Prove it or lose it: how social proof can kill or fill your blog

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Picture this…

You’re walking down the street and the shop in the corner has a big glowing sign that says, “Marketing geniuses. We can pack any business with customers, leverage cutting-edge technology, make the world talk about you and get customers to run screaming to hand over their life-savings.”

Wow, nice promise. Global domination in a day.

Then, you peer in the window and see a dimly lit office, beat up furniture, a single person behind a desk, an IBM 386 on the desktop, a rotary phone, dust all over the place and the guy behind the desk kicked back reading a newspaper, drinking coffee and having a leisurely lunch at 2pm.

Mixed signals???

You bet. All the subtle cues, both what’s there and what’s not there, are screaming that the claims made in the window sign are more smoke and mirrors than guaranteed marketing magic.

  • If they’re so good, why is there only one guy?
  • Why is he having coffee and reading the paper in the middle of the afternoon?
  • Why is the computer off and the phone not ringing?
  • Why is his computer from the dark-ages?
  • Where are the testimonials, reviews and clippings that line the windows of successful shops?
  • Why have I never heard about them in marketing-circles?

Where’s the proof?

There’s an old saying in personal-development and even in business…fake it until you make it. And, there are times where that’s appropriate.

Problem is, there are other times where the substantial volume of direct, indirect and social proof strongly contradict your claims, undermine your credibility and, rather than bolstering your authority and appeal, make you look downright silly and untrustworthy. They reveal you as a fake.

I’ve been seeing this happen more and more in the world of blogging and social-media lately.

Don’t get me wrong, I still consider myself very much a newbie blogger and social-media user, but I DO know a thing or two about direct-marketing, PR, small business and the psychology of persuasion and sales.

And, it wouldn’t hurt for anyone who gets into online business, marketing or platform-building to learn a bit about a little topic called…

Social proof–the DNA of belief.

Social proof is the combined effect of the many indirect elements or circumstances that lead people, especially prospects, to believe that what you are saying is not total B.S. If you work it really well, social proof can even make people believe you’re worth MORE than the blah, blah, blah that appears in your materials. This is true for business-owners, pundits, professionals and, yes, even social-medialites and bloggers.

What are major types of social proof in the online/blogging world?

  • RSS/Feedcount – how many subscribers do you have? Depending on your niche, this number can either support or shred claims of value and expertise. For example, ProBlogger.net posts and boasts more than 45,000 RSS subscribers. This makes you think, “if so many people subscribe, they must know something about blogging.”
  • Traffic – If you’re traffic is huge, you are probably happy to disclose it, but, if not, people can still get a good beat on it by using the Alexa Toolbar and browser add-ons. For the first year, the popular bloggers’ blog, DoshDosh.com, did not post its RSS count, but it’s Alexa rank revealed a high level of traffic. And, traffic is social proof of perceived-value.
  • Google Page Rank – Google assigns every indexed web page a relevance rank called Page Rank (PR). Does your PR validate your claims or popularity or expertise?
  • Google organic search – Does your blog/website pull up near the top or on the front page of organic search results for your most important keywords?
  • Comment volume & quality – how many comments do you get, how in-depth are they? Successful-blog.com’s Liz Strauss is legendary for posts that lead to hundreds of comments.
  • Design – is your theme/design custom, attractive or is it either unattractive, unprofessional or one that everyone else uses, leaving it completely undifferentiated?
  • Testimonials – Yes, if I say I am great, I am just being an idiot, but if a dozen others say it, it’s gospel. Remarkablogger.com’s Michael Martine features testimonials for his blog-consulting services right on the front page.
  • Press/Media/Big Bloggers – These are like testimonials on steroids, if the press or other major bloggers say it, it simply must be true (or at least you’re important enough to be on their radar). So, when Lifehacker’s Gina Trapani says take a look or Guy Kawasaki says go play at Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist, people say, “wow, Guy and Gina approve and they’re pretty smart, busy people.”
  • Content quality – Is your content high-value or rambling nonsense? Is your blog a go-to resource, like Brian Clark’s Copyblogger, Naomi Dunford’s IttyBiz.com, Anita Campbell’s SmalBizTrends.com or James Chartrand’s MenWithPens.ca? Your information doesn’t have to be long, it just has to deliver value, like Seth Godin’s short, yet insightful riffs. Enough value to get people talking, that’s where the social aspect comes in.
  • Content/ad ratio – do you have substantially more content than advertising? This suggests you may be more interested in how much money you can take from the community than how much value you can add. It reads as spammy.
  • Technorati rank/backlinks – What is your technorati rank, how many other sites have recently linked to yours and are they popular or not? These days, too, being listed in AllTop.com is emerging as in interesting source for social proof.
  • Social media tags – Some bloggers place social media tags/buttons that show how many votes a particular article has received as a way to facilitate voting. Digg and Sphinn buttons that show vote counts are pretty common. This may help, during a post’s “hot period.” And, if it hits the frontpage or gets a ton of votes, the high vote-count can serve as social proof of popularity. But, if the article doesn’t make it or gets very few votes, it acts as negative social proof…take the tag down.
  • Claim-specific validators – What other industry-specific factors might be used to prove value? For example, if you claim to be a social media expert, like Chris Brogan, Tamar Weinberg, Steve Rubel or Muhammad Saleem, how well-established is your presence and following on the major social media hubs? If you’re an SEO, do you rank well? if you teach tennis on your blog, have you ever won a match? Make sure the the claim-specific validators support your claims.

