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Seeking support from others
Identifying the symptoms of burnout
Learning to say no
There are many different approaches to making content and I'm very often asked “How do you create content that is popular, that will be popular?” And I don’t think that’s a very good question to start with. In fact I think you should ask yourself first and foremost “Why do you create content?” So, there are many potential answers to this. What I would consider a bad answer is “to get likes and favorites and subscribers”. That is an intermediate step and you can get trapped in what I would consider, and other people like Eric Reese might call, vanity metrics.
With vanity metrics you’re chasing metrics because they’re highly coveted by many people, which is only looking at the symptoms of potential success, i.e. the likes and so on, but not looking at the ultimate objective. So what might a good objective be? A good objective might be “I’m creating content to determine or hone in on, specifically target, my 1000 true fans”. (If you read one article on content creation or marketing I would make it “1000 True Fans” by Kevin Kelly.)
The die-hard fans are those whose behaviors, beliefs, likes, dislikes, I understand because I’m part of that market. Whatever niche it is, even if it’s a one in a million niche, that can still be a sizable audience. So I want to not appeal to all of the readers or listeners in the world, but instead I want to actively call and filter my audience so that only the people I want to connect with directly actually wade through.
These are very real, tangible, measurable outcomes and I would encourage you to think about what you want to do with your content, what do you want to achieve beyond what we would consider vanity metrics. And there are some vanity metrics that can be converted into dollars. If you’re an Instagram celebrity or you are interested in becoming one, you know that if you have a million plus subscribers, or you have a few million, that you can earn 50 to $70,000 per promoted post. OK, that is an objective. It’s also an objective dependent on a lot of variables you don’t control.
I remember talking to someone who had a very successful content-based business built on Facebook. And he said “It’s like having the most profitable McDonald's in the world, built on top of a volcano: you don’t know when it’s going to erupt”.
So my preferences are always: first, clear objective; what you want to achieve, perhaps can be financially driven, that’s fine, I don’t consider fame in and of itself to be a very useful objective and there are a lot of downsides to that. Then, you have identifying your 1000 true fans. And I will tell you right now that if you try to make something that appeals to everyone, if you try to make something that everyone will like, it will be something that no one loves.
So you wanna first identify the 1000 diehards; once you have your diehard, true believers, they are your strongest unpaid marketing force. They will then recruit your casual listeners, casual readers, and widen out the concentric circles of your access. So you start with 1000, you end up with a readership of a million or three million or 10 million. And that’s exactly what’s happened with me. And I began in a very narrow narrow niche and then, overtime, as I built a larger readership, expanded topically; but I didn’t begin with a wide variety of topics.
This is a really, really important point: Do you enjoy it? In other words, Do you have a deep attraction to a given format so that you will have the endurance necessary to get through all the trials and tribulations and learning hurdles to build the large audience? If not, choose a different approach, because you will fail.
Otherwise, with all of this, I encourage you to think about the long game and ask yourself “If I were in this for the long game, if I commit this is not a three-month endeavor, it is at minimum a three-year commitment to mastering this craft, how does that change your decisions and what does the path potentially look like? It doesn’t mean you have to be wedded to a 3 year plan, but it means that at least you are committed to doing this thought exercise of putting it down on paper and checking out what it might look like.
So if you want to not just create popular content that is ephemeral, that disappears like the flicker of a firefly in the Internet landscape, if you want to convert your efforts into a sustainable career with fans who will take a bullet for you and travel with you wherever you go, you have to think about it differently: do not get caught up in the vanity metrics; and ask yourself “Why?”, ask “So what”, ask “And then what?”, “For what?”, many many many times.
And challenge not only your own assumptions, but the assumptions of other people who give you advice. So feel free to completely disagree with what I say; however, recognize that my beliefs and tenets that I follow are born of many experiments over a long period of time. So if you’re gonna disagree, guess what: those are hypotheses you have to test; and it is through the testing that you will find your own unique path.
If you try to make something that everyone will like,
it will be something that no one loves.
“An idea is something that won’t work unless you do.” - Thomas A. Edison
“If you try to make something that everyone will like, it will be something that no one loves.”
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