The Paradox of Social Media Popularity

godin quotes

BSrinivas Rao, Contributing {grow} Columnist

The paradox of popularity is that it can create a paralysis that inhibits you from creating the work that made you popular in the first place!

The fear of how people will respond to you can start to creep into your work until it becomes so watered down that you become part of the echo chamber.  In some ways, isn’t it liberating to be an early stage blogger with few readers? For those of you trying to build an audience I know that might sound ridiculous. But you’re free to say anything. You’re not necessarily biased by how the audience will respond.  That is a powerful place to create from if you’re willing to embrace it.

Are you addicted to the glow?

As your blog grows in popularity, it’s not uncommon to become addicted to the glow of audience response. Pretty soon, you start to approach every piece of content with the question “What will they think?”

If you create something they love, you feel good, and you want to get that feeling again.  I usually dread it when one of my posts does well here at Mark’s blog because I’m afraid that I won’t be able to replicate that glow.

If you create something they hate, and it upsets a few of your readers, you start to hold back and quit taking risks. At the same time, you begin to avoid the risk of creating something remarkable.

Don’t Try to Replicate Success

Every single time I’ve written something with the intention of making it as good as a post that went viral or was a big hit with my readers, it falls flat!  That’s simply because it’s not authentic. I’m trying to apply a formula to authenticity. 

Don’t forget that just because it’s words on a screen, people can’t feel what’s coming across.   If you’re trying to replicate the previous positive response from an audience, you’re doomed before you start. At best you’ll create a pale imitation of your best work.  It’s what  I think of as the sequel syndrome. Most movie sequels are terrible. Remember the Karate Kid?

Try What’s Never Been Tried

We all know that “lists” posts seem to get shared a lot. It’s also the reason every single time I submit one Mark sends it back to me without his stamp of approval.  He forces us to try what’s never been tried.  To accomplish what’s never been done, you must try what’s never been tried. Look at the so called “best practices”  adapt and break a few rules.  It will change your work.

The reaction isn’t yours; it belongs to them. The art is yours  – Seth Godin

What do YOU think?

srini rao

Srinivas Rao writes about the things you should have learned in school, but never did and his the host-co founder of BlogcastFM.  You can follow him on twitter @skooloflife

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  • Awesome, love it!

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  • Andy Bargery

    Really good post Srinivas. It’s tough to keep challenging yourself to create new, original thought and content. However the end result is much more rewarding than simply writing how to articles and lists.

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  • Very well Srini, that happened to me as well – the content that I wanted to make go popular DIDN’T because I was trying to hard. It’s a delicate balance between doing what feels right for you and pleasing your audience, and it takes a lot of experience to master it.

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  • Excellent thoughts. I remember having one blog post become somewhat popular after being picked up by a larger blog. I should have written another post soon after to capitalize on my momentum, but instead, I waited longer than normal to post again because I was paranoid I would write something that wouldn’t be received the same way. It’s tough to change that way of thinking. I’ll keep this post in mind if I run into a similar situation again. Thanks Srinivas!

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  • I habitually try what’s never been tried — such as the time I deleted my Twitter account and recreated it fresh. Some responded with curiosity, others with anger, others with respect.

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  • Thank Sherry. Glad you enjoyed it,

  • Ari,

    That’s pretty awesome. The only way to produce result that nobody else has is try what they haven’t. It’s so easy to get caught up in even our own best practices.

  • Stephen,

    I’ve had that exact same experience. When I try to capitalize by writing something else in hopes that another blog will pick it up, it nearly always falls flat.

  • I”m so glad that you of all people had something to say about this. You’re never afraid to push the envelope. It’s absolutely a delicate balance. It’s not that the audience response doesn’t matter at all. THe problem is when we try to game it.

  • Hey Andy,

    It’s definitely tough. It’s something I struggle with every time my deadlines for Mark are around the corner. I think one of the keys is to be diligent about capturing ideas. I’ve found that evernote is an absolute blessing. I’m not sure how I ever lived without it.

  • Great post Sri, speaks to the reality of being a true visionary! Such a simple but crucial revelation!

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  • Linden Wilcock

    Two things drew me into this post: The Seth Godin image and quote AND the word ‘paradox’. I love anything that gives me the chance to say “paradoxical” haha. Anyways, I also really liked the lesson in this post.

    I think a good example of someone who doesn’t let people’s responses change what they write and say is Kevin O’Leary (Dragon’s Den, Lang and O’Leary Exchange). His views are extremely polarized, well-articulated, and sometimes offensive. Despite some negative reaction to his unabashed criticism, O’Leary has used this forthrightness to become successful in business and develop an enthusiastic following. Being both loved and hated isn’t always bad. This is something i think about when I fear that my writing is becoming too polarized.

    Thanks for the great post!

  • Thanks Linden. Scott Stratten told me that for people to love your stuff, other people have to really hate it. Look at celebrities. People hate Snookie (I’ve never seen the Jersey shore and I have nothing good to say), but millions of people watch the show.

  • Yeah, visionary I guess is somebody who sees things that haven’t been seen and puts them int words that haven’t been said.

  • Haha! I don’t know about Seth, but anything using the word ‘paradox’ draws me in, for sure.

  • Very thought-provoking. It’s the common-sense fundamentals that are often the first to go with great success.

  • I have tried to avoid exactly what Seth Grodin & Srinivas Rao write about it in this article by selecting carefully who I follow and why. But it reminds me that the allure of being acknowledged is powerful…

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