How did a boring blog post get shared over 3000 times?

I was emailed today by a reader, who pointed me to a blog post she’d just seen. She noticed something VERY suspicious… an exploit was being used to trick the blog’s readers.

As a lot of people get taken in by this exploit, I thought I would answer her question here.

How a poorly written post got over 3000 shares on social networks

I am not going to call out the blogger my reader noticed, who was using this trick. It’s not my style. Also, it’s a common trick and I don’t want to single out one person for using it.

So, what did my reader see?

  • The post in question was published just 4 days ago.
  • It has over 3000 shares across the various social networks.
  • However, only 4 people commented on it.
  • It’s just a generic post, poorly written and littered with errors. Other posts on that blog are of the same quality and they also get thousands of re-shares.
  • The blog carries ads for get rich products and was not professionally designed. It’s extremely hard to read.
  • Yet… it got over 3000 shares.

To put that 3000 number into context, it was more shares than Copyblogger and Seth Godin’s blog managed, combined, with their posts on the same day! They are 2 of the most read marketing blogs in the world, with massive audiences.

Here’s how the trick works

The blogger in question is one of many, who has found a way to game the system by joining automated, social re-share networks. These are groups of Internet marketers, who use software / apps to automatically re-share everything that everyone in their network publishes. By joining a handful of such networks, with a few hundred in each, you get hundreds or thousands of reshares for anything you publish.

Why do they do this? Because it fools most people into thinking the blogger and their work are popular and valued. It’s all about the power of Social Proof.

Re-share networks and fake social proof

The number of shares a blog post gets on social networks is used by readers, as a way to assess the value of the content and the ability of the writer. They look at those huge numbers and assume the information in the blog post must be great (otherwise why would so many people share it?). The answer, of course, is that it wasn’t people who re-shared it… it was software!

Other’s then legitimately re-share the post, even if they think it’s crap, simply because they see it’s (apparently) so popular and assume they must be wrong.

As you probably know, you can buy Twitter followers and Facebook fans. Well, you can also pay for a series of automated Twitter and Facebook accounts to retweet and ‘like’ your posts. These are slightly different from re-share networks and even harder to spot. A simple search on Google shows just how common these services are.

With re-share numbers so valuable, it was only a matter of time before internet marketers figured out a way to game the system. Anyone can do it now. Some, like the blogger in question, have taken this to ridiculous lengths. Most join only a few, small re-share networks, to make it less obvious.

Trust your instincts or pay the price

The reader who contacted me, trusted her instincts. She knew that a dull blog post, on a cheap looking blog, with just 4 people commenting, does not get 3000 legitimate social network shares.

You too must use your instinct. Don’t automatically assume that you can trust information you read online, because it has a massive number of retweets, likes, pluses and pins etc. If something seems like bullshit, go with your gut.

In short: Before you trust a blogger or what they write, look beyond their social network numbers. Anyone can get hundreds of re-shares and the practice is spreading. Trust your instincts.

PS: Here are some tips on how to spot the fakes.

How to get what you want from your business

If you have been struggling to get the results you want from your business, this marketing tip could be just what you’re looking for.

As you may have already discovered, the marketplace doesn’t really care about what you want.

Your family cares. Your friends care. I care… however, the marketplace cares about what it wants — not what you want.

So, how do you get what you want from your business?

It works like this: You can get whatever it is you want, providing you look at things a little differently. Instead of focusing on how your business will generate the revenues or profits you want, you need to focus on what the marketplace wants.

You then align what the marketplace wants, with what you want.

Here’s a useful way to begin:

  • Find out, exactly what you want from your business. Get specific. Write it down. Add numbers, financial figures, assets and timescales.
  • Next, you need to uncover what your marketplace wants. A good place to start looking, is to learn what their most pressing problems are. Monitoring social networks is one of the best ways to do this. Follow their conversations until you know what they want. Listen. Really listen.
  • Finally, you need to figure out how to get them what they want, in a way that works for you commercially.

Is this easy? No.

Is it possible? Of course.

Is it worth it? Absolutely!

PS: The bigger the “want” you provide, the bigger the rewards you will receive.

Are you making a noise or making a difference?

It’s easy to add to all the noise out there.

  • Pester people with special offers via social networks.
  • Invite people to your desperate sales video webinar.
  • Retweet that guru who has already been retweeted thousands of times.
  • Write predictable, “me too” blog posts.
  • Agree with whatever the popular opinion of the day is.

The thing is, no one is demanding more noise.

Training people to ignore you

You can’t benefit from the noise deficit, because there isn’t one. So, all the noise makers do is train people to ignore them. Sure, they may have followers, but no one is listening to them. They may have our email address, but their emails don’t get opened or acted on. If they stopped making their noise, we wouldn’t miss them at all.

