The Greatest Barrier To Your Online Success Is Not Your Skillset

The Greatest Barrier To Your Online Success Is Not Your Skillset

In the words of Woody Allen:

“80% of success is simply showing up.”

This is never more true than as a blogger. Nobody began as an expert. We all learn as we go.

Skill can be taught. Knowledge can be earned. Proficiency can be developed.

In fact, you probably have the skill already.

You know your writing is stellar. Your site is beautiful. Your content is consistent.

And yet, you feel the frustration. Despite the quality of your work, nobody is showing up. There is a wall somewhere, and you keep running up against it.

I’ll let you in on a secret: the greatest barrier to your success is not your skill set, it is your mindset.

No, this isn’t me blowing hot air. Your perspective drives the choices you make, and the wrong perspective results in the wrong choices.

In blogging, broken perspectives are common.

Worse, those of us who teach about blogging often reinforce them. I’m sorry. We don’t mean to.

But you don’t have to let it hold you back. Here are three ways to fix some commonly broken perspectives.

1. Stop Focusing On Your Audience

A target audience is a staple foundation in any form of marketing. You identify your ideal audience, develop a profile, and gear your content toward them.

The strategy is good. Essential, even. So what is the problem?

The problem is in the way we conceive of an audience.

“Audience” is a passive term being applied to an engagement-oriented industry. It draws from traditional marketing, where communication was a one-way street. A billboard or television commercial does not intend for the viewer to comment in response.

The Audience Mentality has a different goal than what will make you successful as a blogger. It is looking for eyeballs, and that’s it. You try to get your message in front of as many people as possible in the hope that a certain percentage of them respond.

It is the audience mentality that drives spamming behavior or chasing rankings. It goes wide, but fails to go deep.

As a blogger, you are not building an audience. You are growing a community.

Your goals are different. You want engagement and the careful cultivation of relationships. You need to earn the trust of your reader and ease the transition from reader to friend.

Bloggers need to be focused less on going wide and more on going deep.

Lose the Audience Mentality. Start building relationships.

2. Stop Leveraging Influencers

Here, too, we encounter a popular piece of advice.

Networking with influential people in your industry is always a key strategy for success. This isn’t limited to the digital sphere. Influential people help us to expand our own reach and credibility.

This is why we list high-ranking professionals as resume references.

So why is this a problem?

When we speak of “influencers” we are identifying particular individuals based on how they may benefit us.

When we then speak of “leveraging” these individuals, we feed a mindset of manipulation. We seek to build relationships with particular people because we can then use them to further our own career.

Here’s the rub: manipulation kills relationships.

Rather than thinking in terms of influencers, we need to think in terms of colleagues.

Building a relationship with a colleague moves out of the realm of manipulation and into the realm of collaboration. That’s a huge difference.

When we collaborate, we both win. I benefit the business efforts of that colleague, and that colleague benefits my own.

We build a relationship based on mutual interest. As a side benefit, it is far easier to build a mutually beneficial relationship than it is to try to “stand out” with nothing to offer. If you are in the same industry, you can be opponents or you can be a team.

Stop focusing on influencers. Focus on colleagues, and win as a team.

3. Stop Chasing Metrics

Social proof is incredibly powerful. If you want to know whether someone is worth listening to, the quickest clue is to see whether others are listening to them.

Unless you’re simply chasing the metrics.

Two weeks ago, I was researching a topic on BuzzSumo and discovered an article that simply blew every other article published in the previous 24 hours out of the water.

That is, according to the social proof. Within 24 hours, it had generated over 500 “shares” on Google+. So I checked it out.

It was horrible. The piece was poorly formatted so it was hard to scan. It was not edited well and was filled with errors. The sentence structures were complex and difficult to read. I’m still not sure what it was about.

So how did it generate so much social activity?

As I dug a little deeper, I discovered his secret. The author had grabbed about a dozen different graphics and memes and shared them to a variety of different image communities throughout G+. He also placed the link to the article in the description.

The images drew engagement. Google attributed that engagement to the article. The article appeared to go viral on BuzzSumo. It  led me to view it.

And it destroyed my willingness to trust that site ever again.

Ironically, the social proof that was designed to improve the site’s credibility actually destroyed its credibility.

Social proof is only helpful when it is honest. Traffic is only helpful when it leads to relationships. And metrics are only helpful when they give us information that enables us to make informed decisions.

Stop chasing metrics. Start focusing on people.

Realigning Your Perspective

All of this can be summed up in one sentence:

Get engaged, and build honest relationships.

When you shift out of an emphasis on media, manipulation, and metrics, then you can start to focus on the things which matter.

You can make decisions that benefit your web presence, because you know the right things to focus on.

You can develop strategies which actually see results.

Then, keep showing up. After all, that’s 80% of your success.

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  1. Thomas, this is really a myth breaking post. I really appreciate you to be an honest writer.

    “When we collaborate, we both win.” You are right here.. When we collaborate we work with each other without thinking about our personal goals. The conversations become more of the original rather than of kinds those seek attention. Even John Maxwell has also emphasized the same point in one of his leadership guide.

    Thanks once again for the awesome post.


  2. I have to admit—I was scanning this article, not expecting to find something I didn’t already know. But the words “Stop Focusing on Your Audience” stopped me dead and I carefully read every word from there on. You are not growing an audience; you are growing a community. Of course! As communicators, “audience” has always been top of mind. Even though we have moved forward with our thinking, the word is still part of our vocabulary. And we need to wipe it out. The very use of it perpetuates passivity. So I am resetting my circuitry to “community.”


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