- Elon Musk, Investor & Entrepreneur
The line between self-promotion and bragging is a delicate one that ought to be tread lightly and with great care. It is important to know when one becomes the other – or rather, which situation or platform is appropriate for self-promotion, and which make it come across as shameless and unattractive boasting.
Let’s take a look at a couple of scenarios with a guy we’ll call Chad.
BOASTING BRAGGART VS CONFIDENT PROFESSIONAL
Chad walks into a bar and orders a beer. The bartender is an attractive woman and Chad wants to get her attention, so he engages her in conversation. He noticed that she made eye contact and smiled when she handed him his beer, and he takes this as a good sign that he can make a move.
He begins talking about himself, thinking that by outlining his successes and what makes him a great guy, he will increase his attractiveness to the bartender. He talks about his recent promotion and how his supervisor and colleagues have recognized his greatness, his IQ level, the rarity of his Myers-Briggs personality type, and how much he’s volunteered for the local pet shelter recently.
Unfortunately for Chad, all this bragging has had the opposite effect on the bartender. While she thought he was cute when she handed him the beer he ordered, the more he talks about himself, the less interested she is.
Earlier that day, Chad had made a post on LinkedIn where he went into detail about his recent promotion and how he got it. He had increased sales figures by 20% that quarter, and held a client retention rate of over 70%.
Furthermore, he credited his supervisor for always supporting him and encouraging him to improve his work, and even gave a shout-out to his nearest colleague for passing some work over to him.
The day before, Chad had shared a post about his volunteer hours at the pet shelter, going into detail the number of animals who had been adopted, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, etc. He talks about his personal interactions with the animals and how well he works with the other volunteers and employees.
His LinkedIn posts garnered dozens of likes and a handful of comments within mere hours, with people congratulating him on his successes and bolstering his accomplishments. On the business-oriented social media platform, he receives widespread support from impressed professionals.
THE KEY DIFFERENCES
In social situations such as the bar, it is better to engage in a conversation that focuses on the other person. By showing interest in the bartender by asking questions about her life, Chad would have increased his attractiveness to her and she likely would have been more interested in his hobbies, occupation, lifestyle, etc.
Meanwhile, self-promotion in business settings is generally seen in a much more favorable light. Supervisors, managers, and bosses at every level are looking for the next employee to promote.
Does this mean you should never promote yourself in social situations, or that self-promotion is always appropriate in professional scenarios? No. The following tips will help you understand how to promote yourself in a way that will work well for each platform – social and business.
SUBTLETY AND HUMILITY ARE KEY
Whether you’re scrolling Facebook or LinkedIn, chances are, you don’t actually want to see a post where someone is bragging about their business or trying really hard to sell. You’ve seen your friends and family try to start up a freelance business, or buy into an MLM, and suddenly your news feed is full of promotional posts you didn’t ask for.
They brag about the success they’ve had, how great they are at what they do and/or how the company they’ve bought into has helped them turn their lives around into some kind of utopolis. The stories are always the same; they’re formulaic.
They think they look better the more they can talk themselves up. What we really want to see is how a person’s product or service can really help us.
The few who find success as entrepreneurs or freelancers, or in an MLM, are those who focus their promotional messages on solving others’ problems: How can you get the best makeup look, achieve the best fitness results, or improve your health/wellness with essential oils?
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Facebook and LinkedIn are very different platforms, just like a scenario in a bar differs widely from an encounter in the office.
If you’re chatting with your friends about summer activities, and you mention you have a pool and barbecue, that’s self-promotion that is relevant to the conversation and of interest to your friends, who are looking for fun ways to beat the heat and spend time outdoors.
If your boss calls you in for a performance review, that is the time to mention how you have helped the company by improving numbers, especially if you have helped other employees improve their own statistics.
The more you can make it about the person or people you are engaging with, the better you will be received and the less your self-promotion will seem like boasting.
Don’t go out of your way to promote yourself, but remain open to opportunities to do so where it is welcomed.
Let’s say Chad’s bartender was having trouble with her Internet connection and Chad happened to work for an ISP (Internet service provider). Had he begun a conversation asking about her, he may have gained information he could have piggybacked from to suggest that he could solve her problem.
Keep in mind that in Chad’s LinkedIn posts, he put words in about the people around him. He demonstrated a level of humility by telling the platform that he didn’t just magically achieve his success on his own – he had help from higher-ups and continues to have assistance from peers.
Even with the success his LinkedIn posts had, Chad could have improved his engagement and gathered more external interest by talking about how the work he does helps others. We are most interested in hearing about ourselves and how a business can help us solve our problems.
By focusing his post more on how he helps others, rather than his personal success, he could gain more clients and further his career, perhaps to the point of branching off independently.
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Thought leaders & celebrities share their tactics for success on the Lisnic podcast by Lisa Teh & Nick Bell