How to succeed in the ego-ravaged drama queen world of social media

social media ego

By Mark Schaefer

So let’s get this out on the table. Trying to make a name for yourself in this social media world can hurt.

The angst of wanting to be heard feels familiar every time some sort of social media “list” comes out. Most of these lists are meaningless, self-promotional stunts. Deep down, most people realize this. Still …

Lots of worthy people feel hurt they have been left off these lists (which are usually Twitter-based — how much sense does that make?). I still remember that feeling of being left out of the social media scene. In fact, I was left out at every turn for years.

This is what I did about it.

Remembering the hurt

I started blogging in 2009 and there was a different “A List” back then, but there was still an A-List and I wasn’t on it. I hated that.

I thought I was publishing content as good as anybody out there but I was not in that inner circle. In fact I felt the inner circle pushed back on newcomers, and I even wrote a post back then about the clubbiness of the social media elite. Boy did that piss people off. Which was strangely enjoyable at the time.

And of course there were the lists. Same people over and over. I felt I could be up there too but couldn’t get anybody’s attention.

My blog was a lonely and depressing place. Four or five of us would try to comment on each other’s blogs just to cheer each other up.

Another big setback was trying to get on the speaker circuit. I was building a good reputation I thought, a solid canon of content … but nobody would invite me to speak. One organizer told me “no thanks, we have our guys.” And literally he meant “guys,” by the way.

I talked to publishers about an idea I had for a new kind of book about Twitter. Nobody wanted the thing. “Too many social media books.” “You don’t have a big enough brand name to sell books.”

Everywhere I turned I was banging my head on the social media glass ceiling and I was getting sick of it. So this is what I did about it.

I stopped waiting to be picked.

First, I unsubscribed to the “A-List” blogs and stopped trying to be like other people. I stepped out of the echo chamber and was determined to be my own A-List. I doubled down on the {grow} blog content with “excellence” as the only acceptable criteria for any post on this site.

I started my own social media conference. You don’t want me Mr. Conference Organizer? Screw that. I am appointing myself as the keynote speaker of Social Slam, which became one of the most popular conferences in America. And I featured many new speakers who also deserved a chance to be heard.

I took all the “badges” and references to lists off as “decorations” on my blog. Most of these lists are just get-out-the-vote popularity contests and they were driving the wrong behaviors for me. I was managing my business to get myself on some stupid, made-up list to make me look like a big shot. No. Block that crap out.

You don’t want my book Mr. Publisher? Well, I self-published that little old Tao of Twitter book idea and it became the best-selling book on Twitter in the world — with zero advertising, marketing, or support from any publisher. In 2012 McGraw-Hill came back to me wanting to buy the rights to the book.

So this is how I broke through. When nobody would pick me, I picked myself.

What about you?

There are probably hundreds … maybe thousands … of people out there who are going through the same frustrations right now. Here is the best advice I can give you.

Stay centered.

Stay focused on WHY you do what you do. Block out distractions, pompous pretenders, ego-divas, and haters. Don’t waste time sucking up to the A-Listers. Get out there and create your own tribe. BE the A-Lister for the people in your life who matter.

Stay centered.

Discover the things that keep you from feeling joy in this business and get rid of it. Purge anybody who is toxic. Unsubscribe. Unfollow the bastards. Don’t worry about missing out. Surround yourself with people who will lift you up and inspire you.

Stay centered.

Pick yourself. We are in the most liberating, agenda-bending, blank-slate-of-opportunity era in the history of the world. Be heard. Be known. Get on a stage. Be a builder. And do it with kindness, generosity, and joy.

I am not a rah-rah kind of guy. I’m not trying to pump up unrealistic expectations or promise something that is out of reach for most people. I realize that the emotion of rejection is grinding, hard stuff to work through.

It is so easy to get knocked off center by lists, news about somebody you know getting a big speaking gig, or a competitor who gets a book deal. It is so easy to get pulled back into the ego muck.

The only way to rise above is to dig deep and figure out your source of strength and inspiration and then stay there. Don’t get swayed by the gurus and lists. Stay focused, stay positive, stay centered.


SXSW 2016 3Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Graphic courtesy of

All posts

The Marketing Companion Podcast

Why not tune into the world’s most entertaining marketing podcast!

View details

Let's plot a strategy together

Want to solve big marketing problems for a little bit of money? Sign up for an hour of Mark’s time and put your business on the fast-track.

View details

Share via