Some of these factors are easily quantified by tools and considered in a conscious way. Others compound to create a sense of credibility and importance on a subtler, more sub-conscious way. Regardless of the level of consideration…

Social proof can strongly bolster your reputation and perceived value.

The more the elements of social proof either sync with the claims you make or, even better, make the claims for you, the more effective it is as a tool for persuasion. In fact, it’s often equally, if not more effective when it comes to selling, because people want to work with people who are perceived to be respected and sought-after by others.

BUT, social media can also strongly lessen your appeal and, even worse, if the available social proof contradicts your claims, it can make you look like a newbie, a liar or, worse, a con-artist.

And, I’ve been seeing this very phenomenon increasingly in the world of blogging and social media. Everywhere I look, it seems people are launching blogs and websites, calling themselves social media consultants, experts or gurus, traffic and conversion masters and online-money-making mavens. But, then you start looking at the social proof and their claims fall apart.

I recently visited the blog of a social media consultant and found the following social proof warring with the person’s claims of expertise.

  • The blog’s Alexa rank was over 1 million, showing very little traffic. This tells me either they are very new to the field or they don’t know how to drive traffic.
  • There was an average of only 2 comments for every 5 posts and most were not comments that added significantly to the conversation. That shows an inability to effectively engage readers.
  • The RSS Feedcount showed under 50 subscribers. Is that okay for a newish blogger? Sure. But, for a social media consultant, no way. It belies their ability to not only drive traffic, but offer enough value to inspire commitment or regular social ineraction.
  • The design was a commonly used stock-theme. Alone, this is not a huge problem, but added to the mounting wave of social proof, it doesn’t look good.
  • There were no testimonials, no media or press quotes and the Technorati rank was in the teens with fewer than 25 back-links.
  • The content was short, which, if high-value, is fine. But, in this case, it was not. It was more about riffing on the day’s news, repeating what was being said on other more authoritative blogs and linking to other stories that had already gone popular on the major social media hubs or been in the news. And…
  • The person’s followings at the major social-media hubs were not compelling.

So, here, were have someone trying to leverage a blog to position themselves as a social media expert, trying to fake it until they make it, but a mountain of social proof strongly contradicts any claim of expertise. What’s the big take-away?

Understand the importance of social-proof in the online world.

When it supports your efforts, leverage it. When it doesn’t, don’t. And, when it strongly contradicts claims you’d like to make, especially if the proof is something outside your immediate control…you’d be well-advised to reconsider making those claims until you’ve got the ability to put-up or shut-up.

