Are You a Wannabe?

Are You a Wannabe?

Reader Comments (78)

  1. This is a great post – I think most bloggers have fallen into the “writing for social media/link love” trap, which only contributes to the echo chamber. I’m definitely going to ask myself those two questions before I finish a post now – after all, a good blog should be about the readers!

  2. Caroline Middlebrook built a hugely successful blog based on something OTHER than authority: authenticity.

    Whilst the “authority model” works, it is not the ONLY model for blogging.

    Taking an investigative “I’ve heard this works, so I’m going to try it, and then share my results” approach is another, very valid way to gain attention – and create a group of followers.

  3. Great post! I’m guilty of this myself – at least the thinking of ‘how do I get noticed?’ or ‘how do I sound like an authority?’

    In reality, part of me wonders if the whole Google era has created a society of people saying how do people find me, when in reality we should be seeking others out & going to them.

  4. Oh, yes, sir, well done. I’m so there with you, Jon.

    I often hear of a small handful of people complaining that I speak with too much authority on my blog, but the thing is that I don’t want to be a wanna be. I want to say what I know, firmly and confidently, because I’m sure of myself.

    Nothing wrong with that. (Hm. Is that why they call me cocky?)

  5. Jonathan, I’ve watched this wannabe behavior from a distance across the blogosphere myself and it’s quite boring to say the least.

    People trying to get the attention of so-called “A-listers” especially, since so much is written in blog posts about the “importance of getting linked to” from well known bloggers, especially those with high Google rankings.

    I believe a key to writing with authority is knowing your topic from experience, providing further information on the topic with links that prove what you’re saying to be true and honest, otherwise the posts have no believability and trust to back it up.

    Having a strong headline that tells readers what they’ll learn from reading the article is very important to be an authority writer. Poor post titles (headlines) is one of the well known reasons why readers unsubscribe or don’t subscribe in the first place.

    Bloggers and writers that concentrate their focus on writing with authority, rather than writing link bait posts or the overdone “how to write like a problogg..”, eventually get noticed for having great content.

  6. John, that’s an excellent point. But isn’t the long and short of it that Caroline has become an authority? People know they can trust her judgment and opinions.

    There are many paths to authority, but it’s the destination that everyone needs to get to somehow. And it’s not necessarily subject matter expertise, although that’s likely the straightest path.

  7. …and for super newbie bloggers who need examples of authority blog posts, here are at least 3 blog posts that are a great examples of authority blogging…



  8. I agree that authority is the end goal – and it would be nice if most people already had the skill set and knowledge to simply “arrive” – by asking themselves the right questions.

    However, from what I have observed, not many people know enough to “arrive” at the goal point suddenly – as if the real reason they aren’t already there is because they’re talking about the wrong thing.

    They aren’t there because they don’t know enough in the first place – about anything.

    There’s an opportunity here to help them plot out their “authority course” – they already know they need to be an authority, which is why they try, and fail.

    Give them the map to future authority, and you’ll be giving them what they need 😉

  9. Excellent post. I have to agree with Mark, that perhaps the Google era has created the wannabe/link-bait type of posts. But, like James (hi James!) and Liz I think that if you have something of authority to say, speak with that authority, are comfortable with yourself and what you have to say, *and* you are genuine and honest in what you’re writing/saying then you aren’t being a “wannabe,” you are just being. I think one key thing to remember is that sometimes, people aren’t going to like you or what you have to say, no matter how hard you try, and that’s something everyone probably needs to realize a bit more and just be themselves and honest in their writing. With the exception of really gawd-awful writing, the audience that listens to your voice and likes it and comes back will come–and that’s probably true w/the g-a writing if what’s behind it has an honest voice behind it. That’s my 2-cents anyway.

  10. I run across wannabes all the time, and they turn me off. At the same time, I hope that just because I talk about a hot topic I don’t sound like one myself. Today I talked about search engine topics — specifically how one blogger advises his clients to minimize negative findings about their companies (like the Google bomb situation). I worked with his topic and discussed my own SEO issues — namely that people come to my site with strange search phrases, making my bounce rate go nuts.

    Perhaps that makes me more of a coattail-er than a wannabe?

