You didn’t think I’d leave you hanging after I wrote Waiting for Superman and why your blog seems like a big, stinking failure, right? Don’t get me wrong: I was tempted to. Just kidding. This was all part of the plan. Now let’s learn about how to build more traction for your blog or YouTube channel.
It’s like when philosophy teachers force you to study existentialism to make you more appreciative of life. Or something. You have to face the void to become a better blogger. I had to confront you with harsh reality and call you a slacker to get you to listen to me. Right?
Let’s talk about where you’re at now.
Who should read this guide
Maybe you’ve been at this long enough to get over that initial hump of absolutely no audience to speak of. If you haven’t, this guide isn’t for you. You’re not in the right mindset to hear this advice. I recommend you continue to run in millions of different directions as quickly as you can for the next year (give or take), try new things, make lots of mistakes, and get frustrated and pissed off.
Likewise, if you’re in a state of disillusioned resignation, this won’t work for you, either. You’ve either given up the pursuit, postponed active, hungry work until an undetermined later date, or are completely satisfied with your current audience. This advice isn’t for you, either.
Anger. Despair. “Are you fucking kidding me?”
Those are the emotions you need to experience for this guide to resonate with you.
But most importantly you need hunger. You have to want it – the audience, the fortune, the fame, the attention.
If you’re not willing to admit that you want attention, you’re not going to get any use from reading this, because you’re not going to put it into action.
Go away now.
But first subscribe and share it with someone who wants to hear it. I still want attention.
(I do still love you. But seriously. Just, go away now. You’re going to waste your time. Go find a cat video to watch for the next five minutes.)
So here we are
Just the two of us. Perfect. Let’s set the scene.
Here we are: a blog with no audience unless you count the tumbleweeds. You’ve made it past the initial hump of gaining your first few (hundred?) subscribers. Then you made the brilliant choice to take a break (meaning certain death). Or maybe 90% of your blogger friends have given up the ghost (…figuratively) and quit the internet. Maybe you just changed direction so many times over the course of your creative journey that you’ve lost all the interest you’d initially built.
So now you upload a video and get 20 views (including the 6 that the view counter picks up while you’re adding your cards, transcripts, and other extras). Or you hit the publish button three times a week, but never crack 10 visitors (2 of which come from some weird search term that has nothing to do with your niche).
You feel me?
And sure, you could probably quadruple your audience in a heartbeat if you would just be more active on all those Facebook groups you joined during your most recent wave of ambition, but fuck that is a lot of work.
And it’s great. Blogging and YouTube groups are great.
Until they’re not
Some of you will learn a lot from blogging groups. Others actually learn to do stuff and feel like Cady Heron studying with Aaron Samuels.
But the biggest thing you learn from them is how completely useless they are for building a legitimate audience.
You can build great, long-lasting relationships with your fellow creators, collaborate with them, guest post for them, and gain lots of great new viewers from that. But first you both have to have an audience. And chances are 80% of the people you’re interacting with on those groups have no audience to speak of.
Save these for later unless you have a specific question you can’t find on Google (or want a second, or third, or 100th opinion on). Do not live or die by blogging groups.
Why commenting on blogs won’t help build your audience
The internet has millions of blog posts about blogging that talk about commenting on blogs. Likewise, small YouTubers are encouraged to build up a presence in the community by commenting on other peoples’ videos.
Some people completely miss the mark by leaving comments like, “Nice,” or “Great,” or something super self-promotional – or worse, completely irrelevant.
But the genuine comments – the kind that I leave on all my friends’ videos and blog posts – miss the mark, too. Because when you spend too much time on commenting on other peoples’ videos and posts, you’re forgetting something: actually finding new viewers.
Can comments help? Sure. Leaving a nice, thoughtful, genuine comment that starts up a conversation is a great way to get noticed. People who understand how the internet works may even notice that you’ve got your own internet presence, check out your stuff, love it, and become a fan.
And they’re also great for opening up a relationship with someone who makes content similar to yours. Collaboration is excellent.
But the amount of traffic you’ll get from this is negligible and takes forever to roll in – if it ever does. Do not live or die by your commenting.
Social media won’t help you grow your audience, either, by the way
The thing about social media sites is that they’re crowded, ethereal, and a royal pain in the ass if you’re broke. Facebook has been pay-to-play for years and your organic reach will be nil if you don’t shell out for advertising.*
Instagram has become fairly similar since it released its new algorithmic feed in the spring. The lifespan of an average tweet is about 17 minutes. Big YouTubers are claiming that videos aren’t showing up in subscription boxes and the notification system seems to be broken. Even email has a 20% open rate on average.
* Unless you convince your new fans to not only Like your page, but also scroll back and Like every single post you’ve put online for the last month and choose to see every post in the following options.
Like it or not, your followers don’t mean shit when it comes to views. Getting a follower doesn’t mean a guaranteed view on most of your content. It means that some of your stuff will show up in their feed occasionally and if it’s relevant to their interests and has a clickable image and title, they’ll consider watching it if they have time in that moment.
Do not live or die by your followers.
Don’t question your quality (yet)
I got a comment when I posted Waiting for Superman by the lovely Chloe of A Cold Cup of Chloe. She offered:
I can relate to so much of this. Sometimes I wonder if it would be easier to simply have a business that sells actual products rather then just trying to promote my words. I try and understand how people can grow their social media so quickly and most of the time I’m met with “use the right hashtags, have high quality images and be consistent”
I can hash tag till the cows come home but it doesn’t mean that my content will be noticed.
