Guest Post: Muhammad Saleem is a social media consultant and a top-ranked community member on multiple social news sites.
What the passage is essentially saying is that the rich and influential will get richer and more influential. However, what the passage doesn’t tell you is what happens to the not-so-rich and not-so-influential in the process. Sociologist Robert Merton uses the phenomenon to explain (in science, for example) how if there are two scientist, one is prominent and one is largely unknown, and both of them independently do the same work, credit will end up going to the already famous scientist.
Now if you apply the same principle to the blogosphere, the problem you start having is that if there is a relatively young and insightful blogger who is going up against an already established blogger with an extensive audience, it’s incredibly difficult for the younger blogger to break through. As James Surowiecki makes the case in his book The Wisdom of Crowds, ‘ideas are meant to triumph not because who is (or who is not) advocating them but because of their inherent value…’ but in reality this is hard (though not impossible) to come by.
Image by Toddheft
So how do you fight the Mathew Effect? Here’s a start:
1. Work harder
From my personal experience, what I’ve seen is that as people’s influence grows, they tend to get lazy and put less work into their subsequent content. You can stand out by working harder. This doesn’t mean writing more (per post) but this means being consistent, not taking days off, and writing when others are not (weekends and holidays).
The ‘big boys and girls’ of blogging often get stuck in their ways. By approaching the same instances from a unique perspective, or focusing on niches that no one else is attending to, you can create a substantial audience for yourself (an audience that others are just ignoring). Only write when you have something fresh to say and do your best to stay out of regurgitation circles.
As you’re working from the bottom to the top, don’t forget that you are not alone. Not only are there hundreds of others in the same position as you, but there are also those who remember being in the same position as you. By collaborating with your peers (i.e. guest writing on their sites) you can instantly forge new relationships and reach much wider audience. Take my own experience for example, I have given some of my best work to copyblogger, readwriteweb, searchengineland, centernetworks, pickthebrain, and other sites. Not only have I made everlasting friendships with the owners of these sites, but my contributions helped a completely new and much larger audience appreciate my work and ultimately subscribe to my feed for more of the same.
4. Use your network
We don’t live on a ‘you build it and they’ll come’ web. Our attention spans are decreasing and we’re facing information overload. The onus lies on you to draw people in. This means utilizing your network as much as you can. If you’re on a microblogging platform (i.e. Twitter) share your content there, if you’re on a social network (i.e. Facebook) send your content to your friends, and if you’re on a social news/blookmarking site (i.e. Digg/Del.icio.us) try to get your content some attention there. start with the people closest to you (i.e. most likely to give you a chance and convert to long-term/loyal readers) and expand outwards. Don’t be afraid to reach out to anyone (people are more willing than you think).
5. Don’t get discouraged
There will be many instances where more influential people will write something incredibly similar to what you’ve written, and after you’ve written, and still manage to not only get all the attention, but also the credit. I remember this happening to me about 14 months ago (a story I had written was re-written by another blogger, probably not intentionally, 3 hours after me, and he got all the credit) and I was absolutely infuriated. I was mad, perhaps irrationally, at the other blogger, but more than that I was mad at the readers for flocking to that site instead of mine. Don’t let events like these let you down, rise above them.
By staying true to these five simple principles, and given some time, you too can break through the barrier and get people to listen to you when you speak.