One of the biggest concerns that people mention when we talk about promoting their content is that they are afraid their enthusiasm will be confused with spamming.
Are you a douchebag?
By and large, this is not as big a problem as people think it is. True spamming happens on purpose and it's hard to "accidentally" spam if you’re not a douchebag!
Also, bear in mind the technical definition of spamming. I'm pretty sure you're not doing that.
What we mean by "spamming" in this context is annoying your connections by sharing too much or too much of a type of content they're not interested in. Even when we use this definition of spam, I still think it's unlikely you'll be as spammy as you fear.
Personal vs. professional sharing
One aspect where you could be messing up, however, is if you're new to social media as a tool, and there is still some crossover between personal and professional accounts. It's very, very hard to mix interests when you're using social media as a business tool. That doesn't mean you can't have friends online or share stuff that's not related to your job, but you have to accept that you might lose a few followers when you start promoting yourself or if you share too much that your business followers aren't expecting.
Nobody sees your stuff!
Another reason you don't need to worry about irritating your audience is that, depressingly, there's a really good chance they never see half your stuff anyway. Speaking specifically about Twitter, the guys over at MeetEdgar have this to say;
The odds are kind of stacked against you to begin with, and the less you tweet, the worse they get. Too few of your followers are on Twitter at any given time, and the life of a tweet is too short.
If you don't believe me, have a look at your own stats, regardless of what network you're on. Check "reach", "audience", "views", etc. It's likely to be a low percentage of your total followers and if you look at engagement (people who actually clicked or interacted), it's even lower.
Look at these stats below - this is one of my small but deadly Twitter accounts - small follower number, great engagement (on average). I tweeted this to encourage people to sign up for an event in Galway, but only 362 people saw it and even fewer - just 6 - even paused to give it a second thought. I'm not worried about those 362 (see "Tweak messages and images to provide interest", below) and what are the chances that the 6 who really "saw" are also going to see it the next time I tweet it (since they only account for around 1.6% of my followers)?
With these points tidied away, my approach to promotion marketing rests on these 3 pillars:
1. Value above all
Like everything else in content marketing, I strive to provide value above everything else. If you ask yourself that question before you tweet, or post, or write, (is this likely to be of value to my audience?) you can't go far wrong. You're (presumably) aiming to position yourself as a thought leader, so you're hopefully doing this anyway.
2. Dilute well
I stick, more or less, to the 30/70 rule. Of all the content I promote, 30% is self-promotional, and 70% is of interest or use to my audience. There are other variations of this rule - I've seen 4-1-1 (4 of interest, 1 from you, 1 retweet), 5-3-2 (5 from others, 3 from you, 2 personal updates). Find info here, here and here, and do what makes the most sense (or works best) for you.
3. Automate with care
I'm a huge fan of automation, and we'll talk about that some other day, but in relation to being spammy, proceed with care. There are numerous add-ons, tools, and scripts that offer to do your sharing for you, often with an extra that, on paper, sounds great. There's a Wordpress add-on, for example, that retweets your old posts automatically - great! Except that if you leave it at the default setting, it retweets at the rate of one an hour. If you otherwise tweet at twice a day, this will knock your "dilution" way off course.
Bottom line, always check the settings and check in on your content once a day (it's helpful if there's a delay, like when you use a tool like Buffer). If it's the first time you're using a tool, check in way more often until you get a grip on it!
Push vs offer
Think about promotion in terms of push versus offer. Am I pushing a piece of content under people's noses, or am I leaving it somewhere handy for them to pick up at their leisure? If it's the latter, I share liberally. If it's the former, choose carefully.
Tweak messages and images to provide interest
Remember when we talked about your promotional efforts passing by most people unheeded? If you're going to share an item more than once, it's essential that you provide some variety in the way it is presented. If someone is not interested, it means they won't bore of the same image and text appearing - and being irrelevant - time and time again (if they even see it, that is).
If someone is interested but hasn't clicked yet, the alternative presentation might be exactly what they need to make the move. You can see some huge variation in engagement with alternative presentations, so it's worth doing some A/B (or c, d ,e, f) testing.
Use metrics to judge efforts
My final piece of advice is pretty self-explanatory, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention it. Want to know if your promotion is going down well, or turning people off? Just look at your metrics. If follower, fan, and visitor numbers are going up, engagement is high and whatever other metrics that interest you are going well, you're doing it right. If not, something's not jiving with your audience. Modify, modify. modify and proceed, and then check again until you get it right. It can make or break your promotional efforts.
Now go forth and promote - if you're reading this, I'm pretty sure you're not spamming!