What does it mean to be popular online?
Working in marketing and Public Relations I frequently run into this question. Do they have what you want? Are they doing what you want to be doing? There has to be some common ground on which people can relate before they could say an entity is popular. After a conversation regarding popularity with a good friend of mine, I began to contemplate why I thought this was important.
“Why is popularity even important? Why is having say a million “likes” on a page any different to begging? It doesn’t bring you anything. Is there a deeper philosophical notion to this? Are we being lead by the proverbial carrot?”
“Popularity can lead to several things, for big corps like Facebook and Google, it could easily mean more control, more money, larger reach and so on. For advertisers and smaller businesses, placing an ad on the most used website in the world offers a greater chance of reach and impact.”
Businesses want to become popular so that can earn their market’s recognition, trust, and loyalty. Once the audience become loyal they are more likely to refer this brand to their friends and family.
“For writers and artists, it could mean more credibility in our respective industries, giving us more opportunity to grow and share our views and abilities. Leading to more shows, more articles, higher sales, higher traffic; and ultimately the opportunity to do what we love while not having to worry about accommodations, food, entertainment, etc. The carrot, I suppose could represent our inner ambitions.”
This conversation made me remember an anecdote from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, where a man had written a brilliant scientific thesis. He undoubtedly had a hard time convincing scholarly officials that it is in fact credible and worthy of their interest. Without proper acknowledgement of a doctorate degree and industry experience he couldn’t find proper recognition The truth is, that piece of paper becomes a symbolic ticket for a higher influence and the opportunity to share your ideas with a relevant and interested audience.
With the internet becoming the new avenue for small business and entrepreneurs it has also seen an increase in media coverage. If someone were to request guest contribution on a popular blog, they would first have their Twitter, Linkedin or blog perused by the bigger blog. If the person is possesses a modest following the judgement could be that this writer is under qualified, in experienced or simply not popular enough. The big guys want traffic, eye balls and shares; that’s why they need a influential writer, one with pizzazz and silver fingers that is capable of producing hot articles.
I’ve found that this can often to lead to inflating the truth, omitting details, or simply lying. I see it everywhere, there’s even books published that teach writers how to manipulate the media. But, the big blogs don’t seem to care; they just want the traffic, eye balls and money.
It’s this illusion of credibility that will soon direct whom we collaborate with, affiliate ourselves with and do business with. The water’s are muddied when accounts begin buying followers, likes and shares. It’s all a facade created to distort our viewer’s perceptions of our influence. Once we have a long trail of followers, likes and a strong Klout score we are considered: influential in our industry.
Fake likes, irrelevant follows, controlled sharing, scrapers, SEO frauds, follow bots, and automated posts are destroying what we, as writer work damn hard for: an honest following, genuine content, and the right to write what we feel passionate for; not some article based around a handful of blasted keywords.
If content is the next best thing, show them what you can do.
I’m hoping that you, as the reader will contribute to this post with your own insight on popularity and what it means to you.