So, what do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? What’d I leave out?

I am also especially interested in your thoughts on the intentional inclusion of on-blog social-proof devices, like RSS feed-counts.

Fire away gang…

And, hey why stop at commenting? Let’s get everyone talking about social proof. Spread the word on Twitter, just click the “Tweet This” link below and share this article with your followers.

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47 responses

47 responses to “Prove it or lose it: how social proof can kill or fill your blog”

  1. I’m with you on this. Fake it ’till you make it but you’d better back it up.

    Reminds me of my computer tech shop. Dirty? Omigod. The floor is half tiled, the carpet is torn, everyone is smoking INSIDE (isn’t that against the law?), there are wires and parts and pieces all over and a Playboy Bunny calendar on the wall (okay, they can keep that one).

    The owner boasts of huge success. “We’re good. We’re damned good. We’ve handled X, Y, and Z’s computers.”

    Yes. They’re good, damned good, and I trust them with my stuff. But every time this owner starts running his mouth off, I can’t help but think:

    Liar.

    Thanks for the link, Jonathan. (and the kind words! We’re a go-to reference!)

  2. There’s being good and there are those who appear to be good. Sometimes those who are good at appearing to be good are actually good, because appearing to be good is something you have to work for.

    Not being good and appearing to be not good is, how shall I say it, not good.

  3. Chad says:

    Hey nice list Jonathan!

    I agree with all except a few points:

    – Google PR used to be a good indicator, and since the PR update late last year, I think most marketers will agree that it is a worthless indicator of a great blog.

    – As for advertising. I’m not so sure that the ratio is as important as the relevant and quality of the advertisment. If you have some good advertisers on your site it can actually add credibility to the site the same way you mentioned that readership numbers can.

  4. Cool list! One correction: I don’t claim I’m a social media expert.

    I like what’s there, and I’m excited about some of what you’ve put up for credibility measures. Actions and not words clearly matter, and the actions of the blogosphere (in sharing links, and providing traffic, etc) make a difference.

    Thanks for a thoughtful post.

  5. marco says:

    Great post and great insights. The web in general and social media developments in specific is THE great meritocritizing agent of the world.

    Instincts and analysis that makes sense and resonates rises to the top through viral dissemination and fluff sinks to the bottom.

    Reminds me very much of the book “The Wisdom of Crowds…” (http://www.amazon.com/Wisdom-Crowds-Collective-Economies-Societies/dp/0385503865)

  6. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ James – Yeah, saying it yourself is very different than when others say it about you.

    @ Lyndon – “Not being good and appearing to be not good is, how shall I say it, not good.” Still working out the triple negatives!

    @ Chad – I think the jury is still out on PR, with certain communities still viewing it as a stronger indicator than others, but I agree, it’s looks like it may have played itself out. Great point on advertising, too, the nature of the ads plays a role as well as the ratio.

    @ Chris – See, that’s how good your social proof is, I think CR and social media wizard pops into my head! In the end, I totally agree, social media can sway opinion, but actions and true abilities are still the touchstone of enduring success.

  7. thom singer says:

    I think that you are right in your points, but there is a line between someone being an “online rock-star A-lister”, “a quality resource without a big following” and “a poser fake”.

    One might get the impression from this post that you need to start at the top with a huge platform or grow it quickly or you are going to be labled a fraud. Thinking there is some middle ground here.

    I don’t claim to be a social media expert, but I am learning a lot about the subject by participating in several communities. I might never be as big an online celebrity as Penelope Trunk, Steve Rubel or others, but does that make me irrelivant? God I hope not.

    The great part about social online media is it allows everyone to have their voice out there. Some are listened to more often, but anyone who wants to gets to play. By the nature of life not everyone gets to be on the top of the “stats”, but if that is the only sign of success then we are breeding a lot of failure into the system.

    I think the advice here is not to “lie”, as you will get found out in a transparent digital world. But we learned not to lie in kindergarten (well…many of us did), and I think that using these new tools to be part of the conversation is always a victory….even if you do not become one of the famous ones in the social online world.

