12 Jun 2012, Ian Greenleigh
The truth is simple. Standing in line at the front door works just often enough that we keep doing it. It doesn’t matter if it has never worked for us; we’ve seen it work for enough people that we believe it will for us, eventually. Our culture is saturated with front-door thinking. From backbreaking SAT prep, to soul-crushing internships, to the 4,074 books found under “resume writing” on Amazon.com, we are raised from an early age to believe in the front door as the only gateway to the realization of our ambitions.
We work tirelessly on the things that open the front door just a bit wider, revise our resumes over and over, give the cold call roulette another spin, buy yet another email list. We’re so busy practicing our “line dance” at the front door, we hardly notice when someone breaks rank and walks around the corner. Sometimes we may even pity them for this—they’ve given up, quit, lost hope. But if we just peek around that corner ourselves, we’ll see them opening the social side door and walking right in.
Sunk costs and other lame excuses
Most of us—myself included—have invested thousands of hours waiting for the front door to open for us. We’ve worked incredibly hard on the things that are supposed to open it. At a certain point, we start to think of all the resources we’ve poured into a better place in line as sunk costs. Sunk costs (and perhaps cheap whiskey) are responsible for the worst decision-making on the planet. “You’ve come this far; it will all start to pay off soon,” we’ve all told ourselves a million times. And this gives us a little endorphin boost of false hope that makes it easier to keep line dancing.
Sunk costs have a particularly powerful effect on our ability to make good choices. We tend to value what we’ve put into an effort over what we stand to gain if we abandon that effort, because we are “loss averse.” The sunk costs fallacy is also called the Concorde fallacy, after the Concorde aircraft that was jointly built by the British and French. Long after it was clear that continued development of the plane was economically unsound, both governments continued to pursue it for fear of “wasting” the funds they had already spent on it.
Somewhere, locked away in a place we’d rather not visit, is the seed of doubt. We can, in fact, choose not to compete for a place in line. Choosing to achieve the same thing in a better, faster way is not quitting—it’s winning, and it feels infinitely better than finally getting to the front of the line.
Any decision carries risks. But there’s really no reason to fear “giving up” your place in line; it’s not always an all-or-nothing gamble. Think of it as an iterative process. In v.1, you might spend half of your time pursuing alternative methods of access and influence, and the other half on more traditional methods. Depending on the results you see, v.2 may bump up the alternative methods to 75%, and minimize the traditional methods to 25%, and so on for v.3. You’ll eventually hit a tipping point at which the results from social side door seeking completely outshine the few results seen from front door methods. That’s when you jump in all the way. At that point, any time spent working the line at the front door to no avail will truly seem like time you could be spending finding the social side door, making things happen. It will be the easiest opportunity cost calculation you’ve ever made, the one you’ll kick yourself for not making years ago: boredom, idling, passivity, the familiar sting of being turned down at the gate, versus creativity, rich human interactions, and finally—finally—the kind of results you had stopped believing were possible.
30 May 2012, Ian Greenleigh
As I write this, there are 1,500 job openings listed on ThomsonReuters.com. There’s exactly one comment on the latest post on Reuters CEO Tom Glocer’s personal blog–and it’s spam. It’s likely that when Tom Glocer does get comments, he reads every one (he also replies on occasion). This is the CEO of a company with 55,000 employees and nearly $13 billion in annual revenue. He doesn’t tweet often, but he does reply to some of the mentions he gets (about 20 in the past 30 days). There are hardly any comments on any of the ten latest posts on The Knowledge Effect, an official Thomson Reuters blog. In the last seven days, only three jobseekers have tweeted at @JobsWithUs, the official Thomson Reuters recruiting account. Something isn’t adding up. Where are the jobseekers?
