A common desire for humans, once we’ve surpassed our basic requirements for survival, is to be part of something bigger than ourselves, while making a contribution to the world. The huge growth of online sites like Youtube, Twitter and Facebook, which have the potential to give anyone a large audience are a great example of this in action. This same desire is why there are over 100 million active blogs out there, each with authors trying to connect to the bigger whole.
Even though there are thousands upon thousands of micro-niches and active communities discussing the most peculiar topics, there’s still only room for a handful of ‘rockstars’ to emerge from each of them. There are always going to be fewer influencers than there are people to be influenced. That’s common sense, not helped by the fact that gaining a following isn’t some paint-by-numbers process, and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight.
If you’ve read ‘Fooled by Randomness’ then you may believe that most success is just luck. That there are just so many people in the world that there simply has to be a small number who are wealthy, famous and successful.
Maybe my own desire to be part of something bigger is kicking in its defense mechanism, but I like to think success is waiting for the people who most consistently take right action towards their goals. For that reason I believe anyone has the potential to become a Niche Rockstar / Influencer / A-Lister / YouGetTheIdea.
There are many benefits to becoming a Rockstar in your niche and having some level of influence. The first obvious result of having a large audience is that you instantly have access to connections all over the globe. I could go to most countries in the world now and quickly find people who would be happy to show me around. Before I continue, I want to say that I don’t think of myself as an A-Lister, but the following example is relevant.
When I was in Amsterdam a couple of weeks ago I wrote about it on Facebook and Twitter. Within 24 hours I had five requests for meet-ups, a conference invite, and a woman offering to cook for me. All of which, of course, were much appreciated.
For some people, becoming a ‘Niche Rockstar’ can get them their dream job offers. It happened to me in 2007 and it’s just happened to tech blogger Louis Gray who, this week, announced he is now managing the social team for Google+.
For others, being a rockstar gives them enough of an audience to live from selling their own products or services. This is a path many of you are following, and I have to say…it’s a good time to be walking.
Ultimately, your increasing audience gives you an increasing influence which results in increasing feedback. Increased feedback results in increased opportunities which then continue to present you with a bigger and bigger megaphone in the spaces you want to work. In other words, you just get a lot more of everything.
Now that you can see what you benefits of aiming for rockstar status (or not, as I’ll cover in a second) actually are, I’ll say one last thing before I show you how to do that. Becoming an influencer is not about having 100,000 Twitter followers or constantly getting on the homepage of Reddit. It’s really about having an impact on your own niche community, however small or obscure it may be.
Outside the world of celebrity gossip, it’s nice to see that the true A-Listers are often the people doing the most good.
A recent comment that made me smile was on a Wired article showing how MIT researchers had invented a single drug that could cure most diseases. It said: “These are the type of people we should be getting autographs from.” I agree.
…and you’ll always be better than me. The greatest mentality I think you can have when it comes to increasing your audience and influence is that of an Underdog. Some people ask me why my Twitter bio, for the last six months, has read “Z-List Blogger with 21 readers”. The answer, is that it’s just a simple reminder for myself that there’s always room to grow and improve what I’m sharing.
It’s important that I emphasise you should only have the mentality of an underdog, because underdogs are thought to have the smallest chance to succeed at something, and you don’t actually want to be in that position. Adopting the mindset of an underdog comes with a number of benefits.
First of all, you can make the mistakes that need to be made on the way to making miracles. Since the underdog obviously doesn’t have some holier than thou view about themselves they’re not going to be so worried about people’s reactions to things. They’re not going to be so worried about screwing up.
For example, the guy who thinks he is perfect with women is actually probably too scared to go and approach the hottest girl in the bar because he doesn’t want to lose the belief he has about himself. The guy that adopts an underdog mentality, on the other hand, looks at everything as a chance to learn and grow. He goes and talks to the girl, and more often than not the interaction will be a good one. If she gives the ‘why are you even talking to me’ look then it makes no difference to him.
For many of you right now, it’s probably easy to mentally view yourself as an underdog as you may literally be one. For those of you who have had some level of success and find this mindset harder to adopt, then I’ll just say that your goals aren’t high enough. If you set a target to do more public speaking this year than Tony Robbins, then I’m sure the mentality will come to you with ease.
My own goal, as I’ve mentioned a few times, is to try and produce the best content available on the topic of internet marketing. Why wouldn’t I set a goal like that? Even if I fall short, the bar is set so high that what I produce is still (hopefully) great work.
Steve Jobs touched on what I think is the core essence of the underdog at his 2005 Standford University Commencement Address:
“Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself.”
The underdog mentality helps give you all the characteristics that people genuinely like to see in others. No matter how much of an Apple fan boy you are, you likely wouldn’t mind a young group of impoverished kids in India making the next big thing in the smartphone space. In fact, you’d probably cheer them on without even meeting or knowing anything about them other than their goals and aspirations.
