It’s a work hazard of mine that I see the worst of marketing. Private messages through Facebook and Instagram thanking me for liking their posts (ummm, you’re welcome?), asking me to join their dubiously-named Facebook groups that make me feel all kinds of cheap, and other attempts at bypassing a normal getting-to-know-you interaction and jump straight into bed. Yep. It ain’t pretty.

There’s so much noise, weird behavior and obnoxious people online that it can make the good folk of business quiet. Incredibly quiet. Sometimes even mute.

So what do you do if you don’t want to join the throng of flag-wavers parading in their underwear? Is it possible to do subtle marketing, build quiet influence, and still be effective?

Is it possible to cultivate quiet influence in a way which builds your reputation and enables people to find you and seek you out? Can you grow your online community without pageantry, without being ‘constantly on’, and with thoughtfulness, power and sensitivity?

Know marketing fundamentals so you can break the rules

I could write a book on marketing fundamentals but it’d be pretty boring so here are the CliffsNotes:

  • Focus on the problems you seek to solve.
  • Focus on the benefits of what you offer and how people’s lives would likely change if they were to receive these.
  • Nobody cares as much about your process and the ‘how’ as you believe, so stop focusing on this.
  • Know your audience so you can be relevant with your communications.
  • Use stories to communicate. You’re trying to be memorable and build rapport and stories are the best way to do this.
  • People more likely to buy are those who’ve already bought from you
  • The Internet is a low-trust environment. To avoid being mistaken for a Sudanese Prince looking to transfer you his millions, use as many techniques as possible to build trust. (Saying “trust me” does the opposite).
  • Your marketing should reaffirm your ideal clients of their highest self and best possible identity. Ideally, the more they identify with you, the bigger fans they’ll be.
  • Nobody buys on first mention. Repeating yourself and following up is essential if you want to make sales.

Most importantly, you need to say something worth listening to. Yes, you’re communicating in order to, hopefully, sell, but this should be secondary. First, you need to reach people and to do so, you need to say something interesting.

Quiet influence

Rather than rehashing the old “introverts versus extroverts” debate, let’s focus on communication styles. Let’s assume you’ve got something to say (see earlier point!), now how are you going to say it?

You could think about it from the perspective of medium: text, graphics, video, audio. (By the way, NOBODY is born loving themselves on video.) And you could also come at it from the perspective of embracing and amplifying (not loudly!) your own personal style.

When are you at your best when communicating? How and where and why and with who do you express yourself most eloquently?

What, exactly, in fine detail, enables this beauty to happen? Write this out. Tease out all clues. Ask your people. (Survey a few select, most wonderful people of yours to ask them about your strengths. Trust me on this. It’ll change the way you do things.)

You don’t need to do face-to-face networking. You don’t need to pitch yourself to strangers. You do need to communicate. And, thanks to the internet, you can do the majority of this online.

Confidence is compelling

I love to teach confidence, partly because increasing your self-confidence will change your life and business, and also because it’s an essential ingredient in effective communications.

Confident communications IS NOT:

  • Painting the world in black and white; right versus wrong
  • Being loud and standing on stage
  • Being overly clever
  • Having lots of qualifications

Confident communications IS:

  • Understanding the nuances and subtleties of the topic you’re speaking on
  • Being inclusive, constructive in seeking solutions, and allowing all voices to be heard
  • Inspiring trust in others through inferred credibility

To be both subtle as well as powerful, your communications need to be confident. Confidence in your work inspires trust in others, enables people to identify themselves in what you say, and ignites them to share it, thereby doing your marketing for you.

Subtle marketing

Digital marketing relies on regularity and frequency to be effective. The longer you postpone emailing your list, the more likely people will unsubscribe because they’ve forgotten who you are or that they signed up to your list.

Facebook and Instagram algorithms show only your best content to people who are engaging with it. The less engagement, the less visibility, until your updates are eventually just you entertaining yourself.

But rather than let this deter you, how do you ensure that what you put out is regular, and regularly useful, valuable, thoughtful and powerful?

You, the media company

Since about 2006, when social media and accessible internet really took off in a big way, we have been acting as media companies without necessarily appreciating this.

Think of yourself as a media company. You are creating and curating stories, sharing insights, framing public debate. You are a contributor to cultures and subcultures. You are questioning the status quo. You are bringing people together over the internet.

Whatever bare minimum marketing frequency you decide on, commit to it. Learn how to use scheduling and processes and systems – these will set you free. Communicate with people when you don’t have something to sell – especially when you want nothing from them but their attention, the most valuable commodity there is.

You don’t need the whole world to love you. Who wants to be the Kardashians?! Nobody I know.

Get organised

So how do you create consistent high-quality communications that act to draw people to your business like a magnet?

Book in monthly creativity dates

It’s very hard to produce original, creative ideas in between emails and admin. Book regular creative dates in your diary. Don’t overplan these. Go wandering. Go where you’ve never been before. Talk, read and listen to people who are far outside your normal circle. Get physical – I recommend walking, jumping, dancing, swinging, rock climbing and handstands (of course).

Book in weekly or fortnightly scheduling sessions

Your blog, videos, email newsletters and especially your social media can be scheduled. Stop overthinking and start scheduling. (We learn to do this at my Social Media Savvy course.)

Empathetic listening

Empathy is massively important for effective communication. You cannot influence anyone that you cannot empathise with, unless you’re a psychopath. Question your assumptions, ask further questions, unravel people lovingly in conversation with them.

Every interaction matters

I know it’s hard to be meaningful through micro-interactions on social media. But view each and every interaction both online and off, as an opportunity to make an impression – by being thoughtful, different and relevant.

Mindful consumption of social media

You are not just producing social media, you are consuming it. So be mindful.

Unfollow, unsubscribe, unfriend anyone who’s making the experience of social media difficult for you, but also be mindful when you’re being triggered, and appreciate that others’ intentions and reality may be entirely different from how you interpret it.

Pausing and reflecting regularly

While over-thinking and over-analysing can be detrimental, regular check-ins, on your marketing communications and business progress, are essential. Excellence is a series of tiny, ongoing edits.


Writing helps you to think better. If you want to have real influence, you need to write.

Don’t be a snob

Finally, check your attitude. I know you value quality and see business as far more than a quick buck otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this article.

But check your attitude to make sure that pride isn’t killing your business. Pride doesn’t help, it always hurts. Quality doesn’t mean verbosity but nor does it mean casting mute judgments.

You can have an astounding impact with just a few choice words. Brevity is courtesy, especially online. Empathy and snobbery don’t coexist. Deepen your empathy, sharpen your message like a knife, and stand for something. We are waiting for you.