  11. …and for super newbie bloggers who need examples of authority blog posts, here are at least 3 blog posts that are a great examples of authority blogging…



    Bill, according to Jon, if you follow the link in this post at the anchor text “headline writing” you’ll find 9 examples. I’m not in a position to say if he’s right, though. 🙂

  12. I think Caro’s stuff works because she’s not a wannabe–before she knew enough to be an authority, she was disarmingly frank about that. She’s claiming her authority slowly, based on experience that her readers have been sharing in from the beginning.

    That’s a very unusual angle in her field, where thousands of wannabes buy internet marketing products, then turn around and start blogs about how to create a 6-figure income on the internet.

    I also find it interesting that saying “I’m not an authority, I’m not a guru” makes people want to follow one like an authority and a guru.

    When you don’t know much, you have two options–get more knowledge or find a less knowledgable audience. 🙂 (Or some combination.) If you’re not a graybeard, write from your experience. Look at a situation and analyze it–what worked, what didn’t. Everyone has the right to say “this is what I’ve seen work.”

  13. I agree that authenticity is important, but I would also like to echo the sentiments of a previous comment that not everyone can be an expert. I believe blogging should not be limited to those with lots of expertise in one area.

    I believe that people can write on their blog to share their ideas (in their minds it might be of substance although to other it might seem facile) and learn from others’ comments and feedback. People can share resources from other people who are experts in an area in an area of interest to that particular target audience with the goal if providing useful information – not looking from attention from “A listers”.

    So many restrictions for how to be or how to blog makes it difficult for folks to learn…

    Just another way of looking at it…

    Blogging can help someone find their voice too. You have to try different things – explore different things to write about to see what resonates, what initiates dialog or debate.

  14. “claiming her authority slowly”

    Reminds me of all those ” overnight successes”…which if you examine you find that there have been infinite steps to get there.

    Authority is built, sometimes explored.

  15. @ Sonia – Yeah, that is something I see too. The modest ones always seem to have large followings. They’re admitting they don’t know or are learning. And they’re followed as authorities. Doesn’t match up?

    @ Erika – Hi back! 🙂

  16. Janice, I love how Seth Godin always points out that The Beatles were a “five-year overnight success.”

    Once you arrive, people assume it’s out of nowhere and instantaneous. What they don’t see is the hard road it took to that overnight recognition.

  17. To me, authority=expertise.

    I’m glad someone mentioned authenticity. I have a “test blog,” and have found myself uninspired and following the crowd, and the feeling of emptiness lingers. When I write about my passions, I can go on and on.

  18. One way out of the wanna-be trap is to write about what you’re doing, not what you’re thinking. Anyone can spout off about a subject they don’t know about, but if you’re writing about what you’ve done and what the results were, there is automatically some authority and credibility there.

    You don’t have to be the best at something, but you can say, “I did this and here’s what worked for me.”

  19. The problem is we have started writing for SEO, CTR, etc. instead of writing what we want to write about and what is in our heart, which was the reason we started blogging initially with. Unless we return to our first love our blogs and our blogging is going to be empty and pointless and not amount to much.

  20. Firstly, this was the best title in Copyblogger history.

    Secondly, as you point out – there is a difference between going out of your way to write something interesting in which you don’t have much to say… And writing about what is interesting, which you happen to be very knowledgeable of and thus have a great deal to say.

    If you don’t pursue the latter, your blog will not be successful.

  21. I suppose it’s about getting to the original purpose of the writing – whether it’s about blogging for money, blogging about something you feel passionately about, or blogging to drive prospects to your website.

    The most important principle to remember is to be committed to always providing a value that surprises your reader.

    Thanks for causing me to pause and consider my intent.

  22. Great post.

    To me, coming from a musical background it is the same with song writing.

    In a music scene saturated by mediocre, or so-so songs, there seems to be two kinds ofa bands that stand out:
    -some because they feed what listeners want
    -other that have something unique to say and they ARE original, and by default they pick up authority.

    Same with bloggers/posts. I seem to be battling same things (sigh).

  23. Great what would you suggest bloggers do when they begin to feel like they’re “reaching for straws” when it comes to writing? Should they just take a break-even if it means not blogging for a week?

  24. That is the thing about the internet… anyone can be a blogger. There is no particular qualification required. And while this has created many amazing and interesting blogs, it has also spawned a score of poorly-written, boring ones.