The difference deficit

Where there is a deficit, is with people who are making a difference. These are the rare people we eagerly subscribe to. These are the people we look forward to hearing from. They add something of value to us and our business. They make a difference. A positive, meaningful difference.

Most importantly, these are the people we miss when they are not there.

And that’s also the best way to determine if your marketing is making a noise or making a difference. It’s a tough question to ask and answer, but would people miss your marketing if it stopped?

Tip: If you need to push your marketing because people are not spreading it, they probably wouldn’t miss it. If people spread the word for you, (send your newsletter to their friends, reshare your work, etc) … you’re making a difference.

Facebook Business Pages: Why your results just nosedived

As some of you may know, the new Facebook Business Page strategy was recently leaked. It has prompted an outcry from business owners.

Here’s why

A leaked slide deck shows that organic (unpaid) posts you share via your Facebook Business Page, will reach fewer and fewer people. As Advertising Age put it:

“If they haven’t already, many marketers will soon see the organic reach of their posts on the social network drop off, and this time Facebook is acknowledging it.” [Full article]

A number of you have asked me to share my thoughts, so here they are!

As long time readers will know, I dislike Facebook’s approach to the privacy of Facebook users and the way it tends to say one thing and do the other. However, from a business perspective it has one undeniable asset. It has well over a billion users. It’s by far the biggest social network, though Facebook recently admitted that the number of daily users is dropping.

How Facebook initially lured business owners

With such a huge network, Facebook found it easy to convince business owners to get a free, Business Page. Facebook offered the opportunity for businesses and brands to connect with their marketplace and provided lots of free tools. It seemed too good to be true.

So, business owners invested heavily in promoting their Facebook Pages in their marketing. Signs sprung up everywhere, with businesses and brands asking people to “find us on Facebook”.

Encouraged by so-called Facebook experts (who have zero advance warning of Facebook policy changes), many made the mistake of using their free Facebook Page, as their primary way to connect with their community.

Facebook then made a BIG change to the rules

In autumn 2012, Facebook was discovered to be doing something that would change things completely for Business Page users:

Facebook was found “[…] quietly altering one of its key algorithms in September, so that companies with pages that have large numbers of followers can now only reach a fraction of the followers they used to with each post.” Business Insider.

Suddenly, people who were asked to “Find us on Facebook”, couldn’t see what Facebook Business Page owners were posting!

Facebook denied any wrongdoing and said the move was intended to enhance the Facebook experience. Few people, including me, believed them. However, the facts remained the same. It meant that business owners, who had already invested heavily in getting ‘fans’ to their Facebook Business Pages, now had to pay in order to reach them all.

Facebook leak: Positioning Business Pages as paid advertising

Then in December 2013, an article on Advertising Age titled: Facebook Admits Organic Reach Is Falling Short, Urges Marketers to Buy Ads, shows Facebook’s intentions moving forward. As well as saying that fewer and fewer people will see what you post from your Business Page, the following excerpt caught my eye:

“The three-page document also contains a section that repositions how marketers should think about fan acquisition: as a tool for making paid advertising more effective. […]” Full article here.

The message here is that business owners need to stop thinking of Facebook Business Pages as a free way to connect with their marketplace. It isn’t. At best, it’s a way to connect, for free, with a decreasing fraction of the people who ‘like’ their Business Page.

Moving forward, Facebook Business Pages should be seen as a targeted form of paid advertising. In that context, it could be a useful advertising tool. However, business owners seeing it as a free marketing tool are in for a shock, as fewer and fewer people see what they post for free.

Facebook Business Pages shouldn’t be your online home

For years, I have advised people not to build their house on rented land. In other words, direct people to your blog or website. Use something YOU own as your online hub… your online home.

When you build your main community on Facebook (or any third party network), you lose control. THEY own the access you have, to YOUR community. As Facebook just demonstrated, they can and will change the rules and you get to pay the price.

My advice

My advice remains the same as it has always been:

  • Build your own home on the Internet. A place where you are in control. Where you make the rules. By far, a self-hosted blog is the best way to achieve this.
  • Build and own your community database (what Internet marketers call ‘your list’).
  • Produce either a newsletter or (as I have done) a blog that has an email subscription option. Thousands of people will read this message today, via email, because I decided to make Jim’s Marketing Blog my online hub… not Facebook.
  • Don’t be one of those business owners, who is sharing ideas, insights and observations on social networks every day, when your blog hasn’t been updated in weeks. Feed your business blog or website… not Facebook!
  • Remember that Twitter, Google+ and other social networks are not immune from the kind of stunt Facebook pulled. They are not. We don’t know what they have planned.

