5 Lessons About Self-Promotion In Social Media

Train wreck! A little storm-in-a-teacup erupted online today around a press release issued by Matt Bacak. The release was almost comically self-promotional, evidenced by the headline:

"The Powerful Promoter Promotes Himself Straight to the Top of Twitter – Matt Bacak Achieves Another Social Networking Milestone"

Quoting the release:

"Anyone can call their promotional abilities ‘powerful’ but I actually prove that mine are," says Matt Bacak of his most recent accomplishment.

Unsurprisingly, once a few people noticed the release the reaction in the social media sphere was rapid and negative. Plenty of people have piled on commented on this including Scott Baird, Warren Sukernek, Chris Lower and Tris Hussey. The release has garnered over 310 votes under the title "The. Biggest. Douche. In. Social. Media" and there’s already a site entitled doiknowmattbacak.com, elevating him alongside the large hadron collider in the geek world.

I had my own little chuckle at the release earlier, but I have a feeling people don’t come here to read cheap shots (although I am tempted). Instead, let’s take some positives away – what can we learn from this little blip? What should people looking to promote themselves in social media learn take away from it?

As I mentioned earlier, I have little doubt that Matt Bacak is an extremely smart and successful guy. He may in fact be rubbing his hands in glee at all the free publicity (however negative) this is getting him.

However, if you take a step back and look at the tactic used alongside the reaction it received, these five lessons stand out for me.

  1. People react badly to over-self promotion – Matt Bacak may be a smart, nice guy. If you dig back into the records before today, people have plenty of good things to say about him (Scott Stamper did so to his great credit in the comments on this post) and I’m in no position to argue otherwise. They key in this medium, though, is to let other people realize that themselves. Chris Brogan is a great example of this. He’s a smart guy – he does his fair share of self promotion, but you will never see him stand up and proclaim his goodness, and he promotes himself by helping others. There’s no mystery behind why he has such a large group of people that look to him for advice.
  2. Base your claims on solid facts – Bacak’s claims of entering "the Twitter elite" led to several posts mocking this statement from heavy Twitter users like Ike Pigott and Michael O’Connor Clarke who had never heard of him until today. It also led others like Jamie Scheu to delve into the claim, discovering that on closer inspection it wasn’t true.
  3. Back-up your words with action – The subject of all this controversy has been noticeably absent from this debate. Now, he may have made a conscious decision to not dive into the shark tank, but a simple indication of that might have headed some of the criticism off.
  4. It’s not about you; it’s about others – Adding fuel to the fire today was the realization by some that the vast majority of Bacak’s Digg submissions were for his own material. This is considered pretty poor form by most people in the fishbowl. Some promotion of your own material, sure, but if it’s only your own then what value are you adding?
  5. Help others and they’ll help you – Some of the old-school approaches that today and the recent Mumbai spam episode highlighted may work in other forms of Internet or mainstream marketing. Let’s face it, Bacak’s release was no worse than the majority of press releases that companies put out every day. The difference here is that the release proclaims ‘elite’ status in a forum that the release shows the issuer doesn’t understand. Tactics like that are unlikely to work here. If you’re going to engage using social media tools, instead engage, participate, help others, add something of value. Other people will realise it and will say good things. Let other people help you with your promotion.

What do you think? What other lessons can we learn here?

(Image source: Wikimedia)

  • Interesting I got wind of this from a lot of the PR pro’s I follow. I think your absolutely right, I know that I personally unfollow users who are blatant self-promoters. While I will occasionally tweet a new blog posting , that ends my self promotion.

    We in the social media verse use these tools ( twitter, facebook, stumbleupon) to connect to people and ideas. I know a lot of “elite” twitter users who have blogs where they won’t have a single ad. You can always tell people who are just starting to use the mediums because they essentially come out as spammers. For the majority me and the people I follow quickly ignore these people.

  • Am I the only one who finds it funny that one of the critics of Matt Back’s self-promotion bears the name ‘Hussey’? Ignoring the spelling for a bit, this has got to be a smile-raising thing!

    Now on the topic:

    In the recent Mumbai attacks, one of the early Twitter facilitators is now being criticised for nothing but blatant self-promotion. Which means that opinion can easily slide from positive to negative. Managing the perception is a delicate balance. Your tips are pretty simple to read, quite an act to pull off in practice, for we do depend on feedback to judge bounds of propriety when we are trying something new or otherwise pushing the ‘envelope’ a bit.

    Good read.

    PS: I have no clue who this Matt Bacak is, but your post is conceptual and for that, my not knowing Bacak is almost irrelevant.

  • Wow. Simply, wow. this Bacak deal is the 2nd worst example of “guerilla marketing” I have ever seen. The other was where the marketer presented himself as a user of a service when, in fact, he was the marketer for his client. Ugh.
    It’s a bit of a sticky wicket when people eager to engage and to sell hop on Twitter. Often the lack of patience for cultivating relationshhips, building trust, having ongoing conversations and helping others (the latter is a bit difficult for some highly competitive types) dashes their hopes for Twitter being a massive, mass market, easy and pointed way to gain clients or make sales. There’s one fellow on Twitter who hasn’t quite seemed to get it yet, though he is now getting more conversational versus simply posting his wares.