Finally, the underdog mentality ensures that you’re (rightly so) always learning more about your industry, the world around you, and yourself. To the underdog there’s never too much they can know about their niche. In fact, that’s my very next point…
If you see someone ask Tony Robbins a tough personal-development question, he always has a fast, relevant and useful reply. Mark Cuban is watching the streaming and broadcasting space like nobody else, even after making over $1bn from his related projects. Warren Buffett, the world’s richest man, doesn’t even work on a computer, but instead looks though dozens of papers that his assistants hand him on the stock market every single day.
And if that little speech doesn’t convince you that knowing your industry (and who’s in it) is incredibly important then I’ll add that every big company you can think of have staff dedicated to doing nothing but watching their competition and the markets they operate in. Heck, even your local water company are probably paying someone.
As a personal example, I’ve only had my Amazon Kindle for a couple of weeks yet I’ve already taken hundreds of notes on different books that are relevant to my interests:
I’m a total knowledge junkie when it comes to the subject of marketing. I’m mostly looking for the little ‘golden nugget’ ideas or well-written concepts, like the two you see above, rather than overall strategies (which I prefer to form myself). I don’t do this because I feel I have to, but because I just…love it. When you find the industry for you, you’ll feel the exact same way.
And as not so personal example, let me try and do things the ‘ViperChill way’ and get down and dirty with some stats, rather than making any guesses. For this example I’ve picked the totally random niche of ‘Green blogs’ and decided to analyse the market to show you the types of things I look for. I did this a couple of days ago, within a 45 minute time frame, and learned a ton about the industry with ease.
To begin, I went on over to the Green section of Technorati and opened up their list of top blogs. Opening them in new tabs, I could quickly see that Technorati’s top picks were pretty much spot on when it comes to identifying the industry leaders. The only ranking mistake on the part of Technorati was for Inhabitat, which on my quick examination really appears to be the biggest blog in the niche, and not the 8th largest.
I learned that:
It’s not just the stats that I want to look at, but the actual websites to see how they’re laid out, what topics they’re covering, how often they post and so on. The simple task of actually going through other sites in your niche should be enough to start giving you a few ideas.
In less than an hour I’m equipped with post ideas, design inspiration, proof that there’s money to be made if I were to operate in this industry and a clear indicator that Twitter should definitely be a social focus of mine. I also know that people in this niche don’t comment on some blogs very often, but there are ways to get some community activity:
I’ll save the contents of that post for those in the Green space who want to do a little research ;]
The most common form of monetisation was definitely ads, with DeSmogBlog being an exception and directing their traffic towards either the owners’ book or an economy report. All of the sites have multiple authors and write quite a few posts per day; something that would be difficult to replicate if you were doing things on your own.
Another job of this market research is to identify gaps that others may have overlooked. Some opportunities that came to mind include:
There are many more points I could make, but I’m sure you’re starting to get the idea. If you haven’t done this kind of analysis on the industry you’re in or about to enter, then I recommend you change that as soon as possible. Everything you need to know about the competition is out there in the open; that’s not something you can say in the offline world, so it would be a shame if you weren’t using the data to your advantage.
“Just be yourself” is probably one of the most overused sayings out there but it points to the truth that there’s nobody who’s better at playing you, than you. Tucker Max took his self-entitled “jerk attitude” to the internet in the form of online stories and earned himself not only a book deal, but a Hollywood film actually called ‘Tucker Max’.
Regardless of what you think about Russell Brand’s comedy or acting abilities, you can’t deny that he’s a very unique celebrity character in the way that he presents himself. His writing ability is also incredible. Not just because of his wit, but the way he puts his own persona into the piece.
Naomi Dunford doesn’t hold back from swearing in her articles and I’m sure the same is true in real life. William Ray Johnson is someone I seem to hear more negative about things about then good, yet he now owns the most subscribed to channel on Youtube and can literally influence millions of people. Lady Gaga is one of the most extreme celebrities of our generation, which is partly why I’ve never been a fan (meat costumes? really?). Then I watched this and was blown away.
These examples of people just being themselves are of course going to mean that some people are instantly turned off by who they are and how they do what they do. Then again, I think that can be said for just about any kind of ‘persona’ you can adopt.
I receive plenty of emails from people asking me to write shorter articles, but receive far more comments from people asking me to keep doing what I do. Though both sides are listened to, neither really matter. I’m doing things how I want to see them done and I’ll hopefully continue to build an audience who like the same things. It’s not working out too badly so far.
It’s your quirks and your little differences that people pick up on. It’s the stories that you share passionately about your life. It’s not acting like you’re actually a rockstar. It’s just…doing you. And doing you is exactly what will help you grow your legion of loyal followers.
All we want to talk about in this space is the tools we use and the results we can get from them, but what really matters of course, is people. Search engine spiders don’t buy your products and doubling your Twitter count with irrelevant followers won’t change your bottom line either. Real relationships are key to helping you grow your own audience, influence and value contributions.
