Social Media Promotion Etiquette: How to Spread Your Content Without Annoying Friends

Tadeusz Szewczyk
by Tadeusz Szewczyk | Last Updated May. 6th, 2015 1 COMMENTS


With modern social media you can’t not promote yourself. You have to actively shout out loud or people will overlook you.

Relying on other people to find and spread your great content doesn’t work anymore if it ever did.

There are some things you still can’t do without losing friends. How to keep friends who’ll promote you in future again.


The first wave of social media

The first wave of social media was about trying to make the print publishing model work on the Web. The only thing they changed was to let people decide what becomes promoted to the frontpage.

Ideally the wisdom of crowds prevailed and the best or most important content got to the fp of Delicious, Digg or Reddit.

In reality more often than not only lowest common denominator content got voted up or things pushed by certain groups of users. A dark horse political candidate for example was the single most popular one on Digg but got completely ignored during the election. At the end of the day the frontpage model from print did not work properly on the Web.


The second wave of social media

These days Delicious doesn’t have a frontpage, Digg ceased to exist in its original crowdsourced form and Reddit has been subdivided into numerous niche communities. Their frontpage isn’t democratic at all.

The social media of the second wave, such services like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+ or Pinterest do not have a frontpage. They have a personalized stream.

You get to see the content and updates by those you follow in most cases, sometimes filtered by algorithms, especially in the case of Facebook and Google+. That’s far better. A one size fits all frontpage does not work on the Web. Just because a few people vote something p doesn’t mean that the majority would like to see it.


Self promotion or not?

With the early social sites it was often better to get discovered and submitted by a well-known power user of such a site instead of submitting your content yourself. In the first case numerous people would notice it and trust the judgement of aforementioned highly respected community member. Self-submission would not even get noticed or even get considered to be SPAM.

With newer social sites the tide changed again. Now you need to build your own audience whether you like or not. Self-promotion still will stay below the radar as long as nobody listens. You won’t get banned for SPAM just because you spread the word about your won articles but nobody outside will notice them.


Audience building by shouting?

I can’t explain the intricacies of the social media audience building in detail here now but let it be said that your audience won’t accept overt self-promotion either. Even in case people voluntarily follow you it doesn’t mean they want to get flooded by useless self-promotional crap. People on social media check out whether you really deserve the trust they give you.

When you don’t share but only shout you get unfollowed quickly.

On the other hand you really need to self-promote in most cases or other people won’t notice you at all. For example I have a large audience of 10k+ on Google+ yet nobody shares my articles there I publish on my blog unless I also promote my own posts on Google+ first. Then people readily vote and re-share as long  as the content matches their interests an dis of substantial quality.


Declaring a Red Alert


On Google+ there is the option to send a push notification to all of your followers. An option that will show a red alert on top of each person’s Google menu whenever they use Google+ or any other Google service while they are logged in.

This is clearly visible and can be annoying under some circumstances.

Not all people who follow you on Google+ are your friends, some are, others are rather acquaintances or fans. These people like to some extent or are simply interested in the things you have to say. Yet, they don’t love like your parents or spouse so you can’t treat them accordingly.


When sending out such a notification (see above) do not send it to people who are just casual buddies of yours or simple followers you do not even know of. In the example above all my 10k+ followers would get the message!

Let me show you a positive example of someone who alerted me using this Google+ feature:


You may even know this guy. Nick Eubanks is pretty widely known in the SEO community so content strategists may know him as well. A little background on our relationship: I subscribe to Nick’s newsletter. He curates a list of must read resources. I haven’t met Nick yet but he even managed to send over a potential client lead to me and I got the job. Nick rarely push-notifies me. I’m not even sure he already did before.

What’s the reason to notify me? He put up an extensive peace of flagship content online, a podcast interview with an expert on buying and selling domains. Even though I do not flip websites as the business is called I was intrigued enough to read through the transcript because I was in a hurry.

It was an exception when Nick used the push notification and the content he shared was exceptional. Also I’d consider him online friend. He might not consider me one yet because apparently I owe by now but you get the point. Similarly you do not simply send a DM (direct message) on Twitter to random followers even in case they do follow you.

A notification by mentioning someone’s name can be rude and intrusive too. Make sure to

  • do it only once in a while
  • have a proper reason for reaching out
  • give first instead of demanding something
  • notify friends not strangers

Some people have sent me push notification every week or more often while they rarely engaged. Strangers or people I didn’t really like did send me such notifications too. I had to remove most of them from my circles. You can send messages to individuals too without pushing your news on everybody.


All promotion all the time?

People on Google+ and other social media are not interested in you and your stuff 24/7. They care as long as you provide value to them. It can be a simple as entertainment value or as difficult as technical advice.

As long as you help people you are welcome. There are some rules to follow to make sure you are viewed as helpful and not overtly selfish. How do you reconcile getting yourself out there without appearing to be desperate?

You don’t share only your won stuff or things connected to you and your business.

That should be common knowledge by one. I think it’s even called the rule of thirds but it’s rather about sharing other people’s content four or five times and than yours only once. That would mean that only every four or fifth share should be self-promotional.

  1. One third your content or one you’re affiliated with
  2. One third content by industry leaders and large publications
  3. One third content by industry peers and online friends

Ideally you even share content more often based on quality and not your affiliation with it. Some people tend to share third party articles only when they get mentioned in them. That’s not enough either. It only shows that you’re biased and lose trust over time.

I follow my social media feeds on Feedly so that I have an overview over my sharing habits. Here’s are my latest six shares on Google+:


Just one of them is promoting an article of mine. The one about broken links is it. This way I ensure that my followers truly await my next piece and don’t get hungry while at it. They get fed quality content from third party sources. My own articles are often the most popular one in my stream:

* Creative Commons image by włodi