Connect with influencers.
How many times have you heard that as you strive to promote, grow and monetize your blog?
Just for fun I did a Google search, quotes included.
“Reach out to influencers”: 52,200 page results
“Connect with influencers”: 97,600 page results
“How to connect with influencers”: 134,000 glorious page results
That’s a lot of weekend reading!
We live in a celebrity culture and that extends to every niche and industry well beyond Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. We’ve got celebrity authors (even if their books are written as if by a thirteen year old with a fantasy – I’m talking to you, Shades of Gray). We’ve got celebrity motivators (think Tony Robbins). We’ve got celebrity fails (William Hung), celebrity preachers (Pat Robertson) and yes, we’ve got celebrity bloggers – aka “influencers” aka “A-Listers”.
You know who they are. And since this isn’t a naming-names post, I’ll leave you to fill in the blanks.
So then, you might wonder, what is this about, exactly?
Well, first it’s a reflection on the celebrity status that we’ve imparted upon a select few bloggers. Second, it’s a reality check for those of us who have read or bookmarked any one of those 283,800 articles about influencers and who hang our hats on the possibility of being noticed by one of them one day. And finally, it’s a bit of a call-to-arms for the rest of us – the B-Z List bloggers – to refocus our priorities.
Prologue: In The Beginning, There Was Chaos…
And then the blog emerged; to teach, amuse, inform, opine and aggregate. Do you remember a world before blogs? It was a frightening and empty space indeed.
Not only weren’t there any blogs but there weren’t any influencers, either. And out of the chaos emerged the A-Lister, somehow, miraculously, through wit, wisdom and perseverance.
If you like a bit of history with your coffee, there’s a good argument to be made that the first blog began in 1997. That means we’ve only coexisted with blogs for a mere 15 years.
And if you pay attention to any of the A-Listers – I mean really pay attention, not just to their mindbogglingly ineffective advice to “create epic content” – you’ll see a common thread in their histories… many of them struggled for years before they achieved their fame and success. Six, seven, ten years… sometimes before earning a single dollar.
Oh yeah, there are some bloggers out there who will put on a free 45-minute webinar so they can spend 41 of those minutes telling you how awesome they are, how they unlocked the key to getting 5,000 subscribers a day and how, if you’ll just listen to them for the remaining 4 minutes then pay them large sums of money, they’ll tell you exactly, precisely, in painstaking detail how to be just. like. them.
As far as I’m concerned, those aren’t really bloggers. Those are salespeople with a blog.
It’s the other kind of celebrity bloggers I’m more interested in because they made it – on their own, without a single influencer in sight – and they became the ones we now want to be.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is… if they did it, so can you. They didn’t need influencers to do it. And you don’t need them in order to do it. Did you hear me, A-Listers? We kind of don’t need you.
::::waits for hellfire to rain down::::
So now that we’re all still alive to tell the tale, I want you to repeat that to yourself: I do not need influencers to succeed.
A bit scary to think out loud, isn’t it? A little blasphemous, maybe? Daring the influential to smite us, perhaps? Damning our blogs to eternal mediocrity?
Alas, we are the only ones who can do that because, recognized by influencers or not, our content is still our content. And if it’s great, it’s great on its own. And if it’s not, then no supernatural A-List powers will save us.
So the next time you’re frantically searching for guest post opportunities on top-flight blogs and endlessly courting anyone with a Klout score over 70, I want you to remember that. And instead of wasting your time looking for your next big break, I want you to go write your next big post.
The Myth Of The A-List Influencer (Debunked)
The first thing we need to do if we want to be one of those people is stop chasing them and start thinking like them. And do you know how they think?
Well, I hope you’re not waiting for me to tell you, because damned if I know. What, did you think I was going to pretend to know what goes on in the mind of a 6-figure-plus blogger? I did tell you this was partly a reality check, right?
I can tell you with some confidence what they’re not thinking though. And that’s, “Boy, I wish one of those other billion bloggers would reach out to me so I can promote them.”
I can also tell you with some confidence that they’re probably thinking many of the same things you are. Where’s the coffee, when’s lunch, and how long until I can post that photo of my kid to Facebook? A-Listers are people (gasp!) and when they’re not being A-Listers they’re just being people. They’re no better or worse than we are. They just happen to be a whole lot more recognized for what they’ve accomplished.
The only difference between them and you is they’re not obsessing about you on a regular basis. And so you should stop obsessing about them.
And now that you’ve got all that extra space in your brain, I want you to consider the rest of what I’m about to say.
A-Listers Are Not Interested In You
Do you know how on any given day your phone will ring, your email inbox will get backed up, the snail mail starts piling up on your desk and it seems like everyone from your cat to your most aggravating client wants your attention?
Now imagine about a billion bloggers soliciting you for guest posts and sending you tweets and commenting on your Google+ posts and waiting for your response.
Just the way Brad (or Angelina) is never going to walk into your local Starbucks and notice you, the cute one with the magical eyes and heart of gold pouring lattes to pay the rent… the A-List bloggers aren’t going to notice you either.
By the time they do, you’ve done something worth noticing and you don’t need them any more anyway.
I’m not saying you should give up looking for guest post opportunities or building your relationships. I’m actually telling you that’s exactly what you should be doing – just be sure you’re not doing it with starstruck blinders on.
