10 Ways to Beat Online Obscurity

image of golden gate bridge coming through fog

Listen, I’ve got some bad news for you.

More than likely, no one knows who you are.

And more than likely, they never will.

How can I say that with such authority? Easy.

As of December 2010, there were over 152 million blogs on the Internet — in the U.S. alone.

That’s a lot of noise, with not a lot of signal coming through. Despite all the talk about relationships, conversation and reputation, online competition is tough.

No, it’s not cut-throat tough.

Because the guest list to this come-one-come-all cocktail party we call social media is enormous — and growing — we need some sophisticated, street-smart tricks (not gimmicks) up our sleeves to draw attention to our best work.

You’ve got to think like a P.T. Barnum. A Houdini. Or a Farnworth. :-)

Fortunately for you, I’ve not only done my homework — I’m willing to share my answers with you.

After all, what better way to keep all eyes on you during a cocktail party than by giving people what they want.

Hint, hint.

And by the way, there’s a bonus tip* at the end of this list that’s really the launching pad for your success. Without it, you’ll never get off the ground.

Time is short, none of us are getting any younger. Enjoy my 10-step path to dominating online obscurity once and for all …

1. Dominate LinkedIn groups

Not too long ago Sean Jackson wrote 16 Smarter Ways to Use LinkedIn to Build Your Business.

Good advice, but instead, I’ve joined a few groups and went on a posting and commenting spree.

Guess who was the number one influencer for the past several weeks in groups that other people had started?

Yep, me.

2. Give away content

A good friend of mine (and freelance photographer) once said, “It’s the ‘free’ part of ‘freelance’ that hurts.”

No doubt about it: Giving away something for free hurts.

But if you’re an up-and-coming writer, blogger and business owner, your problem online isn’t about money.

It’s about visibility. Rather, your lack of it.

To make you feel better, here’s a list of people who’ve given away content: Seth Godin. Hugh MacLeod. Cory Doctrow. Leo Babauta. Julie Powell. Brian Clark.

Recognize their names? Sure you do. They’re online powerhouses.

Why? They all gave away a large part of their best stuff for free.

Can anyone name what each one gave away? Which brings me to my next point …

3. Write guest articles (with a twist)

Writing guest articles isn’t the whole trick.

It’s the mindset behind writing guest articles that matters.

It’ll take time for your blog/website to gain traction and reach critical mass. There’s a natural temptation to keep the best stuff for your own blog — and send out the half-backed mediocre work to others.

My suggestion to you is to put your best stuff on other people’s blogs and leave the mediocre stuff for your own.

The exposure you’ll gain is completely worth the risk. Again, the real risk is obscurity here.

4. Influence the comment section

You’ll pretty much hear it from anyone who is visible online: part of their success was rooted in spending time in the comment sections of blogs, grinding it out.

Sean Platt. Jon Morrow. Gary Vanyerchuk. They’ve all done it.

Yes, it’s time consuming. And you’re not alone if you’ve experienced it. I’ve fought this inner battle before: I don’t have time to leave comments on other people’s website.

Truth is, you can’t afford NOT to slog it out in the comment trenches.

But let me warn you: It’s not as simple as “Hey, nice article” one hundred times a day.

No. In fact, that approach will HURT your work.

If you want to influence people, leave thought-provoking comments. Share additional information [other people’s articles, videos] that builds on their existing work.

And ALWAYS ask questions.

“Nice article. How did you come up with the idea to put a donkey on a gluten-free diet in order to eek out an extra day of work on the farm?”

“What do you think would happen if Jack Welch wrote poetry?”

Online influencers lead the conversation with questions. You do the same.

5. Promote other people to promote yourself

No doubt about it: we are fixated on ourselves.

You have to fight that and purposely find people doing wonderful things and share their work with the world.

Write blogs the showcase their work. Spread their work on Twitter. And if it doesn’t come naturally to you, then schedule this into your day.

6. Treat Facebook like a research lab

Let me come clean to you: I don’t like Facebook. Well, I don’t like the fraternity side of Facebook…

You know, it’s where people from your distant past lurk through the photos of you and your children at the beach and someone’s aunt rolls out saccharine pearls of wisdom that generates dozens of likes and comments.

That’s for the birds.

I like Facebook as a research lab. The kind you might find on a university campus where you can walk to the quad and start asking people questions.

“Do you close the bathroom door even when you are alone?”

“Got any tips for conquering online obscurity?”

“What’s the best diet for a donkey working on a farm?”

Listen: people like to share their opinions. It makes them feel valued. And you can grow in popularity and visibility as you work those questions and comments.

7. Follow 237 Twitter power users who follow back

I’ve done this twice now with two different accounts. And the results are more than satisfying.

Social Media Watch rounded up a list of Twitter users who will follow you if you follow them. [There are larger lists, yes.]

It’ll take you somewhere between one and two hours to do this, but it’s worth it.

Don’t forget: once you’ve got them, interact with them. Ask them questions. Promote them. Share their stuff.

8. Email influencers

Snail mail sucks. It’s slow, painful. Email, on the other hand, rocks.

How so? In the past ten years I’ve emailed famous people like T.C. Boyle, John Carlton, Andrew Solomon and James Altucher.

And guess what? Every single one of them wrote me back. And then some.

John Carlton carved me a new copywriting rearend [that’s what you get when you ask him for advice].

T.C. Boyle shared his thoughts on rejection.

And James Aultucher, in an extended email exchange, challenged my desire to go to graduate school. I won. He lost. But I’m a few grand in the hole, so who’s the real loser?

Here’s my point: email is the backdoor to the minds of great people. Use it.

Use it liberally.

