If you start a blog today with the intention of becoming the next Lifehacker, Problogger, or Copyblogger, you’re likely to fail. Between a lengthy head start and an army of writers contributing to these sites the average person can’t compete. That’s the bad news. The good news is that you don’t have to. The future of the social web lies in small, but wildly passionate and loyal communities, ones that have an IMPACT on people’s lives. Fortunately the ability to build these kinds of communities is available to everybody. The need to cultivate Kevin Kelly’s 1000 true fans is more important than ever.
Impact vs Reach
Reach can be bought. You can buy yourself 10,000 followers on twitter. You can buy a million visitors to your blog. But if they have no connection to you it doesn’t have as much value. If all you’re interested in is a transaction, then it works. But to build a truly engaged community it’s going to require cultivating a connection.
Yes you need traffic. But when your focus becomes building an audience up of numbers instead of one of people, it’s easy to water down your work so much that you cater to the lowest common denominator. You go from impacting lives to interrupting them. In a world where we’ve gone from 150 television channels to more than 150 million media channels, the impact based approach to marketing, social media, and content creation stands a more significant chance of success.
Infinite Scalability Could Lead to Eventual Mediocrity
Why haven’t the owners of some of the most popular personal blogs online brought in a team of writers to replace themselves? It’s not a matter of money. They have thriving businesses. They could easily hire a team of world class writers.
AJ Leon, who launched his site Pursuit of Everything just 5 months ago is building a cult following. But ask him about growth, and he has no interest in “internet fame.” He likes being the “corner coffee shop of the web.” You might be thinking that sounds a bit idealistic. Let’s a take a look at some numbers.
- The Life and Times of a Remarkable Misfit has been downloaded over 87,000 times since it was published 5 months ago.
- A Kickstarter campaign to create a print version of the above guide raised over 10,000 dollars in 5 hours.
That’s not bad for being the corner coffeeshop of the web.
This model of being a publisher may not scale. But it doesn’t have to. It’s a model based on people instead of numbers.
A Focus on True Fans
What defines a true fan? How do you know somebody is a true fan?
- The show up every single day
- They tell other people about you
- They notice when you don’t publish or disappear
- They buy something because it’s made by you. Apple customers are a perfect example of this. People who love Apple will tell you they have plans to buy the iPhone 12.
Once you start to do work in service of your true fans something magical happens. All of the above just becomes a byproduct of how you show up in the world.
Know, Like, and Trust
It’s spread through the web like a mantra that people do business with those that they know, like, and trust. Yet too many people look at all the tools and technology as a way to speed up this process rather than facilitate it.
As of two days ago some of you know me. If we’re friends from before I started this column, hopefully you like me. But I’d be a fool if I expected you to hire me or buy anything from me. The real beauty of blogging, social media and our new technology is it enables us to build trust in a way that we never could before. This status update from Tom Ziglar about selling and trust is a true indicator of how important this is:
In Zig Ziglar’s (my Dad!) best seller Secrets of Closing the Sale he points out that the number one reason that people do not buy is a lack of trust. We are all in sales. We may be selling ideas, or selling our spouse or kids on something we want to do, or we may own a company that depends on sales to stay in business. According to Dad, if we are going to be successful in whatever we sell, we have to build trust.
Now, in the connection economy, where we are connected to almost everyone and everything, and transparency is no longer really a choice, trust is essential. Sure, people, governments, businesses, politicians, the media, etc will try to present their version of the truth, but in the connection economy this is becoming more and more difficult. And when trust is broken, in the connection economy everyone will soon know it.
So what are you going to do about it? Are you going to make scaling trust your number one priority? If so, will every action you take, and every word you speak, build trust? In order to live a consistently trustworthy life, you first must be a trustworthy person. This means that situational ethics is no longer an option for you. And this leads to an enormous challenge for many, the realization that there are absolutes.
– Tom Ziglar
Trust takes time to build, but once it’s been established, it’s a solid foundation for a loyal community.