Saatchi & Saatchi is synonymous with innovation in the agency space. They’re absurdly successful, and list “6 of the top 10 and over half of the top 50 global advertisers” as clients. They’re on your Top 10 list if you’re a recent graduate or agency jobseeker; they’re the agency you want to partner with if you’re in business development; they’re the agency you want to sell to if you sell or market to agencies. And just like Thomson Reuters, their CEO, Kevin Roberts, has his own blog. As I write this, the latest ten posts have—together—received exactly five comments. One of the comments is spam, from a user called, “hosting company.” What if it had been an intelligent, on-topic comment from someone calling their self “S&S Hopeful”? We can’t know it would have changed anything for the aspiring employee, but we do know that Kevin Roberts would have at least read it: “All comments must be approved by the blog author.” And how many Saatchi & Saatchi jobseekers get to interact with Kevin Roberts at any stage in the hiring process? How many salespeople or marketers get to speak directly to the CEO of one of the top agencies in the world?
What would you do for the chance to ask Warren Buffet anything? According to The Wall Street Journal, “there are few prizes more coveted than the opportunity to ask Warren Buffett a question at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholders meeting.” The notoriously inaccessible titan answers 20-30 audience questions every year, and the rules have been changed several times in favor of more equitable question selection. Most recently, raffles were set up in multiple locations throughout the venue, and Fidelity Investments saw this for what it was—an open side door. Although the company “holds about $4 billion of Berkshire shares, or a roughly 2% stake in the company,” this equity alone still isn’t enough for an audience with Buffet. They sent 40 analysts, who entered several raffles each, netting this 2% stakeholder a whopping 20% of all the audience questions asked. Other attendees found their own side doors. Both managing partners of investing house T2 Partners were able to ask Buffet questions this year, after they spotted an overflow room in which the raffle wasn’t attracting many entries. Although neither of these side doors were social in nature, their discovery—and usage—reflect exactly the kind of thinking required to uncover access opportunities in the social space. If only Buffet tweeted!
22 May 2012, Ian Greenleigh
Social media access is either active or passive, as is the resulting influence. Active access is the deliberate and direct pursuit of entry. Reaching out to someone directly through LinkedIn to request a lunch meeting is active access. Tweeting at an editor and asking them to read your proposal is active access (no, I don’t make that a habit). Active access is sometimes risky. Your cards are on the table. You’re knocking on the door and asking to be let in. It’s easy to find your approach a bit jarring or abrasive. Who is this person again? What do they want? And why are they tweeting at me? On the other hand, it’s hard to ignore someone being so direct.
Passive access is earned over time, and sometimes it’s unexpected. One of your blog readers may be organizing a conference, and thinks you’ll be a great speaker. The event’s attendees are exactly the kind of people you’re trying to get in front of. Passive access is like being invited in, as opposed to requesting an invite. It’s built through steady engagement with decision-makers and the people they trust, and is focused on making true contributions before making any self-interested requests.
But you don’t have to choose between active and passive access. They aren’t mutually exclusive; they’re actually quite complimentary. The trick is to build pathways from passive access to active access. Start with a passive approach, earning mindshare and influence, until you feel confident that whoever you’re reaching out to directly will know who you are, and will want to help you out. If you’ve been given more than you’ve been taking at that point—sharing or creating great content, helping them spread their ideas, engaging with them on a regular basis—your direct approach will seem like a natural next step, and you’ll get more of their attention and consideration.
This is how I started talking to Seth Godin—author of 13 bestsellers, and one of my heroes. It started with a tweet:
I’d like to see more books w/ official hashtags so readers can discuss while reading. Not just SM books.
— Ian Greenleigh (@be3d) April 22, 2011
A fleeting idea…or so I thought. Several people re-tweeted it within the hour, so I decided to blog about the idea. Weeks passed with little activity on the post. Then, out of the blue, a Twitter friend of mine emailed Seth Godin about the idea, and introduced us. The next day, Seth blogged about it, linked to my post, and assigned official hashtags to the three most recent books from his imprint. Since then, we’ve kept in touch by email, and I interviewed him on my company’s blog. If that didn’t feel surreal enough, a coworker of mine visited my desk and plopped down a copy of his latest book, We Are All Weird. Printed on the back was the official hashtag for the book. I’ll never forget that moment, and that it all started with a tweet.