  25. The biggest wannabe people I see today are the huge white sunglasses, poorly dyed hair, small dog carrying, ugg boots wearing, no discernable talent, billion dollar heiress, can’t buy class with all the money in world posers! But, once again, I digress.

  26. I feel that your first question is really important. Asking about what your readers would like to read is important. Addressing those needs that your readers may have can net a lot of new readership. The only thing is successfully identifying your current readership.

  27. I’d buy one. The [insert killer headline here] tee. The problem is some folks might think “killer” means something else. How about [insert compelling headline here]. 🙂

  28. Man, I’ve been a reader of this Blog for 6 months and this is my first post… I better make it good, eh?

    I’m here to add a spin to (or perhaps challenge) what was said in this post. I decided to comment because this is a topic I know a great deal about.

    I call it “the art of b.s.-ing”. Yes, B.S. is an art.

    Now what I’m going to say may shock you. It mainly applies to conversation dynamics mainly but it can also apply to writing.

    The 2 tricks to never looking like a Wannabe are:

    1. Confidence – whatever you have to say, no matter how wrong it is, say it with confidence. Don’t be scared of people challenging you if it’s wrong.

    Let others challenge it. Knowledgeable people aren’t scarred of being challenged because they have confidence in what they know. Just try not to be wrong too often 🙂

    2. Mystery – have you noticed that anyone that’s very knowledgeable on a subject never gives you the whole story in the first round? No guru tells you all his secrets at once… And you should do the same!

    Despite what you may think mystery plays on people’s mind. Saying you are great without answering ‘how great’ makes them think you are greater than you really are.

    It’s great isn’t it!?

  29. I love the two questions! I think asking those questions really does help one focus on the readers mind. When you are actively engaging your readers by providing solutions to their problems you definitely get them coming back for more. Thanks for sharing.

  30. Thanks, Jon!

    “The Two Most Important Questions You Can Ask” says it all for me in a nutshell.

    I’m definitely going to Stumble this one!!!

  31. First of all, stick to what you know. Once you are confident that you “know your stuff,” go where your target audience hangs out, read what they read, watch what they watch. Be a fly on the wall so you can hear their concerns firsthand and uninhibited. Know what they talk about, know what they worry about. Think of ways to put different spins on their concerns and then address them via your blog post. Be an authority who’s in touch.

  32. I agree that in the end it is still a question with authority. But anyways, simply write want you want and never mind about anything else, at the end of the day you will be surprised as to how far your blog has gone. cheers for a great post!

  33. I’m a little uncomfortable with this post.

    The great thing about the Internet is that it allows people to communicate their thoughts to an extremely wide audience. But as with all things in Life, you will get some people who have a lot to say but can’t get the word out properly, and you will get those with little to say, but who already have a soapbox to stand on. (I recently posted on a similar topic about Paris Hilton, world-famous writer…)

    However I think the term “wannabe” is a little harsh. There are many bloggers out there speaking from the heart, trying to get their voices heard. As some have commented here, perhaps they do not have the expertise that others have, and perhaps they do not have the blogging skills that others have.

    But of course the other great thing about the Internet is that we do not need to listen either…

    The linkbaiters are not wannabes; they just want to boost their online profiles. It’s the people trying to blog and in some cases even learning how to write (not all of us are writers), cutting their teeth on their own blog, and who want to improve their skills. Why squash that creativity?

    The truth is, if we are going to use the term, then we are all wannabes. Even some of the loudest voices out there will have their detractors. Howard Stern is a great example — either he is a god, or he is a wannabe, depending on your point of view.

    Rush Limbaugh, Jerry Falwell, Bono, the President of the United States… These voices resonate with some people, and not with others. And if the voice doesn’t resonate with us, we are more likely to dismiss it as that of a “wannabe”.

    We all want to be something. But when we reach our goals, should we look down upon the people climbing behind us, or offer them a hand?


  34. @ Graham – Interesting comments. Here are my thoughts:

    There’s nothing really inherently wrong with wanting to be something that we aren’t. I think the difference between the term “wannabe” and “want to be” can be determined by sincerity.

    People who genuinely want to be greater than they are aren’t wannabes, in my mind. People who try to be something they’re not to get something else in a method that isn’t genuine are, to me, yes, wannabes.

