More than a month ago, we featured a post about the paradox of self-promotion. This paradox describes, that although social media frowns on self-submission…

[…] the sheer numbers of new videos, posts, sites, pictures, and stories appearing each and every day, [means] self-promotion is a necessity for anyone starting out and hoping to gain any sort of foothold.

Debates occasionally emerge, discussing the narcissistic and moral aspects of self-submission. While several social networks do not officially accept self-submitted content, it has been argued that self-submission is not wrong and in fact necessary. I’m not interested here in these aspects of self-submission.

Instead I want to concentrate on the logical reasons to refrain from submitting your own content.
These of course depend on the social network you are participating and submitting content. But if we take StumbleUpon as example, we will see that letting others submit your content is a much better way of promotion.

StumbleUpon Logo

The Algorithm

First of all, let’s take a look at the algorithm of StumbleUpon. Although this is not verified information, it has been noticed that when the same user repeatedly submits articles from the same blog, the posts will not get promoted. So if you practice self-submission regularly, after a while you will notice that your traffic will not show any pretty peaks. Tim Nash writes:

[…] the number of times the domain is stumbled by a user is a factor therefore the initial stumblers audience score is affected by the number of times they have previously stumbled the domain. If this is done for both the initial stumbler and all stumblers thumbing the page up or down it would explain why mailing lists and friends stumbling the same domain has less and less effect.


One of the basic rules of social networks – in fact, of networks in general – is clustering. In simple terms the rule says that most people’s friends are also to some extent friends of each other.

Every time you stumble something, the people that mostly see your stumble are your fans and mutual friends. In most cases, these are the ones who will continue promoting the submission. If you often promote your own work, the articles will be recycled among you and your friends – your strong ties; your content will never go beyond your network, due to the principle of clustering.

On the other hand if you leave your post to take its own course – to be discovered by someone else – it will appear in different circles. Never disregard the strength of weak ties (see Mark Granovetter’s research on weak ties for more information. It’s a *.pdf file).

Being Social

As mentioned by Matt, social networks are about being social.

You never know, next month you might have twice as many subscribers and realize that TheNanny612, Zaibatsu, and DoshDosh all think your stuff is great. You wont know if you don’t stop for a second and take a look.

If you don’t let other people submit your work, you are just giving a monologue. Let social networks become a part of the dialogue and learn from it. If you are interested in improving your site and promoting your content more successfully, stop submitting your stuff and start observing its development:

  • See who submits your content. They might be loyal readers, that you didn’t know. Check out their work, make a contact with them. You will notice, that they will return to your blog with a stumble.
  • Study which articles are being stumbled. Not every post is appropriate for every social network. Observe which posts get stumbled and which ones get popular. If you have a sharp eye, you will manage to direct the attention of stumblers to every post you write.


I don’t think there is any moral obstacle in self-submissions. If you don’t overdo it and choose wisely which post to submit where, it is a practice necessary to make yourself heard. But it is also a very easy and certain practice; you have daily 200+ pageviews and you call it a day.

You will notice much more satisfactory results when you think beyond this strategy. Refraining from self-submissions is a learning process. You learn more about your readers, about the content they like, and how to draw their attention. You are also facing a challenge, which alone motivates you for further improvement.

Of course, that’s my humble opinion. Do you let your community do the submitting? Are you analyzing the submissions and submitters to improve your work and your network?

Written by Matt Peters
Matt is the Co-Founder and CEO of Pandemic Labs, and enjoys thinking about, writing about, and talking about social media marketing whenever someone will let him.