Focus On The Few, Not On Everyone
You don’t need as many people subscribing to you as you think to achieve your content goals.
Instead of trying to please everyone, find the right people and do work that you can take pride in, that will mean something to them.
Over the years, You Are The Media has taken a lot of industry thinking around audience-building on board, from the 1,000 fans mantra of Kevin Kelly to First, Ten by Seth Godin. Both relate to the number of people you need on your side to create something recurring and sustainable and yet are at separate ends of the spectrum. And I now realise that you don’t need anywhere near 1,000 people to accomplish things, pay the bills and enjoy your life.
Why Do We Think Bigger Is Better?
The size of your audience is often regarded as a byword for social proof.
To the potential subscriber it says, “If so many others are on board, why aren’t you?”
It can manifest in for instance, landing pages that tell you that thousands have already subscribed. Even the resurgence of LinkedIn pods can be seen as part of this, where you assume what is essentially a mob mentality that comments and likes each other’s posts to boost overall visibility. A lot of this comes down to demonstrating to others that the numbers of people you’ve already attracted make you worthy of another follow.
When I started my business I had aspirations to create something that everyone would want. Over the years I came to understand the importance of finding my niche.
I wrote this article on ‘big does not mean success’ in which I examine how you have to care about what others will be able to learn from you, not just how big it’s going to be.
It asks the question, are you going to be for the few or for everyone?
THE FEW – creating work that stands out, accepting that it’s not for everyone but being ok that you’re not there just to fit in.
EVERYONE – recognising that there are many different people you have to please and your message has to somehow serve everyone. The goal being fitting in, turning no one away and being embraced by as many as possible.
Few Is Good With Me
You Are The Media is the place from which I create for people who are all part of the community I’ve built.
Its focus is on how you can build a reputation and create work with which you become seen as a trusted voice in your marketplace. That definition in itself, centred as it is on an owned media angle, demonstrates that YATM is not for everyone. If I’d been focusing on trying to attract everyone, I’d be looking at social media or a broader, catch-all marketing tactics approach.
Being for the few, or rather fewer, is ok with me.
As we look to 2021, we’re going to keep this focus and approach going – creating, sharing, connecting with people, the audience growing, recognising community members’ contributions and learning together. It’s an effective, inspiring and proven way of creating community.
Why Focusing On The Few And Not On Everyone Can Help You
When you create work that is not intended for everyone but is designed to be particularly resonant to those who you want to attract, you’re doing far more to support your own efforts. That whole thing around “convincing them to come to your side” isn’t as fraught with doubt as you’re already aligned.
This is what I take from producing work for YATM each week and leaning into the occasions that bring people together:
The more you know about your audience, the more you can help them. Understanding the people who subscribe to you is invaluable as it works both ways. For instance, I reach out to people from the You Are The Media community to share what I am thinking and they respond telling me how it is with them.
You get to know people better. Intentionally choosing a smaller audience with higher levels of engagement means you have the chance to get to know people better. With YATM for instance, we introduced the YATM Socials in 2018 as a way of people meeting up in person at the end of a week for a drink and so building stronger bonds.
It’s easier to join in. The fear of stepping into the unknown when you join a new group is less overwhelming when numbers are manageable.
Smaller groups encourage togetherness. Smaller groups make for better conversation with more people being able to make their voice and perspective heard.
It makes sense – imagine being in a packed football stadium with your friends sitting somewhere on the other side – you’re here, they’re over there, you’ll never get to speak to them. Smaller numbers introduce a whole new spirit. For instance, fans may set up their own groups, podcast and live streams to bring others together (a good example of this is with You Are The Media Podcast guest, Sam Davis and his AFC Bournemouth show Back Of The Net).
Fewer people can mean more loyalty. This, and building a space before you need it, is one of my biggest lessons from 2020. As the pandemic physically shut us off from each other, the Zoom space grew and has kept on growing in reach and potential, returning month in, month out, since March (we finish for the year on 3rd December with David Meerman Scott).
Rules To Live By When You Find Content-ment In The Few
If you want to find that balance between producing work you’re proud of, not trying to fit in with everyone and maximising your own happiness, here are some rules that I live by. As Seth Godin says, make “delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who want them,” your mantra:
Remove people from your list who don’t open your emails.
Whilst it feels good to tell others about a large email list, how many people are actually active and always open? If someone isn’t opening, take them out. The person who received but hasn’t opened for the past six months is never going to become a part of what you’re delivering.
If you can’t count on people, numbers become irrelevant.
If you require help, could you reach out to others? Just because someone has said they have reached 20,000 followers on LinkedIn, how many of those followers are there for them when they need something? Numbers all too often serve nothing but ego.
Analytics are great, but for the most part, they don’t show actual people.
Email lists mean you can monitor who participates. With website traffic and podcast listeners, you just have numbers. 100 visits or listens a week may seem small, but what if those people are locked into everything you share? It’s down to you to find ways to encourage the people behind the numbers to step forward, show themselves and actively engage.
You can’t game your audience.
Buying followers or joining LinkedIn pods (as mentioned earlier) are hopeless ways of touting for recognition. If what you share and stand for cannot establish a momentum organically, then you need to revisit your content strategy.
Focus on that which heightens connection even more.
Cherish those people who are committed and make them feel a part of your community, finding ways for them to know they’re appreciated.
Your “few” will spread the word to others who are also a good fit for you.
Putting time, effort and attention into the people who have made a commitment to you means they’re far more likely to tell others that it may be worthwhile for them to join you. This doesn’t mean you’re becoming generic, rather that your community is doing some of the work for you – attracting new, like-minded people.
When you become comfortable accepting that you don’t need thousands of people to come to your side, you start seeing the people that join you as friends, rather than just leads or mere numbers.
Over time, it becomes clear that one of the best investments you can ever make is putting the time in to serve your audience. As you start to build direct relationships with the people who are with you, they become more likely to stay with you, through the good times as well as the bad.
If you treat your audience with respect, you can still sell. Bigger is not better, smaller can be better. But, most importantly, better is all about being better for the people who matter.