Why some people are intensely fascinating

Image: Carlos Porto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve had a number of conversations with people online in the past few weeks regarding the topic of why some people are so good at holding others attention online.

You already know the sort of people I’m talking about – they have tens or hundreds of thousands of follows on major social media sites, and people hang on their every word.

What we were discussing was the ability of people to grab our interest, not general influence (although in many cases these are one and the same people).

As I told somebody on Twitter, I think I have pieces of the answer. Not the whole answer, unfortunately. That would be worth its weight in various precious minerals.

Let’s exclude some of the obvious reasons first of all:

  • Real world celebrities (it really helps to have a media company spend mega-bucks on behalf of your personal brand)
  • Billionaires
  • People with a major real world platform (i.e. CEOs of major corporations)

All of the above have a huge amount of leverage in terms of attracting attention. They could be the most boring people in the world, and still have a huge following.

A few other categories come to mind as well:

  • Anybody who is giving away money. Venture capitalists fall into this category, even though they’re not really “giving” away money. From a psychological perspective though, its like they’re handing out lottery tickets though. People are generally going to be highly intrigued by anybody with even the slightest likelihood of handing them a bucket of cash.
  • People who post a lot. You probably know examples of who I’m referring to – the people who post on Twitter every 30 seconds, and haven’t stopped in years. Pure random chance is likely to result in at least one post eventually connecting with virtually any other user of said site. On the flip side, they tend to have a lot of follower churn as well. And they also likely go through a lot of turnover in staff. Just saying. Relentlessly posting random material on somebody else’s behalf is a soul-sucking job.
  • Experts. This includes world-renowned experts in particular niches (think famous scientist), awesome photographers, or people who have the secret to why some people are more interesting than others (and other marketing tricks). Some people who spend their time talking about SEO and blogging seem to inspire huge followings in particular.
  • Talent. An awe inspiring talent can really hold everybody’s attention.
  • Genuinely funny individuals. Let’s face it, when you spot something that really cracks you up, you’re much more likely to share it with your friends. I don’t know if anybody really understands why some people are more funny than others, so this is just an additional riddle that needs answering.
  • People who have had something newsworthy happen to them. This can lead to 15 minutes of fame (sometimes more if the person in question is quick off the mark), but it is too random to really be of much use. Unless the newsworthy event in question was actually planned…

Or maybe its just all about how you say what you’re saying (and your visual presentation), as social marketing expert Derek Halperin writes (his website is an interesting read).

Or perhaps its all about what you do.

In other words, being interesting is some combination of who you are (platform), what you do, and how you (or others) present what you do. If somebody has a formula for that, I’d really like to know!

3 responses on “Why some people are intensely fascinating

  1. Promod Sharma

    Not everyone requires 10,000 or 100,000 Followers to be successful. What we need most, is the courage to say things that stay on the permanent public record. That’s the magnet that (eventually) attracts an audience. With time and ongoing practice, we find our niche and develop a style. That’s when the magic happens. There’s a joy in watching skilled performers who love what they do.

    PS I could be wrong 🙂

    1. Anonymous

      I agree completely.

      Many of these categories of people don’t necessarily have huge audiences – at least initially.

      I like what you say about courage. That’s something I didn’t include in my post – people who are willing to be outspoken are often fascinating (although also sometimes infuriating!).