Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

How to Stop Spamming & Actually Get People to Listen to You

The mindset of most spammers is this: If we show up and interrupt you long enough, eventually you’ll pay attention.

For decades, this worked for advertisers and marketers. If you bought TV time or space in a magazine or newspaper and made enough noise, you would eventually get noticed. But now, there’s just one problem with that strategy:

It doesn’t work anymore.

Stop Spamming

Photo credit: Dave Parker (Creative Commons)

Nobody wants to be bothered with something they didn’t ask for. No one will listen to a message that is irrelevant to them. In a busy world, time is our most valuable asset.

Still, tons of authors, bloggers, and advertisers insist on using this strategy of interruption every day to get people’s attention. They keep talking, hoping someone will listen. (They won’t.)

If you’re doing this, please stop. You’re just annoying the rest of us.

Enough with the noise-making. It’s time to start building a platform worth noticing.

Three things you need to get heard

As I mentioned before in a recent post, every message worth hearing needs the following:

  • Anticipation
  • Relevance
  • Personal approach

I didn’t make these up; I stole them straight from Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing — a book you should pick up, if you haven’t read it. (You can get the first third and basic gist of it at Permission.com.)

When you have permission, you have something every communicator wants: a captive audience.

Think of any subscription service you have, a recent package you ordered, the date you have tonight. You can’t wait for them. Why? Because you gave someone permission to deliver this message to you. You’re expecting it.

Anticipation is everything. If I’m waiting for your message, I care about it. If not, then I don’t care — no matter how good it is.

If the message doesn’t feel relevant and personal to me, I will tune it out. And so will your audience.

You have to be a little weird

With so much noise and competition in our world, if your content isn’t customized for a very particular niche, you risk sounding too general, too vanilla. And nobody wants normal anymore. We all want weird.

The cool thing about a blog or any kind of platform is that it allows you to accomplish those three things I mentioned pretty easily. If you have a way for people to subscribe, a message that connects, and a unique style, you’re in. You are on your way to finding your tribe.

Building a platform takes time and a ton of permission. But it’s not impossible. It just requires work (or for you to be the heir of a hotel tycoon).

It’s all about permission

So how does this work? How do you create a channel people actually care about tuning into? How do you build something worth our attention? Here are four simple (but not easy) steps:

  1. Resist the temptation to interrupt. To shout and scream and beg to be heard.
  2. Start with what you know. Is it cars? Movies? Storytelling? Whatever it is, start sharing your expertise.
  3. Provide opportunities for people to listen. If you have to get someone’s attention, do it respectfully and honestly.
  4. Blow away your audience with something remarkable. Once you have attention, don’t squander it. Defy the odds; exceed expectations. Be awesome.

Sure, you can bypass all of these and just wave your hands in the air. A few people will probably notice. But as soon as something new distracts them, they’ll forget about you.

Remember this: How you win your audience is how you will have to keep it. If you build a platform on interruption, you’ll have to keep interrupting people. And nobody wants that. Not even you.

The only way to get sustainable attention in this world is to earn it. Show up. Ask permission. And deliver the goods. Anything else is a sham and eventually gets ignored.

How do you get people to listen to you? And what do you actually listen to? Share in the comments.

Disclosure: Some of the above links were affiliate links.

*Photo credit: Dave Parker (Creative Commons)

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • I listen to things that fill a need of mine, of course, but I also want to listen to things that are new or fresh in some way. So much of what’s out there is the same ole, same ole. Don’t have time for or interest in that. Give me a fresh perspective or some new tip. I listen then.

    •  I am the same. Thanks for sharing, Cheryl!

  • Good article, Jeff, especially the part about being a little weird. I think I’ve got that one down Pat! (ahem….)

  • Keli Gwyn

    For one so young, you sure are wise, Jeff! I read your posts and am impressed repeatedly.

    I’m working to find my blogging voice and figure out how to offer unique content that benefits my visitors and isn’t all about me. I haven’t “arrived,” but I’m making progress.

  • I like that part of starting with what I know. 

    Sometimes I feel like I should be “more awesome” than I am..but then again I really cannot be more than I am – I cannot give what I do not have. I can try but will just be a hoax (and people will notice).

    So I have found peace in being me. And as I grow, I give more.

    Thanks for sharing Jeff, you always a blessing!

    •  what makes you awesome is you know something others don’t. you can count on it.

    • JR Renkenberger

      “So I have found peace in being me. And as I grow, I give more.” That is one of the most beautiful things I’ve read in a long time. May I quote it in my blog, Ngina?

  • Ah, I need to pick up Godin’s book. I just finished Poke the Box, and it was amazing. I’m guessing all his books are amazing.

    Powerful post, and something everyone should mindfully exercise.

  • “Sure, you can bypass all of these and just wave your hands in the air. A few people will probably notice. But as soon as something new distracts them, they’ll forget about you.”