Tamar’s research made it clear to me that influencers want you to keep things short and get to the point. But more importantly than that, they just want you to have something worth sharing. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, there are people who are on my radar like crazy, and I want to talk about what they’re doing, but if what they’re producing is nothing new and can be read / watched in hundreds of other places, then people stop trusting my recommendations.
In the Cloud Niche private archives I said:
I recently blogged about two women making over $5K per month from the strategy I share in CloudBlueprint (you can view it here if you missed it). The reason I shared the case study was mostly because I knew people would be inspired by it, but partly because it enables people to see that the CloudBlueprint strategy really works. The people who are making a good income online already know how powerful case studies can be, so we’re always happy to promote them. So, when Justine and Heather came to me about how they were making money online, I couldn’t wait to share it with the world. I also sent their websites close to 1,000 visitors.
For a day of answering emails, they were both able to get hundreds of visitors to their site, and be put right in front of their target audience. What if you could be more like them and seize an opportunity like that in your niche. Who are the influencers online in the health niche? The gardening niche? The personal development niche?
Please, for your own sake, continue doing you when you eventually reach out to people. It’s really…weird…when people are just overly nice to me. Sure I appreciate the respect, but it’s really hard to talk to someone who is gushing over how amazing you are. Even more so when you don’t think that highly of yourself. After speaking to a number of far more successful people than I am, it turns out I’m not alone with that sentiment.
Finally, on my post, Cloud Jacking: 7 Steps to Dominate Your Niche, I had the following to say, which is still as relevant today as it was then:
“Instead of giving very specific advice here, which I can’t because thousands of people will read this and your audience is in lots of different communities, I’m going to share ideas for how you can engage in different platforms and with different people:
There are two things you need to remember about the sites listed above. The first is that they have not been built for you to spam an audience. They are there as communication tools that allow you to ethically engage with your market. I recommend you use them as such. Secondly, these networks should not be what you do, they should be thought of like a megaphone to amplify what you’re already doing on your website.
One thing I always try and do (though could definitely do more of, like most) is highlight other people in the spaces I operate. I don’t want to highlight just anyone of course, but people who I think are doing great work. At least on my small radar, I think the likes of Adam, Kelvin and Rishi deserve a lot more attention for the unique content they’re putting out. I’m happy to give it to them (please do check out their sites).
Not only does sharing the work of others make you feel good, the act is also often reciprocated — though that shouldn’t be your motive for putting the spotlight on others. Sending people to various sites in your niche shows that you know your topic well and you aren’t afraid to join in the conversation.
Also, I always check out blogs that link to me purely out of curiosity in regards to what they’re saying. Sometimes those odd links put new blogs on my radar and start a conversation that leads to a stronger connection down the road.
“Shine the light on all of your friends, ’cause it all amounts to nothing in the end” – Jason Mraz.
At the end of the day, you’re never going to be the only person in your industry, so there’s no point in acting like it.
You have everything you need and you’re going to die. There is absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing, that separates you from the rockstars in any industry. Most likely they had an audience of none one day, and they worked at their craft and consistently networked to get to where they are today. If you think you can’t do the same, then you’ve failed already, so get that out of your head.
Death has always been the biggest motivator in my life. In a positive way, I think about death daily, and how everything I do may be the last ‘thing’ I ever leave behind. For all I know this could be my last ever blog post so I would like to make it one worth reading when I’m gone. I’m not the only one to feel this way, again quoting Steve:
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
(Note: It is pure coincidence that I have so many quotes from Steve on the day that he has announced his departure as Apple CEO. I assume the decision is for health reasons, so I wish him the best of luck in his recovery.)
The reason I say the above two points is because I have zero doubt that you’re going to fail at times on your path. Things aren’t all going to come together at once. I spent thousands of dollars having my software affiliateSkin developed, only to be – admittedly – in a poor position to offer support and too slow to react to the competition. This resulted in my closing down the product altogether. I could have adapted, but in all honesty my heart wasn’t in it. For now, I still think customising what people are already used to (WordPress) is the way to go. A lesson I couldn’t have learned so certainly without that ‘failure’.
For that reason I created ViperBar and with over 5,000 installs on blogs in hundreds of different industries, I would say it’s been a great success. By the way, we just updated it with a ton of new features (split-testing (!), hex code customisation, bar themes, sticky bar, etc.) so do check it out if you haven’t already. It’s free, as is the branding removal.
When I made CloudFlood I didn’t know what kind of success people would have with it. “1,000 new opt-ins per day” was the feedback from an initial report, and the site was even mentioned on a Forbes.com article in the last fortnight. If I had let my first software launch bother me, I wouldn’t have gone on to create two things which have helped so many people.
Remember: You are enough. You’re going to die. Start leaving that legacy, please?