Self-promotion on social media has become integral to brand building but your followers could easily move on if they’re not getting something back. Indeed, what can be perceived as straight up boasting can leave readers annoyed, envious, angry, and insecure. The desire to share success is human but the approach is best when gentle and altruistic. It is not just about advancing you. It’s also about advancing others. The dissemination of personal successes should lead to positive information being incorporated into someone else’s journey.
Self-promotion on social media can land differently with the reader if you follow these 7 strategies that are aimed at simply helping others:
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is first, not last. Determine the crux of the post before typing the first word. Decide if this self-promotion benefits only you or also benefits the audience. Generate a takeaway message and build the post with that lesson. Always consider, “What’s in it for my followers to know I did well?”
Details matter. The most helpful and impactful self-promotions go granular. Dive deep into the instrumental moves you took to earn success. If you nominated yourself for the relevant award or position, disclose that. Sponsoring yourself is a skill to be shared. If you had practice interviews that helped you land the job, include that detail.
The best stories are the ones that connect us. In the case of self-promotion, it is usually the story behind the story. Include the heartfelt internal dialogue that supports you through an experience. What motivated you to pursue an opportunity? Who were the key people with whom you spoke? How did you know it was a good choice? Share with the intention and vulnerability that you are instilling confidence in others to try something new and different. Be sure to tag key resources, such as workshops, books, podcasts, or people.
Normalize discussing the wins and the losses. Yes, absolutely share your losses. For instance, if you apply for a grant and in the first round, you scored low, and you were not funded. Then your grant is funded in the second or third application cycle. Reveal that journey to your audience. This is the honesty they need. Detail how you changed the application, the conversations you held, the reading you completed on the second attempt. Think about how people with similar experiences will feel. Nobody’s path is linear. Nobody wins all the time. Your audience will appreciate it if you share the growth you made as a result.
The (Humble) Brag
The humblebrag is not authentic. It is self-promotion often poorly and intentionally masked with humility. To be clear no matter how it is done, self-promotion is not humble. And self-promotion is not necessarily a brag. Humblebrag is not an ideal strategy. And since the reader can feel and sense authenticity, we prefer to just cut humblebragging altogether. Own your success, be proud of your success, and use it to help others.
Make yourself available to your readers. We are busy, so we understand the concern of crowding the calendar. Yet, you set your limits. It can be as simple as posting an announcement of an accomplishment and then offering to field questions, either publicly or via direct message. This offers a chance for you to be the mentor, the advisor, the sponsor, or the coach.
The Big Picture
We know that underprivileged and underrepresented groups are often left out of conversations where opportunities are discussed and offered. And we know that awareness of and access to an opportunity are preludes to success. Self-promotion exposes opportunities thereby leveling the playing field for awareness and access. Consider tagging the post with handles or hashtags for special groups. For instance, in medicine we often see posts tagged with #WomeninMedicine, #LatinXinMedicine, or #BlackinMedicine.
Always consider the purpose of sharing. Recognize that what one might see as boasting, another person, perhaps historically excluded from opportunities, may appreciate as intel and guidance. Informing and supporting others makes the world a better place. This is the real power of self-promotion on social media.
Adaira Landry, M.D., M.Ed., is an emergency physician and assistant professor of emergency medicine at Harvard Medical School. Resa E. Lewiss, MD, is a professor of emergency medicine and radiology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. She is the creator and host of the Visible Voices podcast, which amplifies voices and perspectives on health care, equity, and current trends.