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Real, nice guys don’t finish last; the hidden perils of self-promo

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Real, nice guys don’t finish last; the hidden perils of self-promo

Dr Welling diagnoses a growing social media epedemic that causes extreme humility deficiency and questions whether tooting your own horn all the time is actually beneficial to your business.

  • Ray Welling
    Dr. Ray Welling is the principal of Welling Digital, a strategic content consultancy. He also manages a small digital content agency and is an adjunct lecturer in marketing at Macquarie University.
One of the most amusing (and at the same time sad) Twitter accounts I follow is @humblebrag. It retweets posts from Twitter users which are meant to be self-deprecating, but which actually scream “Aren’t I wonderful?”

The posts range from thinly-veiled personal self-aggrandisement...
 
    “Stories are everywhere that I’m too thin. When will the media see women for their accomplishments instead of their weight and appearance?” 
    “If one more person asks to ‘take pictures of me’ I’m going to kill someone.” 
    “I gave my noodle store leftovers to a homeless lady and now I regret it so much” 
    “As if I didn’t feel uncomfortable enough, the ticket taker said ‘musclessss’ as I handed him my ticket”

...to tweets painfully aimed at enhancing their corporate notoriety...

    “The president just called to say congrats. Caller ID was blocked, so at first I thought it was a telemarketer.” 
    “Way too much of my life is spent on airplanes.” 
    “Very humbled to be selected for TIME 100 this year! Had a nice evening at their gala, but their standards must be slipping now that they’re letting geeks like me in!” (This one was accompanied by a photo of a hipster-    ish man standing on the red carpet with his supermodel girlfriend) 
    “ARRRRRGH FML. Now I’ve got a justin bieber shoot i can’t do because i’m already shooting: what’s with these clashes? Grrr” 
    “Look, I know he invented the damn thing. But it freaks me out when I see Zuckerberg posts on my Facebook wall.” 
    “CNN interview went great! Once again, over-prepared but smarter for it I suppose.”

There are plenty more where these came from – bring your sick bag!

A little ego is fine, but the problem is, too many people think that ‘humble bragging’ is a good way to build a social media profile for their business. The existence of tongue in cheek satirists like @humblebrag shows that people don’t respond to that approach. It’s important to be authentic in your dealings with people, especially if you’re in small business.

US marketing expert Jonathan Salem Baskin, who has just co-authored a book on the importance of truth in advertising and marketing (now there’s an oxymoron!), says that customers today are looking for truth from the companies they do business with.

It’s all part of the shift in power from manufacturers to consumers which has taken place in the past 50 years. Whereas in the days of Mad Men, the advertisers were at the centre of the universe, sending out messages in the knowledge that they could selectively inform customers about their products or services, today it is customers who have the power. They can quickly and easily find out information about what they want to buy, and instead of listening to biased advertising messages, they are getting on their smartphones and listening to what other customers are saying.

The most powerful influence on consumer decision-making is no longer advertising, but “someone like me”. Being honest and authentic is essential in a social media-driven world.

For small businesses, it’s especially important that customers and potential customers see who you really are.

Think about it: What are the qualities that make us want to do business with someone, such as a financial adviser, a real estate agent or a plumber? Competence and professionalism, yes, but particularly in small business, authenticity is just as important.

If I follow someone on Twitter because I do business with them, I want to know what’s happening in their business and how their product or service is going to help me meet my needs. I am not going to be impressed because they were interviewed by CNN, knocked back Justin Bieber to photograph my wedding, or received a private call from the president.

Marketing, particularly social media marketing, should be about solving your customers’ problems, not blathering on about how great you are.

You won’t build a strong relationship with someone who spends a lot of time telling you how good they are. Effective marketing in the social media era is like good writing; you need to show, not tell. Showing people how your product or service can meet someone’s need is the best way to demonstrate that they should do business with you.
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