9. Record SEO-friendly, trend-heavy videos

Twenty-year old MC Lil B skyrocketed to fame using tricks that could’ve been lifted from a primer on search engine optimization.

He tweets constantly, talks to his fans through videos, spars with the stars, encourages fans to make YouTube responses to his songs and produces a staggering amount of work.

People stumble across his work when searching for Dr. Phil or Paris Hilton.

Copy these SEO fundamentals and you’re bound to start registering on more and more people’s radars.

10. Wear an eye patch

Raise your hands if you know what David Ogilvy did to a Russian aristocrat with 20/20 vision for a Hathaway shirt ad.

If you said “Put an eye patch over one of his perfect eyes” you are correct.

The Man in the Hathaway Shirt campaign was an instant success. It was so successful, in fact, imitators followed immediately.

What made it so successful? The sheer oddity of it. That one little quirk separated Olglivy’s ad from thousands of other men’s shirts ads — and it went viral.

What can you do that will make you and your blog stand out? Think unique, useful, urgent and ultra-specific.

And of course, do your homework.

*Bonus obscurity-busting technique

There is a tendency to think “build the blog and they will come.” Sorry. That won’t work.

The sad truth is we are all are in a big pond. And we are all small fish.

But you and I don’t have to stay that way.

As long as you make a commitment to follow the above techniques and work hard at them you can conquer online obscurity.

But there is something you should know…

To pull all the techniques above together, you’ve got to have a little Jack in you.

No, not Jack Daniels (though I’m told that works, too).

I’m talking Jack Welch.

If you think about it, it was his fearlessness that allowed him to dominate his space. That borderline cockiness that drove him to dream big — and fight hard for that dream.

The same goes for you.

You need that fearlessness to dominate your space as well. Think big. And think borderline cockiness.

If it helps, pour yourself a drink. This is a cocktail party after all.

About the Author: Demian Farnworth is a freelance writer who hustles the finer points of web copy at the blog The CopyBot. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Awesome post. I have had the most success will well crafted guest posts, as well as becoming an integral part of an online community that supports “do-follow” links. If people see value in your comments in a community, then they will click through your link to see what else they can learn from you.

    • You’re right. I’ve really been impressed with the number of people I see follow me through a comment I left on a blog. Makes me wonder if they liked what I said or thought I was good looking. ;-)

  2. Thanks for the helpful tips.

    You reference LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, but what are your thoughts about using Google+ to beat online obscurity?

    Do you feel Google+ has legs, or will it go no where like Google Buzz?

    • That’s a great question. And actually was thinking the very same thought last night when I ran across an old article on Buzz. Chris Brogan would probably be a better person to ask if Google+ has legs. To be honest, though, humans are pretty poor at predicting the future, so my suggestion is to get in it now, play around and if it takes off, you were one of the firsts. ;-)

    • My view on Google+: it can’t hurt.

      To put it simply, it can in no way hurt your attempts by using G+, so why not act on it now, just don’t gamble on the service like some of the people out there putting their whole blogs on the service, that could end up costing you.

      By the way, this line: “My suggestion to you is to put your best stuff on other people’s blogs and leave the mediocre stuff for your own.”

      No way. Why would people ever visit your own site if your content is mediocre? They’ll simpy share your guest posts, but you’ll never build a following this way.

      Don’t post mediocre content… ever. But when it comes down to two well-written article, put the more “generic” one as a guest post, and the more creative or personal one on your own blog.

      Just my 2 cents.

  3. There is a big “if you build it, they will come problem” going around along with a lack of planning.

    I see people around the web, taking actions that seems completely random, and “unengaging.”

    Then you’ve got people like Corbett Barr who you see everywhere with a clear goal and a well thought out plan to get people to his latest product.

    I think planning your actions, instead of simply doing, is a big key.

    • Completely agree. Einstein said: “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”

      It’s awesome that you’re motivated but you need to have a clear idea of where to go, what you’re trying to achieve, and a plan to accomplish it. Without it, you’re just spinning your wheels. Figure that out and then it’s full steam ahead!

    • Hey Graham, Corbett was a new one for me, so thanks for the tip. I like what he’s doing. He’s got the ubiquity thing down.

  4. “you can’t afford NOT to slog it out in the comment trenches.”

    This is something I am constantly pushing my clients to do. Blog commenting isn’t particularly fun, it’s very time consuming, and there is no quick payoff. But it has to be done! The long term benefits are there if you can stick it out and actually contribute to the conversation.

    • …or they don’t even open the comments section…right?

    • This is one that drives me nuts when I see it. I love commenting on my blog. It makes the community come alive when we get a lot of interaction going, and isn’t that the point?

      • Exactly. Who wants to hang out at a cocktail party where people ignore you? ;-)

        • What a great idea to ask questions while commenting.

          Actually, I’m working with a client on social skills, and that’s exactly what I’ve been teaching her: if you want to start and have a good conversation with someone, ask them a question about themselves, or in response to what they’ve said.

          Everyone likes to talk about themselves, and so the more they talk in a conversation, the more they feel it was a “good” conversation.

          So, to take my own advice,”Did you concentrate on making more comments on just a few blogs? And how much time did you spend doing this?”

  5. Excellent post! I especially like the comment-on-posts point (seemed like a good place and time to start). Something I’ve gotta start doing more of! If you want influence you must invest the time. Great stuff! Thanks.

    • Yeah, we’re all strapped for time, so it is a constant battle. Like I said, scheduling fifteen minutes here or there throughout the day will get the job done. Let me know how that works out for you, okay?

  6. Nice. I probably need to reread this post because I basically just skimmed it. However, there were some great points that I want to revisit.

