DURING 2005, my high school teachers were in the process of nominating the year’s Head Girl and Head Boy. I proceeded an incessant, militant-like badgering of every teacher on the nominee board. “Miss! I should be Head Girl as I have good grades, I’m confident, I’m friendly…” I told everyone who needed to know. I cornered the social studies teacher by the vending machine. I was keen and insufferable.
And I won. It was announced in assembly and my entire class year - now tired of my constant petitioning - audibly groaned. ‘So what if they don’t like me,’ I thought, ‘I still won’.
A long time later and it seems everyone is self-promoting with the same unapologetic vigour. It’s the era of the personal brand, and everyone everywhere is shouting about him or herself on every digital platform made available. I’m surrounded by ‘personal brands’ more than people these days; it's a sad indictment of our current times.
Yet it pays to self-promote. Youtuber extraordinaire Zoella is now worth £2.5 million pounds. Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuck grew his family’s wine business from $3 million to $60 million with the help of an active social media presence. 25-year-old Steven Bartlett started his global social media marketing company Social Chain from a business plan on a pizza box in Moss Side – I know this and all other details of his business from his daily vlog. They all mastered the art of self-promotion as a means for business growth. It worked.
Evidence shows I can’t afford to not join the self-promoting digital brigade, especially in a competitive media landscape. Though, I’m not doing quite as well as Zoella on that front. I’m not the aggressive self-promoter I once was (well, that's debatable). Life and experience has taught me that humility is always a virtue and anything else is considered narcissism. For women especially, the phrase “you love yourself” is a loaded insult. As if to say, ‘a woman with too much self-worth is a woman not worthy of respect’. Vanity has always been a woman’s sin.
These well-established tropes have made me painfully aware of myself, and my social media presence (more specifically the pictures of my outfits). While I’m certainly not shy in front of a camera or a microphone, I never want to appear like I’m blowing my own trumpet.
Unfortunately, too much humility doesn’t get you far on the internet these days. Out of sight, out of mind. Launching a new business and not on Instagram? Well, good luck to you.
Nobody understands this more than Canadian Youtube star Maya ‘Shameless Maya’ Washington. Back in 2012, she posed the question: ‘what would happen if I shamelessly promoted myself?’ after noticing everyone in her field was doing better than her – not because they were more talented but because they were better at promoting themselves. Maya’s social media experiment led to her shaving her head, over 1 million Youtube followers, and later interviewing Hilary Clinton during the 2016 American elections.
While I’m not prepared to shave my head for it, if acting a little more 'shameless' online could lead to major interviews, huge endorsements and exciting opportunities then I’m geared up for a little vanity. After all, opportunities come knocking if you show people where to find the door.
Self-promotion is not just about selfies and makeup endorsement contracts (though they are nice), either. Positive personal profiles benefit employers and businesses too. Here’s some interesting figures from CEO hangout:
561% more reach when employees share brand messages.
82% of people are more likely to trust a company when their senior executives are active on social media.
90% of recruiters said they conducted online research on potential candidates
There are much more supporting figures like this.
Of course, not everyone will like you for daring to self-promote. You will look self-absorbed to the luddites amongst us. Plus, performing for social media has its issues; it's undoubtedly the cause for anxiety, low self-esteem, a lack of productivity, that time we all had huge drawn on eyebrows...
And shouting about your achievements online isn’t comfortable for most. It leaves you vulnerable to criticism and is a little weird (Youtube is full of people talking to themselves on camera). Yet in the toss-up between some people not liking my work or people not caring about my work at all, I’d always choose the former.
Self-promotion is a means to an end. A way of communicating your values, bolstering your work, helping a cause, and ensuring you’re not left behind in a world now dominated by digital. Sure, sometimes we just need a little validation that we’re doing OK. Soon enough our digital profiles will become as valuable as CVs. Actually, I think they already are.
So, here goes: I’m L’Oréal and you should follow me. I’m a journalist and a presenter. I like fashion, dance and talking too much. I'm propa' nice.
So… what do I win?