How to Get People to Pay Attention to You

How to Get People to Pay Attention to You

Sometimes you meet surprising people online. They’re the ones you never expected to like but end up liking anyways, just because they’re quirky or funny or nice to you.

So when Martin Stellar sent me a post that tells you the secret of getting big names to like you and how to get people paying attention to you, I had to share it. Enjoy.

James Chartrand has a crush on me.

Four months ago, I had a business that was tanking – fast. I needed some cash flow. I had a decent amount of experience in marketing, sales, psychology and writing, and when I came across MwP, I thought, “Why not ask this James if she’s got any writing jobs for me?”

I sent a spiffy email and waited.

And how did that work out?

James didn’t give me work.

I realize this is not doing much to prove my point that she has a crush on me, but fear not: the best part is still to come. She may not have given me a job, but she did give me something much more valuable: a good connection.

She responded to my email. She invited me to ask questions and offered encouragement. Four months later, I send James a message every now and then – sometimes a question, sometimes a Twitter DM, or sometimes a new sample of my writing in hopes that she’ll get her head out of the snow and hire me.

She always replies. She answers my questions. She teaches me. She even spent two hours shooting emails back and forth with me a few weeks ago, helping me sort through some issues I had with a client.

Normally, people like James charge big money for their time and their assistance. But I’m not paying a dime.

I think we can all conclude there’s a full-blown crush going on here.

Okay, maybe not. But seriously, what was it that made James willing to talk to me frequently and offer her highly valuable advice? And what about all the other people I’ve connected with? I’ve been in touch with various other highly respected and even famous people in the past few months, and they’ve all responded with kindness, warmth, and encouragement.

Yet another social media success story, right?


Social Media is Snake Oil

There’s a lot of talk these days about social media and that you need to connect and engage with others. There are how-tos and courses and lessons and all sorts of advice. But you know what?

It’s all bunk. It’s the new variety of snake oil. Extra-improved, ultra-new… but still snake oil.

Because social media won’t make people like you.

Think about the offline world for a minute:

  • If you need your grocer to give you credit for a week until the first paycheck from your new job comes in, your grocer won’t do that unless he knows you, likes you, has met your family and knows you’re a stand-up regular who wouldn’t stiff him.
  • If you need a neighbor to take a detour and pick up your kids because your car is in the shop, your neighbor won’t do that if you’ve never spoken a word to him outside of “Hey” if you bump into each other taking out the trash.
  • If you need your local travel agent to pull strings and change a ticket for you, he won’t go push his relationships with all his contacts unless he actually cares about you and is as worried as you are about getting you where you’re going.

Now think about the online world:

If you get on Twitter and ask the biggest big shot you can find to hire you, he’s not going to do that unless he knows and likes you already. He may not even do it then, because he may not have any position open for you.

But if he knows and likes you, he’ll do his best to help you out.

Social media isn’t any different than other ways of being social. Talking to a business guru on Twitter isn’t any different than chatting with them on the phone. If they don’t know you and you’re asking for favors, they won’t want to help you.

On the other hand, if they like you, they’ll want you to like them.

Why Being Likeable Works

When James liked me, she wanted me to like her back. That isn’t because she has a crush on me (though make no mistake, she definitely has a crush on me). It’s human nature.

Think of little kids on the playground. If they want another child to like them, they offer to let them play with a toy. Or they give the other kid one of their cookies. Or they stick up for their new friend in the face of bullies. The idea is that the other kid will think, “Hey, this is a nice person. I should be nice to them, too.”

And from there, it’s a win-win.

The same goes for adult relationships. We like people who can give us what we want. If you show up and give what you have to offer – an ear, a shoulder, some advice of your own, a helpful anecdote, a joke – the other person’s natural, hardwired response is to generally want to do something nice for you in return.

This is true even for big shots. If you show up and are your normal, likeable self, they’re going to like you and want to help you succeed. They may not be able to offer you a job or give you what you want outright, but they’ll be more than willing to offer you exactly what you offered them: kindness and friendship.

