I received an email this week from a reader who is struggling with a problem experienced by many social media newcomers. His question:

“How does a real unknown like me get the big name social media marketers to pay any attention to me?  They won’t give me the time of day.  I tweet to them and retweet their posts, talk about them on my blog, and don’t receive any acknowledgment. Am I just following the wrong people? Who would you recommend?”

The social web is an enigma. While many top marketers have built their careers touting the importance of “the conversation,” they have become so popular, they no longer have time to converse!

I’ve had the great fortune to meet many of the leaders in the field. And while we certainly have our share of iconic douchebags, the vast majority of these folks are hard-working, well-meaning professionals just trying to make a living.

It’s not always about the conversation

It’s a numbers game. At some point, the workload and crush of followers that comes with celebrity exceeds any human’s ability to engage in a meaningful way, no matter how willing they may be.

Even in my own little world on {grow} I am probably not as attentive as I used to be as blog subscribers and followers multiply.  What’s the option? Block people out … or slowly become less tuned-in?  I am succumbing to an inexorable corrosion of engagement like everyone else.  Some people probably think I’m ignoring them. One popular blogger once told me, ”When you are standing in front of a stadium full of people, you can only slap hands with the people in the front row.”

Just because somebody is busy, it doesn’t necessarily make them a snob.  So my first recommendation is, don’t take it personally.  I doubt most people are intentionally ignoring you. Extend them some grace.

Looking for love in all the wrong places?

My second thought on this question – maybe the attention on the social media elite is mis-placed.

Many believe if they could only get their blog post tweeted by a social media superstar then everything would change!  This is a pervasive myth.  At some point I have been tweeted by about every leader in the field, including Guy Kawasaki and Alyssa Milano — who have enough followers to be small countries. After a short spike in traffic (Alyssa actually crashed the server), there was no lasting impact on the blog. I’m not exaggerating. I literally mean NONE. In fact after a Kawasaki tweet my blog subscriptions went down.

There is no shortcut to building a blog community. You have to work hard and create your own movement one reader at a time. Let’s use Dave as an example. By providing personal attention to him, I may create a lifetime fan who will actively engage with me and tell others, too. One connection with a self-proclaimed “unknown” will probably mean more to building the {grow} community than a dozen tweets from Chris Brogan.  That is a fact.

Start your own sphere of influence

When I started blogging, many people thought I was on a kamikaze mission by ignoring (or even challenging) the status quo.  But I don’t see it that way.  Why does the world need another suck-up regurgitating the same old blog topics week after week?  How many social media sycophants have gone on to stand out and create distinct value for their readers?

Spending all your time trying to get the attention of the big names is probably not going to have a business pay-off. So go make your own tribe.

There was a small band of beginning bloggers who supported each other when I first started out and we’re still friends today. Srini Rao wrote about this strategy beautifully last week. If you’re a blogging ”baby,” go find some more beginners and support each other. As you learn and grow together, you’ll be your own network of A-List bloggers!

Don’t get caught up in keywords, SEO and Ad Age bloggers. Your key to lasting success is originality, and the key to orginality is having the courage to share your own wisdom.

Any way, that’s my take on it. What has your experience been? Are you successfully connecting with the social media leaders? Any impact?

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