    The most interesting, that I want to put into use to a higher level is the twitter tip on number 7. I have been looking to get into twitter for the past week and a half. I have not gotten very far, but I feel better about it now that I have read this post.

  7. I can’t stress enough the importance of giving things away, including the best blog posts in your arsenal.

    Demian, how much time does it take you to check up on, and promote all of those Twitter followers that followed you back?

    • Uhm, check up on? Promote? Good questions. I use tweet deck and build lists out of categories [friends, writers, humor, etc]] and skim through those columns. I also use the filter function to look for questions [filter for "?"] and links to zero in on a topic to engage. Trying, you know, to give a little because Twitter can be a stream of manure. I need the tools to find the gems, if you know what I mean.

      • I need to reload Tweet Deck. “Stream of Manure” is an accurate description, especially when you have 8K followers.

      • Wow – Between this and Pat Flynn’s post today, I’m getting so many awesome tips on Twitter :) I’m totally guilty of not using it as much as I should, but it’s on my to do list.

        Specifically, I like the idea of filtering out the questions and links to use as jumping off points. If you’re new to Twitter, figuring out how to engage people is really tough, but those two things could be good ways to get the conversation rolling.

        Thanks for sharing!

  8. What an awesome, useful, and timely post! Demian, I’ve been following your blog and your Twitter feed for a while now, and you always have great stuff to say, but I seriously loved this article.

    Online obscurity sucks. Especially if you try your very best to do as Copyblogger says and create quality content, but STILL no one reads your blog (yes, I may be referring to myself here).

    Two things I would add:

    1. Blogging, like everything takes patience. The whole world isn’t going to find out about you right away – and there’s no hope of you ever having a successful blog if you don’t keep writing.

    2. I also think it’s important to figure out what copywriters call your USP or Unique Selling Point of your blog. What makes your blog different from other blogs in your niche? This can help with confidence and also aid in distinguishing your blog from all the other millions of blogs on the internet.

    • Hey Krista,

      Let me confess something: I SO have to fight the temptation to say screw it, throw in the towel and live like a hermit. That’s how overwhelming struggling against the tide of obscurity can seem sometime [not to mention I have a fascination with Emily Dickinson's hermetical lifestyle]. But here’s the deal: nobody who is at the top is there because they slouched off. They worked day in and day out. That takes patience. So yes, keep writing….and thank you so much for following/reading/commenting/tweeting. You are a model social media darling. ;-)

  9. This is an amazing article – thank you so much.

    I especially like the part about personalizing your comments and not just saying “nice article, thanks.” I’ve found that going around and finding blogs related to my niche, leaving an informative and helpful comment or question, and then repeating that process elsewhere has helped tremendously for my site. Lots of new traffic + new interest.

    Thanks again!

    • Nothing drives me more insane than sludging through the endless streams of “Nice articles”. It’s bad enough from the auto-commenters but when someone takes the time to actually register or fill out the comment form and then add something of no value I just don’t see the point. Take a stand, point out errors and omissions, show your support but say something more than a few syllables.

  10. This is dangerously good advice, Demian. But you lost me here:

    “My suggestion to you is to put your best stuff on other people’s blogs and leave the mediocre stuff for your own.”

    The best guest post in the world isn’t going to land you new subscribers if your own content is mediocre …

    Wouldn’t you agree?

    • You and me both know that there are some posts that we write that clearly are better than anything else we’ve written. The temptation is to keep that for ourselves, for our blog. What’s the point if nobody is seeing it? I’m not suggesting you actually write mediocre posts for your blog–if that’s the way it came across, my bad. Every post you write should be A-level–or at least we should give it A-level effort. Does that make sense?

      • I guess it depends on how large your own audience is. The last article on my own blog landed me more emails than some people get from a Copyblogger guest post. :D

      • I’m happy you took some time to clarify the statement attributed to you “My suggestion to you is to put your best stuff on other people’s blogs and leave the mediocre stuff for your own.”

        I must confess that I was actually taken aback when I read it. Not surprise that, Martyn Chamberlin observed it as well. But I’m relieved by a follow-up clarification of what you actually meant.

        Consistently writing great blog posts on your own blog or as a guest blogger elsewhere is a worthy task. It’s should not be an ‘either or’ proposition. I’m happy you clarified it.

        Great post!

    • I think that the use of the term “mediocre” just wasn’t the right choice. The message is still spot on.

    • I get what you are saying but it is probably the hardest one of these things to do. Every time I muster up the courage to use one of my best posts as a guest post I get cold feet and wind up using it on on of my sites. For people starting out, it builds credibility on the backs of already successful sites. Once you get to the point where Martyn is at i don’t think you need to spend as much of your content capital on guest posting though.

  11. Thoughtful blog post Demian Farnworth. Thanks for so much detail on Social Media Techniques. I also enjoyed reading the Comments on your terrific Guest Post. I’ve followed you on Twitter and LinkedIn and will be reading your Blog at The Copy Bot. So glad I received THIS email, Brian.
    Just sent this Tweet:
    Awesome tips on 10 Ways to Beat Online Obscurity (Mark Eisner @alwi_eisner : and be Klout-less no more?) via @copyblogger (http).
    This is so good I think I’ll add it to my Facebook Page – with the links included. We should all be taking stock of our Social Media engagement!

  12. Excellent Post Demian.

    @Powerserve – Google+ is good for building brand but their policy of enforcing real photo of person will turn many people off their network. Those who don’t want to share their real picture or name for personal and family reasons will stick with privacy features of facebook.

