Do You Have to be a Self-Serving Pig?

At Six Pixels of Separation, Mitch Joel’s latest post is You Self Serving Pig. Read the whole thing because it’s great, but here’s a snippet:

If there’s one cultural point of interest that is quickly emerging from the online social channels and platforms, it is that you can’t “win friends and influence people” if you all ever do is talk about yourself. It comes off as self-serving and much too self-promotional. It also incites readers and community members to spout off the infamous sayings, “what’s in it for me?” and “what have you done for me lately?”

Mitch is talking about social media – Twitter, Facebook, blogs etc. – and I agree with him. I can’t count the number of people I’ve stopped following on Twitter because they’re all about promoting themselves or their products and not about giving me anything. I quite like the odd personal tweet or blog post – something about your new kitten or your latest vacation – but I don’t want to hear about you, you, you 24 hours a day.

But here’s where it gets interesting for job seekers, or anyone interested in building up an online presence. Mitch ends his post with a question:

how do people build and develop their personal brands, if all we really want is content that is valuable to us and not self-promotional in any way, shape or form?

Now regular readers know I’m not a fan of the term ‘personal brand’ and this question gets to the heart of why – to build a true personal brand, meaning that people know who you are and your name stands for something in their mind, you must consistently add value to the world in some way. You might be a great rock guitarist, or a fabulous actor, or the best store manager in your chain, or a really creative resume writer whose clients all tell others about your product. But you didn’t get that reputation by telling other people that you’re fabulous – you got it by adding value – every day in lots of different ways. You worked your ass off and people noticed. In return, you got a great reputation (or if you prefer, a ‘strong personal brand.’)

In this way, social media is no different from anything else in life. Focusing on “building a personal brand” with your social media activities is the wrong approach. Instead, you should always be focused on how you can add value. If you do that, the reputation will come.

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