in one place.

    Switching to Alisa perspective: The people who actively engage with you on Facebook care about what you’re doing anyway. I personally love following my writerly friends and all their various pursuits on social media – their posts are 100x more interesting than people who are on FB for purely social reasons.

    It’s even weirder talking about your own work in person, so “promoting” yourself on the Internet gives friends the option to pay attention or politely scroll past your update. Know that if you’re updating, I’m reading it, and enjoying it. Someone said that to me once and now every time I take the plunge and hit “publish” I usually think, “Well, she’ll like this. That’s one.”

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