Face to Face with the Matthew Effect: Making Yourself Heard

Posted By Darren Rowse 23rd of January 2008 Writing Content 0 Comments

Guest Post: Muhammad Saleem is a social media consultant and a top-ranked community member on multiple social news sites.

For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. (Matthew XXV:29, King James Version.)

What the passage is essentially saying is that the rich and influential will get richer and more influential. However, what the passage doesn’t tell you is what happens to the not-so-rich and not-so-influential in the process. Sociologist Robert Merton uses the phenomenon to explain (in science, for example) how if there are two scientist, one is prominent and one is largely unknown, and both of them independently do the same work, credit will end up going to the already famous scientist.

Now if you apply the same principle to the blogosphere, the problem you start having is that if there is a relatively young and insightful blogger who is going up against an already established blogger with an extensive audience, it’s incredibly difficult for the younger blogger to break through. As James Surowiecki makes the case in his book The Wisdom of Crowds, ‘ideas are meant to triumph not because who is (or who is not) advocating them but because of their inherent value…’ but in reality this is hard (though not impossible) to come by.

Making Yourself Heard
Image by Toddheft

So how do you fight the Mathew Effect? Here’s a start:

1. Work harder

From my personal experience, what I’ve seen is that as people’s influence grows, they tend to get lazy and put less work into their subsequent content. You can stand out by working harder. This doesn’t mean writing more (per post) but this means being consistent, not taking days off, and writing when others are not (weekends and holidays).

2. Differentiate

The ‘big boys and girls’ of blogging often get stuck in their ways. By approaching the same instances from a unique perspective, or focusing on niches that no one else is attending to, you can create a substantial audience for yourself (an audience that others are just ignoring). Only write when you have something fresh to say and do your best to stay out of regurgitation circles.

3. Collaborate

As you’re working from the bottom to the top, don’t forget that you are not alone. Not only are there hundreds of others in the same position as you, but there are also those who remember being in the same position as you. By collaborating with your peers (i.e. guest writing on their sites) you can instantly forge new relationships and reach much wider audience. Take my own experience for example, I have given some of my best work to copyblogger, readwriteweb, searchengineland, centernetworks, pickthebrain, and other sites. Not only have I made everlasting friendships with the owners of these sites, but my contributions helped a completely new and much larger audience appreciate my work and ultimately subscribe to my feed for more of the same.

4. Use your network

We don’t live on a ‘you build it and they’ll come’ web. Our attention spans are decreasing and we’re facing information overload. The onus lies on you to draw people in. This means utilizing your network as much as you can. If you’re on a microblogging platform (i.e. Twitter) share your content there, if you’re on a social network (i.e. Facebook) send your content to your friends, and if you’re on a social news/blookmarking site (i.e. Digg/Del.icio.us) try to get your content some attention there. start with the people closest to you (i.e. most likely to give you a chance and convert to long-term/loyal readers) and expand outwards. Don’t be afraid to reach out to anyone (people are more willing than you think).

5. Don’t get discouraged

There will be many instances where more influential people will write something incredibly similar to what you’ve written, and after you’ve written, and still manage to not only get all the attention, but also the credit. I remember this happening to me about 14 months ago (a story I had written was re-written by another blogger, probably not intentionally, 3 hours after me, and he got all the credit) and I was absolutely infuriated. I was mad, perhaps irrationally, at the other blogger, but more than that I was mad at the readers for flocking to that site instead of mine. Don’t let events like these let you down, rise above them.

By staying true to these five simple principles, and given some time, you too can break through the barrier and get people to listen to you when you speak.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  1. This is a VERY inspirational post, Mu! Just what I needed. It’s true. You have to remain steadfast to your cause. I think I’ll have to print this article out and post above my computer screen as a daily reminder! Thank you again, Mu!

  2. This is a VERY inspirational post, Mu! Just what I needed. It’s true. You have to remain steadfast to your cause. I think I’ll have to print this article out and post it above my computer screen as a daily reminder! Thank you again, Mu!

  3. Another good one. Now in my 4th year as a blogger, I guess it’s high time to go out there and really collaborate with other bloggers and see which links have been really created.

  4. (a story I had written was re-written by another blogger, probably not intentionally, 3 hours after me, and he got all the credit)
    Were both the titles equally interesting? Were both writing styles equally compelling? Were both layouts equally readable?
    Were they both publicized equally aggressively?

    Sometimes this happens with similar submission on social sites.

