The Simple Difference Between Being Heard and Being Ignored Online

Image of The Copyblogger Essay Contest Winners Poster

Editor’s note: This essay is one of three Second Prize winners of the Copyblogger Media Essay contest, for which writers had 250 words to discuss why it’s essential to be an online authority.

“Nick, your shoes are untied.”

We are taking a break at 12,000 feet on the Incan trail to Machu Picchu. It’s day two of a four day hike, rainy, and there’s a woman in my group who points out the obvious at every possible turn.

“Thanks Sharon. My shoes are untied because I’m resting.”

“Don’t forget to retie them! Also, your pants are soaked!”

Did I mention it was raining?

Meanwhile, our guide, Eddy, spoke good but broken English. Eddy saved his advice for when it counted.

How to be heard

Eddy would point down, “Slippery.”

I looked down to see some disguised loose rocks. A misguided step could send you on an altogether different kind of trip.

On the trail, Eddy’s single words became beacons while Sharon’s rambling sentences were lost on the group.

This is the power of authority and why you must have it if you intend to guide your audience.

How to be heard online

In the online world, there are millions of Sharons (no offense if your name happens to be Sharon).

These people shout the obvious, tell you what you already know, or retell you what someone else has already told you.

The world ignores Sharons.

Online authorities cause people to stop what they are doing and listen. Their tweets and posts stand out as golden artifacts in a field of gray ruins.

As an online influencer you must be constantly building authority so people don’t overlook your advice.

That last blog post you wrote: Is it a Sharon or an Eddy?



As a Second Prize winner, Nick received a one-year membership to Authority. Previously, Grand Prize winner Anthony Sills received a lifetime Authority membership plus a ticket to Authority Intensive, the content marketing experience we are hosting this May. You can read Anthony’s winning essay here.

And if you want more insight on how 270+ essays were whittled down to five winners, watch the Essay Contest Wrap-Up Hangout with Demian and Jerod. They highlight the specific elements of the winning essays that separated them from the pack.

About the Author: Nick Evans creates recipes and teaches kitchen confidence at Macheesmo. You can find him sharing Eddies on Twitter @macheesmo.

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Comments

  1. Nick – you analogy/example rocks. Such a simple way to explain a powerful concept.

    This doesn’t mean the advice given has to be original every single time. You can give the advice others in your niche are giving, but use personality to get the message across (examples from your own life, a unique writing style, etc).

    This becomes more poignant when you give advice on the things that are useful to the reader. Otherwise, it becomes Sharon-esque white noise.

  2. So true, so true! And how concisely and well you illustrate it with your gem of an essay.

    And what a great way to think of blog posts — I think I’ve written far too many “Sharons” over the last couple of years, with a few “Eddys” thrown in here and there more recently. A good goal for weekly content: stop with the Sharons already. ; )

  3. What an excellent essay. I love small posts like this that pack a big punch. If you could distill down all the advice ever given on how to blog, (or live your life for that matter) this very well could be it. Nice job Nick… and congrats, you just got a new fan.

    And for an extra kick in the pants… you pulled a complete Eddy on us with this essay. Righteous!

  4. Nick- Excellent advice. Years ago before becoming a trial lawyer, I use to teach hang gliding and actually worked at creating the communication dynamic you share in the article. For me, it was literally a matter of life and death (keeping the new customer alive :-) Didn’t know it back then but the process you shared works very well and yes, translates to online communication efforts. Just shared the post on several of my platforms. Thanks so much and nicely done! Mitch

    • That’s interesting Mitch. I can’t imagine teaching something like hang gliding. I just try to teach people how to cook an egg properly! haha.

      Thanks for the comment and the shares!

  5. It’s so easy to write the Sharon posts, but when I take the time to create an Eddy, things happen. Many times the Eddy posts are short and sweet. A handful of well spoken words can make all the difference.

    Great storytelling, Nick. Congrats on the win.

  6. Powerful story. Fitting winner :-)

    Thanks Nick
    Kit
    (aka SharDy :P – I go back and forth; for this contest, I was a rambling Sharon, but I am going to become an influential Eddy soon ;) ) LOL

    • Krithika, I would love the link to your “losing” essay if you blogged about it. I have a blog post on my own blog that curates the the essays that didn’t make the cut. Follow up with me on Google Plus. I know we are circle mates over there. Thx.

  7. Reminds me of Proverbs 29:20: “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”

    I’ve slowly within the last week developed my brand.

