The internet wants us to brag. So many of us are eager to take the bait. Our social media threads are filled with “look what I did!” moments – edited to show only the greatest hits, of course.

It’s a cry for attention. Why post every meal, accomplishment, and vacation? You need people to know you’re somebody and you’re special. It’s becoming a bit of a plague. Social media etiquette is still a very new science.

Maybe we should keep our personal lives a little more personal, but can we do the same for our brand? You can’t “mind your own business” in business. You need the public to know what you do and how good you are at it.

When to be the Expert

Sometimes you must establish yourself as an authority. Otherwise, why are people drawn to your products or services? Personal trainers must prove they excel at nutrition and sports science. They must display their knowledge with their own bodies. Business coaches must have a rags-to-riches story to show their method works.

The trainer is more fit than you. The coach is richer than you. They must establish those facts and keep you from forgetting them. Otherwise you’d work out by yourself and follow your own financial advice.

When promoting yourself, you need to convince people your products and services are worth their money. You need them to choose you over the competition. You need to be the best, but do you always need to shout it?

When to be Humble

Image via Flickr by Tyler Merbler

You want a relationship with your customers. They’ll buy from you if they like you. They won’t like you if you won’t stop claiming to be the best. You want to be approachable and friendly.

The internet is a big cocktail party and every party has a cocky jerk. Don’t be that guy. Be a person who compliments others and is easy to hang out with.

One way to do this is to acknowledge who’s baking your bread. Where would you be without your customers? Nowhere. They are wonderful people. They enable your entire lifestyle. Be grateful and celebrate them.

How to Celebrate your Customers

Stop lecturing. Start conversing. Don’t deliver statements. Ask questions. With every post, give your audience an opportunity to respond. Get them talking.

People love talking about themselves. You do. They do. They’ll feel empowered and valued when you listen to them.

Admit to weakness. Admit you don’t know something. Your audience will tire of the know-it-all act. You know what? Your customers are smart people. They’re all better than you at something. Let them demonstrate it.

My wife and I sell cooking products online. We network with chefs, barbecue champions, and some excellent home cooks. We often ask for cooking advice. We’re not the experts. We sell stuff to the experts.

I’ll post a picture of a piece of meat and ask what I should do with it. I’ll get all sorts of responses. I learn, I make friends, and I affirm that our people are the real stars.

“High Quality Gear for High Quality People”

That’s our motto. I dig it because along with confirming the quality of our stuff it compliments our customers. Are you a high quality person? Yes you are, and you deserve the best gear. Low quality people can have the cheap junk.

GMC used to advertise its trucks with the line: “We are professional grade.” The ads were filled with serious workers building serious stuff. The implication was that you are a professional, you use high quality tools, and a GMC truck is worthy of you.

GMC’s new campaign for the Yukon is aimed at the “well put together man.” It features handsome executives being shaved by a barber, shopping for tailored suits, or adjusting their cufflinks. The audience takes pride in appearance and preparation. They are high quality people. They deserve a vehicle that is a cut above and they’ll pay for it.

This line of marketing compliments and flatters your customers. They feel important and worthy.

Look! I’m Online!

You may be very used to seeing your words, products, images, and even your face online regularly. Remember your first time? The first time your picture, article, byline, or product listing hit the web you were stoked. You shared it with everyone. It was the coolest, right?

Give that feeling to your customers. Share their story, recipe, experience, or review (with their permission, of course). When it goes live, they’ll jump out of their shoes to send the link to their mom, boss, ex-boyfriend, landscaper, and others. That’s a lot of free publicity and enthusiasm.

So publish some blog posts about Ordinary Jane or Joe using your product or service. They’ll be ecstatic to be featured.

We shared a recipe from one of our customers and he confided to me how barbecue was something he learned from his late father. Cooking connects him with his dad again. I never anticipated how publishing his pork shoulder tips truly moved him. We made a fan.

Build a Buddy List

When people mention you, take note of it. Seriously, put it in a file. Periodically go through that list and do something good for everyone on it. Repost something about them. Send them a shirt or a sticker. Refer someone to their product or service.

Communicate with them directly. Ask what their goals are and why they are active in social media. How can you help them achieve that? Spend time lifting up others and forget about yourself. You’ll find them doing the same for you.

Remember, no matter what you do or sell, you are a customer service business. People will remember you, talk about you, and return to you because of how you treat them. They’ll have no problem letting you earn some of their money. They’re going to spend it all somewhere.

You need to be the best at what you do, but you don’t always need to broadcast it. Be a humble provider. The truly outstanding, laudable people are your customers.