9 Surefire Strategies for Standing Out in a Sea of Sameness

It feels just like struggling to solve a 24,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, doesn’t it?

Connecting everything you’ve heard about building a popular blog.

Advice about headlines, design, writing, promotion, outreach – the list never ends.

And all the while you feel like nobody truly cares about your blog.

The big names in your niche get hundreds of comments and shares just for hitting “Publish” (lucky ducks), but your blog struggles to make the slightest impact.

Highly annoying, isn’t it?

The problem is that people don’t remember you, and they don’t talk about you.

And trying to figure out why is giving you a migraine.

The good news?

One final puzzle piece will finally get people talking and drag your name up from obscurity.

Are you ready to discover what it is?

The Missing Puzzle Piece That’ll Make You Massively More Memorable

Growing your traffic, building an email list, and writing value-packed posts are great and all, but they don’t guarantee that you will stand out.

In real life, you may be as unique as a snowflake. Your personality may bubble over with friends.

But none of that matters in the online world unless you make a conscious choice to stand out.

You must decide to be different, larger than life, and someone worth talking about. Otherwise, you’ll remain just another Average Joe. Another ordinary, rules-following, perfectly average “Emmet” who never steps outside the box.

What you need is a standout maneuver.

It’s a bold, calculated move to attract attention, imprint yourself in the minds of your readers, and persuade them to spread the word about you.

(It’s also the missing piece of the jigsaw.)

Use the following nine standout maneuvers to stop being an ordinary, forgettable blogger and start being remarkable.

1) Craft Your Public Image

Throughout history, important figures have carefully crafted their public images to cultivate a unique, memorable impression.

Take a look at this portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte:

Napoleon Bonaparte

The royal scepter, the opulent garb, the graceful placement of the hands and foot, the majestic expression… all are designed to create the perception of power and nobility.

But these days you don’t need to commission an oil painting to control the way you’re perceived.

Check out how some seriously memorable bloggers have deliberately crafted their public images to great effect.

Derek Halpern dressed up to the nines, got a $310 haircut, donned a stately expression, and featured his imposing portrait front and center on the Social Triggers homepage.

Derek Halpern

Tara Gentile makes a conscious choice to be the biggest possible version of herself. She enlisted the help of a friend and jewelry designer, Megan Auman, who helped her cultivate the outfits she wears as her “quietly powerful” public persona.

Tara Gentile

Darren Rowse of Problogger wears the same dark-rimmed glasses in all his photos. Staring down the camera lens and using a close crop for the final image further emphasizes Rowse’s trademark accessory.

Darren Rowse

April Bowles Olin used a different type of accessory when she needed photos for her blog, Blacksburg Belle. She simply brought a giant, red balloon to the photoshoot and instantly turned an ordinary pose into a memorable one.

April Bowles Olin

So what’s your public image? Are you the brazenly done up guy, the woman with the powerful signature look, the smart guy with the nerdy glasses, or the fun-loving girl with the red balloon?

Hire a photographer to take your portrait (or shoot your own self-portrait), and carefully choose your clothing, your accessories, and your pose to form a distinct perception about yourself in people’s minds.

2) Swing Your Slingshot

If you’re looking for a sure-fire way to get people talking about you, take a shot at a piece of popular wisdom or a widely held belief.

You’ll likely receive a furious reaction from some quarters, but there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right?

Of course, if you want to become famous and not infamous, you’ll want to attract supporters as well as detractors, so the trick to pulling this off is to take advantage of a phenomenon known as the “common enemy effect.”

Creating an us versus them scenario builds solidarity and brings your tribe closer to you. And guess what? They will come to your defense and become even more invested in you than they were prior to publicly taking your side.

An example of the common enemy effect in action is the aftermath of Seth Godin’s blog post, “The problem with non” (“non” being nonprofit organizations).

Did this article make a lot of people mad? You bet it did! Some bloggers even responded with their own posts about why Seth Godin is wrong. So it definitely succeeded in getting people to talk about him.

But did people say good things about him too? In fact, yes! While some people were enraged, others came to his defense, and even a popular blog for nonprofits took kindly to the exposé.

Derek Halpern used this principle quite deliberately in his post calling “Content is King” a myth. The post identified an enemy (people who say “Content is King”), and a tribe who would agree with his particular point of view (web designers). He then promoted the post to people on both sides of the debate: the people who say that content is king, and the web designers.

The result? The comments say it all. Halpern made some people mad, but he made others love him even more.

Who (or what) is the common enemy of your audience? Expose that enemy in a blog post, and tell everyone about it (yes, even the people who will be infuriated). Then, sit back and watch the debate ensue.

3) Be a Flawed Superhero

“Even Superman has kryptonite.” Ever heard that before?

As psychologists have found, people have the strong tendency to like other people who they perceive to be similar to themselves. Well, no one is perfect, and everyone (even Superman) has a weakness. So if you want people to like you, you need to show your weaknesses.