A Word of Warning

Be yourself – but that doesn’t mean you can let it all hang out. You don’t want the worst parts of your personality getting full public play.

Pretend you’re on a first date (like the one I’m going on with James when she comes to her senses). You’d show the best parts of your personality and avoid showing the less likable aspects. Even if you normally have a short fuse, it’s likely you wouldn’t yell at the waiter on a date because you want to be likeable. Instead, you’d fall back on your best trait: making witty comments about the service.

Being yourself means you don’t fake it. Don’t ingratiate yourself and don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. People catch on quicker than you’d think, and no one likes a phony. They won’t bother getting to know you. They won’t like you from the get-go – because they know you’re not trying to be likeable.

You’re just trying to get something out of them.

No one likes that guy.

If you get out there, forget “gaming” social media, and just be the likeable person you are. Most people you encounter will respond with warmth and kindness. They’ll want to help you, because when we help people, we up the chances that they’ll like us and help us back.

And everyone wants that. Me, you – even the big shots.

Speaking of which, James – call me.

Post by Martin Stellar

Martin Stellar is a creatively warped copywriter and business consistentialist. His job is to make you look your best - online and offline. He also knows how to show you what being likeable really means.

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  1. Splendid post! I agree anyone and everyone wants to help a person who is likeable and nice. Who would want to help out someone you never had connected with anyway.

    • Yes, that’s it. It’s so incredibly simple, but people seem to think that social behaviour is different when it’s online, even though the people are the same – there’s just a different interface.

  2. It’s all bunk. It’s the new variety of snake oil. Extra-improved, ultra-new… but still snake oil.

    Martin, this is gold. I love it!

    I think people are also getting more cynical when it comes to people they meet through social media. People are having to prove themselves before being fully accepted.

    • Thank you Melinda! *blush*

      Yes people are cynical, but you know what? You don’t have to prove yourself. Just BE yourself. You’ll get liked by just the kind of people you need.

      • Social media isn’t snake oil – there is definitely benefits that come from it. You just need to know how to use it, like any other tool. You can’t build a whole house with a hammer, but try building a whole house without a hammer and I bet you’ll have a hard time. The same is true with building relationships online (whether it be on Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, or whatever).

  3. It seems to me phoniness comes through faster in 140 characters, because there’s no room for fluffing. That might be bad news for people who are sincere but slightly awkward in writing.

    Now there’s a nasty double-whammy–intimidated by both the medium *and* the person you don’t yet realize has a crush on you.

    I think getting out there is very much like a first date. You’re nervous as hell, but you won’t get past the discomfort until you take a deep breath and dive into the experience.

  4. Yesterday evening, @mktgdouchebag threw out a tweet that I think should become everyone’s philosophy.

    Look a person up before you assume they’re an idiot or a champ. Don’t evaluate a stranger solely on how they socialize.

    I see so many people immediately assuming that this person is SO NICE! Or that one is a real jerk, or that one is an idiot or shy or awesome or smart or whatever.

    And it’s true: we do make snap judgments about people like that, from their first 140 words.

    But in the real world, you wouldn’t make these decisions as quickly. Yes, you’d have a first impression and yes, you’d make a snap judgment. But would you invite that person to JV on the spot? Would you hire them within three minutes? Would you call your mom and squee he/she said something to you?

    Probably not. You’d have a conversation. You’d size the person up as you talked, and you’d get to know them more. You rarely become instant friends from “hello” – it takes a few get-togethers and moments to figure out who this person really is, and whether you trust or like them.

    Be the same online. Do your research. Get to know the person. Be smart.

    THEN be friends.

  5. Great advice. Social media is overblown. It can help drive traffic, but not necessarily quality traffic to a site. The 3 analogies you gave provided a great example to your point!

    • You’re so right. When I got started with this a few months ago I didn’t even see the sense in social media. It really opened my eyes to meet people like James and to realize that there’s no way in the world you can get connected to people like her unless you’re authentic, and just simply nice.

  6. Hi Martin,

    Love your writing! The James crush angle works terrific. Keeps me intrigued until the end.

