This 4th of July holiday I made a new friend who works for Hearst communications. She's hustled hard to get her place as editor for a bike and running publication, and when we began following each other on Instagram, passing one of the many phases of the 21st-century friendship, I commented in faux (but secretly real) jealousy of her 2k+ followers.
In her profession, companies like Nike, Lulu Lemon, and Oakley not only send her **free** items but at events, press photographers take her stellar photo which she can, in turn, can post to her account. As you can imagine, the photos look pro (plus, she doesn't sell out for free stuff!) and the Instagram-presentation is what you're familiar with if you've spent even 5 minutes on the app.
What's important here, is I found this new friend to be a real, down to earth, modest person. She's a killer athlete, sure, but doesn't arrive with ego or self-importance.
Somehow we got to talking about her discovery and acceptance of the immediate reaction she began to receive from her followers each time she posted photos of...herself. The numbers were and remain, greater. Then she said something along the lines of: "People like the pictures, so I post them." This light observation can seem obvious but my marketing mind can't stop but thinking about it.
What Molly experienced is what Seth Godin writes about: 'Nobody says, "That Yo Yo Ma, he’s so self-promotional," or, "can you believe what a self-promoter the Dalai Lama is?" That’s because they’re not promoting themselves. They’re promoting useful ideas. They’re promoting tactics or products that actually benefit the person they’re reaching out to.'
Ok, ok. I'm not comparing my friend to the Dalai Lama! And photos of her aren't necessarily helping others, but those photos certainly aren't hurting anyone. More importantly, she's posting not to self-promote, but rather because her audience responds with affirmation.
"Give the people what they want" comes to mind.
I can't get this simple and obvious lesson out of my marketing mind. In my past and previous clients, I find an incessant fear. The fear stems from not 'getting' social media, and then grows powerfully out towards ideas that self-promotion is selfish and more commonly narcissistic (admittedly, I relate).
But what the hell are we waiting for? We want a bigger business, we want more people to know about us, and we want our audience to like what we sell.
I can't articulate this final point as well as Marie Forleo, a killer-instinct-businesswoman who you need to check out if you've not already. Repeatedly, she teaches her business approach along these lines: "If your audience doesn't know what you offer, you're essentially robbing them of your experience."