Social Media’s Mass Attention Myth

mass attention myth

BSrinivas Rao, Contributing {grow} Columnist

On two separate occasions and in two different ways  I’ve been discouraged from the pursuit of mass attention.  The irony is that it came from people who many of us consider wildly popular.

Mass attention is almost unattainable and it’s not clear that you want it. – Seth Godin

There’s no value to working hard on being really popular. – Chris Brogan

Despite knowing this, the following question comes up over and over again

  • How do I get more traffic
  • How do I grow my audience?

Ask it enough times and you might as well be asking “How do I get mass attention?”

The end of the popular kid in school 

If you’ve spent time in junior high then you probably had some point in your life when you wanted to be one of the popular kids. Maybe they dressed better than you did. They had the latest pair of air Jordans. They got all the attention. You wished you were one of them. But take a look at the popular kids from high school now … their popularity in that point of time is meaningless.

Fame is Relative

My dad has no idea who Seth Godin is even though there are copies of his books sitting right on my the desk. When he saw my pictures from New Media Expo with Guy Kawasaki he wondered what all the fuss was about.  It’s possible you’re reading this and you’ve never heard of me, Mark Schaefer or anybody else who I’ve mentioned. Maybe we need to be asking ourselves a different question than how do I get more attention?

How Do I Take Better Care of the Attention I Have? 

A few years ago I dreamed of becoming “famous” by interviewing the most successful people because I thought they would share my interviews. That didn’t happen. The audience only started to grow when I focused on how to make my content as valuable as possible for the people who were already there, even if there were only a few of them.  This is how audiences and readers turn into tribes and communities. I think we should abandon all of the following questions

  • How do I get more traffic
  • How do I get m more eyeballs
  • How do I grow my audience

Diminishing those who spend their valued attention with you to nothing but metrics and measurements is tragic. ALWAYS remember that there is a human being on the other end of the screen.  Whether you’re selling widgets or e-books, you have people and tribe members,  not buyers, listeners, or an audience.  If we can start to see the world through this lens, which requires a leap of faith, I believe the metrics will take care of themselves.

The Future Belongs to the Fanatics

Here are some people I’ve met who have built tribes of absolute fanatics.

  • Danielle Laporte has a cult following. People hang on her words. They spread her message for her.  I published interviews with her and Tim Ferriss in the same week. Guess which one was more popular … by a landslide?
  • Talk to an Erika Lyremark fan and you’ll see the same effect. It’s a tribe of fanatics spreading a message to the few they deem worthy of an invitation. It’s an exclusive club that people want to be a part of.
  • Mars Dorian, is a regular contributor here at {grow} and is having the same effect on people. Ask  any of his fans what they think about him and you’ll get something along the lines of “I can’t wait to meet that guy in person.”

When these people talk, the tribe listens. If you’re wondering why, the answer is simple.  They care. They show up when we need them. They tug at our heartstrings.  We miss them when they’re not around. There’s no blog post that can tell you how to do this. There’s no three step formula. It’s just a way of showing up in the world.

Disrupt the mainstream, fragment the masses

The way I see it you can either give all your energy to five fanatics or pursue the lukewarm masses. I think the choice is obvious. You might be frustrated reading this because unlike my last few posts I haven’t offered a single tactic. But I”ll leave you with this quote.

“People who are scrambling for tactics are almost always stalling. Strategy is important, but tactics tend to take care of themselves.” – Seth Godin

Maybe it’s simply enough to “care deeply”?

What do YOU think?

srini rao

Srinivas Rao writes about the things you should have learned in school, but never did and his the host-co founder of BlogcastFM.  You can follow him on twitter @skooloflife

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