The World English Dictionary offers this as one of the definitions of Evangelist: “any zealous advocate of a cause.” Does that describe you?
Are you a “zealous advocate” of the cleaning products you use? Or your favorite local restaurant? Do you tell everyone you know about the great service at your favorite salon? About the honesty of your preferred mechanic? Have you been sending referrals to the businesses you love or turning your friends on to the products you use? And if you have, don’t you feel great about helping your friends find something wonderful and helping the businesses you like succeed?
If any of that sounds familiar, take a moment to think about your work. Are you a zealous advocate of your own business?
That may seem like an odd question, but you’d be surprised by how many people I’ve worked with who have no hesitation promoting their favorite animal shelter on Facebook but resist talking about the great work their company does. My clients have expressed their resistance to zealously advocating for themselves via social media in a variety of ways:
- I don’t want to “impose” on people by “bothering” them with self-promotional messages.
- If I talk about the work I do for my church on social media, my atheist sister will know what I’m up to and give me a hard time.
- I hate marketing.
- Marketing is so insincere!
- It feels too public to talk about my work to strangers on social media.
If you found yourself agreeing with any of these statements, or if you found yourself thinking of your own reason for resistance not featured on my list, I challenge you to scrutinize your reasoning. Telling your friends and family about the amazing dry cleaner in your neighborhood is doing them a favor, but telling them about your fitness training specials for the holidays is an imposition?
I can relate to the reluctance to “come out” about what you’re doing professionally. I recently found a skin care line for which I am becoming a zealous advocate. For the last year I have disliked every photo of myself, largely because I’ve thought I looked so tired in photos. A close friend has been trying to switch career modes, and she became involved with Arbonne. In my interest to support her new business, I tried their high-end skin care line, RE9. It was amazing! I felt like I was aging in reverse! I had to have MORE… so I signed up to become an Arbonne consultant.
For those of you unfamiliar with Arbonne, it is (sigh) a multi-level marketing company. And I have paid a modest fee to become a consultant so that I can get a super discount on the skin care line I am now convinced I can not live without.
This puts me in the position of having to publicly tell others I have signed up for an MLM, which is a little embarrassing. But, if I weren’t talking about a stigmatized business structure that I am now part of, I would be blabbing to everyone anyway about how much I love the RE9 line– I just wouldn’t be reaping any financial benefit from doing so.
Being an evangelist for your own business, and using social media and blogs to facilitate your evangelism, is not automatically insincere. It isn’t inherently annoying to others (unless you over-do it or move beyond advocacy into fanaticism). And social media and blogs are a tool you can use to build and maintain real relationships with real people you’ve really met– not just a place to bombard galleries of strangers with unwelcome messages about yourself.
And it’s those relationships, built in part by sharing what you’re doing and why it’s great, that will help you grow your business and opportunities.
Start listening to yourself and to the people you like the best, hunting for evidence of evangelism in your natural conversation, and take the elements you respond positively to to social media and/or your blog. The key is to talk up the good in a way that feels authentic to you, and to engage with others around the idea or product you’re zealous about– just like any good conversation about any thing.
I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments, and if you want to know more about the skin care line that sucked me into an MLM, let me know!