    In the end, traffic and stats are important, but just be genuine and you will do just fine. I have spent little time on how to deal with growing stats, but I do get speaking engagements and other interviews from my online presence. I try to deliver value and just share my points of view.

    I think that many are being scared away from social media as they think they missed the boat at being an “A-lister” on blogs, twitter, etc…. I think that is bad because these tools are there just to be a not a race to the top.

  8. Love it. LOVE IT. Would even love it if I wasn’t in it. (Maybe not as much, but we won’t talk about that.)

    You rule. Stumbled and Tweeted. (You know what? I hate “tweeted”. From now on, I’m saying “twittered”. Forget the crowds, I’m bucking the trend. Cause dammit, I’m a social media expert.)

  9. Webconomist says:

    Very good points.

    I think PR became a hype point and so Google knocked it off the block; a poor metric now.

    In the consulting world, “Social-Proof DNA” would be called “Evidence”, since you’re selling your objective smarts. Evidence takes the form of Case Studies and your “Logo Soup” on the clients page and brochure.

    There are NO rule books or Best Practices standards for the Web. Cost of entry is easy. It makes it an easy space to hang a shingle and “appear” to be more than you are. You’ve listed some good “measurements” though. There’s no “verisign” to say who’s real and who isn’t.

    These are some good metrics. I think honesty is a good policy, at intevix, we’re not that old as a current entity, but we brought our clients together to form a new style of consultancy; we don’t claim to be experts. Just professional. The Social Proof therefore, has yet to be added to the proverbial pudding ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. I’m flattered and thrilled to be on the list! Now, I wonder where I got the idea to beef up my client testimonials? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    What I really loved about this article, Jonathan, was how you went point-by-point over the bad example. I am so with you regarding all these terribly mediocre blogs where people have styled themselves as experts when they clearly are not.

    Great list to help people separate the wheat from the chaff!

  11. Liz Strauss says:

    I’m thrilled that you wrote this post, not because I’m in it, but because you’re bringing out what’s been bothering me for some time. In a world where folks are preaching authenticity and transparency, this is one point on which they don’t see to think it applies. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. natasha says:

    Hi,

    I think you’re being too hard on people. I mean, starting a blog and getting traffic is hard. It’s clear that you’re very good at it, but you’re a professional! Not everyone is able to create their own theme and get a hundred readers within one month of starting a blog, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t still express themselves through blogging. And when it comes to blogging, it’s hard to fake popularity.

    Getting traffic and comments is probably very easy for you but it’s not for everyone. And I have a feeling this isn’t your first blog/site either.

  13. pico says:

    I can tell if I like a blog then subscribe to it, whether it written by social media expert, technologeek or just ordinary blogger. I don’t need social proof to justify what I like and dislike.

    I will not approve this post for Indonesian readers, because there are no social media expert here, yet they are observers and the traditional mainstream still rule. So it would be very hard to get social proof today in Indonesia.

    When it comes to deal with new things, everyone test every aspects, thus develop a maturity. However people in need of the expertise perhaps better read this post as reference then decide for them selves. Good post.

    People do misjudge. Remember Galileo.

  14. This issue drives me crazy because when I start to think about it, I can’t decide if I should or shouldn’t post my blog stats. They aren’t giganormous by any means, but I have a solid readership.

    And, no matter my stats, I know I am not chaff.

  15. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ thom – spot on, be genuine, offer value and, eventually, the stats will catch up. Then, if you want to leverage them, go for it

    @ Naomi – i think it’s really just social media goddess, when it comes to you!

    @ Webconomist – goes back to what thom was saying, keep it real, and let others make the claims for you when you’ve demonstrated value

    @ Michael – how could I leave out the original blog-consulting gangsta?

    @ Liz – yeah, I’ve wanted to write this for a while, just didn’t know the best way to approach it, but I think the message is pretty straight forward.

