Four options to transcend the social media clutter. Pick one and do the work.

By Mark Schaefer

My friend Amanda Ricks left a thought-provoking comment on my blog the other day. I had written about the necessity to provide quality content over time as the only sustainable strategy to rise above the social media clutter.

She challenged me, contending that there are a number of social media gurus out there over-posting tons of useless crap and they seem to be rewarded for it. How can this be explained?

A good question, and here is my answer.

The four ways to stand out

First, let’s step back and look at the four ways you can transcend the social media clutter and get noticed in this world:

1. SEO

Most of the content marketing attention heads in the direction of SEO these days but earning your way to a place in the top three search results requires a relentless, brutal battle of attrition. The SEO competition is like a bunch of nasty dogs fighting over the same keyword bone and if you aren’t one of those dogs, there is little hope to win. One note: Even an SEO strategy today largely depends on quality content.

2. Authority

A better option for many businesses is to establish authority. You more or less abandon the SEO fight and establish a relevant audience. Instead of writing for SEO, you become known by creating content for the benefit of your audience. You earn their attention through stellar insights and helpful, authentic, human-centered content. This is not necessarily an easier battle to fight. Competition demands that you remain consistent, relevant, and superior to win.

3. Entertaining

There are a few “social media influencers” I enjoy following simply because they are just so funny and interesting. They’re not building authority, they could care less about SEO … they’re endlessly entertaining. A person certainly can earn attention in this world by creating amazing content that makes you sit there and laugh or go “wow.”

4. Fame

If you’re a politician, supermodel, or celebrity, you don’t have to create SEO-friendly or authoritative content. You don’t even have to entertain. You just have to post pictures of yourself now and then to earn an audience.

There are two ways to become famous — The old fashioned way by being a movie star, best-selling author, or elite athlete, and the new media way that involves a combination of content, reach, and social proof. This is where it gets interesting, and this is the category that is causing Amanda’s concern.

Fake fame

I once had a friend who was a list-worthy social media superstar. Years ago, he confided in me that his fame was entirely manufactured. He had bought his followers, he had people creating his content, he had faked his accomplishments, he had written his own reviews. He is no longer in the business because the pressure of maintaining this fake front became unbearable.

But many people still do it. Last year, The New York Times published an explosive piece showing how many influencers had faked their way to fame. Some have demonstrated that you can create entirely fake personas who can earn the attention of brands. Several social media gurus have faked Twitter accounts that would compliment them around the web.

When I entered this space 10 years ago I marveled at this manufactured authority. How did these folks maintain an audience without really producing anything of value? My theory is there is a constant churn of new people who see them as authorities because they are on influencer lists and 2) even people who have figured them out still follow them because they’re afraid not to.

Perhaps Amanda falls into this category. She sees fake leaders at the top of the social media marketing field but follows them any way. It sort of becomes a habit I suppose.

Staying centered

The truth is, these folks are outliers and we need to ignore their example. Maybe they will continue to skirt detection, maybe not. But any business practice based on deception is not sustainable in the long run.

It’s hard to keep focused on the hard work of being consistent, relevant, and superior in your niche, but there really is no shortcut. Whether you choose to win at SEO, authority, entertainment, or fame, you have to do the work.

I want to offer some encouragement to all of those working so hard but feeling some how diminished by the fakes who have manufactured their web presence.

There’s no way you can fake it and earn true fans. The fakers may be surrounded by purchased followers and sycophants, but they don’t have true fans who will help them accomplish their goals.

When you earn true fans, your “marketing” can stop because you’ll have other people telling your story, sharing your content, and recommending you for business opportunities. That is the goal, that is the gold. In the long run, it will pay off.

Stay centered, stay positive, do the work.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark 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.

Illustration 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