    Totally. You attract what/who you are. If you distract you end up with the distractable. Ok, the easily distracted. Like the commitment phobe who prefers affairs they end up just moving on to the BBD (hmm, not sure where that came from, but … I’ll leave it).  😉

    To answer, I listen to way too many things. And, it may be unfortunate that I tend to listen to what others are listening to. Wow, IOW, what’s happening at the moment … who has momentum. 

    And how do I get others to listen? Well, I come up with corny metaphors. Um, I think that you need to be genuine, transparent, and in this far more horizontal world, both you and Seth agree: be weird.

    Thanks Jeff!

  • I’m interested in others blogs not only when they say what I want to hear, but when I feel like there’s a real person on the other side of the screen.   When I can hear and feel a genuine individual with their personality blasted across the page, that’s when I get hooked.  I begin to care about their story.   

    •  well said. i agree. passion is attractive.

  • Great blog today Jeff.  Proud of all the good stuff you’re turning out and how you’ve built this blog, your platform, and developed your voice. Keep it up man!

  • My question is how can you be a little weird and at the same time, still be a Christian writer? I mean, I make people laugh, but that’s not being weird, that’s being funny.

    As far as listening, I tend to listen to two girls making a LOT of noise come 3:30 pm all the way up until bedtime. I am not sure if that counts…..

    •  hmmmm… try taking a risk, maybe?

    • Hello Eddy,

      I prefer “unique” to “weird.” Today’s marketing is all about the long tail platform, particularly for small businesses. Yes, you are a Christian writer, but just by being funny, you present a platform that distinguishes you from other, more serious Christian writers.

      I think the old marketing methods encouraged situations where you might say, “Hey, serious people, come read me. I’m funny, but I’m not _that_ funny,” and then you wouldn’t be so funny, so as not to offend those on the outer edges of your potential audience.

      The digital marketplace allows us to connect directly to those exact people who get us. You can be a funny Christian writer confident that you fill a need for your readers. Of course, you have to accept that not everyone will be a fan at first–that’s the risk taking. However, when you are free to explore that thing you are within the framework of an ideal customer feedback loop, you can get very good at it. Good enough that someday, your fans will tell the staid folks, “This guy’s really funny. If you’re only going to read one humorous Christian writer, it should be him.”

      People aren’t looking for more vanilla choices. Every writer need to find their strawonder flavor. You don’t need a lot that distinguishes you, but there should be something that lets people decide quickly whether or not they are on board with your perspective. 

      • Thank you for the feedback and your thoughts Tammy. They are much appreciated.

  • Would you say posting blog related stuff on your personal facebook page is an example of this? I’ve wanted to set up a facebook fan page but haven’t and I’ve wondered is it worth it?

    •  Not necessarily. If your friends care about your writing, it wouldn’t be. If you sent them all personal message, that might be considered spam. in the feed, they can choose to ignore it. i’m a fan of a blog page, though.

  • Guilty.  I’m guilty of spamming.  Oops.  Sorry.  

    One time I started sending things around to people on Twitter via DM and then realized, “Wait!  You’re spamming people, Charles.  Ugh!”  

    Is there such a thing as accidental spam?   🙂

    •  absolutely. a lot of this happens out of ignorance. but once you know better, you have no excuse.

  • I post links to my blog 4 or 5 times a day on Twitter and Facebook. I also created a page just for the blog. Is any of that considered Spam?

    •  i would ask your readers. they’ll tell you if they’ve given you permission. when in doubt, ask.

  • I listen to bloggers who are creative, I listen when they write short, effective posts, I listen when they link me to others who are doing the same. I do not listen to bloggers who ramble on about themselves, or who use too many words, or who are whiners/overly dramatic. 
    People listen to me mostly because they know me in real life, or because I visit their blogs and we’ve built a relationship. I never tried an email list, but I would link from my FB occassionally. I built up a steady small following, but I’m bored. I haven’t posted in weeks. I started it as kind of an online journal for writing, but I’m ready to move on to something else. This is a great post, Jeff. Lots to think about.

  • Great post. Here’s the way I see it. If what you do is good and you hang in there without being  rude and spammy, people will start paying attention and you’ll get an audience. 

    I think the reason spamming will never go away, however, is that there will always be people who don’t have all that much to offer and can only get any attention at all by interrupting and annoying people. 

    What I think you’re saying is that we’re heading for a really good place — where what gets noticed is the best stuff, the stuff that matters and meets a real need, not just the loud and obnoxious stuff. That’s a place where I want to be. 

  • Anonymous

    Being in the 

  • Anonymous

    oops sorry about that previous comment being unfinished. Being in the Christian writing world, I tend to listen to bloggers who are real and not critical/condemning. Sometimes it feels like there is so much competition rather than unity in the body of Christ. I appreciate a good story and a unique voice. Thanks Jeff.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Jeff,

    I pay attention to bloggers whose main mission is to be as helpful and informative as they possibly can. The best way to get attention is to help people. If you genuinely want to assist others, you’re far more likely to get the attention you want.