99 Percent of Bloggers Aren’t Aware of This Simple Rule

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

There’s this fascinating story about Pablo Picasso being able to produce a work of art in a few minutes.

There are multiple versions, and for whatever reason, I can’t seem to verify this, but apparently a woman once asked Picasso (who was either at a cafe or in a market) to do a drawing for her.

Picasso did what she asked, and then demanded some ridiculously high amount of money. Let’s say ten thousand dollars.

Of course, the woman protested, “But it only took you a couple of minutes to draw this.”

The old master corrected her, “It took me thirty years to learn how to draw this in a couple of minutes.”

Or so the story goes.

I’d like to use this story as a framework to discuss an often overlooked aspect of content creation.

It’s not just the skill, but also how that skill is perceived by others.

Blogging success is not just about years and years of practice, but about having an audience that’s aware of all those years of practice.

Let’s talk about the concept of social proof and how you can best use it to your advantage.

No One Cares How Good You Are Until They Know Who You Are

In 2007, actor and comedian Steve Martin stopped by the Charlie Rose show.

It was during this interview that Martin explained what would soon become one of the most persistent truisms of being a creative:

“Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

Simple, clever, and frustratingly obvious, this advice inspired many creatives on their way towards success. Cal Newport even wrote a book about this topic, further developing the idea that we must develop our skills in such a way that we become so good they can’t ignore us.

Well, the truth is that you can be the best, and they’ll still ignore you.

The same way it’s not always the best product on the market that is the best selling product, it’s not always the best creative who is also the most successful in their niche.

No One Cares How Good You Are Until They Know Who You Are

Picasso was able to demand a high price for a work of art that took a couple of minutes to complete not just because he had spent decades working on his craft, but because he had built such a reputation that the woman was the one who approached him.

Be so good that they will come to you.

This is a good rule.

99% of bloggers out there aren’t aware of this simple rule of blogging: you’ve got to balance the two fundamental forces of the blogging universe:

  1. The quality of your content.
  2. The quality of your interactions.

The sad truth is that there’s an awful lot of information readily available for free. A lot of it comes from reputable sources.

The average reader is not looking for quality when they stumble upon your blog. They are looking for proof of the quality of your work.

They might think in terms of:

  1. How many followers do they have?
  2. How many people have read this article? How many likes has this article received? How many people commented?

They will deploy a lot of mental shortcuts before deciding to invest their precious time and mental energy to read your article.

That’s why one of the best marketing tactics you can use is to get other bloggers to mention you. That’s why guest blogging and interviews are still around.

Social proof.

People don’t want to go through the trouble of having to figure out how good you are. They want to be told how good you are. They want to know that when they click on your article, you’re the Picasso of blogging.

And, yes, when this becomes a fact, that’s when people will more than gladly pay a premium.

You Have to Tell a Story About How Good You Are

One way to look at building your social proof is by telling a story.

When someone visits my blog, and they go on my about page, they see this:

Image courtesy of the author

There’s an awful lot of social proof there.

I have over 140,000 followers, which is a respectable number for any individual blog out there. There’s more social proof in the form of social media accounts, and then there’s the fact that I do stuff. Or, to a first time visitor, it looks like I am doing stuff.

Maybe I am good, and odds are they’ll decide to read one of my most popular articles, all of which have been liked by over 2,000 people and have hundreds of comments.

That’s social proof.

As a side note, once they can’t ignore you anymore, you can get away with a lot of things. Just like the story about Pablo Picasso, you can demand more for your work, or get away with less than fantastic work.

I often say that the bottom is overcrowded, implying that the top is a better place to be in because of less competition, but that’s not all there is to it: there’s also the fact that no one goes hunting down the alpha of the pack.

People will be far less inclined to disagree with you, and they will be far more likely to act on your advice. That’s one benefit.

So, how do you build social proof?

Building Social Proof as a Beginner Blogger

Social proof is but the breadcrumbs that people can see when you build your online reputation. Everything you do, everything you write, every interaction, tends to leave a breadcrumb on the web.

The best tactic for a beginner blogger is to focus a disproportionate amount of energy and time towards getting those numbers up as fast as possible.

Going from 0 to 100 followers is the toughest battle a blogger ever has to fight, and it’s mostly because of lack of social proof.

First time visitors are reluctant to read your content (they don’t know how good you are), and they’re reluctant to subscribe (they don’t know if you’re going to be consistent, if you’ll keep blogging a year from now or not.)

These decisions take only seconds, but they have an emotional undertone we’re often unaware of.

In other words, no one wants to invest time and mental energy on a blogger who’s going to quit two months from now.

Everyone wants to read the best content on the web, and to do that, they deploy these mental shortcuts.

What you can do, however, is work on growing your audience.

That’s common sense advice, but I’d like to go a bit further and provide you with another piece of advice:

If you want them to be interested in you, first you’ve got to be interested in them.

No one cares how good you are until they know how much you care about them.

