Stand out

It’s hard to imagine, for those of us that want to get to the top, to be at the top. How does someone get there, how have they amassed a huge social following? How can I exert enough influence on people so that I can get to the top of my field and stand out? How can I be known, how can I make a difference to people’s lives so that they remember me or want to hear what I have to say, learn from what I have to teach, or buy what I’m selling? Standing out in a noisy world is difficult, even when you know the formula, and there is a formula.

Standing out in an ever distracting and frenetic world with popup ads, videos, gifs, images, clickbait, fake news, never-ending information on social media, and never-ending social media for that matter. There is always another app that wants your attention (or money). It’s hard to escape the general noise all around you. It’s the world we live in. More than likely if you’re even reading this article that you have embraced this mentality. You know it’s noisy, and you know everything and everyone is vying for your attention. Most things are not going to resonate with us. This is what you have to understand when you want to stand out in the first place; Most people aren’t going to care. You can’t reach everyone. And you certainly can’t please everyone.

Attention is the greatest invisible currency of the 21st century.

You have to find the people that you want to reach, the people who are going to understand your message and buy your story. People want to follow a journey. A personal story that they can picture themselves in, they have to fit into this narrative. If you can create this narrative of a personal journey of learning, of developing skills, of teaching people what they want to know, and of understanding what the struggle of people who are in a similar situation when starting out, this is how you stand out from those who are simply making content for the sake of more content.

In saying this, you don’t want to create content that you don’t enjoy simply because it makes more sales, or because you know it will get most attention online or the most likes. This is a quick road to burnout, forgetting why you wanted to stand out in the first place. Don’t lose track of the reason you want to stand out. write down your goals and the deeper reasoning to why you want to stand out from the rest. Why do you want people to follow you? It can be as shallow as to simply be popular or to get attention, or it can be deeper such as financial stability, to start a business and make it your source of income.

You’re never a sell out if you worked hard to achieve something.

We [Humans] compare ourselves to those who are better off. Nothing will ever be perfect as long as we can be better or have the next better thing in our lives. That can take the form of physical possessions or it can manifest as something greater, such as celebrity status or fame. Fame encompasses much more of a greater scope than it did traditionally in the past, even 20 years ago. Back then fame generally meant being an author, a musician, an actor, or something from the mainstream media or traditional outlets.

But now, fame encapsulates so much more than this. You can be famous, and create a niche for yourself of various different mediums. The internet has levelled the playing field. We each have access to our own unique audiences and creative outlets. Propagated by online and social media, these outlets range from being a popular Youtuber, a well-known fashion blogger, a video game streamer on Twitch, a comedian on Snapchat, or a speaker on Facebook Live.

There is so many places to be, platforms to be on and content to consume. It can be information overload at the best of times. It’s tough not to become anxious with the thought of starting out for the first time, where you end up googling ‘How to be a famous photographer on Instagram’ or ‘how to be a successful video streamer’. The problem is not how or where to do these things. The problem is finding what you love to do. Everyone is googling the same thing. Don’t worry about being famous right now, worry about finding what you’re good at and more importantly, what you love to do.

Standing out is not a goal in itself. Standing out is a byproduct of doing what you love and being great at it. Give it time. It will happen.

So how do you stand out? What is the secret formula to becoming an overnight sensation? There is no secret, and there is no such thing as an overnight success. Standing out is a product of 3 principles;

