Using Digital Self-Promotion to Create a Positive Impression

young professional on mobile device

You may have heard it said that you should believe half of what you see and none of what you hear. Another layer we could add to this saying is to believe all of what is done. The proof is in the doing, and self-promotion is about what we do to demonstrate our talents and abilities to others. We tend to self-promote for a variety of reasons, but in this context, we will focus on how well we can self-promote to make a good first impression in the digital environment.

Why Does Self-Promotion Matter?

Self-promotion is about proving our competence in a variety of ways. Competence equates to what we do and how well we do it. Of course, we can simply tell people what we have accomplished in a resume, email, or blog, but there are other subtle, even more important ways to demonstrate our competence. Competence is doing, doing is action, and actions speak louder than words, even in the online world.

Self-Promotion through Writing

One important but often overlooked opportunity for self-promotion is simply how well we write and how appropriately we write for a particular venue. This promotion can happen in a variety of settings, such as an assignment in a college class, a cover letter to a potential employer, or an email introduction to someone you would like to know better. Paying attention to the “small stuff” such as proper punctuation, capitalization, and spelling makes a big difference, and according to Beam (1981), “a poorly prepared letter of inquiry or resume will put you at a disadvantage” (p. 2). Writing well not only demonstrates our ability to confidently and clearly articulate your message, but it also indicates respect for the reader, which can be very persuasive. We can tell our future employers and potential friends or acquaintances all about ourselves, but how we deliver that message can also have a powerful effect as to whether we earn that good grade, get that job, or bond with that person.

Self-Promotion through Digital Media

In addition to using our writing skills, there are other opportunities for online self-promotion that can be used to project a positive image and good first impression. Creating personal videos, posting images, and providing comments and insights on social media paint a picture of who we are and what we believe. The key is to ensure that the materials are appropriate for the venue and clearly promote the achievements we want to highlight in a positive manner.

Self-Promotion through LinkedIn

One of the most popular and effective venues for digital self-promotion is LinkedIn. According to Kleppinger and Cain, (2015), “LinkedIn is the largest professional matchmaking service in the world and caters to the need for self-promotion” (p. 2). In our profiles, we post images of ourselves such as professional photos and lists of skills and qualifications we have for specific jobs (Machaz & Shokoofh, 2016), which is considered to be the most important features in this forum. We also engage in conversation and networking, which require careful consideration of how we promote our interests. What we choose to talk about in the public realm says a lot about our personality, our beliefs, and our values – and it speaks volumes to potential employers. According to Hood, Robles, and Hopkins (as cited in Machaz & Shokoofh, 2016), anything that can be construed as irresponsible or emotionally charged political or personal reflections can portray a negative image. It is important to present a positive, respectful, and professional online attitude, which is visible through our choice of words and the tone we use when interacting with other people, even when we disagree.

Self-Promotion through Video Resumes & Cover Letters

Another effective way to digitally highlight one’s competence when job-hunting is through video cover letters and resumes. In today’s high tech society, it is not uncommon for potential employers to ask for a digital version of a cover letter or resume so that they can assess a person’s communicative ability and personality for talent, ability, and overall “fit” with the organizational culture. Again, it is not only what is being said but how it is being said. Speaking at a steady pace but not too fast, looking directly at the camera, and being conscious of body language can project a confident and competent image.

One of the goals of a good digital first impression is gaining respect and understanding from your very first interaction. Whether you first meet someone in a professional or personal setting, online or in person, remember to self-promote wisely.



Written by Dr. Wendy Conaway, Division of General Education.



Beam, H. (1981). Good writing: An underrated executive skill. Human Resource Management, 20(1), 1-2.

Kleppinger, C., & Cain, J. (2015). Personal branding as a professional asset in the digital age. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 79(6), 1-5.

Machaz, H., & Shokoofh, K. (2016). Personal branding: An essential choice? Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, 8(2), 65-70.

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