I got to see a ton of bloggers I haven't seen in a long time at the BlogHer Holiday Party. One, in particular, inspired a post.
She's one of the "old-timers", meaning she's been blogging for more than five years. And like many of the women I met in the early days of BlogHer, she sticks to her knitting--posts a few times a week, uses Facebook and Twitter as tools, is adept in audio and videoblogging. And she considers herself a "professional who blogs," not a professional blogger.
There's a big difference here: Some bloggers put a good deal of their energy into monetizing their blogs and are successful at it--those are professional bloggers. Others use their blogs as a means of building opportunities, but by no means make their living off of them, or are known for them; those are professionals who blog.
My friend falls into this latter group. She earns her living as a consultant, who often helps others build and even monetize their blogs, and her blog content is useful in helping others develop professionally. But her blog itself isn't a revenue driver. And therein lies her problem--she wants it to.
"I see so many blogger/guru types who are successfully building their businesses by selling their books and eCourses on their sites," she said. "I don't think I'm capable of talking up my work in that way."
She was referring to bloggers who have no problem posting requests on their blogs,
"Go check me out here!" …
"Sign up for my teleclass!"
"Go see my piece in Parenting magazine…"
And they have no problem sharing their good news --
"I just made Babble's Top 50 Moms list…"
"I just got a TV deal …"
I understood my friend's dilemma. Her mojo was much more "talk about others' great work" not "talk about my great work." And yet she cannot deny that self-promotional birds get the worm. And she's a media skeptic, like myself. She knows too much about how the promotional sausage gets made to want to serve it up to her beloved readers. Earlier this week I learned that I was included in Working Mother Magazine's Most Powerful Moms in Social Media list (Note: I don't actually provide a link, proof of my neurosis). Normally I don't care for lists; for every one I make there are dozens that I don't, so I maintain any sense of self-worth by not investing too much stock in them. And as a general rule we stay away from them at BlogHer, as some can drip with link-baiting intention meant to inspire more debate than appreciation. But shucks, I knew that my family would get a kick out of seeing my mug up there. And I actually agreed with their inclusion of some of my favorite bloggers, even if not all of my favorites were included. After bullshitting with myself that I was doing this for the love of Momblogging, not out of any self-interest, I posted a link to the story on my Facebook and Twitter page; it took restraint the next morning, when I saw a list of congratulatory comments on my Facebook wall, to not write back to each FB friend personally and apologize for gunking up their update feed with my business. I had to say to myself, "Wait--what the hell is social media for, if not to share your good news?"
So yes, even though I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out how to build OTHER bloggers' and brands' traffic to insane levels, the thought of applying some of these tactics to my own platform embarrasses me. And if I get a "hit" in the form of a spike in traffic or a congratulatory note I will immediately question whether I provided enough content value to deserve it.
In fact, I, too, have sat with this question around self-promotion. While it's absolutely critical to promote your work and accomplishments to garner recognition and more opportunities, how much self-promotion will have a diminishing effect on your credibility with your readers and community? How much of this concern is really just my issue with feeling my work is not worth promoting if it's about me?
As someone who tends to gravitate toward personal and professional development blogs, I know my share of gurus, through their work and personally. Most of them have embraced the requirement of promoting their work, much the way an actor embraces the need to show up to an audition. It ain't glamorous, but it's a necessary part of sustaining a living. "Here, folks, is a link to my new book. Now back to our regular programming…"
Others have taken the self promotion to a different level. Their accomplishments have become the content.
A subject of their latest blog post may be their latest dilemma: Guys, should I change the focus of my book for the fat deal with Random House?
Or a situation: I was sitting with my friend who shall remain nameless (@Oprah)..."
Or promotion as a favor to someone else who can promote your work later: My pal Magda is the BOMB! Take her teleclass now, tell them I sent you, and get 50% off!!!
This sort of copy always appears in my brain in bright red letters and huge exclamation points, even when it's done tastefully. It's like noise to me and, rather than be alienated by it I tend to tune it out.
I said to my PR-averse friend, "You know, maybe YOUR readers aren't as interested in special offers and announcements."
She didn't buy it: "But I still see plenty of people who fall into the more audacious camp, and they have tons of readers, and they actually make money off of their various projects. I have to wonder if I'm in denial about what it takes to be successful in this increasingly expert-saturated space."
Honestly I don't know the answer to that. Perhaps the challenge isn't learning to become more comfortable with being self-promotional, but rather learning to play within the range of what your community considers acceptable (defined by your own bullshit meter).
That means if you tend to feel uncomfortable promoting your work, endeavor to squeeze in a bit of personal PR thoughtfully and remember: There are some real freaking crazies out there who actually want to read your stuff, see the pics of your trip to LegoLand, take your teleclass. And who are YOU to not deliver?
You see? It's really not about you.