    @ natasha – it’s not about getting traffic or stats, it’s about creating value, directing people to that value, then letting the proof build. And, you’re absolutely right, it is really hard work. I am still (at least in my mid) very much on the newbie side of the spectrum. One of the things that let me find an audience was the research I did for months before starting my blog. No such thing as overnight success. I’ll write more on this soon.

    @ Hayden – Yeah, had an interesting discussion on Twitter about posting feedcounts and we didn’t come up with any hard and fast rules. It really depends very much on your topic, niche, style and why you are blogging.

    FYI – Maki, from DoshDosh didn’t post his feedcount until he hit 10,000 RSS, yowzers!

  16. Blog consulting gangsta… you know, I like that! ๐Ÿ™‚ Now I need to put together a rap!

    @Natasha – You said it yourself: Jonathan is a professional. What Jonathan is talking about are people who are clearly not professional but who (unconvincingly) pass themselves off as such. I’ve been blogging for nearly 10 years, and only became a blog consultant last year. If I had only just started blogging and decided I was going to be a blog consultant, I would be a joke.

    @Liz – Great point! Yes, exactly.

  17. natasha says:

    I guess what I meant was that just because someone isn’t a professional writer and marketer like Jonathan doesn’t mean he or she shouldn’t start a blog as a way of expressing himself, even if it doesn’t have a lot of readers. I might start a blog soon, because even though I’m not a professional writer or marketing guru, I still have something to say. Michael is clearly very skilled at it, but not everyone is.

  18. Could not agree more. Too many newbies are putting up a blog and calling themselves experts overnight. In a sense, the same thing is happening on twitter when you get a new follower. They are following 2000 for example and have only 200 following them. And when you go to their Web site, they call themselves experts.

    Prove it or lose it, I too am glad you posted this. It is about time someone did.

  19. natasha says:

    Don’t forget that you were a “newbie” too at one point, Grant.

  20. Mary says:

    @natasha I don’t think anyone is saying you shouldn’t have a blog as a way of expressing yourself and sharing your unique perspective with the world – in fact, that’s probably a better reason to start blogging than for money or fame or whatever else. But you probably wouldn’t want to start a blog tomorrow and then advertise yourself as a blogging expert next week. There is also a difference in approach between people who blog to promote their business and those who do it just for ‘fun.’ But even if you don’t have a business, your blog reflects your personal brand, so issues like this are worth considering. You can never go wrong by being yourself.

  21. Natasha — Couldnt agree more. However, I did not come out of the gate claiming to be an expert. I have been blogging for over 3 years and I read “how to blog” blogs daily. I learn something new everyday and hope that never stops. What does bother me are those who are brand new to blogging and from day one, call themselves experts.

  22. “itโ€™s not about getting traffic or stats, itโ€™s about creating value, directing people to that value, then letting the proof build.”

    Yes, but by its very definition this is a process, and depending on where you come in to view the end result, you could end up drawing very inaccurate conclusions.

    IOW: You can’t say in one breath “experts must show social proof that (sorry) proves their worth as experts” and then say “it’s all about creating value, directing people to that value and letting it build” in the next without some measure of conflict between those two pronouncements.

    One is a static state, the other is a process. If you judge a site or a consultant too early in the process, then, as Natasha pointed out, you’re being too hard on ’em.

    @Grant: yes, and I’ve been blogging for eight years, but I still learn from newcomers, every day.

  23. Sandra says:

    Re: “Content/ad ratio – do you have substantially more content than advertising? This suggests you may be more interested in how much money you can take from the community than how much value you can add. It reads as spammy.”

    Should this read “-do you have substantially more advertising than content?” You kind of threw me.

    Regardless, great blog post! Even if it did make me uneasy. I have been blogging for 3 years. My technorati ranking is in the 6 digits (terrible I know). I don’t have many subscribers, but it is growing a bit. My blog started as a marketing tool for my e-commerce site, but grew into so much more for me. Maybe I have delusions of grandeur and my content isn’t as compelling as I think it is, especially since bloggers in my niche seem to be getting more comments than me.

