We keep hearing and reading how important branding and promotion are for our businesses. But maybe some of our peers are taking it a tad too far? How much self-promotion borders on too much? Christos and I have been discussing this for quite some time. So we decided to write a his and hers post about it.
Let’s hear it from Christos first
I believe that self-promotion is an excellent idea. For many freelancers, this is probably the best way to promote their services and uniqueness. By doing so, they gain recognition and establish themselves in the market. The plethora of online tools makes self-promotion even easier. This, however, is also a tricky point. I see many fellow professionals who, in their attempt to promote themselves, cross the Rubicon and start glorifying themselves, their services and/or their “vast” knowledge on the translation business.
I’ve noticed an increase of taking self-promotion too far lately. I check my Twitter and Facebook accounts and most of the updates I see are something along the lines of “I am the best”, “I know this, I know that, I know everything”, “Watch my latest webinar/Read my latest blog post/Download my latest e-book” and so on. And not just once about a specific webinar/presentation/blog post or even a few times, but repeatedly; that’s where the problem lies and the whole thing gets annoying.
My problems with this approach are: if you are indeed the best in the business, what’s the point in bragging about it? Why would you spam your followers and readers by mentioning the same info about you and your services/webinars/e-books and so forth again and again?
This is something that I rarely see outside the translation sector: I don’t see the greatest athletes in the world bragging in social media about their greatness – they prefer to show it in the pitch, on the court, on the track. I don’t see great academics bragging in social media about their greatness – they prefer to show it in their books, classes, articles. I don’t see great businessmen bragging in social media about their greatness – they prefer to show it in the results of their companies, their acquisitions etc. So, why would translators be any different?
Self-promotion is an important part of online networking; that’s what all the books and blogs tell us. Some even advise us about the quantity of acceptable self-promotion: share 80% useful content and 20% about your business. I think that’s a bit too much, but I’m probably wrong. We don’t promote our blog, our services and achievements as much as we should according to the 80-20 rule, but as with most aspects of social media, there are no one-size-fits-all rules; it’s all about what you feel comfortable with.
The social media community of translators and interpreters is getting bigger and better by the day. A few years back there were only a few dozen must-follow translators on Twitter; most people were still wondering what to share and how. Nowadays, we’re talking hundreds. But some of our respected colleagues are taking it a bit too far. Even if you send 30 tweets per day, I think 10-15 of them being about your blog, services and/or how great you are is too much.
You’re presenting at a conference, good for you. Send a few Twitter updates and/or write a post in your blog about it. Don’t repeat it over and over again before the conference, during and at least two weeks after. You’re offering consulting services for newbie translators. Again, tell the world but don’t keep repeating it. Add a button in your site or blog and whoever is interested will find you, no need to annoy everybody else.
Instead of focusing on what you shouldn’t do, I want to give you three great examples of translators using self-promotion on social media in the best possible way, as far as I’m concerned. In fact, I should say they don’t use self-promotion at all; check out their blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts and you’ll see why they don’t need to…
Erik Hansson, Twitter @erik_hansson, Facebook page
I think Erik is a master networker. He’s brilliant in sharing useful and interesting content, he recommends other great tweeps every Friday (I don’t think he’s missed a Friday in the 2.5 years I’ve been following him) and his Facebook page is the best example of what a translation company page should be like; just take a look and Like it so you can read his fun and interesting updates.
Judy and Dagmar Jenner, Twitter @language_news, Blog Translation Times
Both their blog and Twitter account first recently won 1st place in the 2013 Language Lovers competition. Their updates and blog posts are consistently useful, interesting and fun. They usually involve a personal story that has to do with translation or interpreting, but never in a promotional way. Why? Because what they share in their blog and their Twitter accounts is so interesting, they don’t need to promote or say how marvelous and great professionals they are. Their followers like them so much, they do it instead! They have their own army of free good-willing brand ambassadors.