  1. Curation – Pick something you like to do and go all in on it. Lay all your cards on the table with this thing, and only share this thing on your social channels. You want to get to a point where people know what it is that you’re consistently sharing so that you build an expectation of that thing. Start a new dedicated social media channel for the thing you want to share. Talk about this thing, and I mean in detail. Go into the finer details of your hobby/profession and carve a niche out for yourself. Say you’re a photographer (that’s kind of basic), you need to focus on an area that’s the only thing you share, be specific. You’re a photographer who takes landscape shots, this is better, but you can go deeper. You’re a landscape photographer that uses drones to shoot mountains/waterfalls. That is so specific that it allows people to automatically carve a space in their mind for the type of work that you do. It allows you to be memorable.Granted, this is going to be a bit more difficult because it’s so niche, compared to general photographers who are already established. People only have so much room to consume the same amount of content. But who you will reach is those already in the photography field. Those looking specifically for mountain/waterfall shots with drones or seeking to learn how to do these specific shots for themselves. Now what you are after doing is establishing yourself as the most expert in your field because you have carved out such a niche that people attribute you with being the most knowledgeable about the subject because it’s the only thing you share on your social media channels.
  2. Quality – This is crucial to standing out. And arguably the key principle to anyone standing out from the crowd. Being incredibly skilled at your passion/hobby/profession that it shows in each and every form of work that you do. The fact that you have mastered your craft is the easiest way to stand out and take your place in your respective field. This comes down to showing up every day, pushing the boundary of what you do, implementing more extravagant work, practising what it is you love to do. And not just practising, like in some autonomous mode, but deliberately practising, using brainpower to become better on purpose. Read books on it, put those books into practice. Watch tutorials, put those skills into practice. Look at Pinterest/Instagram for inspiration, put that inspiration into practice.
    You have to work really hard at this thing. You’re going to get rejected. You’re going to fail. You have to find out if you love what you do and have what it takes to stick it out for the long run. The people who stand out to you have been doing this thing for years. Think of your favourite actors, your favourite artists. They have been showing up, getting rejected, failing at this thing. You just don’t see that struggle (most of the time), because we naturally like to share our successes. We don;t like others to see when we fail or can’t do something. Keep at it, you will improve, your time will come.
  3. Network – Get around great people, follow great people, follow ‘smaller’ people who do exactly what you do, talk to them, email them, get to know them, grow together, share tips, share hints, share you process with them. Comment on their posts, their artwork, to really make your name stick. When you develop friendships with people in your network, it allows you to grow in a way of social proof. People who are curious that they see your name pop up on this person’s comments, again and again, see that you do a similar thing.This sort of approach is a little bit like piggy-backing, which in itself isn’t a great way to become known for something, there is a limit to how much you can post without being known as just that person who is there all the time. It can come off as though you are trying too hard to be known. And do not post things like “I’m an up and coming artist, can you follow me?” or anything of that ilk. It’s a sure-fire way to discredit your entire work/brand. The work itself may be good, but it screams of desperation that your work doesn’t stand for itself so you need to push it on people.
    Be nice to people who do the same thing as you. Become so good that you can interview each other or work together on a project. Don’t have a hidden agenda. Make friends for the sake of making friends, not for the sake of making followers.

Standing out means to know what you want to stand out for. Pick a thing that you want to be known for. Go all in on it. Only share that thing on your social channels so that people can pigeonhole you and can categories you in their brain, “Oh, he’s the lettering guy”, “This is the landscape painter” etc. Show up every day and develop your skill, start to implement greater ideas, bigger, more expressive work. Your work will start off being mediocre, but then when you look back on it, you will realise that you have come a long way. People realise this too.

Social proof isn’t the only way to stand out, but it does help. People who don’t know you will often look at your followers to get an idea of just how valuable your work is to others. It acts as a catalyst. The more followers you have, the more you will get. You have reached the point where trust has been established with enough people that others automatically assume value and respect for you in a field that they know nothing about.

You may get more traction the more and more followers you start to accumulate, but it’s the smaller pieces and those followers from the beginning who are the ones who joined your journey of progression, the ones who commented and reached out to you who were the ones that believed you were great at what you do.

You may have ideas of what you want to stand out for or become known for but when you actually go out /sit down to do it you may find out that you don’t actually enjoy the act of doing it. This is why it’s important to find what you enjoy doing for the sake of doing it. Do what you love. Worry about that before you worry about standing out. Give yourself permission to explore what you might like doing.