Of course, someone who seems too flawed will struggle to be seen as credible, so you’ll need to walk a fine line between authority figure and just another regular guy or gal.

You have to become a superhero with a flaw.

A great example is Ash Ambirge of The Middle Finger Project. Ambirge is a bold blogger who’s snarky humor is more than a bit irreverent. She is popular, not because of any elegant prose, but because her uncensored writing style gives her a strong voice, paired with an uncanny ability to bond with her readers – even if that outspoken style leads her to say the wrong thing from time to time.

James Altucher’s “10 Confessions” was a hit post because a personal finance expert was admitting to being incredibly irresponsible. Altucher also lets the occasional swear word drop, and according to The Science of Swearing, such words actually play an important role in social bonding due to their cathartic effect.

The method I personally use to build trust and relatability with my readers is allowing mistakes to happen. So instead of limiting myself to topics that I am 100% confident about, I’ll stretch myself to learn as much as I can about difficult subjects and immediately share what I am learning… which inevitably leads to mistakes.

But if you do publish something that you later discover to be incorrect, don’t sweep it under the rug. Instead, bring the mistake to your reader’s attention before they catch it. This creates a “positive trust incident,” which will actually cause your readers to like and trust you more.

So what’s your kryptonite? Can you highlight that weakness in a blog post or in your writing style?

4) Go Skinny Dipping… In a Fishbowl

OK, not literally. But being completely transparent is another way to show that you are a living, breathing human being, rather than just another cluster of pixels on your reader’s computer screen.

By giving proof that you actually “walk the walk,” transparency also serves to make you far more credible in your audience’s eyes.

Tim Ferriss became famous for performing experiments on himself and reporting his findings.

Pat Flynn became famous for his monthly income reports.

But how can you make transparency work for you? Well, you don’t need to earn six-figures each month, and you certainly don’t have to do anything crazy, like losing 30 lbs in 20 hours.

Just do your thing, and document it. Test a new theory. Learn a new skill. Publicly challenge yourself to accomplish a new goal, and let your audience hold you accountable. Keep a journal, and publish it as a weekly blog post series or an e-book.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen of The Great Fitness Experiment did exactly that: she challenged herself to try a new workout every month for one year, publicly chronicled her experience on her blog, and the finished memoir even became a published book.

Turn your blog into an online reality show. Your readers will eat it up, and they won’t be able to resist talking about it.

5) Put Yourself in a Pigeonhole

If your readers were asked to describe you in just one sentence, what would they say?

If you don’t know – or you think they’d all say something different – that’s a major obstacle to memorability.

Why? Because word of mouth is a powerful force for spreading your message, and if people talk about you in a consistent way, they’ll reinforce – instead of dilute – each other.

Also, they’re more likely to talk about you, and say the right things, if you help them to know what to say.

So whether you’re crafting some text for your About page, writing an author bio for a guest post, or introducing yourself at the start of a podcast interview, make sure you have a consistent way to talk about yourself. The more different places where you are described in the same way, the more people will remember you for it (and come to believe it).

Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing became widely known as the “Freddy Krueger of blogging” because one reader called him that in a comment (“Wherever I turn, you’re there!”), so he just ran with it.

Iny’s nickname arose by accident, but many other bloggers have purposefully crafted their own personal tagline:

  • Nikki Elledge Brown is the “communication stylist.”
  • Tim Ferriss is the “human guinea pig.”
  • Erika Napoletano is the “ranting redhead.”
  • Natalie Sisson is the “suitcase entrepreneur.”
  • Srini Rao is the “unmistakable creative.”

Now it’s your turn: who do you want to be known as?

Shorter, snappier taglines are easier to remember, so describe your unique expertise (or your unique angle on your topic) in no more than two or three words.

Repeat those words over and over to imprint them on people’s minds, and ask everyone who features you to introduce you using your personal tagline.

6) Ditch The Diplomacy

Are you sensitive to other’s feelings, avoiding conflict at all costs? Or do you speak your mind freely and pity those who disagree?

If it’s the former, you’re missing out on a big opportunity to stand out.

Researchers have found that people who use opinionated statements are more persuasive.

An opinionated statement doesn’t just express a point of view; it also expresses disapproval of alternative views.

For example, a non-opinionated statement would be, “I can’t abide that policy.”

Whereas, an opinionated statement would be, “No self-respecting person can abide that policy.”

This persuasive effect works by inducing dread of the social consequences of nonconformity – it’s the fear of disapproval from others.

Of course, it only works if the person making the statement is deemed credible. The more credibility you have prior to making an opinionated statement, the greater the effect.

A great example of an opinionated statement is when Derek Halpern wrote, “If you’re not building an email list, you’re an idiot.”

