When you’re brand new to the content creation game, it feels like your dreams of building an audience are distant.
You effectively start at zero.
How do you get people to pay attention to you when nobody knows who you are?
How can you get followers if your content isn’t amazing yet?
You can learn how to build a massive audience, but it takes time. Here are four key things to focus on when you’re playing the long game:
1. Adopt this attitude to succeed
Most content creators fail, quit, and burn out early because they’re too attached to the outcomes. They need their content to do well, which is why it doesn’t do well. They’re impatient and trying to force the process.
As a beginner, you should adopt this mantra:
Post and assume nobody will see it.
You want to get results, sure, but you’re not tied to them. You’re going to need a detached attitude in the beginning because you won’t reap a ton of rewards for your initial effort.
Along with the detachment from outcomes in the short term, you need to ditch the idea of short-term outcomes altogether. If you come into the process assuming that it will take a few years to reach the top (it will), you’ll be more patient and relaxed when it comes to the initial period where everything seems so difficult.
You have to remember the power of the following concepts to keep you motivated for the long term:
- Compounding: Once the size of your following reaches a certain tipping point, it will be much easier to grow because you already have a base of people interacting with your content.
- Network effects: Platforms with algorithms will recognize this and push you in front of new followers even harder. Notice how on every social media platform you start to get recommendations from people you don’t even follow? That’s the power of network effects at play.
- The power of having a catalog and an audience: Once you build a following on one platform, you can start posting content on another platform without starting from scratch because you can direct your audience to the content you make on the new platform.
2. Build and utilize your catalog of creations
Think of your content as an income-producing asset. Savvy investors don’t just let their money sit in a bank account; they let their money make money for them.
Building a catalog of content is like having capital you can use to grow and (eventually) monetize your audience in the future.
A few examples of this are:
- When you start creating good content, people will want to republish it on your behalf without your additional effort. Articles I’ve published have been syndicated on Business Insider, turned into animated shorts on YouTube, translated, and recorded onto audio by narrators. All of this without any effort on my part.
- You can take content from one medium and use it in another (e.g. transcribe a video and turn it into a blog post or use a blog post as a script for a video).
- You can combine and remix content (e.g. taking blog posts and turning them into a book you can sell on Amazon or taking excerpts of your writing and putting them into graphics to post on social media).
My examples lean heavily on writing, but you can use this in other mediums, too. One 15-minute video can be 15 one-minute videos. Each of those 15 mini videos can be the seed for a slide on a SlideShare.
The bottom line: just build the catalog first, and figure out what to do with it later.
Since I’ve been writing for 8 years, I have more than enough content to remix and republish in a variety of ways.
Are you noticing a theme yet?
People worry too much about future outcomes instead of just focusing on creating right now, in the moment.
Sit down and write a blog post today. Who cares if it sucks?
Shoot a video today. It will suck. Do it anyway.
Record your podcast. No one will listen to it. Who cares?
You’re building the seeds and foundations you can use in the future. Build your catalog now so you can be an early adopter of new platforms and have content ready to go when the next trend hits.
Use the Rule of 100 to get good at content and build your catalog.
The Rule of 100
Your first 100 blog posts will mostly suck.
Your first 100 podcasts will mostly suck too.
Your first 100 talks will not be perfect.
Your first 100 videos will be nightmares.
I’ve used CamMi’s quote so many times that it’s absurd. I just love that nice round number of 100 as the perfect benchmark for the effort you should put into creating content before you start judging its success.
Content creation starts out as an absolute slog to begin with:
- Nobody knows who you are.
- You’re not good at creating content.
- Your ROI in terms of audience and income on your first 100 creations will essentially be zero.
Take aspiring writers on Medium as an example. Many writers have said that Medium is saturated and it’s hard to make an income on this platform.
It’s true, but not for the reason you might think. The reason most people make little to no money on Medium is simple—they’re beginners, and their writing sucks.
Had I started as a beginner on Medium, I would’ve failed too. But I already had 100 blog posts under my belt by the time the Medium Partner Program came around.
Get your 100 under your belt as fast as possible.
Now let’s talk about this in practice.
