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)

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.