Jill Sommer, Twitter @bonnjill, Blog Musings from an overworked translator
Jill is a perfect example of lack of self-promotion. Her blog and Twitter updates are personal stories about her work as a translator (like the Jenner girls above). I’ve never seen a single “promotional” word or tweet from her, yet her blog is one of the most popular translation blogs; and I’m not talking about blogs mostly for newbies seeking advice. This is a proper let-me-share blog, full of tips and great discussions.
What do you think dear readers? How much do you think is too much? Do you get annoyed by colleagues sharing too much about themselves and their fabulousness on social media? Are you persuaded and want to follow their good example or just unfollow/unfriend them?
Self Promotion is a Social Turn Off
Social Media: How Much is Too Much Self-Promotion?
Funny you should be discussing this.
I just got a personal taste of this experience. I helped organize a conference and I was also presenting. Finding that balance you talk about was not easy, and I truly hope I did not go overboard.
It was my responsibility to get the word out there, and I tried to do it tastefully by focusing on the event itself, the sessions and the other presenters. I don’t think I got to 30 tweets a week. I hope I did not break 20 :o)
Self-promotion does get annoying and I have stopped following some people because of that and lack of content in their messages. I do not need to know that you like hot chocolate from a specific store or at what time you woke up this morning. However, if those activities are in any way related to your work (how to translate/interpret hot chocolate or a specific ingredient in the concoction or you are up so early because of time zones difference in order to accommodate a client for a very exciting project), then I can understand sharing these types of experience.
Here, here to tasteful e-communications!
I noticed some of your posts on FB but they were different every time even though they focused on the same subject. I think you managed beautifully. An example of over self-promotion would be you saying you organized the conference 5 times a day and not focusing on the conference itself. It’s not so much about content for me (i.e. the out-of-context posts translators sometimes share, like their dinner or cats), it’s the frequency and the talking about themselves in a promotional way (I’m awesome, you have to worship me).
Here, here to tasteful e-communications!
As far as acceptance of self-promotion is concerned, each person has his/her own level of tolerance for this, and therefore I can see why it is easy for a social media user to overstep someone else’s boundaries and come across as invasive without even realizing it.
Since I am not a Me-Myself-and-I type of person, I keep self-promotion to a (very) bare minimum and tend to be annoyed by people who share everything that they do. I am especially annoyed by things like ‘My week on Twitter: 4 new followers, 2 RTs, etc.’. I find those posts inherently aggressive.
As far as I am concerned, the best way to promote oneself is to share online ressources, tips, blogposts, etc. scattered around the Web. The Internet is so wide that it not remotely possible to find all that there is for you without some help. Share what you find, and have people pass round name around. In short, be an aggregator, not an aggressor.
We had that conversation on Twitter a few weeks ago, remember? Christos and I had actually written this post then but I kept delaying its publication and changing the content because I didn’t want it to sound whiny and bitchy. Obviously, we agree 100% and our style is exactly the same. I’m a sharer too and I’m fine with just that. There are ways to use social media to find clients without doing the self-promotion dance and annoy your followers.
Some people use social media to promote themselves so much that I can’t avoid thinking they’re out of work and are desperately reaching out for clients. Clients deadlines do not leave so much time for social media…
@José You might be right, but it doesn’t make much sense. Why spend so much time promoting yourself and your services to your colleagues mainly on social media when you can go out there (conferences, expos, meetings) and find clients with a much higher success rate? I think in some cases, they don’t really want to be translators any more, but trainers/educators in social media and business for translators, that’s why they promote themselves so much to peers.
I was actually starting to think that some of our colleagues were taking it a bit too far with their self-promotion. And that’s just on Facebook, as I am not that active on Twitter (still trying to get the hang of it). As you said, self-promotion is best and most memorable when it wasn’t actually intended that way!
Thanks for your comment Emeline 🙂
Hi Catherine. I find it hard to disagree.
If someone is filling up my timeline, even if much of it is good stuff, I find it a tad presumptuous; I tend to unfollow that kind of tweeter fairly quickly. Nor am I interested in what people listen to on Spotify every day or how many miles they have cycled.
If a person wants to tweet about very different subjects, it would help if they got themselves different Twitter accounts.