From passive to active access in a matter of weeks. Sometimes the most rewarding access is indirect, delayed, or unexpected. While it may seem a bit karmic, it’s really just a balance sheet. If you continuously deliver value to the audience you’re cultivating, every so often a social side door will open. You’ll think about all the times you doubted whether you were creating anything worthwhile—anything worthy of the world’s attention. And then you’ll get back to work. Because social media, like nothing else before it, can help normal people make an abnormal dent in the world around them.
16 May 2012, Ian Greenleigh
Absolutely necessary or essential.
Who and what do you consider indispensable? Someone you turn to for advice when you’re not sure which path to take? The cup of coffee that delivers that rush of caffeine to start your day? Your iPhone?
Yes, you could technically survive without these people or things. But your life may be tougher, less fun, and even less fulfilling. That’s the thing about being indispensable: it’s always relative.
Social media can help make you or your company indispensable as a source of…
And a whole lot more. Strive to infuse a few complimentary qualities into your social engagement and content. Knowledge and insight, for instance, go hand in hand. The best way to choose which qualities to add to the mix is to think about what comes naturally to you, and what people value in their interactions with you. Someone that’s great at introducing people might, then, choose to reflect this ability to connect in their social persona.
Selfish vs. self-interested
After chronicling my “social job search,” I found that what was resonating with people seemed to be a mix of guidance and motivation—something I didn’t expect, given my distaste for self-help books. But I ran with it, and it continued to work. This wasn’t a formula, or recipe—anyone that purports to possess a formula for “success” in any realm should be ignored. What I had found, however, were two truths that are as close to universal as truths get:
- People are self-interested. This is reflected in their content consumption and sharing.
- Content that benefits consumers will ultimately benefit its creators and distributors.
With few exceptions, the people that get the most out of social media are the ones that consistently deliver something of value to their audience. The most popular homemade videos on YouTube make people laugh. Or they help people. I recall being surprised at the number of views—often in the hundreds of thousands—of the videos I would watch when learning to shave with a straight blade razor. But should I have really been surprised? These videos solve problems that people have in their lives, no matter how small that problem may seem to an outsider. Sitting there with a face full of cuts and a new razor, I turned to these videos for help, as did hundreds of thousands with the same problem. In that moment, the problem loomed large, and the solution was in reach.
If we consume content that helps us in some way, what motivates us to share it? A study by The New York Times and Latitude Research asked this question, and found five general motivations for sharing, three of which are fundamentally self-interested.
- We share to bring valuable and entertaining content to others (mostly altruistic)
- We share to define ourselves to others, and to receive social validation (mostly self-interested)
- We share to strengthen and nourish our relationships with one another (mostly self-interested)
- We share for self-fulfillment—“We enjoy getting credit for it” (mostly self-interested)
- We share to advocate for causes we believe in, and less commonly, brands we want to support (mostly altruistic)
The lesson here is simple: to become indispensable, become a source of content that fulfills as many of these motivations as possible, as thoroughly as possible. A few examples:
- @breakingnews has over 4 million Twitter followers because it provides news alerts before they become mainstream knowledge. It creates no original content of its own (besides the tweets), and links to a wide array of sources.
- “Dad blogger” Ron Mattocks has earned high-profile speaking invitations, a book deal, guest columns, and media appearances, because his Clark Kent’s Lunchbox blog helps other dads be better parents.
- Ex-accountant Therese Schwenkler saw a profound need for a source of “non-sucky” advice for young people like herself, so she decided to create it. Her blog The Unlost is a source of inspiration and guidance for thousands, and along the way she’s finding answers to her own questions.
- Kate Spade New York realized that people wanted a “peek of what it’s like to work at Kate Spade, and an inside look in the fashion industry,” so they made it the focus of their blog. “I think there are a lot of women that aspire to live interesting lives, and they can experience that in a very authentic way through our blog,” says VP of eCommerce Johanna Murphy.