    You’re right on. Be yourself and people will like you. That’s the ultimate irony — folks don’t want to be served up a phony portion of you. Yet, that’s what we are taught to serve.

    And showing kindness — that’s the key to success and happiness! (the name of my post from a few days ago if you want to be kind and take a peek.) A simple concept but one that’s been overlooked because it needs to come from the heart.

    Just went to your site. Lessons from a scoundrel is a fantastic post!

    Kindly yours, Giulietta

  7. And all this time I thought James had a crush on *me*. 😉

    But seriously, she has helped me SO much and I’ve tried to reciprocate – and it all started with being real and being genuinely helpful.

    Loved your post, Martin – let me know how your date with James goes. 😀


  8. Love it! New, cutting-edge technology doesn’t change human nature–you still need the right social skills, and so many people forget that.

    • For some of the introverts, social media helps us build those skills without the stress and anxiety that can sometimes come from face-to-face interaction or group settings. It’s wonderful, because now anyone can be a leader. But you’re right – the same social rules still apply.

  9. Be your self and people will follow you for you..look i’m not an actor so i have no time to put on a show..I’m just me an people attach to that character.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  10. Really liked the style of writing Martin. Very engaging and kept me reading until the end.

    The thing is, all of us know how we should do it, but when you have a mischievous personality (like I do) its so much easier to let people know face to face you are being cheeky but it can easily get lost online because your limited to 140 characters. I sometimes find I have to hold back on my personality when I tweet because of that.

    As you said, I’ll have to learn to be concise and make my point – fast 😉


    • Yup, being cheeky can backfire. It can also go a long way, but it’s risky. Ask James: she graciously reigned me in the other day.

      Thanks James. That’s extra expensive champagne on our first date.

  11. My husband thinks people on the internet are not real people. He can’t believe I can talk about someone in Canada or Florida or California as if I know them–and never have met them or shaked their hand.

    He doesn’t get the whole social media thing. Information, sure. Maps, sure. But making friends is just outside the reach of his paradigm.

    Martin: You’ve made some good points about the generousity of some of the people in social media. James and others do help, advise, teach, share their connections and friendship. It is unexpected, unselfish. It is an amazing gift that inspires me to also want to reach out to others. It has made me a loyal fan for life.

    • Mary, I’ve been working online for years now. I’m high profile. I’m known.

      And my friends and family STILL don’t get it. “Why do you talk to these people? Who are they? You don’t even know them!”

      I always want to say, “Well, I didn’t know you either once upon a time…”

      • Thanks, that helps. I’m going to be facing a mob of them at family holiday get togethers.

        And my friend James, I’d rather spend time with you any time.

        ps. I can broadcast this to the world, knowing it is safe that not a single one of them would see it:)

  12. OK I’m hooked, who’s this James person?

  13. You’re right. Being likeable works. Big time. Period. The truth is, and I’ve heard @unmarketing say this before (and I agree), “if you suck in real life, social media is going to make you suck harder.” He says it jokingly, but he also sorta means it and it’s true.

    • Oh I consider it to be totally true.

      Well, not that someone will increase in suckiness if he or she starts geting into social media, but it will become painfully obvious to them.

  14. “Because social media won’t make people like you.”

    But being social on social media can. I know that I am more likely to visit a blog if someone at least sends me a personable or thoughtful tweet. The key is to not send out scripted and automated stuff – make it human!

    Twitter gives me some of my most quality traffic. For one of my sites, the average time spent is 2 minutes, but the average time spent from Twitter traffic is over 4 minutes! Social media is definitely highly effective if you are using it correctly.

    This is actually the subject of my latest blog post “Get Targeted Traffic with Twitter.” – a very easy way to get people to start paying attention to what you do and say. A tweet takes what? 20 seconds? But your customers/clients/fans will feel like they are being noticed – they love that!

    As far as building a friendship with “big names” – a tweet or retweet can begin to make your name more familiar. They A-listers may not respond right away or give you incredible advice, but they will start thinking of you in a more friendly manner. It’s just a “digital handshake,” – nothing more, nothing less – but it does humanize your online relationships.