  35. Well said James, and I know from discussing this post with Jon that he feels exactly the same way.

    It’s the people who will do *anything* for attention that are the problem. There’s no sincerity or even interest in the subject matter.

    Those who are learning to write and developing their own voice and expertise should not at all be discouraged from that process. That’s what we’re trying to help people with on this blog!

  36. @James and Brian – glad to hear!

    I guess my concern is that anyone who is out there just trying to get attention will ignore these words, while those who are legitimately trying to make a go of it will take the post too much to heart.

    Are there egos more fragile than those of writers? Not that I’ve come across. I’ll bet more than one honest blogger read this post and felt a silent finger pointed at them…

    I think it is worth underlining, as you both have done here, that “wannabe” is different from “want to be”.


  37. @Graham, it sounds like you might be uncomfortable because you feel like the advice is “don’t say anything at all unless you’re a big shot expert.” Which, I’d agree, would be rotten advice.

    As Brian & James are saying, it’s great when people stretch outside their comfort zones. It’s great to have larger goals & aspirations.

    Unfortunately, there are thousands of folks who have bought into the “just stick some junk up and it will sell” mindset (and for some insane reason, they think this will work in piranha-competitive markets), and they just waste their own time and everyone else’s with weak content they haven’t put any real thought or time into.

    It’s a shame that the folks who read advice like this and say “oh no, maybe this is me” are often the 10% who don’t need the advice. But such is life.

    When I started Remarkable Communication, I was definitely a Seth Godin & Brian Clark wannabe. I admired those two guys so much, and had learned a lot from them, and I wanted to riff on similar topics. Hopefully I mitigated the wannabe-ness somewhat by a) frequently acknowledging those inspirations (when I finally met Brian, he made a bit of fun of me for creating a “shrine to Seth”), b) always looking for my own take and my own experience, and c) noodling around with fresh perspectives, fresh angles, fresh points of view. In the end, I think I came up with something new.

    I love James’s distinction between “wannabe” and “want to be.” So much pithier than my advice. 🙂

  38. @Chartrand

    I agree with you. I also believe that you do your readers a disservice when they get caught in the early stages of your learning curve, which, eventually affects your credibility, which, of course, has a negative impact on your standing as an “authority.” It’s a lose-lose. Stick to what you know until you can incrementally branch out.

  39. @ Stacey – *blink* I hope that was a general you and not you as in me.

    @ Sonia – That’s very true. The ones who really don’t need the advice are the ones that feel the most insecure, often.

    As for being a Copyblogger Clark wannabe… I can’t say it’s brought me anything bad to date. Though I’ll never be Brian and don’t want to be. Hm. A don’t want to be wanna be?

    I need more coffee.

    @ Graham – People do take things to heart. I’ve never really been one to gentle my words in certain moments because I think too many people are not direct enough. We’ve become a soft society that expects everything to be couched and gift wrapped and delivered with love and reassurance.

    Um, screw that. Sometimes people just need a damned wake-up call. Maybe we’re a sensitive bunch simply because we expect that gift wrapping so often.

    Imagine what could happen if we had the confidence to truly believe in what we can be. Rather amazing, I think.

  40. @Sonia – Ah, but you said it just as well!

    It is a shame that people take things the wrong way. But if those things can be clarified here, why not take that opportunity!

    @James – I’m all for the “tell me like it is” approach. Too many people mince too many words. I would just hate to have something think: “Oh, am I a wannabe? Perhaps I should stop blogging altogether…”

    On the other hand, if it is a “wake-up call” , and it helps others evaluate how and why they are blogging, that’s a great thing. As you know, I’m all about the self-evaluation — especially when it comes to blogging…


  41. @Graham, I agree with your sentiments and with James’ follow up comment…the sincerity has to be there, in my opinion, even if one isn’t an expert/authority. And Stacey makes a great point about listening and speaking about what you know, but I think it’s a bit limited…a post can question, comment, lead to additional conversations and not just be about imparting some wisdom or expertise. Sometimes the best posts are those that want to find out what readers think, feel, believe and experience. (At least that’s my experience.) I also agree with mosewr’s assessment about what SEO & CTR/ROI have done to blogging (and writing) in general, that far too often, the conversation has been lost (or perhaps misplaced). There is also a big difference between being a wannabe and posing as an authority and looking to those who have gone before us, admiring them and learning from them. Of course, that all goes back to the whole listening and learning aspect of blogging, whether it’s from your audience (if you’ve determined who they are specifically), your hopeful audience, or those at whose feet you learn.