Self-interest can mutate into selfishness when value is promised and not delivered. Or when people ask for things before they’ve provided much of anything themselves. “Squeeze pages” that require personal information before any value is “dispensed.” A twitter stream that contains only self-promotion. Mass Facebook messages asking for votes from people the sender hasn’t interacted with in months or years. These don’t help anyone but the originator—there is no mutual benefit.
The indispensable person or company understands that their self-interest will be fulfilled only when they fulfill the self-interest of their audience first. Social media offers no shortcuts, but it offers a powerful set of tools for delivering and receiving value.
8 May 2012, Ian Greenleigh
I used to sell mobile apps and custom blogs to real estate agents. Unlike most decision-makers, their livelihood depended on having their direct contact information findable. Even getting in touch with the head broker of a 300-agent firm was easy; their cell numbers were right there on their websites. Lucky me, I thought. But when I called them, they’d give me short shrift. Many would hang up within seconds. I was competing for their attention against a sea of other salespeople, all of us vying for their attention in the same exact way. No matter how incredible my offer was, it wouldn’t be considered because they didn’t know me (or my company) from Adam, and I was one of 5-10 faceless salespeople that had called them that day, already.
Anyone in sales or marketing can relate to this problem. The solution? Use social to make yourself “three-dimensional” and open up a side door of access. People like to do business—at any scale—with people they know, like and trust. Cold calling and email blasts are numbers games with long odds. By creating a compelling social media presence, you’re humanizing yourself, establishing your expertise and engaging in a way that differentiates you from just another strange voice on the end of a phone call—you’re making yourself three-dimensional in the mind of the prospect. In my case, I started joining real estate marketing Twitter chats, building my Facebook and Twitter networks by posting interesting content, and blogging about solutions to some of the industry pain points I was hearing about. When I started calling again, I was no longer the anonymous salesguy. I was the guy that taught them that cool Twitter search trick, or whose blog they had subscribed to. I had earned their attention, and became the obvious choice whenever they needed something I was selling.
Like anyone with any control over vendor selection, I get a lot of phone and email pitches. And like anyone that values their time (and sanity), I screen most of them out. The pitches that I do pay attention to are different. They’re from people that have first taken a look at my social footprint, and that of my company, to equip themselves for a personalized approach and higher-level conversation. Often they’ll interact with me via social first to establish a rapport—they’ll comment on my blog posts, or retweet a few of my updates. They’ll also use social to enrich the standard phone and email exchanges, starting out by telling me their thoughts on our latest blog post, or sending me one-off, non-“salesy” emails sharing something they read that will likely interest me, too. These techniques work because they simultaneously help personalize the approach and build substantive relationships—two things that have always been extremely important to successful sales and marketing efforts, and are easier than ever thanks to social. So why don’t we see them more often?
Rules from another era
The rules and etiquette of access were written by Those Who Cannot Be Accessed, the tiny minority that has no problem getting through the front door. Once in, they’re asked to shut the door behind them, and they do. An open front door is now just a distraction from the important things they’re doing. After all, Those Who Cannot Be Accessed will always be let in. For others the door will never open, but most of them will still line up in case it does. Almost all of us are “others,” or we started out that way. We still play by the rules of access, not because we’re stupid, or because we lack creativity, but because they’re the only rules we know. And because the people we want to engage with have told us that, if the rules are followed, we may just get what we want. We’ll keep working on our cover letters, leaving messages, and smiling-and-dialing until then.
Here’s the secret: the rules haven’t been updated in a long time. They tell us nothing about social media, and social side doors are being created every single day for those that know this.
2 May 2012, Ian Greenleigh
Guest blogging is one of the best ways to open the social side door. Yesterday, Jay Baer published a piece of mine called 5 Ways to Open the Social Side Door and Build Relationships. Among the tips:
- Get there early.
- Show up in unexpected places.
- Write Rocket Content.
- Be three-dimensional.
- Understand ego capital.
My relationship with Jay developed as I applied a lot of the ideas in this book to my life. Ideas like the ones in yesterday’s post. His readers seemed to really enjoy it. Lots of great comments, too. You should head over there now.
