Home Featured Aggressive Networking and Self-Promotion: Good Hustle or Bad Practice?

Aggressive Networking and Self-Promotion: Good Hustle or Bad Practice?

Offline social networking

Every now and then a negative thought passes through my mind and I find myself reflecting on it moments later. The negativity isn’t always directed inward. Sometimes it’s a reaction to somebody else. Perhaps something they said or an observation I made.  Whatever the case, I like to keep my thoughts and reactions positive. But sometimes, I experience a bit of dissonance and have to seek out one of my friends to make sense of it. I had one of those occasions come up earlier this week. I’m still navigating the thoughts in my head, so bear with me as I try to weave a web of logic.

Have you ever met someone who you liked initially, but as their intentions became clear you found yourself suddenly not liking them so much anymore? That’s sorta what’s been happening to me online…repeatedly. I keep “meeting” people only to find out that they have ulterior motives — or at least it feels that way. Particularly when it comes to Twitter and Facebook. Let me give you an example:

@somebody22 sends me a pleasant introductory message. I respond in kind. @somebody22 proceeds to engage with me a few times. It seems like we have a lot in common so I follow them back or add them as a friend.  Once I do so, the level of engagement dwindles and the links to their articles and events start to show up…everyday. In fact, it turns out that most of their interactions with people are introductory pleasantries followed by aggressive self-promotion. @somebody22 gets unfollowed or defriended since I don’t like the smell of duplicity, but their name keeps showing up in my timeline because their efforts to aggressively network are paying off. I get slightly irritated with each mention. Not because they’re achieving success, but because of how they’re going about it. In my mind, I know I can’t knock the hustle and it shouldn’t be a big deal. But for whatever reason, when I see their name I cringe. And it’s at that point that the dissonance sets in and I phone (gchat) a friend to untangle my thoughts.

That’s what happened to me the other day. Since chatting with my friend, I realized it’s not much different than what happens offline. You meet someone. They seem cool. You exchange contact information then next thing you know they’re inviting you to a pyramid scheme event or trying to get you on their promotional email list. Again, you can’t knock their hustle but you feel tricked. Your relationship with them is soiled, but it doesn’t matter to because for every five trashed relationships, they end up with one that pays off.

See Also:  War On Men: Should Women Avoid Dating an Older Man?

There are several roads to success. And at the end of each, it looks completely different. I believe in building relationships with like-minded people because they energize me and I know I can add value to their lives. When I meet someone that could be a great connection, my first thought isn’t how will they help me succeed. It’s how can we build a sustainable relationship and help each other reach our goals. And by goals, I don’t necessarily mean something monumental. It could be as simple as a phone call for a referral or to bounce a potential idea. I don’t ask them to buy my Roxio-burned CD. I don’t ask them to publish my article. I’m not trying to get them on the email list to buy my book. If they decide to do any of those things, it’s because they inquired or noticed what I do. I let my work speak for itself.

There are a lot of people out there today that choose the other route. They choose to speak for their work. They push their articles like rappers push links to their mixtapes and promoters push links to their parties. They’re constantly reaching out to people to be seen and heard, and it works. Their hustle results in new opportunities. They’re not afraid to ask and it pays off. And even though I understand the concept of business development and hustling to make things happen, I still can’t get with some of the methods to success I see today. I’m a firm believer that if you just focus on your work, the right people will notice. Obviously this doesn’t work in all situations, but it works enough for me to keep believing it.

See Also:  How Do You Stay in Love?

I’ve wondered if I’d be further along if I took the other approach. Would I already have quit my day job and been able to focus on this stuff full time? Would I already have some cushy gig in new media? Maybe. Maybe not. I just know I’d rather my talents speak for themselves except when asked to speak directly about them. Like I said, I can’t knock the hustle out there, but I just can’t get with it. Now I have a few questions to ask you:

Does it matter if you’re successful because you’ve honed your craft, produced work that people have found out about and come to love, or because you’ve aggressively networked and pushed your work upon them? At what point does self-promotion become a turn off? How much asking is too much asking? Does it even matter if you’re still getting the results? What’s your personal philosophy on achieving success?

I’m just saying,


Admin Note:  Just a heads up that the next SBM NYC event is scheduled for Friday, July 27th at Empire Room in Manhattan. More details to come later this week. No, this is not the same type of self-promotion as discussed in this post!


  1. I know exactly what you mean. Aggressive self-promotion is a MAJOR turn-off to me. I see the folks doing the hard sell and it does seem to work for many, but that will never be my style. I can barely promote myself at all, let alone aggressively. It just doesn't come naturally to me. Unfortunately.