    @Graham, Totally agree with “planning your action”. :)

  13. Powerful points. I especially agree with you about leaving comments. It has to be though-provoking and sort of having a discussion instead of just a “Hi” or “hello” :) I’d found Facebook to be very complicated marketing platform for me. I am still learning and now we have Google+ to tackle! Gosh, technology seems to catch on every second ;)

  14. This is a great article – although it doesn’t cover anything ground-breaking, it was enough to get me off my ass and get started on a couple of the things mentioned (Linked In and videos)!

  15. Good advice and a great list Demian. Thanks for the heads up.

    John
    Leamington Spa, England

  16. Really great advice. The only problem is time. It is all very, very time consuming. The real question is how to mange and implement all these great techniques. I am looking at ways to outsource but it is tricky. I need an edge. Do you know of one?

  17. Great material!

    We need to get stronger with LinkedIn. Definitely. As an aside, we’ve seen our comments, etc., go up since we signed our blog up with Technorati. Also a great site to find The Influencers. (Sounds like the title of an old western movie!)

    Cheers! Mark Lynch

  18. What do you think would happen if Jack Welch wrote poetry?

  19. Good stuff. Self promotion is important for sure. Guest posting can be gold for sure.

    Question for you (following your advice): Is it better to focus on 1 or 2 of your suggestions or attempt them all?

    • How about this: print out the list and systematically work through them? Eventually you’ll have to shift to maintenance mode, but until then, you know what to do…why aren’t you doing it? :-)

  20. This is great advice. I agree with your tip about sharing your best posts on other blogs. I finally started doing that a few weeks ago and it definitely generates traffic to my blog.

    Finally…someone who feels the same way I do about Facebook. I use to fight Facebook until I realized the value of the business side of it. I post links to articles of interest to my readers and also post questions (although I’ll start doing the latter more).

    I don’t have an eye patch, but I do get some interesting looks when I wear my “I’m Working Naked…Are You?” t-shirt at the gym! Thanks for sharing these valuable tips.

  21. Excellent piece!

    About the “Eye Patch” bit — is this still applicable, given the sheer diversity of everything on the internet as is? If everyone’s quirky, is anybody?

  22. “someone’s aunt rolls out saccharine pearls of wisdom that generates dozens of likes and comments.”

    I can relate. :o)

    I like the idea in the FB section about the questions. If not for the laughs alone, the research part would add a bit of fun to it.

  23. So here I am slogging out in the comments section wearing an eye patch, drunk off of Jack asking questions like, How can I write a guest post for CopyBlogger? and Why won’t Jon Morrow reply to my mentions of him?

    I’ll tell you one thing, this post is great, especially the Twitter list.

    I’ll tell you another thing. I sense that Mr. CopyBot guy has a way with words or else he wouldn’t call himself CopyBot guy…Am I right?

    • Well, I try to write checks that won’t bounce, so I wouldn’t call my self that if I didn’t think it was at least marginally true. :-) Like I said, part of tackling SM is having legitimate confidence in your skill set. Who wants to follow a softie?

    • @Brad: You made me laugh. But you could kill two birds with one stone by joining Morrow’s guestblogging program. :)

  24. Demian, this is a great strategy post! I am always impressed by how simply the more successful bloggers and creators put things. I try to follow the advice you all put out (catered to my niche, obviously, which is difficult at times) and it always seems to have a common theme. The basics. Always follow the basics.

    Why do you think it is that people immediately think they are going to be a hit? Especially when it’s obvious that there are so many fish swimming around!

    Thank you for this.

  25. This post of so on target it hurts my brain with its sharpness. Simple common sense honed to a fine point is always the best message. To me, what counts most, is confidence. So many writers fuss about being recluses, but with a well-planned blog, a recluse can be a king, a queen, a VIP, a god – and still remain hidden. I just don’t know why more people don’t do more. I know all of this, and have implemented much of it from personal experience, but I intend to go whole-hog on my blog now. The publisher releases my suspense series in February and I’m on tour half of 2012. The timing for this is perfect. Thanks.

    C. Hope Clark

  26. Be kind. Be generous and above all, be professional. This post is useful and accurate in the predictions of outcome only if executed with decency and sincerity. I am, as many early adopters are, jaded from all the attempts of people to gain visibility without ‘engaging’: People who treat me as the customer rather than a colleague. Greg Meyer,Customer Care Professional, [twitter: gregatgist] suggests a recipe of ten: three business posts, two links and three personal posts. This works. He has made real friends, not just ‘marks’ who follow him. As a result, folks are even proactive in their support of Greg. I have a FB connection who only promotes his stuff and rarely engages except to ask followers to click here or comment there. I plan to unfriend him.

  27. “Carved me a new copywriting rearend” – that’s classic! You’ve captured all the feisty essence of John Carlton.

  28. Demian,

    I cut and pasted your 10 tips into a one page word doc and printed it out and stuck it on the wall next to my desk.

    My site, The Professor Is In, is less than a week old, but thanks to advice like yours, I’ve already gotten three clients. so thanks!

    After reading your post, I put on the metaphorical Eyepatch! I honed in on a unique core message: “I tell you the truth about grad school, the job market, and tenure,” and rewrote my copy. Then I did a Twitter blitz! And I’ve lined up two guest posts.

    Now I’ve got to master LinkedIn, commenting, and that whole promoting other people thing (that doesn’t come so naturally to me!). So much to do!

    I appreciate your insights a lot. thank you.

    Karen, aka, The Professor

  29. Wow, that was nicely written and pretty comprehensive. Probably the only thing I won’t do is follow someone just because they’re perceived to be influential. If I can’t get something from them then it’s a waste of my time. Nice job.

  30. I’ve got to think like a Farnworth!!

    One time I remember dominating a Linkedin group and yes it really payed off!