    But my niche is small and very specialized. I am going to assume that this blog post is directed more at “experts” in blogging versus experts who blog. I’m part of the latter so the rankings and all that jazz are more difficult to achieve – at least that’s what I tell myself so I don’t feel like such a loser. =)

  24. social proof says:

    […] blog, have you ever won a match? Make sure the the claim-specific validators support your claims. Prove it or lose it: how social proof can kill or fill your blog | Awake At The Wheel | Personal Gro… Blog Traffic With Social […]

  25. spostareduro says:

    Nobody begins their blogging journey with high traffic, above 50 RSS readers, or otherwise ‘stat’ gods / goddesses. Innovation is not always noted in the analytics. Expertise is not necessarily shown by followers and a -lister attention. Sometimes, an expert is an expert when he / she sees the under – traveled road and is wise enough to take it.

  26. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ everyone – love the conversation, quick point. This column is not intended to persuade or dissuade ANYONE from blogging.

    The bigger picture message is simply to shine the light on the exploration of online social proof, some of which we can control, but much of which, we cannot.

    Knowing the “subtler” elements that influence the perception of value, beyond the content of the blog, may help you understand what contributes to shaping the opinions of readers and contributing to or taking away from any perceived authority.

    It can also help you steer clear of some blunders.

    So, blog or don’t blog, that is totally up to you, I’d blog regardless of my stats, because I am a writer and it lets me do what I do.

    But know that there will be other factors that will be readily available to savvy surfers that may play into the overall basket of “perceived” proof of authority, value or popularity.

  27. Michelle says:

    Hmmm…I agree to a degree with social proof. However,in some blogging circles it is like trying to get in with the popular kids in high school. I’ve been blogging for 4 years now…it’s a niche health/diet/food related topic, and the A-List food bloggers will barely take notice of me. I’ve been in The New York Times, Newsweek, Epicureus, Energy Times magazine, The Daily News, The NY Post, etc. – you get the idea. I host an annual benefit for a prestigious medical center that treats the related condition, etc. Some long winded blogger of the same niche comes along and for some crazy reason gets listed on one of the most popular leading food blogs in the world. It gets to the point where some of these blogs have soooo many blogs listed, in my opinion, there is no humanely possible way they can keep up with them all for quality control purposes. So, new blogger gets noticed by all the other A-list bloggers,gets a tiny spot on Food Network, writes a book (I’ve been approached by 5 book agents btw but I don’t brag about it online) and then to the thinking person it becomes obvious…every A-List food blogger has a book coming out and they one by one started featuring each others books! My competitor, turns out her book is full of mistakes, but would any of the non-related regular food bloggers catch those? No! It then becomes like a lot of todays “experts” where people think “if they are on TV then they must be Somebody”. Yeah, right. I have to wonder if people network with other blogs that are geographically located in areas they want their future book to be featured. I stick with quality and even though it seems that others are more “popular” statistically, I feel that the wheat will be separated from the chaff in the long haul. It’s not that I’m jealous, I just feel (well, know, but this is not the place to discuss everything) that favors are being traded and that is what truly annoys me.

  28. Jonathan- Excellent checklist. Bookmarked and subscribed. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Jan

  29. spostareduro says:

    Michelle’s point is the one that makes the most sense. And its sad to say.

  30. Klaus says:

    Again, excellent article!
    However, I think your description of the content/ad ratio is flawed – I prefer more content than ads and do not consider more content as spammy ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Klaus

  31. I caught this post a bit later than all y’all, which is maybe a good thing in that I can bring up Seth Godin’s “signal-to-noise” observation. The post went up today, and basically says that recently, he’s noticed a decline in his ability to count on the internet to deliver great stuff. Meaning, there’s always been a lot of crap, but the amount of crap to gems (original thinking, thoughtful commentary, good writing) has really spiked of late.

    Like Jonathan, I’d hate to discourage anyone with a passion for something and a gift for sharing it from getting online and putting it out there. But christ on a bike, I wish the get-rich-quick schemers would find some other bridges to sell.