    I am turned off just as much by people incessantly asking for votes for contests as I am by people incessantly promoting their biz/event/mixtape. I have a saying, "if it works, work it." So if the constant promoting & badgering is working for someone, like you say, I can't knock the hustle. They may not get MY vote, but I'm just one person. Success is success. Just ask all the "singers" who would be admin assistants and accountants if it weren't for autotune.

    I'd prefer to stay behind the scenes and become successful by being noticed for my skills & abilities rather than beat folks over the head. I think, though, that there must be a balance. Just like Mr. Right isn't going to magically appear at my door, neither is a great opportunity. Unfortunately.
    My recent post 4 things to consider re: promotional items

  2. I'm torn on this – I did a sponsorship pitch the other day for a training camp. The person I know that works for the brand acted really funny about giving me the proper contact info. We've ran in the same circle for the last 2 years, so I saw nothing wrong with asking "hey do you know such and such's email? I'd like him to check out this proposal I have." I had to get the pitchee's info the hard way so the process took 2 weeks longer than it would have. I was like, what did she really gain by not giving me his direct email you know? At any rate I now know what box to put her in, so if she ever needed something on the sports end, she'll get the still face.

    I hate self-promotion that's disguised as genuine interest. Like don't small talk someone because you think they can/will/should put you on. If you're doing something outstanding or write an article that's of interest to them, they'll support and pass it along. When people only surface when they want something, I cut them off. I can respect someone aggressively pushing great work or a solid product at me. I don't respect someone pushing tons of mediocrity to keep their name in front of people's eyes.

  3. Does it matter if you’re successful because you’ve honed your craft, produced work that people have found out about and come to love, or because you’ve aggressively networked and pushed your work upon them? I guess it depends on your morals and whats important to you. I would rather achieve my success by honing my craft, and as you said "letting my work speak for itself." I'm just not an aggressive sales type of person, which is why I've never worked in that type of sales. I never force anything on anyone. I present it and give people options and allow them to choose or not. If they don't, no love loss. I find that I works well for me. Maybe the latter works better for others. To each his own. I like to do things the right way. I also don't like to feel like I had to pigeon-hole anyone or brow-beat them into buying whatever I'm selling and believing in it. I think when your truly passionate about what it is your doing, that passion resonates through you and bubbles over into everything you do and say. That energy gets passed along to other people in your interactions.
    Now if your just about the money and there is no real passion for what your doing then yeah, you do have to sell sell sell aggressively guerilla style to make the money your trying to make.
    At what point does self-promotion become a turn off? When your "doing too much." When your repeatedly coming at someone who has told you no. When you can be compared to a car salesman or a Jehovahs Witness. And as you mentioned Slim when someone reaches out to you with what seem like good intentions, and then you realize they were just trying to get their foot in the door to hard sell you something you don't want or need.
    How much asking is too much asking? Does it even matter if you’re still getting the results? What’s your personal philosophy on achieving success? I think it does matter how you go about achieving your success. I think if you do it the right way it's easier to Maintain your level of success and you keep your integrity and respect, and that's very important. My personal philosophy is whatever you do, do it for the right reasons. It may take you longer to "take the high road," but at least you will keep your integrity, self respect and a clear conscience.

  4. Don’t pitch me bro. I’m one that rather see what kinda noise you’re making first and then i’ll come to you if it feels right. To me aggressive self promoting comes off as desperate, as though you have no confidence in your work that you have to sell the hell out of it. On another note, i think im perhaps way too far on the other end of the spectrum where im too damn humble to get notice. As with most things, balance is key.

  5. Okay. This is can become a multi-layered discussion. I agree with Slim that feigning friendship in order to “self-promote” is shady and shoots your credibility. A person’s impression is everything and no one wants to feel used. However, as a former “throw-the-link-out-there-and-hope-someone-will-bite” queen of guerrilla campaigning, there is something to be said for self-promotion when it’s not disguised as friendship. If you approach someone from the door with “I respect your writing and the progression you’ve made in your career and would love your opinion on my work.” It’s concise and clear what the individual wants from you and you can make a decision as to whether you are willing to invest your time. Self-promotion produces results at a more rapid pace than the slow n steady production of great work. I think you need a combination of both in order to sustain the quick notoriety that self-promotion produces. It also depends on necessity. If you are a corporate exec who blogs as a supplemental means of income you’re “need” is significantly different from an unemployed individual driven to make blogging or freelance their primary source of income. This was an awesome article!

  6. Keeping the industry and context of what is being promoted or pushed is essential to a fair analysis. Someone promoting their party to you via social media is akin to someone standing outside on the corner passing out the stack of fliers in their hand one by one. With the current level of privacy settings for most social networks, in order to send/receive messages on a continual basis, you need to first establish some sort of rapport or become "friends." This type of promotion shouldn't be scrutinized under the same lens as that of professionals in other industries such as blogging/web magazines.

