ASE Podcast

#7 How I’m Taking Advantage of Having (Near) Zero Subscribers

Thoughts on standing out and growing your audience when starting from scratch.

There’s always an upside to a downside. Here are my thoughts on standing out and growing your audience when starting from scratch.

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What do you do if you’ve poured hundreds of hours into a podcast…

You’ve made six episodes and you have FIVE followers after two months, two of whom are probably your parents, and three of whom are good friends.

How do you keep on going in this game of attention where everyone is concerned about quantity?

Quantity of subscribers, quantity of views, downloads, listens…

How do you keep going when you have essentially zero followers?

This is what I want to talk about today: the zero follower game.

I’m your host Darren. Welcome to ASE.

So I have… I guess you could call it a life philosophy.

And that is there’s always an upside to a downside and a downside to an upside.

There’s always a good to a bad and a bad to a good.

You know what would be awesome?

Being LeBron James.

I would love to be LeBron James.

I could dunk on people

I’m one of the greatest basketball players of all time and basketball is my favorite sport.

I can make millions and millions of dollars every year.

I can start a school that inspires youth in my community.

I’m one of the most well known athletes in the world and what a platform that is.

That would be amazing.

Actually, all I can think about is dunking on someone. That sounds like the best part of that whole thing.

Here’s my point: as amazing as it would be to be LeBron James, there are some downsides.

Everywhere you go people are staring at you.

You can’t do anything in public without dozens of people screaming your name and wanting to take pictures of you.

Everyone in your orbit probably wants something from you.

Every minute of every game is watched with this giant camera following you all the time… in time outs, while you’re on the court, while you’re just relaxing…

There’s so much expectation for your performance every game.

You have to perform at the top level, and even what you say in media sessions after the games is dissected endlessly by sports TV shows, sports podcasts, and blogs.

That would get really tiring.

So there are some downsides to being LeBron James believe it or not.

And in the same way, I think that if you’re a creator and you’re starting something and you have millions of subscribers, I get why that’s amazing. That’s reach!

It’s not just what Facebook and YouTube are paying you per thousand of views and of your content, it’s the social proof to partner up with people to get advertisers.

And if you sell something on the back end, whether that’s a service or product, I get it.

If you have a million fans, a million subscribers, the top of your funnel is gonna be pretty big and that can only help you. I get all that because I host another podcast [The Touch MBA Podcast] and I have approached advertisers with my download numbers and my demographics of my audience to get them to sponsor the show.

But what’s the downside to having so many subscribers and so many views?

I had my own ideas, but of course, I want to hear from someone who actually has that.

So one of the YouTubers I’ve been following for a long time is Nigahiga. He has 21 million subscribers. He’s been doing this YouTube game for I think a decade now and at the beginning of last year he almost quit YouTube.

And so I watched his video on it. Why? Why would he do that with such enormous reach and popularity?

[Ryan Higa: I found myself falling into the typical YouTuber trap of trying to create videos that work versus trying to create videos that well you’re inspired to make. Things that you want make. Even if that means creating videos that I know for a fact that a lot of you guys probably not like or understand or most likely be offensive. The kind of videos I used to make when I first started Youtube you know when I wasn’t afraid of disappointing people or being too offensive or getting less views or whatever. I just finally realized at the end the last year that I was forcing myself to create videos that I don’t even feel like making…]

That’s the downside to having such a big audience.

So as a small fry, as someone who has essentially zero followers, what is the upside to that?

I think the first upside is that you can make art unencumbered.

You have pure creative freedom. You can do whatever the hell you want because you’re anonymous and there’s no expectations.

You have time to find your voice.

You have the freedom to put some wild shit out into the world because no one is expecting anything of you and that’s liberating.

I used to do stand-up comedy open mikes and I would prepare for days for five minutes on stage. Would I ever invite a good friend or even an acquaintance to come watch me?
No way. Because having that one person in the audience would make me so nervous.

But making jokes and making a fool out of myself in front of a hundred strangers? That’s no problem. So I know that there is some creative freedom involved with anonymity.

The second advantage you have as a small fry is that you can build these really intimate and personal relationships with your audience. That’s something that Nigahiga with 21 million subscribers or LeBron James with whatever 50 million Instagram followers can’t do. He can’t personally interact with his his audience.

Well, as a small fry you can.

Kevin Kelly has put forth this idea of having a thousand true fans and the idea is that if you can find a thousand raving fans that support your art, that support your show, that support your business, that are willing to give you a hundred dollars a year because they just love everything you do… That’s a nice income to live on, right?

And while I think it’s easier to do in theory than in practice, I think this frames the challenge of having zero followers the right way.

Which is don’t think in terms of quantity. Actually narrow your focus down.

And what I’m doing is I’m taking a thousand true fans and I’m narrowing that down further to a hundred true fans… actually at this stage with five followers, I’m narrowing that down even further to twenty people that would really love your content.

And the beauty of this approach is that you know who they are already.

If you go through your Facebook friends, if you go through your LinkedIn contacts, if you go through all your chat apps for the past month and a half… see all the people you’ve interacted with, all your emails and various groups you’re affiliated with… if you do that mental exercise, you’ll realize there’s probably at least 20 people who your content could potentially really help. So why not write all those people down?

Start with them in mind.

Make the show you want to make, that you have the creative freedom to make, that you think would be useful or fun.

But also keep these 20 people in mind and involve them in the process.

Thank every person who subscribes to your show. Form that connection with them. Ask them what they want, what their problems are, how you can help them, what resounded with them, what was useful to them, and build that personal relationship.

Because everyone right now is trying to win the quantity game. Quantity of subscribers, quantity of views, monetize my audience… Everyone’s trying to growth hack their way to that. So that’s a tougher game to play.

It’s a more competitive game to play. So why not go where there’s less competition and where you can really do things that those big guys can’t?

Which is be more attentive to your audience, be more service-oriented to your audience, connect more with your audience, do some crazy shit because you can.

Those are your advantages as a little guy and that’s how I’m thinking about having essentially zero followers.

Maybe this is mental gymnastics I’m doing to make myself feel better. To try to keep myself going, but I also think that if you’re not willing to keep producing work in whatever you feel is your calling, whatever that is… if you’re not willing to do that for months if not years in obscurity just for the sake of getting better at what you do for your professional and personal growth you’re probably in for a rude awakening in this ASE life because, yeah breakthroughs definitely happen and we want those but there’s a joy in the work itself and everyone has to start with zero followers essentially, right?

I guess that’s a little bit of tough love to think about

That’s what I’m thinking this week… forcing myself to get in front of a camera which I’m quite uncomfortable doing.

But I want to host and I know this is something I have to get better at so I’m gonna practice and I’m gonna keep trying and I’m gonna keep building my 5 person subscriber base on this channel. So those are my thoughts this week.

We’ll see you next week on ASE.

[Darren : Thank you so much for listening and if you enjoyed this episode, please press subscribe and leave us a review on your podcast app. It helps more people discover the show. Also you can find all the show notes and links mentioned in this episode at Hope to see you there.]

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