How do you know when you've shared too much information online, and how do you promote yourself without overdoing it on the bragging front?
Whether you're an artist who designs colourful notebook covers or a garden designer specialising in wildlife-friendly landscapes, if you're an independent business owner or freelancer, promoting yourself on social media is pretty essential for building your brand and making money.
Being authentic and openly sharing content online is essential for connecting with your followers and creating an engaged audience who like you and appreciate your value. Unfortunately, social media marketing requires more time and emotional bandwidth for small, independent business owners than prominent brands and corporations.
Business guru Tom Peters coined the term 'Self-Branding' in his essay "The Brand Called You," and perfectly sums up the issue; "to be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You." Simple, right? Or not so much... Identifying a personal brand and promoting it on social media is actually a monumental challenge for creative people, who are typically sensitive and constantly change their minds about things. They often struggle to create a public persona that perfectly reflects how they want to be seen by their digital audiences, and at the same time they worry about irritating their followers by sharing TMI (too much info.)
In this article, we'll be talking about self-disclosure in more detail. How do you know if you're revealing too much with your social media followers, or not enough? What can you do to create the perfect balance?
Pretending to be someone else online, and being someone totally different on the inside.
Should we be who our audiences want us to be? Or should we be who we truly are online, whether that means we alienate some followers who don't resonate with our authentic selves? What if there are parts of our lives that we'd rather not share with everyone online?
The anonymity of the internet gives people a lot of freedom to express themselves in new ways. Unfortunately, some people use this as an opportunity to project an idealised or altered version of themselves. This approach won't get them very far, as a separate online identity can come across as fake, and audiences are getting very good at detecting this.
The best approach is to filter the parts of your life that you feel comfortable sharing online. Set good boundaries, keep some things private, and talk about as many aspects of your life online as you want to. When sharing content, stay true to who you are and above all, don't try to be someone you're not.
Mirror mirror on the wall, who gets the most likes of them all?
The mental health implications of social media are very, very real. Many independent business owners directly correlate their self-esteem to 'vanity metrics' e.g. how many followers they have and how many likes their content gets. It can become a problem when we place too much importance on metrics because we feel anxious about what everyone will think when they see our 'numbers'. When we get no responses or - even worse - negative responses, our self-esteem can take a bashing.
All the social media platforms design their metrics to actively encourage us to spend as much time as possible on the platforms, but they can be damaging. From feeling envious of others to getting embroiled in heated discussions, it can bring out the worst in us. Did you know, the CEO's of Instagram and Twitter have said that metric-free platforms would be healthier? It's brilliant that Twitter introduced the ability for users to disable replies on their tweets as a reflection of this. Metrics falsely affirm that our values and achievements are dependent on our popularity. They restrict our creativity by encouraging us to only think of what might generate external validation through likes and comments rather than what our heart tells us to create.
Remember, just because your audience hasn't reacted to your content doesn't mean they haven't seen it or appreciated it. Plus, the platforms themselves determine how often others see your posts through their highly advanced algorithms; some accounts get more reach and exposure than others. Even the most experienced social media manager can struggle to ascertain why some posts do better than others. Never allow metrics on social media to determine your self-worth - because you are worth so much more than that.
Avoid certain topics and maintain a level of professionalism.
One concern many of us have is to unwittingly say something offensive on social media. As a result, we could damage our reputation and even threaten our livelihood through a poorly worded post or misunderstanding.
There's a time and a place to share your opinions about certain topics, and it's best to keep things professional on your business page. Be mindful to avoid sharing anything sensitive, inflammatory or controversial. We recommend avoiding content about political views, opinions about religion, fake news, divisive topics or images of a sexual nature. Don't criticise public figures, never share details about personal dramas, and never complain or rant about other businesses/customers/employees.
At the same time, don't censor yourself through unnecessary anxiety. If you feel like it is important to discuss something on your business page, then take a thoughtful and respectful approach in a way that your audience will find relatable and meaningful.
If all of life is a stage, then trolls are the hecklers that NO ONE asked for.
Women are naturally better at sharing and communicating authentically online, but unfortunately, this tendency toward self-disclosure makes them particularly vulnerable to criticism, trolling, shaming, and cyber-stalking, especially those who work independently or part of a very small team.
Yes it's hard, especially if you are sensitive, but the key is not to be afraid of this kind of unpleasant behaviour. Don't let the risk of trolls hold you back from achieving your potential on social media.
It is not the end of the world if you start attracting trolls to your business page. There are ways to manage things if someone decides to target you, whether that's blocking someone, filtering or hiding their comments, or reporting them.
Remember, you can easily ignore someone online, just like you can in real life - you don't have to engage in conversations with trolls, and they will soon become disinterested once they learn they can't get an emotional reaction from you.
Focus on a higher purpose - what kind of influence do you want to have?
Sometimes being an influencer isn't just about being a selfie-obsessed teenager taking pictures of her new Chanel handbag. Sometimes it can be about having an influence on your audience - no matter how big or small that may be. You have the potential to educate people, to get them to see things from new perspectives, and to think differently in a way that makes them happier. For the first time in history, every single person has a platform where they can make a difference and have a positive impact, no matter who they are or where they come from.
Consider using your business social media platforms for a higher purpose, and you'll notice how easy it is to control and direct the conversation when you feel like you're helping others in some way. You have the potential to campaign for change, raise awareness of a cause, create connections, and show people that they are not alone. Focusing on a greater purpose allows us to shift our social media mindsets from self-promotion to self-empowerment.
"Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is Enlightenment". And talking about yourself too much is annoying.
According to psychologists, people talk about themselves 30% - 40% of the time. On social media, it increases to 80%. A study published in Psychological Science found that 66% of people experienced positive emotions when sharing their achievements, but only 14% of recipients felt good hearing about them. Many recipients actually experienced negative emotions when hearing others talking about their accomplishments.
The best and most effective way to build your brand is to spend considerable time supporting other independent businesses. Share content that shows your admiration for other creatives and give them an unexpected boost. They'll follow you and like your content, and their own followers will connect with you. You'll make them feel good, and you never know what opportunities might come your way from doing so. Cultivate strong connections, join in with discussions, give back, and acknowledge other people's values.
Social media isn't going away any time soon, and neither is the need to promote our businesses. Success comes from sharing our authentic selves for our audiences to connect with. Things will begin to fall into place once you learn to promote your brand without selling yourself short. Always consider how your content will make your followers feel, and ask, 'what would I think of this post if someone else shared it and I saw it in my news feed?' Don't determine social media success by how many followers you have, but by how much effort you make with them and how many you've engaged with that day.