Consider Facebook Business Pages as a way to build a targeted, paid advertising channel. Increasingly, that’s exactly what it is becoming.

Most importantly, build your community on your own website or blog. Motivate your marketplace to subscribe to your newsletter or blog via email. This puts the development of your community (or list) and the ability to connect with them, 100% in YOUR hands.

15 Reasons to start blogging!

So, why bother blogging?

Here are just 15 reasons, why I recommend you add a business blog to your marketing mix:

  1. Blogging is the most powerful marketing tool I have ever seen, used or studied. Period.
  2. Considering all the benefits of blogging, the financial cost is tiny. A self-hosted WordPress site can cost less per week, than a latte at your local coffee shop.
  3. If you turn up and blog regularly, you will also show prospective clients that you are reliable. If you show up regularly for years, it shows you’re durable too. Think about that… before these people even speak with you, they will already know you’re reliable and durable. That’s a huge commercial advantage.
  4. Blogging makes you a better communicator. It causes you to think, really think, about your message. Through repeat practice, you learn how to get your message across with greater clarity too.
  5. New prospective clients will be able to discover you and your work, as your blog posts are all findable, via social networks and search engines. Think about it… hundreds, maybe thousands of prospective clients can find your work each day, at the exact point where they are looking for answers.
  6. If you like the idea of helping others, blogging is ideal. It allows you to reach and help people worldwide.
  7. Blogging gives you a wonderful creative outlet.
  8. There is no ceiling on what you can achieve from your blog. Blogs have changed hands for millions of dollars.
  9. … and many bloggers have gained a high profile within their profession, thanks to the success of their blogs.
  10. As a direct result of blogging you can meet amazing people and make a lot of great friends.
  11. To blog regularly with fresh ideas, you need to feed your mind with rich, mental protein. An active blogger is an active learner too.
  12. If you work hard enough, for long enough, you can become one of the most influential voices in your profession.
  13. If you are passionate about what you do, and you should be, your blog gives you a platform to share your passion.
  14. With thousands of people sharing content, for every one person creating content, useful blog posts can spread like crazy via social networks. There are millions of people on Facebook, Twitter and Google+, etc., eagerly looking for useful, interesting content to share with their friends.
  15. Blogging is also a lot of fun!

How to make your business more human and far more successful too

Whether you sell B2B or B2C you’re ALWAYS selling P2P (person to person).

It’s extremely important to remember that.


Because people will only listen to you, if you have something valuable to share with them, which matters to them. And no… a vague, poorly targeted marketing message is not going to work.

Here’s what we know

The more focused your marketing messages are, the more effective they will be and the more business they will generate for you.

  • A focused marketing message speaks directly to the reader (viewer or listener), in a language they understand. It connects with them at a far deeper level than a poorly targeted message.
  • A focused marketing message makes the reader feel as if you knew exactly what they needed. This makes you relevant to them, which is extremely powerful.
  • A focused marketing message captures the reader’s attention. This is of huge value to you today, when people’s attention has never been so scattered.
  • A focused marketing message has the power to motivate people to take action… to buy from you, call you, email you or visit you.

In short, a focused marketing message has the power to inspire and compel people in a way that vague messages can’t.

Review your written marketing

Look for opportunities to make it more focused, so that it’s only relevant to your ideal profile of client. Be less inclusive. Talk directly to them.

Business is all about people and people really notice, when you’re speaking directly to them, in their language, about what matters to them!

PS: Here’s some advice on how to build a successful business, using a more human approach.

Get Twitter Direct Messages from people you don’t follow!

Twitter has just made a huge change to the way DM’s or Direct Messages work. You can now choose to allow everyone who follows you on Twitter, to send you a Direct Message.

[Update: This feature has now been rolled out to every Twitter user. See below for how to enable it for your Twitter account.]

As you can see from my tweet below, this has generated a lot of interest. (If you can’t see the tweet, click here).

Twitter Direct Messages from anyone who follows you

What’s new? You can now receive Direct Messages from anyone who follows you — without you following them back. It’s that last part that is the big difference. Until now, you had to follow someone, before they could send you a Direct Message. This stopped mass spamming and for most users was a great idea.

Here’s what the setting looks like. You can find it under the ‘Account’ tab.

Twitter direct messages from followers

NOTE: By default, this option is turned off. If you don’t want to be Direct Messaged from people who follow you, you don’t need to change anything. It’s 100% opt-in.

Why I’ve turned the Twitter direct messages feature on

I have (for now) chosen to turn it on. So, if you follow me on Twitter @JimConnolly you can direct message me in private.

Here’s why. Firstly, I am a very public person. I publish my email address on every page of my blog. So long as people are not spamming me or making selfish requests, I love to hear from them.