    It’s helped me to become an Eddy…

    And not a Sharon…

  8. i don’t speak my words i paint them !

  9. Great entry Nick. Congrats and happy Friday! The content marketing landscape is way noisy over the last few years. The bar gets raised everyday and frankly, by essays like yours.

    Your essay reminds me of a famous quote

    “If I Had More Time, I Would Have Written a Shorter Letter”

    which has been credited to Blaise Pascal, John Locke, Benjamin Franklin, Henry David Thoreau, Cicero and Woodrow Wilson.

    Enjoy your winnings which will no doubt move things forward for you and your business :)

  10. Interesting read, Nick. I love how smart everything has been put together. Although nowadays, bad publicity has seemed to prevail the internet. What’s your take on that? It’s still publicity, you know.

  11. Simple, straightforward, and powerful. That’s what you should always strive to be. Word count doesn’t matter if you get your point across.

  12. Great post–short, makes a point, doesn’t hit the reader over the head with it. Now I need to go and do likewise. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Nick, congratulations on the win! A wonderful narrative. Although not all of us have hiked in Peru, we all have had our fair share of Sharon and Eddy experiences.

    In fact, here in Hawaii, a common bumper sticker reads “Eddy Would Go!” For those that don’t know of Eddy Aikau, he was a world-class surfer and lifeguard known for his heart, skill, and knowledge. He had few words but unparalleled Authority.

    I hadn’t thought about applying that to my own writing. Thank you for helping me connect those dots.

  14. Very simple, and well written. Say more with less. Powerful message. I like. O.o

    Reminds me of an episode of The Office (US version) When Kevin starts speaking like he had broken English. But he was just to lazy to say a complete sentence.

  15. Like your analogy this post is short and to the point, great job!

  16. Superb. Such a good story/analogy.

  17. Cool article. I’m a newbie blogger and I’m quickly learning that I should post quality posts that inform and educate along with offering good quality premium products along with quality free products. As long as I continue to offer unique and helpful information, I’m hoping that with time I will be considered an authority to my list.

    From now on I will keep the Sharon vs. Eddy analogy in mind when I write.

  18. Thinking beyond average is what it takes in the business and blogging world. Many writers won’t even have a TV in their house so their writing wouldn’t match the news they hear. What you put in does come out. Sometimes limited your sources are good so you don’t sound like them.

  19. Simple but profound! I married an (female version of Eddy) and I was a (male version) of Sharon over the years I’m delighted to say I’ve watched and learnt from her and am now far more like Eddy than Sharon.

    ‘Nuff said!

    • Oops that should have read ” I married a (female version of) Eddy and I was a (male version) of Sharon ” … Apologies for the poor copy

  20. I really liked this story. I completely agree that the Net is full of “Sharons” and only a small number of “Eddys”. This is what a real authority should be like. Simple. Short. Logical. Totally deserves the prize.

  21. Second place? Pish posh – this will forever be cemented into my memory.

    #BeAnEddy

  22. Awesome point. And I wish more SEO companies and businesses in general understood this.

    Because 99% of the time what they’re willing to pay for is cookie-cutter crap content that can be found anywhere!

    Sorry…just have to vent a little there. But yes, this post makes the great point that the internet really is the same thing repeated 1 billion times (for the most part).

    People with experience who are willing to work hard at continually improving their writing skills will win out in the long run. Unfortunately, anyone who can put a few words together thinks they are a writer…not the case.

    But thanks for making the point and hopefully more companies understand how to hire a freelance writer that composes unique, compelling content that simply rocks.

  23. Both this piece and the one by Anthony are inspiring.

    Often when I read a good piece of writing I’ll say to myself, that was one heck of a lead. With Nick’s work here, I didn’t feel the lead.

    Kudos to Nick. The Copyblogger judge(s) must have had a hard time choosing the winner. I’d give a slight edge to Nick’s piece over Anthony’s (which is excellent) because of how you turn a mirror onto the reader at the end. You inspired introspection, even if only for a moment … like those now infamous anti-smoking ads from a few years back. Yours has a knockout punch.

  24. Congratulations Nick! Now we all have to decide if we want to be a Sharon or an Eddy.

  25. Wonderful. I read this the first day & it has haunted me. Concise. Precise!

    We now call our next door neighbor (who is an expert on everything) “Sharon”

    Congratulations & Thank You!