  5. Very inspiring post, particularly for one of those “younger” bloggers you refer to (not by age, by blog-life). I’ve found that rather than directly competing with the larger, more established blogs in my genre I do better to cooperate with them. I link to their work on occasion in my own posts, and I frequently piggyback on their ideas (giving them credit, of course).

  6. Muhammad –

    Interesting post about being consistent in social networks especially regarding the need to share your wealth with others, which you generously do – with a link back, of course.

    I would encourage all to read the entire chapter of Matthew:

    Note this verse also: Matthew 25:40: “And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'”

    Peace to your day!


  7. All bloggers need this type of inspiration. Blogging is work and if you don’t see any progress in you blog it gets frustrating. You work hard to get that great post and few people read it. This is one of the main reasons I read Problogger, to get inspired.

  8. I think I need to print this post and tack it to my wall.

  9. Barbara, I’m glad you posted your comment. I would suggest the same.

    Muhammed, you mentioned “However, what the passage doesn’t tell you is what happens to the not-so-rich and not-so-influential in the process.”

    But in fact the rest of the book does. Actually if there is such a thing as a Matthew effect, it would be focused on what we do for “the least of these,” the poor, the not-so-rich. It would be focused on how Christ wants us to live and serve, not how to get richer.

    Of course if that were the focus of this article then you’d have a very different list! Very interesting food for thought.


  10. That’s totally amazing. I have never thought about that scripture in that way. Many times we read but we dont really think what certain things mean until you read something like this. So many people have said that the more successful becomes more successful but I dont think I have believed it until now.

  11. Hi Muhammad – such a GREAT post that it begged to be stumbled!

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  12. Thanks for the tips. The passage you selected is certainly applicable to many aspects of life, and finding ways to make the voices of the unknown (or, young, less experienced, impoverished, etc.) is a challenging task. Thanks again.

  13. Great points – especially number 5. I notice many people in the blogosphere accusing others of stealing their ideas. But there is no copyright on ideas. And as we all draw inspiration from the same sources, it is inevitable that others may be blogging on the same topic.

  14. Thanks for this post! I admire your tenacity with the SM stuff and I hope I can make my way down that same road, :)

  15. I have to say, I’m a bit offended at a Bible verse being taken so out of context. If you read Matthew 25 starting at verse 14, you’ll see that the “to he who has much, more will be given” is the moral to a story talking about people taking the talents they’re given and using them. In the story, the lazy servant who didn’t invest the money he was given was punished. He lost what he’d been given to start with. On the other hand, the 2 servants who invested their money/talents and had something to show for it were richly rewarded.

    Applying that principal to my blogging, then, it would be fair to say that working hard is its own reward. People who start a blog and input no effort shouldn’t expect to succeed.

  16. You know what? That came off as harsh, and it wasn’t my intent at all. I do apologize if I appear to be slamming Muhammad’s very insightful post. The other two references he gave were strong enough, rendering the verse unnecessary in the first place.

  17. this was a very inspiring post. i needed to read it to help me continue seeking success with my web site.

    best to everyone!

  18. Abosolutely amazing post. Perhaps one of the best guest post i have seen over here. Even though I am an athiest and couldn’t care much about the religious link to the post. The article was excellent and inspirational all the way.

    Good job in motivating me.

  19. Thank you for the motivation! Things do happen sometimes and I can get discouraged with my blogging, but I am always looking for a way to pull myself back up again. Today, it was your post.

    Thanks again,


  20. Not getting discouraged is the most important thing to remember in my opinion. People tend to loose hope pretty fast. Just have patience…

  21. I know you are speaking specifically about blogging, but your words are sound advice for ANYONE trying to do ANYTHING. I try, in my business, to help, specifically women, understand how critical these principles are. I think you really hit the mark in admonishing people to take advantage of people who rest on their established fame; the fast paced web world brutally punishes those who become complacent in their business by allowing someone else to replace them.

  22. Thank you for the inspiration.

  23. Heather says: 02/13/2008 at 1:36 am

    I came into this blog by researching the Matthew effect. As a writer who has been considering blogging I found this discussion insightful. However, I too, feel it is inappropriate to compare not having or using resources to a superficial interpretation. Taken in context, the moral of the parable of the talents is either that those who accept God’s grace will receive more blessings while those who despise God’s patient goodness and cling to the transient riches of this world will ultimately lose everything or the necessity for Christians to bear fruit for God’s kingdom (depending on which interpretation you accept.)

  24. Diane K says: 10/24/2008 at 8:25 am

    AmyL, thank you for the additional context which really supported the use of the verse!