    Nice job on the article.

    Really helpful and insightful.

  31. I enjoyed this post. Talking about guest posting with a twist – I think I should consider this unique approach in my writing career. Thanks for sharing!

  32. Glad to see you mentioning email. With all the hype about social networking, it’s easy to overlook it. I just got a great blurb for a book from a very high profile person, who replied to my first email within an hour. You just never know.

    And concerning your comment about Jack Welch, I think one of his greatest characteristics is that he found ways to get all his people sharing ideas. Of course, that’s a great characteristic of this blog!

  33. Pretty good suggestions. They seem pretty straightforward yet that stuff doesn’t happen for me as easily as I want to because it takes time. Like you said, “it’s worth it,” so I will just have to go for it.

    Keep up the great on your blog. There are those of us who are silent admirers who appreciate all you do. Cheers!

  34. Great article. I’m just gettting going on the blog path, 4 posts under my belt but I did a lot of research and found no one doing exactly what I am doing. Hopefully that makes me number one in my market. I know this is going to take some time to get up and going and I’m going to take the advice from folks like you and others, work it and make it fly.

    One other point. I really like doing this. It gives me a whole new angle with my business, I always wanted to be a writer and so I get to live my dream. I’d like to let you know how I’m making out every once in a while.

  35. These were some great ideas about not being obscure. I saved this page and will reference it often just to be sure that I’m on the right track. I do have a question though. How long did it take you to build your brand and get your name out?

    • About four or five days.

      No. Just kidding. Uhm, it’s really tough to say. I’ve been a professional writer for over ten years and just recently started heavily promoting myself.

      Here’s a secret: hook up with the right people. Makes all the difference. Having said that, it’s not always easy and sometimes you hook up with the wrong people and don’t find out until later. Good people here though. Through and through.

      Why do you ask?

  36. I’m a big fan of promoting others. More often than not when I promote someone else with a link, story, or photo that person will see it and link back to it or at least say thank you. I’ve done this a lot with other blogger in my niche and those folks have turned into huge supporters of mine and good friends as well.

    Cheers!

  37. @Demian: It’s definitely because they thought you were good looking. :)

    I’ve had great success with promoting other people through interviews & getting them great exposure. It always seems to pay off. And–if ever, it doesn’t, at least you did something nice for someone, right?

    Re: blog commenting. I never believed that it could drive traffic to one’s site until I began doing it. It really is worth it if you do it well.

    Great post. Thanks.

    Jennifer

    • Stop it. You’re making me blush.

      And you’re right: promoting people is an excellent path to gaining traction and attention. Good work.

      PS: I commented on your blog and it told me I was spam. So I did it again. And again. So if there’s like 3 IDENTICAL comments from me, sorry. :/

  38. Great stuff ! Thanks for sharing. Started following some of these power users. Few of them doesn’t seems to follow back though.

    • Be patient. Maybe. ;-)

    • I looked at that list and it is a bit dated. Knowing some of the people on that list, a good share of us were setup with auto-follow by Twitter. Twitter discontinued the auto-follow along with their “white list” in March 2009. I had been set up to auto-follow through @jessestay’s SocialToo but I’m not sure if it is still working. I do not invest as much time into Twitter as I once had.

      In fact, I’m unfollowing users who have not posted in over 3 months, so I can get a better feel of who in my friend’s list is still actively using the service.

      • I did not know that…but I didn’t promise anybody that all the people would follow them back…not even close. Like I said, there are larger lists but two different times I was satisfied with the two hour investment [one as earlier this year]…it’s the interaction that’s important and so if that means people followed me because they actually checked out the account before following, that’s even better. Thanks for the update, Mark.

      • I wonder how many other people have actually done the same. Seems there are many jumping from the Twitter ranks as of late.

  39. Oh no! I just installed that comment spam condom plug-in. :( Guess I’ll have to find another one. And track down your comment! Thanks for the heads up. :)

  40. What a beautifully constructed and generous post. You do everything you recommend and you share it all with us. Thank You. My clients thank you, too. B

  41. Okay, you’ve converted me… I admit I am a blogger who understands the value of commenting on guest blogs, but who just hasn’t made the time to do it. I could cite a hundred excuses, but they would be just that. Many (if not most) of us who aspire to build successful blogs suffer from a lack of time and the need to prioritize certain tasks. Obviously this is one task that must rise to the top of the list !

    I also appreciate your advice on Twitter and Linked in. I promote my client’s accounts, but neglect my own, but things are about to change. Fortunately my niche B2B website following is growing in spite of my neglect in these other areas.

    Thanks for the kickstart.

  42. Demian, I thought I’d read the best article I was going to read today already over on Social Media Examiner ’6 Ways to Socially Reward Your Customers’ – however yours has definitely taken the cake!

    Awesome tips and also quite motivating, have you considered making tapes (or mp3s)?

    Well I’m off to buy an eye patch and see what I can achieve with this new found knowledge!

    Cheers
    @propagandahouse

    • Holy smokes, Daniel, that’s quite an impressive feat…but might have to disagree. Corina’s article was pretty stout.

      Regarding mp3, not a bad idea.

      Thanks Daniel.

  43. Great post with some butt-moving *taps on shoulder* points for us all it seems (self included, more often for pts 1 & 4). I agree email rocks – I’ve had clients that I’ve been consistently emailing/touching for over 3 years to suddenly turn the corner and contract me for work out of the blue.
    As for LinkedIn, what are the best type of questions/comments that you’ve found to get traction in those circles – as it’s quite a different audence than average bloggers?

