“Popularity is the easiest thing in the world to gain and it is the hardest thing to hold.” – Will Rogers
If you write a blog and have any interest in growing, social proof is paramount to your success. Here’s a brief definition from Wikipedia:
Social proof, also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon that occurs in ambiguous social situations when people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior. Making the assumption that surrounding people possess more knowledge about the situation, they will deem the behavior of others as appropriate or better informed.
In other words, it helps people to understand that it is OK to like what you have to say. Social proof breaks down the barrier to tweeting, commenting and appreciating your content.
On blogs, we gather social proof by looking at sharing counters, the number of comments and the notoriety of those who share and comment. Plenty of great posts have been written about how to garner social proof.
This post will address the dark side of social proof in two key categories and what you can do, as a blogger, to use this information to improve your blog.
By dark side, I’m not talking about negativity. Negativity is a natural part of any extended social interaction. I’m talking about the lingering questions like:
- Should I care what other people say?
- Do I always say something worth repeating?
- Are these folks really being genuine?
- Is my content any better just because someone else noticed it?
Here Today Gone Tomorrow
The share buttons with counters on our blog, whether they are a retweets, Facebook shares or something else, give us and our visitors some indication as to the value of our content. We also know that people are more likely to retweet if someone else has already retweeted, so getting that ball rolling in the right direction is important.
So what’s the dark side here? Here are three areas to consider:
The Counter is Too Low
How do you deal with this?
If you’re new, accept that it takes time to build a following. Blogging is more like a 500-mile race, than a sprint. Keep at it.
It could also be that no one likes what you have to say. Seriously. Consider if you are really adding value, saying something different or speaking to any possible audience.
You might also need to work at promoting your blog. Comment, guest post, post more frequently, etc…
Also, ask yourself this: What is the true measure of success for your blog? Maybe it has nothing to do with the counters.
The Counter is Always High
Most of us don’t have to deal with this problem. However, if you are a successful blogger, could everything you say really be that great? (Well, maybe here it is. I would hate to wear out my guest post welcome on the first post!) Honestly, though, sometimes the masses just get it wrong. Did you see Pia Toscano get voted off of American Idol?!
If you agree with everything that someone says, you’re probably not listening. Look at your posts and see which are most popular. Which ones started the most conversations? Which led to the greatest increase in your sales funnel? What would be the next step you could take to create even more fans?
The Counter Goes From High to Low
You could be the blogging equivalent to music’s one-hit-wonder. At times, popular bloggers or sources might pick-up on some of your content but not all. Enjoy the applause that you get and work toward consistency.
It’s also possible that some of your content resonates with your readers and some does not. Do you get lazy on certain posts? Do posts with pictures perform better than those without? Look at the headlines of your most popular posts and find the clues.
On my new blog, I had an incident where, after a good amount of retweets (it’s relative), my Twitter counter reset to zero! Did that make my content less valuable? Fortunately, the counter issue resolved itself but it made me realize that I should want to write good content regardless of the response.
Using You for Your Comments
The dark side of your comment section is that people might be using your popularity for their own gain.
While this is another issue typically reserved for popular blogs, it can also be present on popular posts. It is a known strategy that posting in the comment section of a popular post can boost traffic to your site.
Why should you care? Well, if they are not being genuine, self-interested commenters can cause a lot of noise in an area where you are trying to initiate conversation.
The fix? Once again, enjoy the popularity. There are worse problems you could have.
Maybe those commenters have good intentions but haven’t heard back from you. Try to engage every commenter so that they are more likely to let their self-promoting guard down. Then ban those that won’t give up.
It’s Better Than You Think
Really, in the grand scheme of things, we are talking about a pretty weak dark side. For the most part, people have good intentions and you can trust that if your content is being noticed, you are doing something right.
Use those moments of doubt to propel you forward in your commitment to keep posting good content on a regular basis. Remind yourself of how you measure success. Don’t forget to promote your blog. And when you reach some level of success, stay humble and remember that not everything you say is (or has to be) revolutionary.
Vince Robisch is founder of ModernCopyStudio, a web content creation and social media strategy company. He regularly provides tips and resources on his blog in between other writing and social media assignments. He has what he terms, “an incredible family and an unhealthy affinity for sports.” Follow Vince on Twitter by looking for @vincerobisch.