Secondly, I think this feature could be extremely useful for businesses.

Business benefits of allowing Twitter DM’s from all your followers

Consider customer service. Until now, if someone had a customer service issue with your business, you would need to follow them and ask them to follow you, in order for you to look after them in private. This allowed them to share potentially sensitive information with you, away from the gaze of all their followers. Now, so long as they follow your Twitter account, 100% of your conversation can be handled in private.

Then there are journalists. Pretty much every journalist uses Twitter. Now, if you have a story for them — especially one of a sensitive nature, you can share it privately.

Contacting your political representatives… ditto.

What about Twitter DM spam?

The typical knee-jerk reaction so far has been that this will create a huge DM spam problem. Mainly, it seems people failed to understand they have to turn the feature on. If you don’t like the feature, don’t use it. Simple.

It’s also worth remembering that someone can only send you a Direct Message, if they follow you on Twitter. If someone is spamming or abusing you, you can block them. This stops them being able to follow you or Direct Message you. Unless you actually want to follow spammers, this works fine.

It will be interesting to see how this is received by business users, once they start to realise the commercial benefits.

PS: If you follow me on Twitter, @JimConnolly – feel free to Direct Message me and let me know what you think (or just say ‘hi!’).

How to attract the attention and interest of your marketplace

If you would like to attract the attention and interest of your marketplace, this post is just for you.

attraction marketingI was prompted to write this, after I shared something on my Twitter and Facebook accounts yesterday, which resulted in 2 very different reactions from people.

Here’s what I shared: “Giving and receiving starts with giving. If you’re not receiving enough, you’re probably not giving enough”.

Most people seem to have understood the point of this message. Some did not.

One message… two reactions

Those who understood the message realised it was about the power of contribution. That the best way to get value was to give value. That the best way to make a new friend, was to be a friend to someone.

Those who totally misunderstood the message, thought it was a selfish trick they could use. They saw it as a way to give something, with strings attached. They saw it as being a selfish way to gain an advantage over someone.

Them focused

The most successful businesses are contribution focused.

They deliver value and quality, which enriches the life or experience of their customers. They look for opportunities to help their marketplace. They understand that if they give enough value, they will receive enough value. So, they keep on giving and they do it happily.

Me focused

Selfish business owners really struggle with this. So, they choose to pester and pursue the marketplace with selfish demands instead.

  • They cold call us because they have our phone number.
  • They spam us because they have our email address.
  • They send us unwanted letters because they bought our address.
  • They pester us on social networks and corner us at networking events.

As business owners, we can work from a contribution mindset or a selfish mindset. We can attract people or pester people.

Whilst the answer may seem obvious, check out how many people today choose to pester you for your attention.

This is great news for you and your business

Of course, this makes it easy for you to attract the attention and interest of your marketplace, with your contribution focused approach.

In short: If you want to get more from your marketplace, give more to your marketplace.

Content Marketing: Is your design killing your content?

The primary design task of any newsletter, website or blog, is to ensure the content is as readable as possible. The design should work like a picture frame and enhance, not hide, your work.

content marketing design

I was on a site earlier, where the design was so loud and busy, that it was hard to find the actual content. When trying to read the content, the rest of the site was so distracting that I left after just 30 seconds or so.

Most newsletters are just as bad. Instead of focusing on the message, they’re packed with distractions. Lots of different font sizes, colours, options, boxes and buttons — all getting in the way and breaking the reading experience. As a result, their actual content gets very little attention… and the newsletter providers wonder why their readership isn’t growing.

The poor readability epidemic

Unreadable design is such a huge problem now, that there are apps that try to combat it. Readability is maybe the best known.

Take a look at the design you use for your newsletter, website and / or blog. If the content is playing second fiddle to the design, change the design. After all, it’s your content that people come to you for and your content, which builds your relationship with your readers.

A quick tip: Clear, big fonts and lots of white space work better than almost anything, when it comes to making your content stand out.

The thing about remarkable work

… is that it is risky, courageous and challenging. That’s what makes remarkable work stand out. It’s also why remarkable work attracts so much word of mouth publicity.

Those who want to attract word of mouth, must pay the admission price in advance. They need to do work, which is worthy of being remarked on or talked about. They need to embrace the risk, summon the courage and rise to the challenge.

Where to begin?

Ask yourself the following question, then take as long as you need to write your answer down:

If people were already talking about my business to their friends, what would I like them to be saying?

Once you’ve come up with your answer, think about it for a while. Next, commit to making the improvements to your business, which would motivate people to say those things about you.

Be the author of your word of mouth referrals

The most successful business owners already do this. They are the authors of what people say about their business.


By creating amazing customer experiences, which people feel they HAVE to share.