    1. For me, venue is an important consideration. There is a time and place for everything, including aggressive networking. Perhaps online is not the right time and place for initial interaction geared towards the purpose of self-promoting your business. I rarely find myself doing such. I find that aggressive networking practices are much more widely accepted among others in your profession (Only speaking to engineering and law because those are industries in which I've had personal experience) at national conferences, career fairs, and industry related events (e.g. Consumer Electronics Show). Rubbing elbows with others who are promoting could lead to a dynamic partnership and you may find that what they are doing aligns perfectly with your current business or future strategy.

      1. I definitely agree. My advisor in graduate school would always tell us, "Network or NoWork" which is a philosophy I take with me everyday. In the healthcare business (administrative side), you have to aggressively network when you have the opportunity because it is a very small and tight network of people. I think it's all about being genuine and professional. If you network with these two principles in mind, there is nothing wrong with being aggressive.

  7. I’m actually stuck in the middle of this struggle myself. While I HAVE gained personal relationships that have evolved into something for my career in an organic manner I often wonder how further along I’d be if I were more aggressive with selling myself, so to speak.

    I guess the trick is to be conscious of selling yourself, but do it in a way that folks don’t notice that’s exactly what you’re doing? Me no know. lol

    1. I think if you genuinely are interested in people and want to help them, it'll come back to you. It's why a lot of people do free consultations, speak at seminars on volunteer basis, etc. While they may ultimately want the exposure and opportunity for business, it doesn't turn people off.

      I think this is a struggle a lot of us go through. Finding the balance is tough.
      My recent post I Felt Confident Yesterday.

  8. I wouldn't call it aggressive self-promotion, but sometimes I tend to suffer from tunnel vision when it comes to my career path. I meet new people and think, "What can you do for me?" rather than aim to build a mutually beneficial relationship. We would have a good conversation and then I would hit them up with a "Can you do this, this and this for me? 'Preciate it!" e-mail. Shameful!

    Part of it came from a place of low self-esteem. As a new professional, I felt/feel that I don't really have much to offer others in terms of their careers. "I'm barely making it in my own endeavors… can't do nothing for ya!" was the undercurrent of my internal narrative.

    I've read that offering to help new contacts is a good way to go about networking. I've adopted that view of networking, and even though its the road less traveled and considerably harder. That, and realizing that I'm a rather accomplished person and DO have things to offer the people that I meet, has caused me to end my agressive self-promotion.
    My recent post “A Hard Battle”

  9. I'm DEFINITELY not torn on the concept, I'm only torn on my willingness to actualy engage in it. But make no mistake; the squeaky wheel gets the oil. I've watched my barely medeocre peers get promotions, vacation time when they actually request it (as opposed to the begging & rearranging I've had to do), swifter & more complete responses from HR whenever they have a complaint (and they ALWAYS have one), shit, cakes on birthdays, name it. I've also seen barely medeocre musicians, TV presenters, promo people, (Soldja Boy), salespeople, (Ryan Seacrest), pitchmen, (Diddy), booty models, (Tila Tequila), and many more shout their medeocrity from the rooftops, get noticed, and make $$. I stopped debating whether I liked it or not a long time ago, mostly because I realized the source of my ire was the fact that the shit WORKED, despite their actual despicable methods of getting there.

  10. Self-promotion becomes a problem for me if every time I see someone they are trying to pitch me ESPECIALLY if I have already said I not interested in buying/joining/attending etc. whatever it is they are into.

    And it becomes a bigger problem if you leave me alone but every time I invite you somewhere you're pitching my people and making people feel awkward.

  11. Cheekie I think the key is selling yourself aggressively without being too over-bearing and annoying.
    If you got skillz no matter what business your in selling yourself through word of mouth should be fairly easy. You should be mindful of the impression you leave on people though when your trying to get clients/customers.

  12. I can almost smell it coming and there are signs.

    If you are standing in a store or restaurant, and you are male and a somewhat attractive woman comes up to you and manstrokes you ("Hello, I noticed you're a handsome man and…"), walk way immediately!!! She is trying to set you up to either by stuff from her MLM or get you to become "under her." Same applies for dudes who do the same things. Women are used to dudes approaching them all day so this hardly applies to them.

    Sometimes I don't catch on quick enough though. She'll have me chatting with her a bit and then go from asking me to donate to her kickstart despite the fact I don't know what she's trying to fund exactly and the fact that she's only known me for 8 days but keeps pressing me everytime my light is on instant messenger.

    I'm actually irritated thinking about it now myself.