3. Resist this temptation
You’re going to be tempted to try to be everywhere at once:
If you try to be everywhere at once, you’ll get too distracted, burn yourself out, and have mediocre content and meager followings on many different platforms instead of having a solid following on one or two.
Pick one primary platform and one secondary platform.
They should both be in line with each other and have the same style of content, so you can build your secondary platform mostly by repurposing content.
- Long-form YouTube videos → Reels or Tiktoks
- Medium blog posts → Tweets
- Substack newsletter → LinkedIn posts
You want to learn everything there is to know about your primary platform.
Some recommendations for studying them:
- Spend time daily consuming content from top creators. Take notes on what they do well and how you can differentiate yourself.
- When creating content, learn how to model content from other writers. This isn’t plagiarism. You’re just looking for the main idea in their piece of content and remixing it in your own style.
- Learn the ropes that lead to views, followers, and engagement on your platform (e.g. YouTube prioritizes click-through rates and watch time, so you need to have amazing thumbnails, great opening hooks, and many camera cuts to hold attention).
Take YouTube, for example. Mr. Beast, the top YouTuber in the world, is known for maniacally studying how the platform works. He spent 12-14 hours studying YouTube every single day until he cracked the code.
You don’t have to spend this much time, but it’s important to understand that your effort level helps dictate your results.
4. Become an engagement machine
If you’re a smaller account, one of the easiest ways to boost your following is engaging with larger accounts. Choose accounts with followers in your target audience or at least similar to it.
This is where the Dream 100 strategy comes in:
The Dream 100 strategy, developed by Russell Brunson, is a way to identify and target key customers or partners that will significantly impact a business. It involves creating a list of 100 potential dream partners and gradually building relationships with them. Brunson believes that focusing on the Dream 100 can help you build an audience faster because you’re finding ways to expose yourself to bigger audiences.
In the beginning, you should just show love. Leave thoughtful comments that go above and beyond saying, “good job!”
You can use humor. Take a look at this Twitter response I left for someone who dispels a lot of myths in the men’s self-improvement space:
That single reply got 27,000 views just because I made the person who tweeted the post laugh.
You can also work to add real depth to the conversation.
Take the reply that I gave to this post:
I added depth to the conversation, which again helped me get 1,000+ eyeballs on my content:
Leaving thoughtful comments is a cheat code to getting more views and followers. When you take the time and effort to do this repeatedly, the results can compound. Social media expert Gary Vee explains how this process works when he talks about his $1.80 strategy for building influence on Instagram.
The truth is, the way to win on social media is to actually be social. Whether it goes down in the DM or you are actively searching the top 9 posts in every hashtag on Instagram or Twitter, you need to participate and engage with people who have the same interests as you […] I came up with what I like to call the $1.80 Instagram strategy which translates to leaving your personal .02 cents on the top 9 trending Instagram posts for 10 different hashtags that are relevant to your brand or business every single day. By the end, you haven’t just left your .02, but a full $1.80 of thoughts online.
Pay attention to that quote. It’s called social media. Most new creators don’t go to these lengths to make connections and build not just an audience but alliances and a community. It shows.
The audience-building game is about genuine effort, thoughtfulness, and connection. The more you give on the front end, the more you get on the back end.
I have a Dream 100 list for Twitter right now. I spend half an hour every day simply retweeting their posts, leaving comments, and quote-tweeting. Occasionally I’ll shoot one of them a DM just to let them know I enjoy their work.
As my presence on Twitter grows and they repeatedly see my name, they will start interacting with me. Some of them will retweet my stuff without asking. Down the road, after building a solid relationship and familiarity with them, I might drop them a link to my post in their DMs in the hopes it gets a retweet.
This is how the game works. Slow, progressive, gradual.
Building an audience is an uphill battle (but one worth fighting)
Success happens slowly, then suddenly.
You’ll fight, scratch, and claw to build an audience, get engagement, and make connections.
But one day, you’ll have made so much content, have so many connections, and be so good at what you do that it gets much easier to grow. You won’t chase after opportunities anymore because you’re flooded with opportunities that come your way.
Honestly, it just comes down to consistency and patience.
If you practice long enough and hard enough, you’ll win.