29 Apr 2012, Ian Greenleigh
Access is meaningless without influence. What will we do once we’ve gained access to effect the outcomes we desire? If we don’t know, or if we make the wrong choices after access, we risk losing everything we’ve worked for. It’s a question to ask long before being let in. Equally important is the fact that social influence can be used to unlock doors we’ve finally reached, like Ali Baba’s magic words, “open sesame,” at the mouth of the cave of treasures. Influence helps us get there, and allows us to get things done when we’ve arrived.
Social media can be used to cultivate influence more easily than ever before. Gone are the days when only published authors and industry leaders can generate media coverage. It’s no longer necessary to know a company decision maker to be seriously considered as a vendor, or job candidate. Using our social content (tweets, blog posts, etc.) to establish expertise shows the people we want to influence that we know what we’re talking about. The following and activity we generate along the way as our ideas spread and our networks grow shows them that other people are listening to us, and many are like them (this idea is called “social proof”). Tweets are taking the place of long-form testimonials and references, and follower count, blog subscribers and Klout scores are being used—often mistakenly—as a proxy for the amount of cachet one has earned.
All of this has a powerful democratizing effect on the accumulation and distribution of influence. Influence is no longer reserved for the elite, or the longtime insider. The scope of who we trust to inform our views and decisions is massively wider than it once was, for both consumers and businesses. Companies are using crowdsourcing and direct consumer feedback to design their next product lines. People are getting their news from non-traditional outlets like Gawker, Slate and Salon. We’re ditching our cable boxes for the universe of content the Web offers us instantly.
This democratization of influence has led to a diffusion of power, and the number of entities we’re competing against for influence has grown just as fast as the social Web. The playing field between the average person and traditional media outlets may be leveling, but more and more players are entering the stadium every day.
One of the biggest mistakes in influence generation stems from the truism, “Content is king.” If content is king, why do so many great blogs go unread? Why do some of the cleverest tweets come from people with tiny followings? Because content needs a constantly-growing delivery network to spread and reach the people we want to influence. Expertise needs an audience if it’s ever to be converted into influence.
As my friend Brian Solis has written, the true king is context, not content. Spend too much time crafting content, and not enough time architecting the context in which it will thrive—your network—and your influence will stagnate. Find the right balance, and your influence will soar.
One’s social footprint can certainly inhibit success, and employers are turning to social background checks to dig up inappropriate behavior when screening applicants. But more and more, just having a large and influential social footprint can open doors, and not just in job-seeking. Event promoters are now offering exclusive VIP admission—even full-ride travel and hotel stays—to those with enough social influence in their parties’ niche. Often these influencers are chosen based on their Klout scores, an algorithmically-generated ranking that approximates one’s social influence. In a comment on my blog, Klout CEO Joe Fernandez described his company’s perspective:
We see our data as a way to augment or balance the “human touch” that will always be needed to identify influencers.
Implicitly or explicitly, influencers are being regaled with gifts and access for one reason above all others. Brands are hoping they will use their influence to spread positive word of mouth about their products and services. Social influence is now monetizeable, exchangeable for what we’re really after. This is a power that we’re only beginning to realize we possess. Employers are already starting to ask applicants for their Twitter follower counts, and some job seekers are actually being screened out for not having “enough.” Our social footprints are now our books of business, and are soon to be taken as seriously. Noah Kravitz found this out the hard way when his former employer, Phonedog.com, sued him for $340,000—their estimation of the total value of the 17,000 Twitter followers he had when he quit (supposedly “on good terms”). As of writing, the case is ongoing. No matter the verdict, it’s a serious testament to the perceived value of social influence.
22 Apr 2012, Ian Greenleigh
Open doors create inefficiency. Each person that walks through them requires attention in some form or another, a resource that’s easily exhausted. Lines are formed. Credentials are screened more closely. Contact information is pulled from websites. Access is constricted and streamlined by gatekeepers to make sure that people, requests and time are managed in a way that prevents total meltdown. People understand this intuitively—when everyone wants something finite, not everyone can get it. But they still want it.