    I guess this is the downside of things reaching critical mass. Sigh…

  32. […] expanding upon this article by Jonathan Fields. (Jonathan Fields – awake@thewheel) which I saw submitted in […]

  33. SK says:

    Great post. I think some of the commenters missed the author’s point: that value is perceived, and social proof can add to or detract from that perception.

    Expertise is relative. One person’s newbie is another’s expert. Personally, I’d rather learn about computers from someone with 2 years more experience than me that I would from Bill Gates – of the two experts, the former is more relevant to me.

    People are free to say what they want. It’s up to them to back up their image, and up to readers to decide who they feel is credible. Social proof is only one component of the credibility package.

    -Blogging newbie =)

  34. […] you? Take you seriously? Is the amount of advertising you require to make a decent return going to detract from the rest of your site? I donโ€™t have the answer to these questions for anyone other than ourselves. You have to think […]

  35. LJ says:

    Has anyone noticed that Jonathan always postpones the date that comments will be closed and never actually closes them?

    That said, Michelle is right. It can be really frustrating to have a blog for YEARS that’s barely noticed. I don’t understand it.

  36. Dave Navarro says:

    Great post, Jonathan – you just reminded me that all my testimonials are on my sales pages and I need to work them into additional places on my blog.

    *thwack!*

  37. I completely agree that social proof is validating, especially if one bills themselves as a “social media expert.” What’s a little more gray is when people claim other expertise–are they also held to such a high bar if they don’t participate in all those sites? Participation in social media doesn’t equate with quality content on other topics.

    The one thing I fear is that sometimes we lose focus of the content we’re trying to deliver…and end up focusing too much on the external validation. I wrote about the whole popularity contest we sometimes get wrapped up in last week–I’d certainly enjoy your thoughts on how that plays out when we meet this weekend.

    This is a really phenomenal post, Jonathan! I’m sad to be late to the party with subscribing to your blog (just saw it on Liz’s SOB Con list!–see you there). Cheers.

  38. Number of readers in a feed reader is an interesting stat. However, I don’t think it says as much as your post implies.

    Feed readers may only show the ability to drive traffic in one area (blog)–whereas a client may need it in another (video).

    Overall point about social proof, however.

    What social proof constitutes is a bit subjective and particularly protean in the new media space.

  39. […] toolbar PageRank contributes to the social proof that influences perceived authority, just like Jonathon Fields wrote earlier this week (super […]

  40. […] After reading on social proof for bloggers [thanks @ittybiz!], I knew I had to make a change. A degree isn’t worth as much in the […]

  41. […] How Social Proof Can Kill or Fill Your Blog by Jonathon […]

  42. If I find a small blog (I mean one with little or no traffic) and I like it I am likely to comment and keep coming back to it but it’s also true that if I see a blog with 45000 subscribers, even if I’m not crazy about it, I’ll still subscribe if it’s in my niche and try to comment whenever I can.
    It’s a bit like high school, everyone wants to be seen hanging out with the popular kids.

  43. […] Prove it or lose it: how social proof can kill or fill your blog […]

  44. seobro says:

    Love the “IBM 386 on the desktop”. This guy is really kickin’ it “ol skool”. I got a good laugh, but you have a point.

    Your presentation should reflect the latest technology. Being unfamiliar with new trends and techniques equals death in this biz.

  45. Carrie says:

    How I arrive at a website does a good deal for my personal opinion of how “worthy” the site is. Only recently I’ve noticed that Google searching will deliver me to poorly designed sites crammed full of text. I used to almost immediatly trust those sites, but now the poor design of Top google sites has begun to bother me.

    Following links from one blog to another is currently my prefered means of finding good content to read. It’s almost like I can allow my peers on the internet to filter the web for me.

  46. […] with customers, leverage cutting-edge technology, make the world talk about you and get custohttp://jonathanfields.com/blog/prove-it-or-lose-it-how-social-proof-can-kill-or-fill-your-blog/Our global warming rage lets global hunger grow Daily TelegraphWe drive, they starve. The mass […]

  47. Attin says:

    You give such a good points. I agree with all social proof. Thanks!