  13. Does it matter if you’re successful because you’ve honed your craft, produced……..?

    I don't think it matters how you become successful as long as it’s ethical. There are movers and shakers and there are those that are in the right place at t the right time.

    At what point does self-promotion become a turn off? How much asking is too much asking?

    If a person constantly hits up the same set of people, self promotion becomes begging. If you have shared and a person says no, keep it moving to the next person. I don't see that type of person as a success, I see that as annoying. A person with any sense would know that word of mouth will make or break you. I will not refer to you to anyone if you are known as a dead horse beater.

    Does it even matter if you’re still getting the results?

    I sure hope so. That's the whole point right?! Commercials play in order to sell, not to just be seen and heard.

    What’s your personal philosophy on achieving success?

    When I want to take on something, I know that I have to keep an open mind as to how I will achieve my goal. When something appears to work, I go with that, improving as I go along. I cast a wide net in order to offset any limitations that may exist. I am not in the business of coercing a person to see what I have to offer.

      1. Question for Slimuel – Would it "sweeten the pitch" if the person offered you some free novelty item, ie a mug, pen, or t-shirt?
        I asked because I find based on what I see and hear and have done that no matter how annoying you are and/or how bad your pitch is or the delivery thereof if you come bearing gifts your more likely to get the sale. Just curious if it would make any difference in your impression of the person in your example if they gave you something free.

  14. This is a tricky topic. I deal with this every day because I am a singer and almost 100% of my friends are writers, artists, singers, musicians, etc. The one thing these people all have in common are that their professions require that they keep themselves fresh, constantly interact with people and…HAVE TO SELF-PROMOTE.

    I don't take it personally because I understand they have to do this. I also have to do this. I try to do it in as painless a way possible, so no one feels tricked or used, but the bottom line is, I need for my friends, fans and family to feel compelled, for whatever reason, to consume the goods that I'm offering, whether they be a performance, an MP3, or an event I'm hosting.

    In the past, I tried to support all of my artistic friends because I thought that the favor would one day come back to me. I pay the musicians I work with, instead of asking for favors, which is how I worked for many years as a background singer. I tried, and still try, to maintain a professionalism that I hoped would be mimicked with people I worked with.

    Unfortunately, you realize that while you come to support someone in your position, out of respect and partially in hope that they'll return the favor, there are often people who suddenly turn a deaf ear when it's time to support back. Only then do I feel like the relationship is one-sided, and that I'm being used.

    But you can't get bitter. You have to understand that that is part of the business. Everyone is selling something and so commerce and promotion is a part of almost any relationship. But if you buy and they don't buy back, you learn and decide how to approach that person in the future.

    1. Well thought out comment and definitely appreciated! I think support is currency in itself. i can dig that. One of the things I'm good about is showing up to events and helping out a little with promotion if it's someone or something I believe in. I think nothing of it at that point. I usually don't expect anything in return. Once me making good faith efforts turns into expectations, the goodness is corrupted unless we already discussed some type of arrangement.
      My recent post The Soreness Killer: TwinLab Endurance Fuel

  15. Slef promotion is necessary to an extent – if youdont push you that who will? At some point though, you have to let your work talk for itself.

    That's what a lot of people dont understand. If your ish sucks, no matter how much you promote, people wont read/listen! You have to make it happen on your own and have faith that your stuff will work. Once you use those relationships as a springboard to spam, you lost and get reported as such.

    speaking of spam… if ONE MORE PERSON sends me a fb message about their "business opportunity" Im going to FLIP!
    My recent post #BeTheBetter Fitness Log: Entry 7

  16. I find with aggressive self promo, you’ll overlook the people that can really help you in the long run because you don’t take the time to build a loyalty-based relationship. You might even eventually piss off people that really wanted to help. Why push to sell your mixtape when your best friend potentially can get you a record deal. People never take the time to find out because they are only occupied with what they are doing…on a small scale.

  17. This was a great post mostly because I can identify in many ways. I've come to the conclusion (because of the world we live in) its not so much more about "what" you know but "who" you know. For me personally it was finding a happy (but realistic) medium. Beginning as a life coach I had to be able to market myself, and that meant sometimes putting it out there. I get most of my clients through word of mouth now (because my work ethic speak for what I can produce) but in the beginning no one knew what I could do until I put it out there. Its that fine line of not using someone but setting yourself up in a position to be able to execute. Great read, thanks Slim boggy!

  18. 've come to the conclusion (because of the world we live in) its not so much more about "what" you know but "who" you know. For me personally it was finding a happy (but realistic) medium. Beginning as a life coach I had to be able to market myself, and that meant sometimes putting it out there.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get SBM Delivered

Get SBM Delivered

Single Black Male provides dating and relationship
advice for today's single looking for love

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This