Keeping up online has never been harder.
Applying for jobs is such an exhausting process. You fine-tune your resume, submit it along with carefully crafted cover letters and career objectives, re-enter the contents of your resume into the employer’s webform (they apparently can’t be bothered to just let you submit your resume because they hate you and WANT TO ANGER THEIR APPLICANTS!!!), and pray that you hear back from them. That’s not even considering the wait to hear back about an interview.
But trying to gain a following online can be even harder. You can have great material, whether it’s a fantastic YouTube channel or a blog chock-full of great posts, but unless people stumble across your content, you’re unlikely to get any traction. Once you start building a fanbase, you at least will have a loyal group to consume your creations.
If no one ever tells others about how great something is, how is anyone going to find out? -Clay “Terminally Nerdy”
To grow from that point, is a whole different league though. Unless you have an evangelistic fanbase, you’re left to social media to try to build up traction online. Clay from Terminally Nerdy touched on this with his recent post on the topic in his post titled: Word of Mouth, the Small Creator and the Struggle.
The truth is that the only reliable promotion comes from the person pouring their heart out into their work. It can’t just be the burden of the reader/viewer/listener to help the person they’re following build their fanbase even further. That’s where social media comes in.
You need to get out there and promote yourself. Blast Twitter’s hashtag system, talk to people in the niche you’re creating content about, and don’t dare try promoting anything you’ve made on Reddit… because Reddittors will eat you alive while mobilizing mods to strip you of any ability to peruse their sub Reddit ever again. You can also take Later Levels’ advice and interface with other creators, but that takes time and a great deal of effort. It’s the best way to get organic engagement, which is far better than getting hundreds of views with little-to-no meaningful traffic. You want to build up a following that wants to return for more, not visit once and leave forever.
It sounds easy, doesn’t it? Except, it isn’t… Building a fanbase from scratch that will follow you is tough. So naturally a good option would be to bring people over from social media to your channel or blog, but even that isn’t easy. Sometimes you get lucky and the right person shares your creation, catapulting you into the spotlight. If you’re even luckier, you can capitalize on that attention and use it to grow your online presence.
Even Social Media Is A Wash Now
The problem with using the social media approach is that building a following there is difficult too. You may think that this doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, but the more followers you have on social media, the more likely you are to show up in real people’s feeds as suggested follows. Others also see large amounts of followers as a sign of legitimacy as well.
Just think about it; are you more likely to follow someone who has four followers, or 400?
Of course, why not just pay someone to pad your numbers a bit (by that, I mean a few hundred thousand fake accounts)? After all, according to The New York Times, many celebrities, entrepreneurs, and even social media marketers have turned to buying followers online to help boost their numbers. That isn’t even the end of it, as there are companies that operate click-farms, which you can pay to promote your work. You can pay these companies to funnel traffic your way to boost your views and click ads on your page.
No wonder trying to do things the old-fashioned way is so difficult.
Well, That Sucks
It really does suck, especially for small creators that put everything they have into their work. While it’s true – and extremely good advice – for creators to do the work for themselves and not focus on the numbers, it’s difficult to spend hours creating something, only to see it only reach a handful of people.
However, even if I could boost my numbers by spending a little of my hard-earned money, I wouldn’t. What I want from my followers is genuine engagement. It’s like I’ve said, time and time again, I’m interested in fostering a conversation. I don’t make money off of my work writing or making videos; I made a deliberate decision to not monetize my site or YouTube channel.
So I have a few words of advice to those that are out there that are writing, recording, and creating. Don’t give in, and don’t give up. I can’t promise that your content will reach more than a few dozen people, or that some day you’ll hit it big. I don’t have proven tactics that will draw people to your work. I sure as hell don’t have a book or strategy to sell you that will boost your fanbase overnight. All I have is the ability to empathize with you, and the knowledge to share that even those folks out there buying views and followers regret their purchases; some to the point that they don’t even want to admit the obvious out of embarrassment.
Creating is hard, otherwise everyone would do it. There isn’t an easy way to gain traction. You just need to hope that fortune is on your side, and that folks out there love your content enough to keep coming back for more, and share it with others.