The lovely Nicole Fende asked me to write about how to find and leverage the mavens in the online world. If you’ve been reading blogs for awhile, whether here or elsewhere, you know that conversations about the “mavens,” “a-listers,” “superstars,” whatever you want to call them, often get heated.
After reading all of these posts, all of the comments they get…after writing some of my own posts and reading those comments, I’ve come to the conclusion that what is most important in the online world is working on becoming a maven yourself, however you define that term.
Understand that I am well aware of how omnipresent people with a huge number of followers and subscribers are in this world. I know that it seems impossible to get traction when there are people who have hundreds of thousands of people retweeting their every word. But as I spend more time in the world of Social Media, I’m beginning to see that that whole facet of this world isn’t what matters. The number of followers doesn’t matter. The number of subscribers doesn’t matter. Even the number of comments you get doesn’t matter. They’re nice benchmarks, but there’s a lot more to strive for. And that objective – that point where you will feel successful – that is what really matters.
This is not an anti-“A-Lister” post
When I use a phrase like A-Lister, I have a pretty specific list of people in mind, and it’s based on their sheer volume of presence in the online world. A-lister to me does not necessarily bespeak a level of quality so much as a level of size, although it’s hard to have the latter without the former. I think of Chris Brogan, Liz Strauss, Brian Clark, Darren Rowse, Jeremiah Owyang, Jason Falls, Ann Handley, Jay Baer, and Brian Solis when I use this term. Their sheer volume is amazing. They can tweet almost anything and it will be retweeted. A lot. Of course their quality is high, but there are a lot of high quality content creators out there who don’t have the kind of pull these folks have.
I have been pretty fortunate in getting help from a lot of these folks. To answer Nicole’s question, I found them by looking at who people were talking about. I read their books. I visited their blog sites to see for myself what they were saying that was so great. Chris Brogan tweeted out a post of mine when I had only been blogging for a couple of months. The comments and followers that resulted in the next couple of hours were more than I had had in total for my Social Media career. Ann Handley I had seen through watching many MarketingProfs webinars, and I was astounded at how approachable she was…how willing to help a newbie like me. Jay Baer, believe it or not, was one of the first people to reply to me on Twitter.
I didn’t look for these people with the goal of bumping up my own online reputation. I looked for them because they were well-respected and I wanted to learn from them, and these folks, for all of the foibles that get highlighted online, have taught a lot of people a lot of things. I showed these people respect and a desire to learn. I did not approach them with a request to tweet out a post of mine or to let me into their inner circles. I was just me, talking to just them.
Teachers can teach you to walk, but they can’t walk for you
All of that being said, the success I have experienced online, whatever that may be, has in large part been because I have worked my butt off. I set goals for myself and worked hard to achieve them using the advice that the folks above and many, many others had given me. I have not worked to be the next Brian Clark or the next Liz Strauss. I have worked my butt off to be the first Margie Clayman. I have worked hard to be a positive influence on those who engage with me. I have worked hard to learn enough so that I could pass on my knowledge to others. I have acted in ways that I would want to see people I respect act.
If I want to define success for me in the online world, it would be where I already am.
What will you do?
I have no doubt that people will say that so long as there are people who are defined based on their influence in the online world, it’s impossible for people with smaller or more niche followings to find online success.
With all due respect, that’s a load of crap excuse.
Always remember that when a person who has a lot of followers tweets out one of your posts, the people visiting your site are responding to that person they saw the tweet from. You’re new to them, and it’s YOUR quality that will encourage them to come back or to never return. You could write a post on a huge site, but if it’s not enticing and well-written, you won’t find an increase in your blog traffic. It will be just the same.
If you want to be a maven in your own eyes, you need to pull the weight. You need to do the work. You can’t complain every time someone does something you don’t like. You need to do what you want other people to do, and set the example you want to get out there.
So my very long-winded answer to Nicole’s simple question – don’t worry about searching for or leveraging the mavens. They will see you as a peer, as a respected peer, if you put your nose to the grindstone and put out high quality work. That’s all there is to it.
Image by Benjamin Earwicker. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/bjearwicke