The world relies on gatekeepers even more heavily during times of uncertainty and crisis. When more people are calling in favors, digging deeper into their contacts, and seeking the kinds of jobs they once balked at, the front door is reinforced to compensate. It’s rarely done cheerfully, or with disdain for those seeking entry. Front doors are narrowed and shut especially tight in light of facts like this one: the 12,511,000 recession-era college graduates in the United States are doing everything they can to walk through them, and they can’t all fit. Eighty-three applicants for every graduate-level opening in the UK means that companies are forced to reevaluate every aspect of their hiring practices, down to the paper their rejection notices are printed on.
1,000,000. That’s the number of job applications Google receives per year for its 6,000 annual openings, according to The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Of course, anyone familiar with Google’s workplace culture and legacy of innovation would expect a ratio like this. But it’s not just bleeding-edge tech jobs that are generating amazing levels of interest. A Ford plant in Louisville received nearly 17,000 applicants for 1,800 new jobs, a ratio of 9.4 jobseekers for every opening. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at the beginning of the recession, “the number of unemployed persons per job opening was 1.8,” while the ratio at the official end of the recession (June 2009) had risen to “6.1 unemployed persons per job opening.”
Success requires more and more gatekeeping to keep systems humming. A small business doesn’t need call centers to service customers; this is the agitating byproduct of a company’s successful scaling to a point where access needs to be limited or diverted to allow other areas of the business to operate without distraction. Similarly, actors that haven’t yet “made it” are eager for inquiries, and make sure their direct contact information is found easily. Working actors divert inquiries to publicists and agents, whose job, in part, is to guard access to their clients. You may be able to get a meeting with your county commissioner, but very few can get one with the governor. And it’s easy to forget that this is generally a good thing—we want people that have the capacity to make big decisions to be able to focus; we don’t want the yelling cat lady that ruins every town hall meeting to have weekly one-on-ones with Jack Welch.
15 Apr 2012, Ian Greenleigh
Memories replay before him
All the tiny moments of his life
Laying round in bed on a Saturday morning
Two daughters and a wife
Two daughters and a beautiful wife
-Drive-By Truckers, “Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife”
Whether Instagram is worth $1 billion (the sum, in cash and stock, paid by Facebook for the photo sharing service) isn’t for me to decide. But 30 million users worldwide have decided that it adds value to their lives, and I’m one of them. Plenty of photo-sharing apps exist, so why has Instagram struck such a chord?
The different profiles and activities that comprise our social presence create an image of who we are. They provide access to different areas of our lives—the areas we choose to share with the world. Most of this information is conveyed by what we write, what we share, and the photos we post.
Photography is a visceral medium, and we are visual creatures. Photos require little explanation or contemplation—they convey information with remarkable efficiency. The rise of social media has proven just how much about ourselves and our experiences we want to share, but perhaps more interestingly, it has shown us how much we care about other people’s lives. Some of this interest is affection; some of it is fascination; and some of it might even be schadenfreude (I can’t be alone in occasionally looking up the classmates that use to call me a nerd to see how miserable they are now). We like to share and consume the tiny moments of our lives, and Instagram’s filters and ease of use made this an even more rewarding experience than it already was. (Facebook’s success has a lot to do with our affinity for photos, but the unprocessed digital photos we encounter on Facebook aren’t usually very flattering or aesthetically pleasing).
Katie Couric’s use of Instagram is the perfect social side door story. A celebrity, an emerging social tool, and a level of intimacy that would have been hard to imagine a decade ago. Couric posts the tiny moments of her life. Some are happy moments: making goofy faces with Wendy Williams, a victory pose in the doorway of her new studio. Some are sad: a program from the funeral of her friend Charla Krupp. But they’re all tiny moments from the life of Katie Couric, and there’s something magical about them, which is why 11,248 people follow her. This number is just a fraction of the 416,252 Twitter followers Couric has gathered. Many of her photos have only a few comments, and some have none. If you wanted to say something to Katie Couric—and you wanted to make sure she reads it—which medium would you choose? Twitter, where she is mentioned more than 75 times a day, or Instagram, where the number is much, much smaller?
