The Business of Self-Promotion

04/14/2016 12:49 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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Building a brand in 2016 is as much about building the brand of "you" as it is about communicating about your services and products. But the line between blatant self-promotion and getting people to care about what you do is often hard to define. We must ask ourselves when we jump onto social media or other platforms if we are just competing with others to have a voice that day or are we genuinely sharing something of importance?

As a business coach I talk about personal brand and the need for a connection with my clients every day. This can start at the overall marketing strategy and go right down to the tactics to use on Instagram. However, I think there are certain aspects of personal branding and promotion that we don't talk about enough, even though they are oh so important for our businesses and our own well being.

1. Promotion is not the work
Intensively marketing our brand and ourselves all the time cannot become our jobs. Actual work must get done so we can transform the people we wish to serve and actually have an impact in this world. The temptation to spend hours on social media "engaging" our followers and scrabbling for more distracts us from the important projects that earn us money and grow our businesses. You need to find time with your muse and wrestle with your fear of making something in order to focus and create. Once you have started to create that thing, then you can pick the right tool to share it - one that suits you and your audience. Promotion out of a fear that you don't matter or you are clamouring for a response is not good marketing.

2. More followers does not make your work greater than it is
As people spend more time on social networks, follower counts and the number of likes you get are becoming de facto signals of success. But guess what: as a business coach I get to spend a lot of time behind the curtain of other people's businesses and there are many who are successful with low follower counts while others who have huge follower numbers are unable to convert it into anything.

Can you separate yourself and your work from the daily deluge of vanity metrics that give us positive reinforcement and dopamine rushes, but in actual fact don't necessarily reflect the quality, importance or need for the work you create?

We cannot rely on the fickle opinions of people in their social media personas to be the source of validation for our work. Sure, good feedback always makes our work better but we also must trust in our abilities and balance it with sources of external validation.

3. Self-promotion and its feedback loops are having a negative impact on our work and wellbeing
Today I was reading yet another article about the impacts of social media on teenagers' perceptions of their self-worth. It is never good reading but it made me think about how much business owners and entrepreneurs can fall into this trap as well.

In particular one teenager spoke about the highs of posting an image of herself that had lots of likes, to the lows of putting up an image that did not "perform" well and the desire to delete it and start again. Equally, the pursuit of these metrics on our own business pages can be toxic to our work and well-being. Not getting enough likes, hearts and shares can make you doubt your message and the work you are doing. But what is "enough"? That is the whole game, right!

Maria Popova, the woman behind Brain Pickings has said:

"The real work is how not to hang your self-worth, your sense of success and merits, the fullness of your heart, and the stability of your soul on those numbers - on that constant positive reinforcement and external validation. That's the only real work, and the irony is that the more "successful" you get, by either your own standards or external standards, the harder it is to decouple all of those inner values from your work. I think we often confuse the doing for the being."

Being vigilant each day to the power of these metrics and the validation they provide is a regular struggle for most of us. That - coupled with our general obsession for technology - and the next big thing definitely means we need a disciplined practice around it.

I am not advocating you stop promoting your business or yourself, but focus on what it is you are creating and what it is you want to share. And when you do share it, don't let the metrics alone dictate its success.

Lisa Kate Miller is a digital strategist, business coach, speaker and blogger. After running and selling her own successful online business she now focuses on working with people who have a desire to build a business and a life based on what they love. Lisa is the creator of the ebook "The Golden Triangle - 3 key steps to creating a successful online business" and regularly speaks and writes about how business owners can use their businesses as a force for good.