How To Promote Your Ideas (And Not Look Like A Narcissist)

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

Posting on social media about how “humbled” you are when something good happens to you (or you get some kind of attention) is analogous to “thoughts and prayers.”

It’s time to put value ahead of self-promotion.

Know this: I can be just as guilty in this activity as anyone else, so the finger is pointing directly in my direction as well. I can do better. I’m writing this to myself (maybe it will help you too).

Here’s the over-simplification of the issue: Most thought leaders who I know, like, trust and respect are spending way too much energy posting about their wins, accolades and media appearances (inflating their own tires) over what got them this attention in the first place… which is, their valuable insights, unique perspectives and content (original thinking shared to an audience).

How can we reframe this?

Think about a print magazine. As a thought leader, would you rather write the cover story or have your picture on the cover of that magazine? Personally, I’d rather write countless cover stories that then earn me the place on the cover of a magazine. Sadly, I think the knee-jerk reaction for most thought leaders (and, for my dollar, I’d define “thought leader” as a catchall that includes authors, speakers, influencers, academics, podcasters, coaches, social media content creators, etc…) is to have their picture front and center. We need to think more like journalists.

Said another way: Don’t tell me how great you are, allow me to come to my own conclusions based on your insights and the value it creates in my day-to-day work.

This doesn’t mean that self-promotion should be verboten. It just means that the ratio of content and value creation should be a multiple to the moments when you share the fruits of that labor.

There are many questions/thoughts that we can ask about our content before we hit the publish button. Some of the questions/thoughts below might help us better define if we’re adding value to the audience’s day, or simply trying to convince that audience that we are important…

  • Is this content about me (my success) or is it about helping the audience get better at the work that they do?
  • Is this content promoting the results of my work, or is this content the actual work that I am known for?
  • Are there a lot of adjectives, superlatives and references to the results of my work in this content (example: If I’m using phrases like, “as I discussed in my New York Times bestselling book…” I’m promoting my success and not amplifying the content)?
  • Instead of sharing a link to an article, podcast, or book that I created, can I skim some of the context from those pieces and create micro-content that will inspire the audience?
  • Do I need to use phrases like, “people, friends, family, fans often ask me (or remind me… or want me to share this)…” (because, mostly, they have not, and it’s a deflection used to insinuate a self-declaration of my own popularity)?
  • Don’t say that I’m “not a fan of milestones, etc…” while the content is solely a self-celebration of a moment-in-time for yourself. Is there a better story to tell about this personal milestone?
  • You can be proud of your work/accomplishments without constantly beating your own chest. The way to do this? Keep going… keep creating and helping others get better at the work that they do. Connect to others, amplify your peers’ work, spread other ideas from other thought leaders and build a sense of community in your own thinking.

This does not mean that we should not celebrate moments, milestones, launches or not ask the audience to support the work.

The problem, of late (for me), has been that my feed is lacking genuine thought excellence from those who have a domain of authority. Instead, it’s a feed filled with pictures of thought leaders on planes, stages or standing next to someone important. I’m losing interest in what thought leaders are doing, because I’m no longer getting smarter from the content that they used to create.

Am I the only one? Am I alone in this thinking?

The end result? We’re seeing more cult of personality than domain of authority. That’s a waste of the amazing power of social media, in a day and age when these platforms have become a bastion for the ugly stuff. It doesn’t all need to be self-serving and narcissistic… it can be that thing of beauty that first empowered so many people to like, follow, subscribe and connect to new thinking.

Maybe I’m just lamenting a time that has passed, and the endless scroll of self-promotion is the new way to establish authority.

I hope not.

Are you interested in what’s next? How to decode the future? I publish between 2–3 times per week and then the Six Pixels of Separation Podcast comes out every Sunday. Feel free to subscribe (and tell your friends ;)

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