Being an introverted self-promoter is difficult because everything about self-promotion seems antithetical to your nature. It feels like needlessly exposing yourself to risk. When you say, “hey - look at this cool thing I built!” - people... god forbid, can become aware of your work and they can judge it. And when they judge it, you (mistakingly) think they are implicitly judging you and your abilities. Have you ever read the hacker news comment section? What introvert (indeed, what human) would want to subject themselves to that?
When you’re introverted or shy, you naturally tend to fade into the background. The spotlight is your enemy. You know it’d probably do you some good to be in it, but you kinda hope it just passively finds you amongst the crowd (Yeah, right….). So the introvert tends to passively “like” things on twitter without replying with messages of their own. The introvert tends to lurk on sites like Reddit, sitting back and observing the situation, letting others do the talking.
Honestly, I'm terrible at self-promoting, or networking, or whatever you want to call it.
But I do have a plan. Let me share it with you.
Think of yourself as trying to engage with people, or better yet, as attempting to help people. You built a tool that you find useful? Chances are that at least someone else out there will find it useful too. Even if only two people out of a hundred use it and the rest shit on it, the world is still a better place for those two people.
You know you have the tendency to lurk so create concrete goals that require you to engage more. Here are a few I’m trying:
1. Instead of just liking a tweet and moving on, attempt to give a thoughtful reply to that tweet especially if you have something nice to say. You love it when people reply to your tweets like this, so why not spread the love?
2. Send a direct message to anyone that follows you on twitter. This idea comes from Harry Stebbings, and it’s a great one:
Every night for 20 mins I send a personal DM to every new follower. I have now sent 16,427 DMs this way. It has led to:
👨👨👧👧 Incredible friendships and discussions with amazing people.
❤️ Incredible community love for @twentyminutevc
💵 $100K+ in sponsors.
Go the extra mile.
— Harry Stebbings (@HarryStebbings) March 17, 2019
People follow you because they’re interested in what you have to say. Reach out and thank them - ask them some questions based upon their profile and follow them back! Do the same when you follow someone. Explain how you value their work, and let them know that you appreciate their opinions.
3. Make a list of social news indexes like hacker news, reddit, and digg (is that still a thing?) and post every single thing you make to them. Don’t make exceptions. Just do it. Force yourself. Remember - even if just two or three people benefit from whatever you post, it’s worth it!
One New Years I came up with the resolution of never turning down an invitation - a resolution that might seem absurd to most people, but really worked wonders for me. I knew I had the tendency to pass on opportunities that I’d later regret, and this resolution forced me to jump on them no matter how reluctant I was. It worked because it was concrete and easily measurable and I knew when I had cheated. Introverts, especially those with social anxiety, tend to let their fears shout out the other parts of their brain in social contexts: you know what’s good for you, but your irrational fears convince you otherwise. These “hacks” make it more difficult for this voice to win.
I’m probably not going to be presenting at conferences any time soon, but I do love writing, and blogging is a great outlet for me. These posts are valuable even if no one reads them, in large part by providing a space for me to organize and clarify my own thoughts. To effectively write something you need to really understand it.
So, that’s my plan. Are you an introverted solo dev or entrepreneur? What are your strategies for networking and self-promotion? I’d love to hear them - I need all of the help I can get!
(This is an article posted to my blog at benmcmahen.com. You can read it online by clicking here.)