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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
P.S. Obscurity Hates Focus
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