Some social side doors are wider than others. It’s all about context, saturation, and end goals.
10 Apr 2012, Ian Greenleigh
Only a tiny minority of bloggers will ever earn significant income as a direct result of their blogging, or generate the kind of exposure that gets them on CNN—they are the “blogging One Percenters,” meaning they have enjoyed exceedingly rare success. Chances are you won’t end up in that 1%, and neither will I. But you can do a lot with a little when it comes to blogging, and the One Percenters can help you get there.
Learn from them, get to know them, and look for opportunities to create mutual value.
The best part about building a network of influence that leads back to your blog—and you—is that the actions you take pay for themselves many times over even if they aren’t reciprocated. If you’re reading the best bloggers in your space, you’re constantly learning how to do your job better. Reading great work is rewarding in and of itself. You’re also gathering ideas to discuss, material to quote and reference, and you’re getting insight into what seems to be resonating with their audience, with which there is bound to be significant overlap if you’re truly in a similar niche. I’ll reiterate that common activity and engagement metrics shouldn’t be used to validate your efforts, but they can serve as indicators of which content seems to be hitting the mark. Start experimenting with emulating some of the best of what you read, the stuff that really seems to ignite dialogue in the comments, or spread like wildfire across the social web.
Emulate does not mean copy. In fact, the best thing you can do as an emerging blogger is give proper credit where it is due. Even if a post is only loosely based on another’s idea, be sure to acknowledge this by letting your readers know and linking to the original. This isn’t just a goodwill exercise and the right thing to do, it’s a strategic must. Most bloggers have receive “pingback” alerts, which tell them when one of their posts or pages has been linked to, and where the link lives online. They’ll often follow the pingback trail to your blog, which can be the beginning or acceleration of a rewarding relationship. It’s a special thrill to learn that someone you truly admire has subscribed to your blog.
Finding the time to write can be difficult. I’ve been blogging for years, and the truth is, it doesn’t get any easier—but it does get more rewarding. Once you start to see your disparate efforts coalesce into results, blogging becomes something you can’t imagine not doing.
One of the secrets to building awareness and influence is that almost everyone wants more content, even the biggest names in your space. Of any tactic I’ve pursued to build social access and influence through blogging, guest posts are the most effective. The value created by a good guest post on someone else’s blog is pretty remarkable. Think about it: You get access to a new, larger audience. They get free content that drives traffic to their doorstep. But guest blogging is about relationships, and quality of content trails a distant second. Aspiring guest bloggers should be very familiar with the style and subject matter of the host blog. They should cultivate a rapport with the blogger by leaving interesting comments on their posts, sharing their work, and making themselves known. This is also a way for the host blogger to become familiar with the guest blogger’s writing style and area expertise. You’re ready, as a guest blogger, when you can be reasonably sure the host blogger will recognize your name in the “from” line of an email, and you have an idea that will fit right in with their content. Don’t make the mistake of reaching out without something specific in mind. And if they show interest in the content you propose, don’t waste an opportunity to get the terms right for your guest post. Make sure to discuss how your bio and byline will appear, where it will link to (a social profile, your blog, or both), and whether or not you’ll be able to cross-post it to your blog with a link back to the original. Most top bloggers are flexible on both of these items and happy to discuss them, as long as you give them clear input and don’t nitpick.
The mere fact that you are blogging means that you are positively differentiating yourself from the pack. Everyone wants fifty comments on every post, 10,000 subscribers and a healthy dose of ad revenue. Too many bloggers start comparing themselves to the best in the business right out of the gate. While it’s great to learn from the best, it’s not smart to expect the results they have from less work. It’s also not smart to write your blog off as a failure even if you are putting in the work, and it’s not getting the activity you’re after. If it never becomes anything more than a record of your thoughts, or a collection of your best work, it is still worth it—and you are still doing something valuable that most are not.