    If people remember it is both a social network and a possible enterprise medium, and don’t confuse the two into thinking mostly enterprise, then there’ll be little backlash. Yes, there are some who simply market, but also allow us to see glimpses of who they without their marketing hat. Therein lies the beauty of the human aspect of Twitter. Blatant commercialism without that human aspect is not of value to us.

  • First off, I do like your blog entry and the way you’ve presented it but I disagree that I took a negative slam at Matt Bacak in my mediapirate blog. I simply presented the facts of the matter and asked for peoples opinion of whether or not they thought the criticism was warranted.

    Secondly, your post basically states the same thing that most of the blogs including mine stated. That he may be a great guy but it was his traditional marketing approach to social media that offended the masses because he focused the spotlight on himself instead of on the community that we are all a part of.

    Thanks,
    Scott Baird

  • Wow. Now he needs a new career as well as a name change..

    I guess Bacak is a verb in PR circles now.. ” Be careful about that press release, you don’t want to Bacak yourself”

  • Pretty logical and basic rules I would say 😉

  • Hey Scott… that’s a fair point – I’ve tweaked the post to reflect that.

    Cheers,

    Dave

  • Thanks Dave! Much appreciated and great post!

  • Dave – there always have been (and always will be) ways to game any system. Gaming the system can only lead to short-term victories. I think a good motto for social media success is “those with the best conversations win”. Blatant and constant self-promotion just isn’t sustainable anymore.

    Your tips are simple and as Shefaly said, hard to do. Just like anything worth doing in life.

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  • I certainly don’t come for the cheapshots – I come here for the stock photos.

    But I also come for the good points you make, Dave.

    I think the line that resonated most with me is that “The difference here is that the release proclaims ‘elite’ status in a forum that the release shows the issuer doesn’t understand.”

    He’s bragging about his elite status using a tool that most users give little credit to, counting it as nothing more than an ego boost.

    Also – I love Steve Cunningham’s comment that those with the best conversations win.

  • @Shefaly I dunno I like my name. Rather attached to it.

    Dave, thanks for the link back. For me the more interesting point isn’t how we have perceived this release but how his potential clients see it. I think they will just be wowed and think he’s all the cooler.

    Just like a lot of self promotion, often the quick gloss over misses the feet of clay.

  • Excellent insights, Dave, and well laid out.

    I think this whole episode highlights a key problem for many people coming into social media (especially “professional” people) – using non-social approaches.

    In Matt’s case, he was simply using atypical affiliate marketing approaches – this is great, I did this, this is what I can do for you if you follow/sign up, etc.

    Unfortunately for Matt, this approach doesn’t go down well in social media circles.

    What I found even more interesting is Matt’s response on Scott’s blog. He says he wasn’t aware of the contents of the press release and that had he seen it, he would have agreed it was over the top.

    Sorry, Matt, but as a successful businessman that has built his success around promotion in one form or another, I find that a little hard to believe. And if it is really the case, then that was a major error too.

  • Thanks, Dave, for the excellent, logical, kind, and understanding post. I have been appalled at what I read today in response. The rabid-dog, name-calling, hang-him-up posts were over the top. If more posts had been like yours, explaining why the guffaw or faux pas was in poor form, imagine how many could have learned.

    I would imagine the ugly posts will have caused many to fear stepping into this world and making a mistake bringing the world down upon their head. If the community helps others first, then reach out and tell someone they’ve breached etiquette and protocol without clubbing him to death.

    Thanks again.

  • Just realized I’ve been REALLY sloppy in not responding to people recently! Sorry folks.

    So…

    @adam – I react the same way. For that reason I follow very few “a-listers.”

    @Shefaly – I’ve never met Tris but I know plenty of people who have, and I’ve yet to hear a bad word said about him. Now on the topic (!): Thanks for your thoughts – glad you found the post useful.

    @Gina – indeed – it’s the human factor that seems to make the difference here. Thanks for stopping by!

    @bob – lol 🙂 To everyone else… register for Podcasters Across Borders 2009!

    @steve – thanks.

    @parker – glad to know my image-searching isn’t in vain!

    @tris – you may well be right. I guess only Matt can shed light on that.

    @danny – I agree – I would never let a release go out about me without signing-off on it (mind you, I’d be reluctant for a release to go out about me at all). Hopefully that’s a learning point that people take away from this.

    @lois – you’re right, some of the piling-on (and I’m not entirely innocent) has been harsh. Still, some people have started constructive conversations on this. Scott (above) has had a great back-and-forth on his site, for example.

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  • “we do depend on feedback to judge bounds of propriety when we are trying something new or otherwise pushing the ‘envelope’ a bit.”

    So here is some feedback on your gratuitous insult to Tris Hussey, a man whom I and many others regard as a respected friend, generous to a fault and always ready to help others. One of nature’s gentlemen if ever there was one. Typically, Tris has responded graciously. Surely you would not want some to be making cheap remarks about Shefaly, or Yogendra? You do owe Tris an apology, you know.

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