  42. Janelle: In my experience, taking a break doesn’t do any good. It just breaks my rhythm and atrophies my writing muscles. Other bloggers might be different, but I doubt it. All too often, people decide to take a break, and then end up never writing again.

    If you find yourself grasping for straws, try to figure out why. Are you just running low on ideas, or is the topic starting to bore you? If all you need is ideas, then that’s an easy fix. Just talk to your readers and ask them the first question from above about their frustrations. If you’re bored with the topic, on the other hand, then you’re in trouble. 🙂

    Graham: If you’re a wannabe, you shouldn’t get discouraged and quit writing. You should just ask yourself the two questions and then adjust to suit them.

    It’s perfectly okay to be a wannabe. Just don’t stay there. Find your authority, and continue growing.

    James: I agree, sincerity is a great distinction between “wannabe” and “want to be.” Anyone with ambition certainly wants to be more than they are, and I think it’s wise to emulate great writers, especially in the beginning.

  43. Excellent post, I couldn’t agree more. It’s natural to want to be more than you are and to want to impress, but things turn fishy when it’s clear for you – and everyone else – that you’re heading nowhere.

  44. Graham,

    I think you’re overanalyzing the situation. We all write our experiences and thoughts on subjects. We don’t necessarily have to be “The Expert” on one subject… In some cases we don’t even have to be “an expert’ at all.

    Where we distinguish ourselves from other people is that we have different styles, different outlooks and different experiences (I’m sure I saw a post about this here not long ago). So it doesn’t matter that we don’t know as much as someone else and that we’re not the authority on the subject.

    I wrote a post above on how to act so to not come out looking like a wannabe – it’s all in the attitude. But no matter how much you know there are still people out there that will think you are a wannabe. Even if you’re at the top of your profession! Think of Britney Spears for example.

    What does Britney have to do with this?

    She’s is (or was) one of the most famous singers in the world: accepted worldwide ad made more money in one night than all of us put together. But she was a wannabe. I practice my butt off for singing and I can’t accept that what she’s doing can be classified as singing. But you know what? That’s a good thing.

    She’s a wannabe and she’s still getting places because other people believe in her. You don’t need everyone to ‘buy you’. You just need enough people to buy you to make you suficient money to be happy.

    Plus it’s good to have these non-believers (like I am in the case of Britney). It just creates more speculation about you and fires up the believers. As they say: “any publicity is… (you know the rest)”

  45. @All – Ah, perhaps I’ve misunderstood this whole post. To me, the term “wannabe” means hack, a charlatan, someone who will never make it but will keep trying anyway. That’s why I thought that it was important to distinguish between “want to be” and “wannabe”. (And why I thought using the term “wannabe” was particularly harsh!)

    But I guess based on Jon’s comments here, the wannabe stage can be a stepping stone. An apprentice stage perhaps. And I’m all for that.

    I think that no matter what you are writing, as long as you are honest with yourself (and your readers) and write from the heart, it has value. Not everyone will read it or agree with it, but certainly some will. And some voices will be heard more than others.

    But honesty is the key to any type of communication.


  46. Great post – love the accompanying image. Wannabes can be easily spotted so it’s simply not worth trying that hard to attain recognition.

  47. You mean write those posts with CREDIBILITY? You don’t have to be an authority to write credible posts (read Made to stick if you want to learn how to do that.) Here’s one tip: Use credible statistics in your articles. More to follow…

  48. To expand on the criticisms of authenticity vs. authority, is there an alternative article titled “Do you want to stop feeling like a Wannabe?”

    I know…I know… silly from a marketing perspective. “If you want to sell a product you want authority. Even if you aren’t one and want to sell a product, you want to be an authentic and sincere that gives off the aura of being anti-authority to establish your credibility.”

    My issue though is that, as the dynamics of online writing evolves, marketing becomes less synonymous with a product and more with writing. Especially copywriting.