    • Take a peek at what other people are asking…and also experiment. If you want to know something, rather than running to Wikipedia or your favorite source, ask the group. Some question will be duds, but others might sail. You never know unless you try.

  44. Hi Demian!

    That was some “kick-ass” post you got here! All the elements for zapping away online obscurity are really here! I have to admit, though, that some I haven’t really tried out yet like dominating LinkedIn groups.

    But I do agree about the use of guest posts in other people’s blogs (although my belief is that we should always try to come up with great posts either in our own blogsite or in others) and leaving good comments.

  45. Thanks for the education! I have plenty of homework professor!

    The part about Lil B is eye opening and a great example of how to. We have no excuse for being obscure :0).

    • I always wanted to be called “professor.” *bats eyes*

      And no we don’t…especially if we are creating something people like. that’s another post for another day.

  46. Great post there.

    It’s always troublesome for people when they realize they are not being noticed.

    With a new blog, writing each and every day to get no comments feels like a chore.

    However, the long term approach wins hands down most of the time.

    One thing I have noticed about emails is, yes it works. However, most of the time, the person who we email might either respond vaguely or not respond at all if they see us as NOT being an influencer in any niche.

    I have experienced that a lot of time.

    Besides, lot of people are ditching emails (Leo from Zenhabits, Erica from ericabiz for starters), and even more people are hiring assistants to check mail (Brian for one). So if we send a mail, there is no guarantee that the intended person will ever receive it.

    So, what’s your way around that? Bug them on twitter? Buy their latest courses just to keep in touch with them?

    • You said, “So, what’s your way around that? Bug them on twitter? Buy their latest courses just to keep in touch with them?”

      All sound ways. It’s the relentless and creative who make that connection. And to be frank, not everyone has responded to emails.

      Here’s the deal: if they are online, they are touchable. How nice is that?

  47. Demian, great post. My blog is relatively new and I am still learning. The blog section of my site needs some refinement, but I’m working on getting my designer to update it. I particularly like your comment on being fearless. I think that’s so important in this social media world that we live in. Dive in, do your best work, keep communicating with others, and hopefully you’ll get recognized eventually, right?!!

  48. Hi Demian,

    Sensational tips.

    I’m big on #2. Sow. Reap. Famous people become famous because of giving away their best stuff freely, for a sustained period of time. Sow. Reap.

    Ordinary people give with strings attached. It hurts them to give. Well, good luck getting, if you don’t want to give, and give freely.

    Publish awesome content and give it away with no strings attached. Watch how people respond to you. Keep doing it. Watch your presence expand. Eventually, you set an asking price, and it will be high. All because you gave freely, persistently.

    You become a known commodity as you help others become known commodities. Share other people’s content all the time. Make an impact in the comments section. Stand out from the crowd by standing out from the crowd. Do what most others don’t do: be mindful, be present, be thoughtful.

    I generate at least 15 Facebook friend requests a day by engaging like crazy, being mindful and making an impact wherever I am. It’s a piece of cake, really. I intend to impress in each moment, and people who like what I have to say, seek me out.

    Thanks for sharing the money insight Demian.

    Ryan

  49. I have to say, I write some of my best stuff after a couple of drinks.

  50. This is a great post, thank you very much for sharing. I’ve found the best way to be is to do some passive marketing while helping others as much as you can. Spreading yourself around as many sites as possible also helps; it certainly achieves more visability.
    http://lkwattsconfessions.blogspot.com

  51. Thanks for this article. I am upping my game in some areas of the social media market – blogging and twitter – but know I need to make more use of Facebook and Linkedin. Do you think Facebook still works well for business to business markets? I do not want to link my business page to my personal page on Facebook. Do you think I am missing out if I keep the two separate?

    • Some people are successful at it. Copyblogger for example. It might be a good idea to keep the two separate. I only have one FB account and I don’t use it for business, which means I decline a lot of invitations.

  52. I really enjoyed this article. A lot of great examples in here.
    I like to think of myself as the most important company to promote. A person’s perceived reputation or personality can either make them or break them. There are a lot of good examples of how to get your reputation not only seen, but seen in a positive way in this article.

  53. Great insight on gaining traction on line! I started a couple months back commenting on all of the blogs I follow. It IS time-consuming. When I do it consistently, I can spend at least 2 hours a day doing it! However, the payoff has been AMAZING! I just got into sales a year ago and I’ve already had the opportunity to learn from and interact with the top names in the profession. Moreover, they have interacted with me on MY blog! It’s amazing how involved people will becom in what you are doing when you become interested in what they are doing. Thanks for the great advice!

  54. Thanks for the article. We are always looking for more ways to refocus our blog’s traffic. LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are working well but I cannot agree with you more in regards to promoting other people’s work and businesses to establish mutually beneficial relationships. This technique has proven to generate the highest level of results. Thanks again.

  55. Love these tips! And, above all, it takes hard work.

  56. Yes. I close the bathroom door even if I’m home alone. :)

    I agree with the LinkedIn comment, joining groups is a great way to interact with those who share some common interests and it’s fertile ground for some good debates.

    So do you drink your orange juice straight from the container or pour the juice into a glass?

  57. Thank you for your excellent suggestions! Do I understand correctly that we should be seeking out opportunities of writing guest posts? And, how do you feel about results from having guest writers on our own sites?
    Does it matter if it turns out to be a lousy writing job if the writer has a following?

    Thank you for your time.
    Chaska

  58. This is one of the newest and out-of-the-boxy list of techniques for self/brand promotion I have seen. Thanks for that. Some I have not tried, but plan to. I know, Demian, you had to do your own research, trial and error to find and develop these methodologies for blog growth. They seem unique.