  15. Awww Martin–I’m a-rootin’ for your MwP rendevous!

    Thanks for the honest and persistent example of how you reached out and got what you (almost ;))wanted.

    Last July I think it was, while in the coffee shop writing a post for my new blog, I responded to a James tweet and we ended up having a mini-conversation. I really appreciated her wit and attention, especially b/c I had about…oh, 27 followers! But also b/c I felt her sincerity and it gave me a boost. I didn’t do anything special–just my normal self, but when you’re new and green and want to give up b/c nobody is reading your blog (not even mom), those moments propel you.

    Good luck, and you’ve got game, baby 😉

  16. Great post! That is a good way to chat with a famous person just be yourself and don’t expect anything. If you happen to score a gig cool. I like the analogy about snake oil which seems to run rampant when it comes to advice it’s just dressed up in a new package but basically the same.

  17. Great post, but I think it’s a bit light on how to make yourself likeable — it’s more than just being “nice”. I think to make yourself likeable, you have to like people to start with. In general, I mean, not just individuals. That’s a philosphy of life, not a technique. But I think there are practical things you can do as well. I have lost count of the number of people I’ve helped out (to get work and thereby earn money) who have not even bothered to contact me afterwards to say “thank you”. It doesn’t take much. I think it’s “little” things like say “thank you”, done persistently, that makes one likeable. Also, I make a personal point of following people on Twitter who have hardly any followers (I know I come into that category on this account, but on another I have several thousand) because I think it’s important to encourage them, and listen to what they have to say. I know a few people who were nice (and therefore likeable) some years ago, but have now become obnoxious because they have fallen in love with themselves — that’s a danger to be avoided too!

  18. Re: ” If you need a neighbor to take a detour and pick up your kids because your car is in the shop, your neighbor won’t do that if you’ve never spoken a word to him outside of “Hey” if you bump into each other taking out the trash.”

    Hopefully you wouldn’t trust a stranger to pick up your kids, neighbor or not.

    Or am I revealing my cynicism?

    • Maybe, maybe not. It depends on your neighbours 😉

      On a serious note: yes, it is a concern. Trust is key in such a (hypothetical) situation, which reinforces my point: being known, liked, and yes: trusted.

  19. THANK YOU for calling out social media as “snake oil” !! I get so frustrated with clients jumping on the buzzword of social media, and have expectations that this is going to be a magic pill without giving me any content to work with! It’s true, customers/clients aren’t going to buy your product/service just cause you’re on social media. At the end of the day, it’s all about the relationship you build — whatever the medium or form of communication you’re using. And you’ve really nailed it with this post. I think I have a crush on you too now 🙂

    • *blush*
      You’ll have to fight with James, let me know how it went 🙂

      You’ve got it totally right. Social media is just a channel. It’s a tool just like the telephone is a tool. If you get on the phone and behave like a [insert favourite negative denominator], you won’t go anywhere and you won’t get results.

      Be nice, get nice. Simple.

  20. Most people will respond positively to a human voice that sincerely says, “I need your help.” if your request is reasonable.

  21. I wouldn’t say that social media is snake oil. I, however, feel that you have to think before post and observe what is going on with the platform that your on. I, however, like the fact that I can connect and see what Gary Vee and Chris Brogan are doing on twitter. Now many of the skills used to succeed in the offline world can be used in the online world to get people to like you. Great Post @live_alpharetta

  22. “Because social media won’t make people like you. ”

    This is half-true. Social media can’t do anything, it’s a series of platforms, the “how”.

    Social networking is the activity, facilitated by the media and I disagree with you that it is snake-oil.

    What is snake oil is the opinion that is put about, largely by those who exploit social media to make a living, is that you can succeed at being liked by on-line methods alone. The various social media platforms provide a start, but you have to build those relationships through engagement and sharing.

    It would be nice to stregthen the relationships by meeting face-to-face but that isn’t practcable. Social media allows people to network across all 5 continents which was previously very difficult!

    Light love and pece,


  23. That’s interesting articles. Social Media really brings a variety of communication.

  24. Great post! I hope lots of people read it and pay attention!


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