The Four Secrets To Online Fame


Paul Getter of The Internet Marketing Nerds helps people rapidly accelerate their digital presence and build successful online businesses.

Many consider online fame to be an achievement worth working toward, including in the business community. Being famous online can open doors for you, create opportunities, provide income streams and help you accomplish goals faster and with more force.

Sliding through Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube makes fame look exciting, glamorous and profitable. By definition, there are fewer famous people than there are non-famous ones. Not everybody is famous online, and most people don’t know what it’s like and never will.

But make no mistake: Fame is relative. Online fame in a niche community might be more like the national news headline and search engine dominance of a Taylor Swift or Kim Kardashian than it is different. Going viral in a post or earning media attention from a story is a form of online fame. Having a devoted following to your Discord or Twitch channel is another form.

So do what you do for you and for the people, things and ideas you love.

Secret No. 1: There’s no proven method of achieving fame.

There’s been no shortage of books and articles about how to achieve fame. Many gurus guarantee they can help others become famous. (I’ve noticed some of them aren’t actually famous other than among people who follow them to learn how to become famous, which seems kind of silly.)

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But there’s no proven method of achieving fame—no recipe, no formula, no magic spell, no potion and no book you can read that will cause you to become famous online. Online fame isn’t, categorically speaking, something you can learn.

Many have endeavored to study and boil down what makes content go viral, and others promise they can teach you how. But by definition, what goes viral cannot be scientifically predicted because it’s decided by the market.

When virality is determined by something as sophisticated, elaborate and complex as the attention market on social media platforms, what goes viral is usually surprising, weird and defies repeatability by design. Many if not most times, the creators or subjects of viral memes did not even intend, much less expect, to go viral.

Secret No. 2: Online fame is often fleeting and disappointing.

Andy Warhol is often quoted as saying that in the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes, which seems remarkably prescient in the era of the internet, smartphones and social media.

Even if you achieve it, online fame might surprise you by how dull it is and how little it changes your life in any significant way. It can come and go very quickly because your viral post or “win” wasn’t repeatable; the forces that made you famous online aren’t sustainable.

When you’re suddenly famous online for the first time, you’ll no doubt be understandably excited and have a lot of fun. But you might be surprised by what a blip it ultimately is. A few days or weeks go by and your life, brand and/or business are no different than before.

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You can even go through a sort of withdrawal or mild depression when the fame subsides. Try not to go on a wild posting spree chasing that fame or hustling to boost your numbers back up. Those kind of posts aren’t likely to be your best.

Secret No. 3: Sustained online fame can be more than you bargained for.

Even if you find fame that lasts, you might be disappointed because it’s not as fun as it looks. You might become more self-conscious, anxious or even paranoid.

Online fame can lead to people putting a lot of pressure on themselves at the center of all that attention. Internet sensations can become—ironically—lonely because their peers don’t understand the anxiety they feel or the weird aspects of being famous. They also might have trouble making new friends, never sure if someone likes them for genuine reasons or just because they’re famous.

Having online fame can keep someone stuck working for fame they don’t really want anymore, dependent on the attention, or typecast as a character, or trying to please a horde of people it’s impossible to please all of. They can go through imposter syndrome, depression, guilt and all kind of hidden challenges because of online fame.

Secret No. 4: Whether you’re famous or not, you’re always exactly in the middle.

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This is a scientific property based on the observed expansion of the universe: No matter where you are, it will always look like you’re in the middle, the point where the universe is expanding from. (The proofs on this are mind-bogglingly cool.)

Well, this is also true of where you are in terms of education, income, the social pecking order and online fame and notoriety. This is helpful to remember whether you’re famous or not: If you’re not as famous as you would like to be, just redraw the lines of the world you’re considering. If you’re online at all, you’re famous to someone. And you’re more famous than many other people. If you’re having struggles with online fame, remember that fundamentally, things are the same as they were before you were famous. It only feels like you’re at the center of the universe.

One last secret: Fame and success aren’t the same thing.

Here’s a secret about business: Some of the most successful business people in the 2020s aren’t famous. I look in on the social media channels of some of the most disruptive people alive today, making some of the most valuable new products and services, and their social media numbers are lousy. But they ship and get paid. They’re not in show business. They’re just in business.


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