    But here’s a question I have as I surf and pay attention to experts such as yourself who are way ahead of me: Why do you share your secrets? I worry about the old adage, those who can’t do, teach. If these are indeed 10 rock solid ways you stay ahead of obscurity, sharing them will, in the long run, put you back into obscurity because others will be using them. The best way to spoil a nice place to live in is to advertise that it is a nice place to live. And the crowd comes running and it is no longer nice, quite or unspoiled.

    If your “secrets” work and get you what you want/need, why is that not enough? Or are your really great and stellar secrets still secrets never to be shared?

    • That’s the tragedy of the commons, right? Definite risk, but worth it, I think. Here’s why.

      1. Not everyone will pursue these secrets. Why? Hard work. It’s not easy and I’m not even always faithful to do as I say I do.

      2. Law of reciprocity. I’m a curmudgeon and crank when it comes to people’s motives [because, hey, I know my own and well...] but when you give…it comes back. SOMETHING comes back. More attention. Requests for interviews. Clients. Students.

      3. Branding. There’s a reason that marketing worth is related to what ranchers do to cows: they brand them so they know they’re their own. In the same way, sharing my information brands me as an expert. People remember me. Granted, you can never rest on your laurels or you’ll fade away, but as you interact with people and customers, that excellent service you deliver continues to impress your image deeper and deeper into people’s minds.

      4. There are NEVER great stellar secrets NEVER to be shared. Every thing has a price. ;-)

      Did that help? And by the way, GREAT question. Really got me thinking.

      • Beautiful response, Demian.

        The entire response, but particularly:

        “but when you give…it comes back. SOMETHING comes back. More attention. Requests for interviews. Clients. Students.”

        Your post produced a very interesting thread! Great Saturday reading. =)

        Jennifer

      • Helps me to think, as well. That’s one of the marks of a good conversation which in deed can become a relationship.

        I suppose if nothing else, all “information wants to be free” despite all the intellectual property protection machinations and crafty copyright schemes we go to. And, after all, you are in the communications business. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get out of our competitive and possessive ways and do win-win.

        At any rate, thanks again for some super ideas, “curmudgeon and crank” or not.

  59. All are very good advices… Obscurity is such a great challenge but if you are smart enough then you will fight it and be successful.

  60. Interesting Post! I’d probably add that as well as interacting with lots of other people, making your own blog as interactive as possible can help. As you grow bigger, smaller people that are just starting out will want to use these tips on your site, so make it as easy as possible for them

  61. Some really interesting thoughts here, some of which I’m doing, most of which I’m not! I’ve looked at the LinkedIn groups and have done a bit of that, but didn’t realise what an effect it could have.

    Just when I feel I’m catching up with the whole blog/SEO thing, I find something like this that brings me back down to earth. Cheers! I’m just gutted that in addition to finding all this out, I’ve got work to do, could really do with following most of the links.

  62. Love the post. Simple yet very useful.
    Can we expect follow-up posts on some of the points?

  63. Great Read.

    My only problem with blog commenting is that I seem to find all the interesting blogs and spend far too much time reading all the good stuff – like here, for instance.

    So, for me, blog commenting is very time consuming but it really is the part that I like best.

    I’ll be back (…as Arnie would say)

    Karen

  64. Demian, a great article and one that I’ve shared on my own social accounts. I was surprised to learn after clicking your link that I’m one of the 237 Twitter power users… That’s kinda cool. Will try wearing an eye patch next but I’m not sure how helpful that will be since most of the time, nobody can see me while I’m typing. Otherwise, I’m applying everything else I’ve read here. Thank you.

  65. What still eludes me in this Herculean effort these 1.5 million U.S. bloggers are making in the new “Social Media” is how they actually make a living? For the life of me I can not clearly see what most are selling or how they support their families through it. Seems like a huge volume of inflated hype with some real value hidden under billions of words.

    But I will give CopyBlogger a pat on the back—
    This column does have value over the long haul. Your tips are solid. I wrote down every power user you mentioned. I intend to see what they have to say. Like I mentioned in a comment to Chris Brogan some months back, when it comes to getting noticed online, I feel like the little kid with glasses, hidden behind the big guys yelling, “Pick me. Pick me.”

  66. GULP! What a lot to do. Whoever said this blogging lark was easy. You’ve really made some good suggestions, not surprisingly. You’ve made me see a few holes in what i’m doing, so i’m off to fix them. I think a key to it all is to keep going. As you’ve said there are one heck of alot of blogs out there, and probably just as many which are sitting in the blog scrap heap, desserted to blog no more. Blogging for many of us is a passion, increased everytime we see a little lift in our readership numbers, so while they keep coming, we keep blogging, and just maybe we end up making a living.

  67. Enjoyed this post. Thanks. It contains many a good tip for especially newbie or demoralized bloggers.

    When you read it it all seems like such obvious common sense, but great that the nuances of each method, learnt through your experience, are brought together in one place.

    I’d add to this some of the character traits you need to progress, though much of that is tied up in the Jack Welch analogy. Being persistent; focused; targeting your activity; patient; but above all relentless!

  68. My problem with “build it and they will come” is that I never really know if I’ve finished building. I’m always tweking and tinkering. Don’t suppose that helps with the obscurity problem

  69. Thank you for this article, I really enjoyed it.
    Giving away quality content is something I keep telling my clients to do, it sure helps with visibility.
    It is also a good way to increase your mailing list because to get your free content they have to enter their email address. An auto-responder attach to that form to get the free content and then 3 to 7 days later another email to follow-up and see if they liked what they read and have them participate to a conversation either on a Facebook page or on a blog. Building relationship with your list is a good way to gain popularity. Then you can offer your services and products.

