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How To Be Popular Where It Matters

Trying to win popularity contests on vanity metrics across social channels and platforms is no way near as good as becoming known for who you are and how you help, within your own community or marketplace.  

This article has its roots in a question that was asked on the recent March You Are The Media Online Lunch at which Mitch Joel was our special guest.

Where This Begins

Having Mitch Joel, someone I’ve admired and respected for many years, take centre stage at YATM Online last week was a privilege.

Towards the end of the event we always have questions from the audience and Jason Miller from Active Campaign asked a very pertinent question around the trend for people hacking engagement. 

We all know it can be extremely hard to achieve visibility on any platform so why not cut corners so people can see and hear you?

Jason’s point recognised how much easier it is to chase engagement and popularity via likes and comments rather than producing valuable content that resonates. 

It was a fantastic question as demonstrated in this two-minute clip from the show (watch below):

Mitch agreed he too had noticed this trend and said, “As more and more platforms have come on, more and more people have figured out how to game for attention, versus building for quality. We have a world of attention Ponzi schemes. That makes it hard for true and authentic voices to get heard and rise to the top.”

His answer touched on the opportunities all these platforms and channels present as promotional tools but that the important thing was to, “go off-platform, and move to a place to build your own podcast, blog and videos. To get the distribution you still require these platforms. The cream does rise to the top, but it’s very different from when it used to be.”

Making Sense Of It All

When it comes to gaming platforms for attention, you’re probably already well aware what this looks like through seeing what’s around you daily. 

To those people in the ‘attention Ponzi schemes’ that Mitch mentions, volume of interaction demonstrates popularity and credibility. Of course it feels good when lots of people show their appreciation and you get to be seen far and wide. However, engagement for the sake of engagement is purely self-indulgence.

When you look at the posts that attract this attention, you soon see that they have to make a compromise – they’re generic work that sets out to please a mass and anonymous everyone.

For people who chase mass appeal as a goal, whether through building large audiences within a platform or putting out a general message with wide appeal, it soon becomes purely about them staying in the spotlight rather than about the message and viewpoint they stand behind and believe in.

Where Is The Opportunity?

Returning to the YATM Online session and Mitch’s answer to Jason’s question, the following from Mitch was a great takeaway for me and many at the event: “The secret is not finding your topic or choosing a popular platform. Decide on what you think you can’t stop doing. Choose a medium on which you know you would not stop.”

Watch what Mitch said below.

Keeping going and not stopping since 2013 has been one of the things that helped me build an audience for You Are The Media.

Over time, what you can’t stop becomes easier to do and you focus on the audience who are with you. You do the work for the people who are with you and who enjoy feeling a part of something. This is a totally different approach to the ‘mass for its own sake’ mindset that chases popularity.

It makes you realise you’re not there for everyone but for those who matter to you. In an article on focusing on the few what’s explored is that there’s a decision to be made on who you are there for:

THE FEW – creating work that stands out and means something to the people you want to reach. You accept that it’s not for everyone but are ok with that because you’re not there just to fit in.

EVERYONE – recognising that there are many different people you have to please and that your message has to somehow serve everyone. The goal is fitting in, turning no one away and being accepted but not closely connected to as many people as possible.

What I want to highlight is that engagement purely in order to look popular doesnt serve anything other than a moment in time within a platform you have no control over. 

To be familiar and known within something you have built or a community you are a part of means so much more. It can have a huge impact in terms of the ideas you share, the people you work with and the connections you build. It takes time but it can work so much better and deliver you so much more. You can become the source (something you create) or a part of the flow (something you feel a part of).

As Mitch pointed out, it is hard to get heard. That’s why you need to make it something that is done away from a popularity-chasing platform you don’t own and make it something that you know you won’t want to stop doing. In my case, it’s the weekly writing but for you it could be a podcast on something you know you could develop and progress over time, building real engagement, connections and opportunity along the way. 

Lets Round-Up

They say cream rises to the top, so…If someone within your community was looking for a helping hand in an area you work in, would they think of you? If someone within your community needed the expertise that you deliver, would they name you? If there was a podcast on which you would be the ideal guest, would they choose to interview you?

You don’t need to chase mass popularity. Becoming known as the go-to person in your particular marketplace or niche is a sound business goal.

It may feel great to get acknowledgement and validation from the wider world from time to time. When you create work for, and attract engagement and interaction from an audience that really matters to you, you’ll be tapping into the kind of fame that has longevity and meaning, and adds value to your business.


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