What #SMBInfluencers Taught Me About Self-Promotion

August 16, 2011
By Lisa Barone in Online Marketing

It’s been a week since community voting ended in the Small Business Influencer Awards and that sound you just heard? That was me breathing a heavy sigh of relief because, well, as fun as it was to play the adult version of Color Wars (and it really was fun!), the month-long spree was also just a little draining. However, it also gave us a great opportunity to examine the art of self-promotion and take away a few lessons.

Or at least that’s what I did.

Below are some lessons I learned about promotion courtesy of the SMBInfluencer Awards. What did you take away from it? I’d love if you’d share your own thoughts in the comments. You can even comment to tell me how annoying you thought I was. ;)

30 Days Is Exhausting

Do you know who was the most excited when I could finally stop asking you nice people to vote for me in the SMBInfluencer awards? It wasn’t my Outspoken Media cohorts, nor my Twitter army, nor my BFF or any other third party. The most excited person was me. Because promoting the same piece of content, especially the same piece of 100 percent promotional content isn’t easy. It’s actually kind of exhausting. And it’s okay to admit that because it’s something you need to be aware of and prepare for when you have something you’ll be heavily promoting for some length of time. What kind of promotional strategy are you going to use? How will you keep it interesting?

You have to plan ahead because good content dies without promotion. You are not Matt Inman releasing the perfect viral butterfly masked beautifully in geek humor and potty –mouth jokes. You have to work a little harder. I know Peter Shankman would probably disagree with me on this (read #1) but, well, tough. If you want something, you gotta have the nerve to ask for it.

People Like When You Promote Content They Care About

I could calculate exactly how many times I promoted the Small Business Influencer Awards on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and in blog entries, but then I would be mortified and, well, we’re doing company headshots today and I don’t want to remain that shade of red. The point is, I promoted it a lot. I know that. But what surprised me was the response to all my promotional tweets. I found that as long as I spaced them out with my OTHER content that was intended to inform or entertain (preferably both at the same time), people appreciated them. More often than not the response to my hawking for votes was actually “thank you” and not “OMG, shut up”. Because people like the content that I put out and the things that I share with them, they wanted to support me back and they liked the reminder to do so.

If you want someone to write a review for your business? Ask them to. As long as they like you, they’ll be happy you told them about a way they could support you. If you want people to share your content via StumbleUpon, tell them that. As long as they think you provide value, they’ll be happy to do it for you. It was pretty cool watching this play out over the past month.

Clear Calls to Action Create Teams

Do you know what happens when you ask for your community’s help in achieving a certain goal? You unify them and create an army that is bigger than yourself or your Web site. It allows people to form a new type of connection with your or your brand – one where they’re PART of it – and they get excited about it. Because as connected as the Internet makes us feel, most people still want to like they’re part of something bigger than themselves.

About halfway through the SMBInfluencer Award voting I created a Team Lisa Google+ Circle for people who had said they voted for me. And you know what? The craziest thing happened. People thanked me for it. They were all part of something and it created a new kind of experience that totally didn’t suck.

There’s a scene in the movie Friends with Benefits (shut up) where Justin Timberlake (SHUT! UP!) and Mila Kunis have a conversation about how feeling part of something makes people feel less alone, even when they’re surrounded by people. It’s worth a watch.

Some People Will Think You’re A Jerk

While I didn’t receive any annoyed comments directed at me during the time I was shilling for votes, I know that doesn’t mean there weren’t any or that people weren’t quietly unfollowing me or planning to murder me in my sleep. They just weren’t telling me about it. And that’s okay. My goal is not to attract every person in the world or to become the Prom Queen of the Internet. My goal is to connect with the people who WANT to connect with me and Outspoken Media. If you’re not one of those people, it’s okay for us to not be BFFs. It’s okay to not like things. We don’t have to be jerks about it.

The Size Of Your Community Can Surprise You

I don’t think you truly know how far your community does (or does not) reach until you put yourself out there and ask them for their help in achieving something. You don’t know until you challenge them from moving away from being a passive consumer to an active member of your street team. On a personal level, I was pretty blown away by how far Team Lisa actually reached.

Case in point – Mike Blumenthal.

A few years ago at SMX East one of local search’s premier voices sat at my breakfast table and asked if he could borrow my laptop to publish a story. The man was Mike Blumenthal and, at the time, I was too shy to even introduce myself. I just passed him my laptop and tried not to squeal in excitement at how big a fan I was of his work. So imagine my surprise when I read this. Or when I saw him tirelessly guilt tripping, pleading and threatening people to vote for me. And it wasn’t just Mike. People who I never knew were fans of Outspoken Media came out to encourage people to give me some love. I had no idea that the OSM community reached that far. Now I know. And that’s a pretty cool realization. It’s good to know whether the size of your community is growing, whether it’s not, and what new satellite communities you’ve become a part of when you were paying attention.

My biggest takeaway from the #SMBInfluencer awards was that the person who has the biggest issue with self-promotion is YOU. It’s your guilt, your feeling like your content doesn’t deserve the attention, and your discomfort over asking people to join your team. Your community? They actually like when you promote your stuff. Because otherwise, they might miss it. And if they love you, they don’t want that to happen.

What did you take away from the Small Business Influencer Awards?

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