The majority of people who are eager to attain large followings online are looking for “secrets” and “tricks” to going viral. They Google “top ten tips to hack Instagram” or “Keys to YouTube Stardom.”
Hell, you may have typed a similar phrase and landed on this article.
If what you’re looking for is a “Get ‘famous’ quick” scheme, you’re going to be disappointed with this column.
Not because the strategies and techniques I will show you don’t work (they do, as I have grown a following of over 2 million fans online and have structured my business around that platform) but – because the truth is BORING.
Yes, you read that right. Hitting a million fans on Facebook and getting over 100,000 subscribers on YouTube isn’t just recording yourself doing some wacky things on your iPhone and slapping it online, hoping it will stick.
How to Grow Your Social Media Audience with Zero B.S
The truth is a lot more dull. The truth is that building your online platform takes three components, each more boring than the other.
- Hard Work
Now I know these three sound drier than watching paint dry while your Grandpa tells you his favorite story for the 30th time, but bear with me.
The reason most people don’t achieve social media success is that they can’t stand the idea of putting in hours of “9-5 type” work into building their audience (this type distaste for traditional jobs is often why they want to be big on Instagram in the first place).
But as they say, the only way in is through and if you can master these boring yet absolutely essential fundamentals, you’ll see the “subscribe” and “like” buttons exploding on your page.
But for the “hackers” out there, I’ll provide a few resources at the end of each section as bonus tools you can use to help increase your traffic. Again, these are simply bonuses.
If you don’t follow the key component that precedes it, you’ll find little use for them.
1. Hard Work: Scratching Your Own Itch with Your Own Voice
Starting with hard work, you need to begin by figuring out why your voice (and what you have to say) matters. In other words, how will your channel benefit others in a way that other channels don’t?
This is a LOT harder than it sounds, especially if you want your videos to stand out. When I started my channel back in 2006, I had trouble finding fitness videos that taught people how to get bigger AND stay lean at the same time.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) also wasn’t popular at the time, so I made several videos on that, which remain my most popular posts.
Moreover, I couldn’t really find any channels at the time that I personally related to. I grew up in the South Side of Chicago and have been using slang most of my life. Needless to say, Shaun T and Richard Simmons weren’t using words like;
“Gainz” “Whatup” or “Pause.”
So I decided to make these videos completely uncensored and talked exactly the way I did with my friends and family. It paid off big time, with comments like “you talk just like I do” being among the most important reasons fans have stuck around.
Of course, my style tends to drive away a lot of folks as well, particularly those who are older and more conservative. And that’s totally cool. You don’t need (or want to even try) to get everyone to like your videos; you just need a few to love them.
When Tim Ferriss was asked how he came up with The Four Hour Work Week he said he wrote the book he wanted to write or “scratching his own itch.”
So you need to figure out what kind of videos do you want to see?
How would you scratch your own itch? When you figure that out, talk to the camera as you would your best friend with zero filtering.
Bonus Resource: One really easy way of discovering what people want to see is “Google Keyword Tool.” It tells you what terms (and how many) people are putting in the search bar across the world.
For example, I saw a few years ago that several thousand people were searching YouTube for “working out at home without weights.”
I then checked and saw two cr***y videos in total covered the subject. So I made a full video about it and it did extremely well.
For the more advanced, the best SEO (Search Engine Optimization) tool I know and use is VID IQ.
If you really want to succeed online, you need to be taking your social media accounts as seriously as you would with your dream job or schoolwork (assuming you’re serious about your education and assignments).
You cannot get lost in the vortex of sports highlights and twerk videos. Those two were just examples that uh…a guy I know has trouble with (happens to the best of us).
So the first step is to not get lost in other people’s posts. The second step is staying on the ball with your own. I’ve long discussed the myth of motivation in getting a six-pack because it never lasts.
Those who get rock hard abs don’t do so by being “motivated” to workout. But rather being disciplined to go to the gym precisely when they DON’T feel like working out.
And so it is with building a social media platform. There will be days where you don’t feel like recording a video. There will be times where you’re sick or tired; and the last thing you’ll want to do is spend three hours editing a two minute video.
It is the willingness to do the things that need to be done even (and sometimes especially) when you don’t feel like it; that separates the guy who quit after making four videos vs. the guy who has 400 videos and is just beginning to see it pay off.
Unless you’re the cash me outside girl, these things take time. You must be patient and you must be disciplined.
Very few YouTuber’s with monster audiences have less than 500 videos. I have 854. PewDiePie has 3,151. The guy hating and complaining in our comment sections? Zero. At this point you should begin understanding why.
Think of your favorite store. For the purpose of this example, let’s just say it’s Forever 21. You just love how soft the material on the V-necks is. It just ain’t the same anywhere else. You go there every two weeks to get your fix.
Now imagine in your weekly Forever 21 routine you discover they’re out of V-necks *gasp*. Because they’re your favorite store, you may be willing to forgive and forget. But you come back the next day and the t-shirt section is still empty.
Unless you’re a super-fan, you’ll find your V-neck elsewhere. There are simply too many options (Amazon, H&M, Urban Outfitters, etc.) for you to wait on Forever 21, no matter how much you love them.
So it goes with Social Media…
There are simply too many posts and too many videos of people online making similar content to you for your fans to stick around in your absence.
Sure, things come up and life tends to hit us at the most inconvenient times.
A hiatus every now and again won’t kill you. (I took a month off YouTube due to various serious life situations) but if you are “consistently inconsistent” say goodbye to your audience.
You may as well not post at all, if you’re going to be posting only ‘on occasion’.
So there you have it. The three components you must have to build your platform online. It’s boring, dull and often just flat out sucks.
There’s no “secret sauce” I’m sorry to tell you.
But the good news is, like achieving a six-pack or a bodacious booty with a flat stomach, if it were easy everyone would do it. Your grandma would be walking around with a six-pack and 30 million twitter followers.
Since it’s so difficult, the few who do the hard work, cultivate discipline and stay consistent will thrive and stand out that much more.