But the most perceptive point, one with which I agree wholeheartedly, is that if your bottom-line objective is to obtain more translation clients, then you need to be talking not to your colleagues but to, well, potential clients. Bit of a no-brainer, you’d have thought. Sure, you can get a few referrals from colleagues along the way, which is great, but it’s like putting Plan B before Plan A.
Thanks for your comment Oliver 🙂 I think it’s all about diversity in someone’s posts, on Twitter or Facebook. I don’t mind the running, eating, music stuff as long as they are a small percentage (along with the self-promotion stuff) among useful tweets about languages, translation and interpreting. If someone wants to share the irrelevant stuff only, then a personal account is the solution.
Love your blog–lot’s of resources and important discussions. I have to agree with you. I’ve always believed in education-based marketing. I think the Dove series is an excellent example (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpaOjMXyJGk). The key is really, insight, research, and presentation. But that can be rather time-consuming, and people may resort to less costly techniques, such as repetition, etc. I try to cite as many other bloggers or books in translations as I can when I write, because I know I’m not the best.
I don’t know what your take is on RT though, do you think RTs are inherently aggressive? You should write a post about twitter etiquette for translators who blog.
Thanks again for the perspective!
Thank you for your kind words, glad you like our blog 🙂 RTs are great, I look at it as a way to say thank you to the person who shared something while at the same time you share it yourself, win-win. Of course, overdoing it with the amount of tweets is another issue (e.g. if you post 50 RTs or tweets per day, your followers might be swamped with your posts and find them tiring). I’ve written several posts about Twitter and there are a lot more I want to write but there’s never enough time. Hopefully, I’ll cover the etiquette thing soon.
Eager social marketers should honestly estimate, how many hours they spend on social media activities (ALL of them, even reading a feed) per month, or per week, then multiply this amount by their hourly fee. If it’s not enough, they can attempt to determine the average number of leads they get from SM, as well as lead-to-customer conversion ratio.
Everything looks different, when you convert it to hard dollars, and soft dollars do not exist.
Interesting, thanks for sharing Vadim!
Most insightful ‘his and hers’ post ☺
In a way, I think you and Christos have touched on a raw nerve in our translator circles about self aggrandisement. In general, it seems as if perpetual, dare I use the word, ‘narcissism’ has become by default a symptom of social media. I also believe that there is a line and, as Frédéric also points out, everyone’s ‘line’ is different. If there is too much on one ‘topic’ (non-language-related in this case) or overdoing it with the RTs, I think your audience starts to lose interest.
Like José, I too wonder that if people are so busy working and have imminent deadlines, how do they manage to be on social media so frequently and consistently? How do they meet their deadlines if they are perennially present online? It almost sends out a counter message.
A sound all-round strategy, I believe, is to follow other industry professionals, throw in some RTs, start and participate in discussions – address issues and discuss topics that are going to resonate with your audience in a positive way.
While we all have a great affinity with our profession(s), we also have other interests and pursuits. I must admit, I throw in some non-language-related information sometimes – might be something technology-related or a piece of music I listened at lunchtime; even a piece of news. The underlying point emerging in this discussion is the value of diversity and balance in our social media domains and profiles.
Tools such as Tweetdeck and HootSuite allow you to create weeks worth of SM posting in a jiffy! It does not take long if you have the right tools. I’d guess that SM users who mostly do RTs are those who do not have much knowledge and/or much time to dedicate to SM.
When I am busy, I disappear from SM or do mostly RTs. Even when I am really busy – by my standards – I do not recall going over 6 postings in a day (on Twitter). As pointed out, I have my clients to tend to :o)
Very well said! Especially the part: A sound all-round strategy is to follow other industry professionals, throw in some RTs, start and participate in discussions – address issues and discuss topics that are going to resonate with your audience in a positive way. You summarized how social media (marketing) should work practically for everybody. I share non-translation stuff too; 2-3 tweets/day about freelancing & social media and 1/day about anything else I found interesting (travel, books, funny stuff etc.).