I often wonder if the reason my numbers aren’t shooting through the roof is because I’m actually a crappy writer. If that is the case, then I would hope someone somewhere along the line would just tell me. Otherwise I know I’m doing something wrong, I’m still yet to find the Golden Ticket.
I know people try and say “oh don’t focus on the money side, just be passionate and blah blah blah” but let’s be real. We would all love to earn a full time wage doing a craft that we love.
Chloe’s problem is that she thinks quality makes a lick of difference when it comes to growing an audience. It doesn’t.
Quality doesn’t mean shit. Quantity doesn’t mean shit, either. We’re working in an industry built on illusion, advertising, and make-believe. As I said in Waiting for Superman: the internet is your medium. You have to be good at the internet – not writing, not video, not photography. The internet.
I had this same moment a few months ago when I hit my one-year anniversary on YouTube. For more than a week, I questioned every piece of content I’d created and determined that I sucked as a creator. That was wrong. I don’t suck. Maybe some of my stuff sucks. A lot of it was certainly aimless and misguided. But it didn’t suck. I don’t suck.
I’m just invisible. We’re all invisible.
Huge bloggers have this problem too
Remember how big YouTubers are complaining about their videos never hitting subscription boxes? Maybe that’s true in some instances. YouTube continues to insist that it’s not. But the bottom line is that people with huge channels and huge followings aren’t getting the view counts to reflect that.
I’m subscribed to several channels in the 50,000 subscriber range. They get about 5,000 views per video. Another I know of has about 20,000 subscribers and gets fewer than 1,000 views on most of her videos.
And bloggers feel this, too. I’ve seen blogs that boast 100,000 email subscribers, but their posts rarely get more than 10 comments. I have a friend with 5,000 Twitter followers that tweets 20 times per day and gets 3 favs between them.
And don’t even get me started on Instagram.
Bottom line: we’re all frankly screwed. The work doesn’t end. Yes, you can eventually get to the point where you have so many loyal fans that you get 70 retweets within a minute and a half every single time you post. But that won’t happen for all of us, it’s a long time coming, and you must keep in mind that those 70 retweets don’t necessarily translate into millions of views (and dollars rolling in).
Nope. The fight doesn’t end. You just see your efforts going that much further when you make them.
And that brings us to the bottom line. There’s one rule – one step – that will make you successful on the internet:
Fill the stadium every single time
If you want the eyeballs, you have to put butts in seats. You cannot rely on your fellow bloggers to do it for you. And you cannot expect your subscriber base to do it for you. You certainly can’t expect Facebook to do it for you. So help me god if you expect me to do it for you.
You have to do it. Every single time you make something, if you want somebody else to see it, you have to put it in front of them. You have to sit down, think about the people who want – nay, need – this particular piece of content in their lives and then push it in front of them. In a friendly and conversational and non-spammy tone. On their terms. And not on someone else’s content.
Yes, you should use hashtags on your tweets. But you should also take the time to find somebody who just asked the question that your content answers.
Yes, you should share it on your Facebook fan page. You should also share it on five Facebook groups full of people who talk about whatever you just made a video about.
Yes, you should comment on blogs. But you should comment on relevant posts using the search terms you want to target and put your own post in the URL box and somehow comment in a way that makes you seem like a friendly, conversational, non-competitive expert on whatever you’re talking about.
Yes, you should comment on videos. But consider commenting on recent comments that other people have left on the videos of creators who have abandoned their channels.
And that’s not enough.
Expand your presence online
These are baby steps. Most of this stuff will get you two or three views, max, spread out over time. In the meantime, expand your audience. Think bigger.
- Write guest posts and make collaborative videos with other bloggers and YouTubers who are super-relevant to your own content.
- Reach out to journalists and offer an expert opinion about your topic when they need information.
- Submit your posts to directories and news sites that cover your topic.
- Send super-sweet emails to fellow bloggers asking them to share your post if it would help their audience. (Don’t do this cold, by the way. Actually be nice to them first. Please.)
Bottom line: don’t just find an audience for your blog. Do not just find an audience for your channel. Build an audience for every single piece of content you release. Do this every single day, continuously, for the next several months, and I promise you that you will start to see results from it.
I know that I have, at least. And it’s only continuing to build as I start to acquire new readers and viewers who don’t necessarily have an audience of their own (also known as a competing interest), but rather genuinely enjoy what I have to offer because I’ve answered a question or provided entertainment on a level that they appreciate.
That’s what the experts mean when they say that blogging is 20% about creating and 80% about promotion. It’s valid advice. But remember that you’re not promoting your blog, your channel, or your social media presence. You’re promoting the awesome thing you just created.
Don’t find new fans for your blog or your YouTube channel. Find one fan for your latest post. Then another. And a few more. Tweet it at somebody who just made a reference to whatever you just spent 2,000 words talking about.
Fill the stadium.
That’s what’s going to carry me, my blog, and my channel forward.
Try it. You’ll like it.
So what are you going to do today to fill your stadium? How are you going to
claw for some eyballs get some views on your newest blog post? Comment down below to let me know.