That’s why you need to invest more time and energy on the quality of the interactions you have with others.

Quality content is everywhere these days, but most people are willing to sacrifice a bit of quality, and maybe even spend a bit more time, if they are guaranteed an experience with someone who cares about their time and attention more than just about anyone else.

That’s why, as a networking tool, commenting on other blogs is so important.

That’s why it’s important to build genuine relationships with other bloggers, with whom you can collaborate on different projects, using each other’s social proof to further grow your audiences.

In today’s content saturated world, it’s not enough to be “so good they can’t ignore you.”

They will ignore you because they’ll take a look at your follower count and decide you’re not worth their time.

As a side-note, when it comes to posting frequency, I often advise people to post as often as it takes to build social proof on their posts. What I mean by this?

In simple terms, you need to spread your blogs apart so each article gets the chance to develop a conversation in the comments section. I define a conversation as 10 comments or more.

Why?

Because people usually prefer to read and engage with the most recent article, and if the second most recent article doesn’t have any comments, odds are no one’s ever going to read it or engage with it.

There’s nothing that recommends it as interesting.

Okay, let’s get back to you being interested in your readers.

How do you get to 10 comments faster?

By replying to each and every single comment you receive.

How do you get people to comment in the first place, especially when you’re first starting out?

By engaging with and commenting on a lot of other people’s content.

As a beginner, no matter how good you are, you’ve got to do everything you can to capture people’s attention.

Once you capture their attention, once they decide to give you a chance, that’s when you need to be able to show them just how good you are, how good your content is.


In order to become so good they can’t ignore you, you must first capture their attention:

  1. Comment on articles
  2. Engage bloggers directly (e-mail, social media)

This is a game of little by little.

And it’s a bit paradoxical, I admit. No one cares who you are until they know how good you are, but they’re also not willing to put in the time and effort to find out by themselves.

To be honest, if you’re really good, you just need someone to give you a bit of their time and attention. One chance, that’s it.

You need to get them to click on one of your articles, and then they’re hooked forever.

This is what makes blogging an art. It’s all connected somehow. Quality content, being genuinely interested in your readers, providing value, writing killer headlines, properly formatting an article.

Everything matters when you’re trying to become so good they can’t ignore you.

Because it’s easy for them to ignore you. In a world of half a billion blogs, it’s easy to close the tab, and that’s it. They’ll never see or hear from you ever again.

If you want to become a successful blogger, yes, focus on quality, but also be so interested they can’t ignore you. And when they do give you a bit of their focus, show them that you are so good they shouldn’t have ignored you.

10 thoughts on “99 Percent of Bloggers Aren’t Aware of This Simple Rule

  1. Years ago when I worked in advertising, one ad executive told me that great creative isn’t always the answer. “If everyone did great advertising, then bad advertising would stand out,” he said. He went on to explain that “you have to know your audience — figure out the best way to get their attention so they care enough to respond. “

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Thank you for this great article. I totally agree it’s a give and receives. If you are interested in them, they are interested in you and what you do. Growing a blog from 0 to 100 followers is really the hardest thing. I’m currently doing this with my second blog.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Rockin’ post. Love the Picasso story. It reminds me of the 1st oil painting I had in a gallery in 1992. It had been put in the front of the gallery so at night the security light kept it presented. A 4’ x 4’ diptych in oil entitled, “Chthonic Numinosity: Self.” Price: $3,600. A woman tugged on my elbow at the opening and motioned me over to it. “Tell me about it.” My eyebrows went up. “It graduated from me already, and has to speak for itself now.” “Well, I heard from a neighbor of yours that it took you 2 hours in a single afternoon. That’s $1,800 per hour. WAY to much.” “Oh, Thanks for letting me know you won’t be the buyer then.” (By this time I had put a face with a language structure and realized she was a very Marmy-know-it-all-Art-reviewer who life had somehow soured) So, levity and humor just hopped right into my court. I turned to walk away. “Mr. Hoggard. I’m not finished.” Turning back. “Oh, I thought you were. Excellent to be wrong. Cool. What else you got?” “2 hours and $3,600?” “No Madame. $3,600 for my whole life up to that point. After this valuable conversation, maybe I should double the price.” “Oh noooo you wont” as she raised up both hands motioning to the gallery owner. “Bring the read dot!” She pulled out her checkbook and bought it on the spot. I cocked my head, and “So, why all that preamble fuss?” She started almost giggling. “I just wanted to see if you were really a fun person or all defensive and stuff. I wouldn’t want to allow some piece of artwork in my home from a stiff. Now, it has a story to go with it. I know just where I’m going to put it.”

    “It took my whole life up to that point.” I’ll never forget that day. Indelible.

    Much like Picasso and your blog. They wonderfully speak for themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is great! I am new to this and I appreciate it very much… I am so new that I do not even have a tangible thought yet! I have been blogging for decades if only in my head… For me to be able to get them out is an art in itself.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.