    In fact, I have problems with communicating both offline and online.

    Yet I found copyblogger to have helped me understand how to communicate better than even blogs specifically tailored towards writing. (or at least fill my holes with the whys and hows)

    For example, (and I’m going to show my problem with failing to be succinct here), it’s very easy to be bombarded by advise on “being succinct”, “mudering your darlings”, “cutting back on adjectives and adverbs”, etc. etc.

    But only through chancing upon copyblogger (I had no idea that the word “copywriting” existed before this) was I able to be introduced to the purpose of headlines, the difference between a well-written opening line and an actual lin that hooks readers, etc. etc.

    Even the issues normally more focused in writing, copywriting (or at least copyblogger) does a better job of addressing because of the “it needs results/it has to sell” necessity.

    However articles like these also highlight the problem with applying some (not all) of these advises.

    What if I know I’m not an authority but “I don’t want to be a wannabe”?

    With if I don’t want to sell an advise (because I’m not an authority) but prefer to attract people who have more authority-level knowledge (but less authority-level ego) to the articles I’ve written?

    What if succinct to me are posts of these lengths because shorter posts may not get me as detailed a reply or may not even make me seem as hungry to learn and listen to a person’s comments?

    What if because of my ignorance, I would prefer an ambiguous posts that touches on several related subjects but still prefer to sell to a reader the point that I want to share something and not that I want to make something cryptic for the sake of eloquence and intentional lengthening to seem smart?

    I think things like “How to Be Interesting” are a good start but at the same time, what if it fails not because of the criterias presented in this article but because readers feel like the post just has no direction or is intentionally being prolonged for no reason or egoistic reasons??

    I think situations like these are problematic because even at it’s worst, a long copy is about selling a product. A mass linkbaiter has no issues with making it seem like their articles are for social media. (and they have no issues with attracting commentors rather than generating a community) Even loyalty to a blog is hard to manage because there’s no product or expertise that attracts readers to such a blog.

    These situations are fixable if not historically bypassable through luck and passion but as copyblogger articles often allude to: there are sometimes specific ways of fixing things especially when the whys and hows are explained.

    Copyblogger advises though are still often about “maximizing the hook” and I’m not saying they should go against that. It is after all what made the blog well known and an authority. However, forgive me if this particular article makes people like me feel guilty.

    I think there is a certain niche of bloggers who wants to maximize their writing — but they don’t want to maximize towards writing for maximum exposure. They just want to maximize their writing towards exposure and readability but they don’t want to maximize the marketing or completely move away from reducing the substance of their articles into lists or other more digestible components. I’m not sure how much that makes sense and I don’t really know of a group, it’s just me but I’m using a group for the sake of generality.

    Now Copyblogger, based on what I have read, does have those articles and it’s not like the advises aren’t open-ended enough that you must follow them to the letter. (For ex. I’ve been lurking at these articles for a while and I still don’t have the discipline to totally morph my writing style into one that’s suitable for social media nor do I often think of how much hook my headlines has.)

    What the premise of this article shows though is that maybe there’s a way to streamline advises in such a way that an article can be written specifically about dropping certain actions in favor of other actions to satisfy this “I don’t wanna feel like a Wannabe” niche. (For ex. linkbaiting would obviously be less important to someone without a product or care for ad-clicks so maybe there can be an article that advises on ignoring this aspect of copyblogger’s advises and tailor making it instead for stumble-lasting. But of course copyblogger also has advises on how to make a reader stick to an article so maybe instead of sticking because of a catchy headline that’s “product” or “howto” friendly, the specific article could focus more on giving examples for generating emotions — but there’s a copyblogger article on that too. It’s all so confusing. This is what I mean by the dilemma of the ignorant who doesn’t want to feel like a Wannabe but doesn’t want to be an authority.)

    Btw my apologies for linking my friendfeed instead of an actual blog url in the website area of the comments section. From my short time at lurking here, it seems copyblogger has a friendly enough community to test whether my question here: could be seen as spam because the FriendFeed for Beginners group appears to have no one replying to other newbie questions there.

    (Btw the question is: Is filling the website link in a blog comment with your FriendFeed link considered spam? I have a blog but it’s not aimed at a general audience. : for those who don’t want to click on the link.)

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