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How to gracefully promote yourself online

If you want to earn eyeballs, buzz or cash dolla bills for something you've dreamed up, using social media is a must.
If you want to earn eyeballs, buzz or cash dolla bills for something you've dreamed up, using social media is a must.
  • It's a fine line between tooting your own horn online and spamming everyone with tweets
  • Try introducing your website to family members and close friends first
  • Once you develop fans of your venture, use a public forum to thank 'em personally

Editor's note: Brenna Ehrlich and Andrea Bartz are the sarcastic brains behind humor blog and book Stuff Hipsters Hate. When they're not trolling Brooklyn for new material, Ehrlich works as a news editor at, and Bartz holds the same position at Psychology Today.

(CNN) -- Recently, we received the following netiquette question from a relatively self-aware reader:

how do I get my music blog out there (as it is fairly new) and make it accessible to my friends without looking like the pretentious f*** I really am and trying to make them realize that my taste in music is better than their own?

Putting aside the fact that said capital-letter averse typist has decided to start a music blog in this overly saturated cesspool we call the Internet, what we're really talking about here is the delicate art of self-promotion. If you want to earn eyeballs, buzz or cash dolla bills for something you've dreamed up, using social media is pretty much a must (and a topic taken on by plenty of writers before us).

But promoting oneself online is a concept that myriad people hate. There are the humble few who genuinely feel uncomfortable telling you why they are worth your time. Then there are the scores of self-righteous cads who really hate having to bother.

"I have to admit that I need others to validate the excellence of my intellectual property?" a musician might ask, staring at the contact info of yet another booker and weighing a possible future gig against the possibility of rejection. Often he thinks, F this, and goes back to jamming in his basement for an audience of old hat boxes and Christmas ornaments. This is one of multiple tributaries feeding into hipsters' poverty.

Self-promotion is an art, not a science, because it takes a bit of instinct and talent to tiptoe across the tightrope between tooting your own horn and sprinting down the street at 6 a.m. with an air horn blaring whilst your soon-to-be-former friends roll their eyes and plug their ears and discuss behind your back how desperately they wish you'd just shut the eff up.


But as famed tightrope walker Philippe Petit (star of "Man On Wire" -- good movie) would tell you, while every situation is different, there are some basic principles and laws of physics that underlie every successful feat of balance.

Keep these highlights in mind to publicize the heck out of your Etsy store/new pottery studio/music blog/band/esoteric literary journal essay/whatever without annoying the hell out of potential fans.

Start with the low-hanging fruit

I'm talking about your family, those apple-cheeked acquaintances who, through genetics or just low standards, seem to care about you. Send a carefully pruned list of contacts a polite e-mail informing them of whatever you're orbiting your PR campaign around.

Proofread the dang thing. Now proofread it again. ('Cause you know, nothing says "Take me seriously" like a reference to an "occurance" that's happening "tommorow.") BCC your invite list if it's long and clunky or if it contains a personal address the rest of your Rolodex doesn't need. (Just because you're family friends with the Schwarzeneggers...)

Ask recipients to check your site out and either give you feedback or let you know if there's someone helpful they could connect you with. People are much more likely to engage if you give them a specific to-do, rather than just a "Hey, my new online zine exists!" notification.

Only reach out when you have something to say

Are you on any online mailing lists? And how do you feel about their happy little droppings in your inbox? Gmail's new Priority Inbox even sifts out those nonurgent newsletters from actual missives. But a funny thing happens when you yourself are thinking about starting a newsletter.

"It'll be the best thing in everyone's mailbox!" you'll think maniacally. "It will be clever and fresh and interesting. Everyone will love it!"

Face-slap from reality: If nothing interesting happens biz-wise in a given seven-day period, then for goodness' sake, don't have a weekly e-newsletter. Just pick a realistic schedule, or only update fans when you have news or a discount to offer them or something.

Be upfront in each mailing about how often you'll bomb their inboxes. Never, ever add people to a mailing list without their permission. Make opting out simple and don't take it personally if your friends unsubscribe.

And please, please make those e-newsletters unboring -- include super links, use your trademark satirical droll tone, tell those who read to the end they can cash in on a beer with you, etc. You're already selling your pride. You might as well buy some Tecates with the profits.

Thank your fans

Oh Jesus super-exciting day, someone you don't personally know just purchased your hand-sewn owl purse/commented on your blog/tweeted the link to your online comic!!! Once you've stopped dancing in joy and caught your wheezing breath, use a public forum to thank 'em personally.

This is a smart tactic for brands that are all, "I'm supposed to be on The Twitter but I don't know what to say." Warby Parker, for example, is a burgeoning company with a cheery Twitterfeed that does nothing but respond to fans. Everyone likes feeling special, at least as much as you hate feeling like an uber-perky infomercial star with creepily white teeth.

Publicity's a b-dash-dash-dash-dash, but if you do it right you'll gain some much-needed personal validation without being a b-dash-cubed yourself.


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