A-Listers Don’t Need Your Content
Put this in the “stuff we want to be true” column. You know, when someone tells you why it’s a great idea to “reach out to influencers” and how they’ll totally appreciate you for it because hey, they’re bloggers too, and they need content!
Even if nobody ever guest posted for them again, I have a pretty good feeling that they’d manage just fine. They post our content out of generosity. Maybe they even want to be helpful toward the rest of us and give us our 15-minutes. Who knows. But they certainly don’t need our content.
And if they did need content, they’ve got an entire contact list of other A-Listers and a whole pool of hangers-on to ask. They may appreciate your content. They may welcome it. They may even thank you for it as it disappears into the archive of a thousand other hopeful guest bloggers. But they don’t need it.
It’s A Lot Easier To Give Advice When You No Longer Have To Live By It
When you’re learning something new – whether it’s riding a bike or coding a website – you probably struggle a bit, get some stuff wrong, fall down a lot. It can be frustrating, exhausting and discouraging.
But when we succeed, when we have that lightbulb moment and everything suddenly makes sense, we can’t believe how hard it seemed. In hindsight, it’s all quite simple. You just get on the bike, stick your foot on the pedal and go. Maybe we try to teach someone else how to do it.
“It’s easy!” We tell them. “You just do it like this…”
But unless you’re living in the trenches it’s hard to tell someone else how to do it. You lose a certain sense of perspective. The falling down part fades and the simplicity of doing a newly-learned task takes precedence.
That’s why advice like “write epic content” is so utterly useless and yet so frequently repeated. It’s the equivalent of “just get on the bike.”
Just make a viral video.
Just write an epic post.
The real influencers and A-Listers certainly have wisdom to share. We can learn from them, but just remember that they’re speaking to you from a completely different place somewhere up high and by the time the echo reaches you it’s a bit distorted and muddled.
The Bubble’s Gonna Get You
You know how they say that after a while you start to look like your pet?
After a while, A-Listers all start to sound the same. The advice, the stories, the news, the products… been there, done that, heard that, bought that.
Whenever there’s a group of people there’s always the danger of convergent thinking. Instead of everyone becoming wiser, challenging the status quo and otherwise adding their own perspectives to the conversation, they start to think more and more alike. There are more heads nodding. More of the same ideas bouncing around and around to general agreement.
Unless you just want to be a celebrity clone then you need to stop listening to what you want to hear and start hearing something else. Anything else.
Challenge your thinking.
Do something scary… like saying that you don’t need A-Listers, thank you very much.
Get your head out of the celebrity cloud and think on your own. Stop blowing bubbles. Be the pin instead.
When The Big Fish Gets Away, Little Fish Make Fantastic Dinner
We seek out the influencers because we want to ride in the wake of their success. We hope their stardust will brush off on us and we’ll benefit from the boost in popularity.
This is such high-school thinking.
If you grew up like me, someone along the way told you to hang in because life after high school was different. The cliques would be gone, the geeks would rule the world and everyone would be much more accepting and friendly.
Well, sort of. At least the cheerleaders don’t throw mashed potatoes at my head anymore but the world is still full of cliques and exclusion.
There are “the influencers” and then there’s “the rest of us”, just trying to get a piece of that.
Yet in our narrowly focused quest to nab the big fish, we tend to miss the most obvious fact of all: compared to “them” there are a whole lot more of “us”. There are people all around us. By the hundreds and hundreds of thousands. People who, if asked, would be far more willing to engage with us, help us, share with us and promote us than any A-Lister.
These are the people who comment on our blogs. Who tweet our posts. Who are reading this right now. These people are the power. They’re right in front of you. They’re smart. They maybe even do need your content. And they’re willing.
Ask one of them. Ask me. Then ask an A-Lister. See what happens.
So next time you’ve got your fishing line out and you’re baking in the sun wondering whether you’ll ever get a bite, I want you to remember this and repeat after me: I don’t need A-Listers.
Epilogue: The Myth Of The A-Lister (Reprised)
In spite of my brilliance, alas, I am not an A-Lister. Maybe one day I will be, and I’ll get to tell everyone else how to succeed by writing epic content, too.
I would like to be an A-Lister. It comes with recognition and a certain amount of confidence that your products will be purchased and your blogs read and shared ad nauseum.
When that happens I’ll live comfortably in my bubble and hand pick the lucky few whose blogs I choose to promote while giving my 41 minutes of meaningless webinars.
Ok, I’m kidding… except about wanting to be an A-Lister.
But I’ll tell you how I won’t get there. I won’t get there by tailgating on someone else’s success. I won’t get there by concerning myself with what the “important” people are doing. I won’t do it by obsessively chasing guest posts on “the right” blogs and retweeting the influential.
I won’t do it by being that person… the one who nags and hangs on and bows at the altar of influence.
Because the thing is, I think I have something to say. And I think I say it pretty well. I care about what I do and I care about the people I help. I care about relationships, community and being part of the success of the small fish.
And I don’t know, but… yes… I see you there in the same fishing boat with me.
So as long as we have each other, say it with me: We don’t need A-Listers.
We are the influencers. We are the people we need.
Now you tell me: has this been the most ridiculous rant you’ve ever heard? Or are you feeling empowered to be great on your own? What are your thoughts on the bloggerati? Do you see yourself as just as valuable?
This post is part of the October 2012 Word Carnival — a monthly group blogging event specifically for small business owners. (It’s the most fun you’ll have all month!) Check out the rest of the fabulous carney work here.