A less overt but still poignant example is Jeff Goins’ manifesto, “Writers Don’t Write to Get Published” where he makes the case that “real writers” don’t write for recognition, fame, or accolades… they write because they cannot not write (hence, anyone who writes for the wrong reasons is not a “real” writer).

Worried that making opinionated statements will make you sound like a jerk? Sure, some people will be miffed, but if it also causes them to take positive action, you’ve done your job.

In the earlier examples, the result was that people were persuaded to build an email list, or rekindle their love of writing. That’s a great thing!

What’s a fear-inducing, opinionated statement you can make to kick your readers’ rears into gear?

7) Act Like a Fool

We know that humor helps to attract and hold people’s attention – that’s why it’s so commonly used in TV commercials.

But according to persuasion theory, humor may also have a persuasive effect. It puts the audience in a good mood (so that they are less likely to disagree with the message) and makes the person being humorous more likeable.

Irony can have an additional persuasive effect, one theory being that it distracts the brain from creating a counter-argument to an idea.

But did you also know that self-deprecating humor has a particularly persuasive effect when compared with other forms of humor?

Why might this be?

Well, people who are speaking against their own self-interest (or who at least appear to be) gain a lot of credibility with their audience for doing so. Therefore, self-deprecating humor may work to persuade by increasing trust in the speaker or writer.

James Wedmore became a celebrity on YouTube using self-deprecating humor in his videos, including this video on how to make a video:

James Wedmore

Jenny Lawson (a.k.a. “The Bloggess”) uses self-deprecating humor and ironic wisecracks in her blog posts, and she has become extremely popular for it.

So when you go to write your next blog post, poke some fun at yourself. Make a wisecrack or two. It will gain your reader’s trust, and they will be more open to believing what you want them to believe about you.

8) Be a Creature of Habitat

The saying is, “Go big, or go home.” But what if you could go home to go big?

You see, sometimes everything you need to be big and memorable is right in your backyard.

Jeff Walker constantly associates his brand with his home state: Colorado. In most every photo or video, you can’t help but draw your breath at the expansive mountain view from the deck behind his home.

Jeff Walker - Colorado
Jeff Walker - Colorado

Aussie blogger Rachel MacDonald takes advantage of the rocky beaches of Australia to create a picturesque backdrop for her photos.

Rachel Macdonald
Rachel Macdonald

Ree Drummond (a.k.a. “The Pioneer Woman”) became famous by chronicling the everyday adventures on her country ranch. From rounding up cattle, to renovating the lodge, to what she cooked for dinner last night, everything that happens around her home is an opportunity to tell a story.

Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman

Hilary Rushford’s natural habitat is New York. She sees every nook and cranny – every street corner, staircase, doorway or window pane – as a potential picture frame for her Instagram shots.

Hilary Rushford
Hilary Rushford

Where do you live? Don’t think that it has to be the exotic land of milk and honey. Simply use your own unique locale as the connecting theme in all your photos, videos, and in the stories you tell.

9) Throw Yourself to the Lions

Ever wondered why televised debates are such big news during election season?

It’s because we love seeing candidates thrown into a situation they can’t completely control, where they’re forced to go “off script.”

And the perceived winners get a big credibility (and popularity) bump because we admire people who can think on their feet and stay cool under pressure.

Want the same benefit as a blogger? Take on your audience’s questions in real time.

Chris Ducker is getting a huge boost to his authority and his likeability by being one of the early adopters of a live video broadcasting app called Periscope. Ducker calls Periscope your personal “TV show in your pocket.”

Whenever he wants to broadcast, all he has to do is pull his phone out of his pocket, and all of his “#DuckerScope” followers receive a notification– right on their phones.

Viewers have the ability to comment as well, which creates incredible interactivity and allows viewers to get instant answers to their questions while Ducker demonstrates his expertise. It’s like public speaking on steroids.

Other ways of putting yourself on the spot include hosting a Google+ hangout, a webinar, or a Blab. Whatever platform you use, the key is to allow people to ask you questions in real time. (And for bonus points, put your face on camera.)

Let’s Pick Up Your Missing Puzzle Piece

Implementing a standout maneuver that catapults you out of online obscurity isn’t rocket science, but it does take guts.

You have to put yourself out there, stand up for what you believe in, and be unafraid to ruffle some feathers.

“Haters gonna hate,” but being a memorable blogger is so much bigger than you: it’s about persuading other people to take positive action in their lives.

You really can make a difference, even if you’re just a small potato right now. All you need is that missing puzzle piece to make the picture you’ve been working so hard to build come to life.

To start, pick just one of the strategies above and give it a try.

Go for broke and see how your audience reacts.

When they start talking, you’ll know you’re on the right track.

It’s time to stand up, and stand out.

About the Author: Mary Fernandez is a self-proclaimed “blogoholic” on a mission to help other bloggers stop twiddling their thumbs and start getting measurable results. For more standout strategies (and other blogging tricks besides), check out her new Persuasive Bloggers Mastermind group.

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