THESE DAYS, my Facebook feed has morphed into a marketplace of sorts. It’s lively, filled with friendly competition and there are new sellers every day. But instead of the usual hawking of wares, people barter in a different type currency- they offer themselves up, together with their soft skills. 

By that, I mean, it has become so acceptable for us to use social media to brand and promote ourselves that no one thinks twice to question it.

The fashion conscious upload #OOTDS on Instagram, and likewise for the legions of yogis who flaunt their latest poses and matching psychedelic-printed pants. Aspiring photographers and filmmakers offer sneak peeks of shoots, while graphic designers curate their work on Behance. Wordsmiths churn out poetry on Tumblr, wannabe TV personalities and singers flock to Youtube as their starting ground, and bakers present their latest culinary creations on their own Facebook page, you get the drift.  And don’t you dare forget the sacred mantra- tag, mention, like, share.

This invasion of content shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, if you’re a freelancer, small business owner, or anyone in the creative field, self- marketing is practically a necessity.

Self-marketing refers to the crafting of one’s passions, skills, and personality into a distilled form (i.e your USP- unique selling point), and using social media to consciously project this public image to one’s audience. 

Even your Hollywood celebs are jumping on the bandwagon. Taylor Swift leaves encouraging words for her Swifties, drops cryptic ciphers to tease fans about upcoming albums, and poses with her cats on her Instagram – masterfully portraying herself as the approachable girl-next-door. Closer to home, our own PM Lee recently conducted a Q&A session on Facebook, in an earnest attempt to connect with Singaporeans on the ground.

While this offers plenty of interesting and inspirational content, at times, it can come across as annoyingly self-indulgent. But like it or not, the future lies in these online platforms. Welcome to the age of the ‘Me Me Me’ generation.

First off, your social media functions like an online portfolio. Outside your professional work, whatever content you upload becomes an extension of your offline self. For instance, just by looking at someone’s Instagram feed, the kind of images is telling of the kind of person he is, his personal life, and how he sees the world. Although it’s less polished, this medium reveals his skills set, albeit a different facet.

With such an informal publishing platform, you might see this as an opportunity to keep pushing the boundaries on your craft. Like-minded followers in the community who offer constructive feedback can also compel you to hone your skills further.

It’s pretty much how people do online networking these days. They first build their client base through favorable reviews from their own friends. Once word-of-mouth spreads, those friends of friends start to come knocking, with possibly a job offer or two. Some are taking it even further to promote themselves. I heard that on Tinder, one person had included this description, “Swipe right only if you have a job for me.” You got to admit, that’s resourcefulness. Furthermore, with the increasing accessibility, these days the first thing prospective employers do is to check your social media presence to have a gauge. Well, no pressure there.

However, there are certainly some caveats to this whole self-marketing shebang.

It’s pretty obvious when someone is humble-bragging just for the sake of attaining likes. People usually welcome it when you’re being genuinely informative and sharing good stuff. But when it’s motivated by self-centred reasons, people can sniff it out immediately. There’s a fine, fine line between being real and shameless self-promotion, so tread carefully, and remember to share, not sell/brag.

Another pet-peeve: it’s about quality not quantity. Sharing every single thing you produce isn’t going to get you more followers.  And when you link your works on multiple platforms, it may be too repetitive. Eventually, people may find their feed so saturated with your content that they shut off. Completely. It might be wiser to only highlight certain works that you’re particularly proud of, and pace it out. “Look at my work/my life” posts are obviously self-promotion, so try not to bombard your audience too often with it.

Cultivating the right audience is another skill. This doesn’t mean friends in your circle who feel obligated to ‘like’ your work out of friendship, but from people who genuinely interested in your art, and whose loyalty you’ve earned. But you can’t expect others to share your work and talk about it if you don’t do the same for them. So take time to build relationships, interact, leave meaningful feedback for fellow artists, promote the content they publish, and eventually it will pay off.

Yet in the midst of starting out, there runs a risk of unethical promotion. A friend once shared with me that during a certain magazine’s competition, another contestant was guilty of getting complete strangers vote her picture, and even stooping to buy likes. It’s a little different from being a paid influencer, but even on a smaller scale, how many of us are guilty of asking our friends to like the content we put up? We don’t even bat an eyelash anymore when someone messages us personally to get us to like this or that page. The sad reality is, it’s a numbers game.

You have to regularly maintain your web presence. Youtube star Ryan Higa has done it so well. Other than his vlogs, he’s launched all sorts of behind-the-scenes videos on HigaTV like Dear Ryan, Parkcourse, TeeHee time, vlogs and, brings all sorts of new content, and publishes a video every week…. versus Kev Jumba who seems to have vanished into thin air, not having posted for almost a year. It’s a cruel world and people won’t hesitate to replace you with someone better if you disappear.

What with so many of my peers stepping by their game, and building their future careers by self-marketing, it’s time for me, a self-confessed Luddite to start too. 

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