    Great article, will re-tweet this for sure!

  70. Good advice, but I have a couple of questions: how can submitting the best content in the form of guest posts while posting the “mediocre stuff” on your own site be productive? It seems counter-intuitive to post less than quality work on your site just as much as it would to send it off to someone else. If readers do like your guest post enough to click through to your blog or website, only to see sub-par content posted there, it will damage your reputation and credibility, wouldn’t it?

    Secondly, I took a look at the Twitter list and a number of them have more followers than people they’re following. How can we know that they really will follow back?

    • Hi Joseph,

      1. You missed the early discussion above. We agreed “mediocre” was not the best word to use.

      2. Well, the only way you can know if they will really follow you back is if you follow them and then they follow you back, right? No guarantees here, just advice based on experience. ;-)

  71. Great post! It can help (as alluded to in tip #10 and in at least one comment) to develop a niche within the broader topic of your blog to help attract attention.

  72. G’Day Demian,
    Thanks for a most useful post. I decided that I’d take your advice and leave a comment. I particularly enjoyed that your points were both pertinent and practical.

    May I add the last of the great Robert Gunning’s principles of clear writing: “Write to express, not to impress.’

    Make sure you have fun

    Regards

    Leon

  73. Excellent.This is one of the best articles I`ve come across.No nonsense;no bullshit.Just giving it as it is.Most of us are `lost in a sea of faces` online.Unless you get BIG recognition online-it is STILL in this computer/digital age easier to get recognition placing adverts in appropriate magazines -or even free newspapers! Very good advice given in this blog.I have recently-though in my small humble way at the moment-proved that interaction with others,being bolder,-and generally just `getting in on the act` DOES increase results surprisingly well.Its all about `getting a foot in the door`-not EASY by any means!

  74. This is an excellent, excellent post. I noticed that you responded to a lot of comments here, and I wonder if you regularly respond in the comment thread, or personally via email. Which works best for you? I have tried both, and while personal email responses are faster for me, I wonder if responding in the comment thread will encourage more interaction.

    • I like to keep the conversation within the stream it was intended: on the blog. Naturally, if you have a more personal question or something off topic, replying by email is proper. Think of it as a town hall meeting…if we discussed ideas in email it’s like we went behind doors. Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciate it!

  75. Great ideas. I especially like items 2 (give away content) and 5 (promote others). Many of my clients and friends who ask me for tips (and I’m amazed that people even ask me for advice because I still feel like I’m learning every day on this stuff), struggle with those concepts. The may push back on the level of effort on the other items, but have real philosophical issues with giving there expertise away and promoting others, especially if there is even a hint of competition.

    I’m of the mind set that if you give enough value over time, the only logical next step is for the person to engage with you for your services or refer you to someone else who is in need of your services (Patrick Lencioni sums this philosophy pretty nicely in his book “Getting Naked”

    With respect to ipromoting others, I believe that is the corner stone of creating a lot of leverage and access to other larger databases. From everything I have seen and read (Ben Croft and Brendan Bouchard come to mind immediately), leveraging databases is going to be a key component of effective marketing strategies now and into the future. Of course, you have to be careful not to over promote and only promote people and ideas that you truly believe in.

    My 2 cents

  76. How about: ‘If you want to talk to people you have to talk to people?’ Blogging away to no audience is talking to yourself. you would never sit in a room talking to yourself and wait for people to start coming in to listen. You would go out and find out who is talking, listen to what they are saying and when the time is right join in. Thanks for the post and the detailed comments.

  77. Hey, thanks for the great article. I’m looking to get into writing free guest articles for distribution in places other than my blog and build up a bit of traffic and boost my reputation. What places do you suggest I send my articles to? I tried working with technorati, but I couldn’t handle the level of spam that filled up my inbox from the writers group, and just had to leave.

    How should I go about getting my articles published elsewhere?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Bill, I think your best policy is simply to find blogs/sites you admire and ask them if they’d like a guest post. Shoot an email [with a compelling subject line!] and ask them if they accept guest submissions. Include the title of the piece, but don’t attach the piece. Just ask them if they want to see it. Lots of blogs will have a “guest post policy” page, so look for those. Hope that helps!

  78. I am an artist, not a writer….and I would love to have some short guest posts on appropriate subjects.
    Art Alchemy Studio.

  79. Nobody will probably read most of what we write including this comment. So you might as well just be your own crazy assed self when you write. Maybe then things could actually start to get interesting? At least you will be having some chuckles while reveling in your own obscurity. I say go down in flames.

  80. This is an excellent resource and I especially like the advice to go on a comment spree (comments with substance of course) , but how do you persuade SEO clients to do this regularly? I thought maybe arranging a series of comments or comment protocols they might follow on a strict-ish timetable. What are the precedents for SEO’ers posting comments of agreed style and content for clients? I’d love to do this for a photographer but it’s dangerous to become the critic of photography in his name.

  81. OK- about the blog comments thing…. I was reading a blog-post other day and the writer had made a point that blog comments only do a little good to your SEO campaign – though he didn’t clarify it. But he said that the better approach is to write guest posts on others blogs.
    Now, I really don’t get what is the difference between a backlink from a blog-post and a backlink from a comment? Can anyone clear it out please?

  82. Great article Demian,

    I like your advice about influencing the comment section, but am starting to think there’s a trick to it. I’ve hit up Google for blogs about my particular area (sports injuries), and although I’ve come up with a ton of results, I have yet to find a blog that allows do-follow links from the comment section. Perhaps it’s my particular area of interest where this is the norm. How does one go about finding blogs with do-follow comment sections?

    Thanks again Demian!