What the Web (and the World) Needs from You

Note: This is Part 3 in a series on how to build a popular blog. In this post, I’ll share the third secret to successful blogging. You can read Part 2 here.

If I hear one more “expert” tell me that social media is a “conversation,” I am going to scream.

No, friends. Social media is much more than that — it’s an opportunity to build something that matters.

Photo Credit: an untrained eye via Compfight cc

The world is full of people who want to be heard. But how many are actually saying something? The Internet is crowded with those who are just conversing. But who is creating stuff worth our time?

For years, I blogged in vain attempts at achieving popularity. I wanted people to like me and marvel at the profundity of my words. And I failed. It wasn’t until I built a resource of content that people began to take notice.

If you want to earn the attention your work deserves, you will have to prove you have something to say, that you’ve got something we can’t miss.

And how do you do that? You build something worth our attention.

So you’ve got connections… who cares?

We’ve all heard, “It’s not who you know, but who knows you.” But that’s not true.

Knowing the right people — even being known by them — is no longer enough. In a world where connection is cheap (more like free), it’s easier than ever to get in front of folks, to add their number to your Rolodex.

What’s hard is keeping people’s attention.

So how do you do that? How do you influence people for the long haul? You have to create something people care about, something worth talking about, something that will make a difference.

Let’s break down each of those…

Something people care about

You get people to notice you by adding value (we’ve already covered that here). But how do you get them to care? That’s another matter entirely.

One word: empathy.

My friend Marion Roach Smith, who has taught hundreds of writers how to tell their life’s story, says,

We have to trust you as the narrator.

How do we build this trust? By showing our scars. Sharing our insecurities. Exposing our weakness.

The only way you get people to trust you — and care about what you have to say — is by showing them you’re trustworthy. The best way to do that? Help them see you’re just like them.

Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Admit a recent screw-up.
  • Highlight a personal flaw.
  • Apologize for a mistake nobody caught.
  • Tell the story of your biggest failure.
  • Share a fear or challenge you still haven’t overcome.

When you, the writer, let yourself be human, we readers will do the same.

Something worth talking about

Marketing guru Seth Godin says is best when he explains what it means for a product, service, or business to be “remarkable.” Literally, it must be worth remarking on. People have to talk about it. Otherwise, it’s irrelevant.

Your best bet in getting your ideas to spread, your books read, and your influence to grow is to be remarkable. To do something truly epic.

How do you do that? Here are a few examples:

  • When Andy Traub gave away the audio version, email series, and online membership to everyone who bought his $7.99 eBook.
  • When Chris Guillebeau gave away $100,000 to a bunch of strangers, asking them to spend it well.
  • When my friend Kyle proposed to his girlfriend with a giant piece of parchment paper.

Remarkable is interesting. Remarkable is compelling. Remarkable is worth talking about.

Something that will make a difference

This is, perhaps, the most important reason we open our mouths or place our fingers on the keyboard. We want to make an impact, to leave a legacy.

But how do we know when we’re doing that, as opposed to just making noise? Simple. It has to do with multiplication.

If people hear what you have to say and tell you it was “nice” or that they enjoyed it, then you’re in trouble. That’s lip service, friends, and nothing more.

On the other hand, if you empower a tribe of people with an idea that they take, share, and spread, then you may have something special, indeed. If strangers email you, explaining how your message has literally changed their lives, then you are making a difference, after all.

Put it all together

Yes, these are nice ideas. But taken by themselves, that’s all they are — ideas. And this series has been about action, about creating something epic. So let’s apply everything we’ve learned so far:

  • Success begins with passion, not chasing results. If you love the work, you’ll do good work.
  • If you want attention, you need to add value. Help people. Solve problems. Connect.
  • Until you create something, you’re just making noise. You need a legacy, a resource, something that folks will remember.

All good so far? I admit that’s a big vague, so let’s break it down further:

First, you need to take all your passion and value-adding ideas and put them somewhere. In a book. On a website. Maybe even into a conference or event. Have a way to archive your best thoughts and share them over and over again.

Next, make sure this resource has a means of inviting people into an inner circle. For example, on a blog (which is my preferred medium, since it’s free), you could encourage people to subscribe via email so they don’t miss a post.

Lastly, with this thing you’ve built, you should be generous. Give things away for free or for less than they’re worth. Why? Because the point isn’t to make money, but to leave an impact. Get that right, and you won’t have to worry about income.

Dazzle and delight. Give people more than they ask for. Over deliver. And see what happens.

The irony, of course, is that by resisting the temptation to converse and creating something instead, you are giving people a reason to not stop talking about you.

So go. Create. And make it worth our while.

Note: This was the third and final post in a three-part series on how to build a popular blog. If you’ve enjoyed this series, you might like Tribe Writers, an online course to help writers find the audience their words deserve. Registration opens only a few times a year.

What’s something you’ve thought about building but haven’t? Share in the comments.