Stop Talking About Yourself

Guest post by Dan Zarrella (@DanZarrella), social media scientist at HubSpot

One of the easiest ways to explain social media to newcomers is to liken it to a networking or cocktail party. The behaviors that will make you the life of the party (or a pariah) will have the same effect in social media. And we all know how painful it is to listen to someone at an event just talk about themselves all night long.

I analyzed a number of Twitter accounts and found that as the amount of Tweets containing self-referential remarks increased, the number of followers an account had decreased. Talking about yourself constantly doesn’t make you the hit of an offline cocktail party, nor does it work on Twitter.

And when I looked at ReTweets, I found that they tend to contain a much lower percentage of self-reference than Tweets over all do. Talking about yourself is not only going to reduce the amount of followers you have, it’s also un-retweetable.

When I did a survey and asked people why they chose to read specific blogs, I was told that they’re looking for bloggers specific points of view. They don’t want to hear you talk about yourself, they want to hear you talk as yourself.

If you’re launching a new product, service or feature, don’t talk only about your company and your offering. Talk about how your customers are using it, or can use it to increase their bottom line. Talk about your audience, not about yourself.

For more social media data and mythbusting, be sure to register for the Science of Social Media webinar on August 23rd

  • ivanrich

    YES YES YES! Thank you!

  • Adena DeMonte

    Great post! It’s amazing how Twitter started out by asking us “What are you doing?” and now answering that question on the site actually hurts our Retweets. I still like G+ better because it provides more space to add a real opinion about another person’s post or thoughts… 140 characters is enough to say “I’m doing…” but not long enough for most meaningful comments.

  • Jason Lankow

    This is a great reminder. I love the cocktail party reference, and the wisdom in taking a genuine interest in other people not just with the end goal of self-promotion, but simply to enjoy and learn from other people. It is sometimes challenging when you see a competitor boasting and feel compelled to do the same to put a stake in the ground, but doing great work and letting other people brag for you is much more powerful. I really enjoyed this one, thanks Dan and Brian!

  • Tyler Hurst

    Who cares how many times you’re retweeted? Is the goal to be parroted by your followers or to actually accomplish something?

    • Anonymous

      FYI – retweeting and being parroted are not the same… pass it on.

    • MicroSourcing

      Being re-tweeted implies that your tweet or sentiments offer value to
      someone to the point that this follower is convinced that your tweet
      offers value to other people as well. It also implies credibility in the
      sense that you’re being echoed. 

    • Mrs. Jen B

      It also opens up your message to a wider audience and possibly draws some of that audience your way.  Which makes it more likely for you to actually accomplish something.

    • Ari Herzog

      If the goal of business is to make a profit, then a business on Twitter needs to be known and shared by the masses. When a business retweets a customer or prospect, that person notices the mention and retweets it on.

      Shift the business to yourself and it’s the same. When @LadyGaga:twitter replies to you, you tend to retweet that, no?

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  • Katherine

    I’m so pleased I saw this –  I was already thinking along these lines – someone who goes on about ‘me, me, me’ or their product just gets unfollowed.  I send out several news re-tweets because I think they are of value to others.  

  • Sameer Patel

    That Stat RE: Asking for ReTweets –  it would be interesting to see what kind of stuff actually gets retweeted. I suspect it correlates with human interest tweets (help hungry children, stop the crazies in Washington, etc).

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  • Kathleen Kiser

    Very cool article.  I Tweet and you are right – absolutely.  The Blogs people subscribe to are looking for that authentic voice and it is a style that takes some getting used to for a writer.  

  • Jim

    This article’s theme is dead on across several platforms in my opinion!  We are finding the same on a Facebook account that I manage for a local restaurant.  The postings that we have received highest amount commentary/interaction have nothing to do with the business product. We will be going on seven days without mentioning the business (except for a couple of thank you’s for choosing us to spend your money with the biz) and the Facebook interaction has peaked at an all-time high on the site….business is up significantly as well. We look at this as an opportunity to serve the guest just like they were in the restaurant…we greet them, thank them, joke with them, and talk to them about other things other than the business, etc.  Great article!

    Questions: Out of curiosity, what type of sample size was considered? I love the data that suggests asking people to Retweet vs RT…do you think this indicates that most people still do not get the language of tweeter?

    Love this site…refreshing!  

    • Jim

      Guess I do not even understand the language in my last sentence above…lol. Should have ended the last sentence with the word Twitter vs Tweeter. 

  • Preston D Lee

    I wonder if this applies to celebs, musicians, artists and the like. It seems like the reason people connect with celebs on social media is specifically to hear about their lives. I’m thinking that if you’re consulting a famous person on social media tactics, the opposite of this article would be true. (Even though it does seem to prove true for most of us ‘average’ people).

    • Eric Seiler

      That is a very good question.  Do people follow celebrities because they want to know what they are doing or thinking, or do they want to find out what that person’s external interests and discoveries are?  I bet if you asked that question, most people would answer the former (as your theorize) but how long can celebrities keep talking about themselves before they run out of interesting material?  Many celebrities don’t lead dynamic lifestyles where something new and interesting happens to them every single day.  It still seems that, at least for long-term engagement, tweeting about external topics would be needed, though self-promoting comments  wouldn’t have as big of a negative impact.

  • Bob LeDrew

    Can you explain how you defined “self-referential” for the purposes of your analysis? 

  • Vania

    So true, if you don’t do it at networking events, why do it online? Also, don’t tweet the same things over and over again, makes for a really bad conversation.  

  • Lace Llanora

    Witty analogy, twitter: cocktail party.

    I strongly agree how brands using social media can be narcissistic and it is too easy for people to unfollow them.
    Offering value, and giving advice instead of receiving/hoarding attention works much better.

  • Carol

    Thank you for a very informational article.  I look forward to being a “retweeter.”

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  • David Pylyp

    Thank you 

    While everyone wants to be friends with the cheerleaders   ultimately the content and timeliness will win the content race for retweets!

    David Pylyp
    Accredited Senior Agent Toronto

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Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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