Everyone writing online wants an audience. What’s the point of writing something if no one is reading it, right?
You may be angry with what I’m about to say, but that’s on you. Don’t worry, I’ll defend my position in the paragraphs that follow.
You don’t need 10,000 followers. You need one.
That’s the truth.
When you’re having a conversation with someone and they understand you, you’re happy, right?
You don’t go off being upset thinking “man, only one person heard me” or “I’m not making any impact”, right?
There’s a satisfaction that what you said was heard and understood. It mattered. It helped someone, or it taught them something.
That’s with one person listening.
Writing online is the same thing.
It’s just tough to get it in perspective because the potential audience is so huge. There are billions of people on the internet. This makes it easy to think you want them all to listen to you. But the truth is there are also billions of people out in the real world. We don’t try to get every one of them to listen to us out there.
Does this mean you shouldn’t try to reach more people or to get a bigger audience? No. But it does mean you should put it in perspective.
I started writing online years ago and no one read my work. No one. I had a blog with zero page views (besides my own).
That was disheartening because I would have had a larger audience if I just talked to my friends in the real world.
Then I discovered social media and the potential reach of platforms like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.
I created an Instagram profile and got to work. After a while I got caught up in the numbers. I worked for hours every day to build a following on Instagram.
Once I got to 20K, I got bored. I stopped posting and spent more time doing other things.
I got bored because there wasn’t anything fulfilling about it. I was just focused on the number of followers I had, and wasn’t measuring anything else. It was a superficial game.
I didn’t learn my lesson from that until after I started writing online again.
I started writing every single day, but instead of writing on a personal blog that didn’t even have the potential of being seen, I wrote on Medium and other social platforms.
In the beginning I was again focused on the number of followers I had.
Then something happened. Someone responded to something I had written and told me that it had helped them.
I realized that I had made an impact in their life. Something I had written had helped someone. I realized that THAT was what it was really all about.
I realized that my problem wasn’t how many followers I had or didn’t have. It was whether or not I had actually reached anyone; whether or not I had made an impact.
Followers are a means to an end. Focusing on gaining followers doesn’t actually help you gain them.
I’ve found that the more I write from the heart, the more I actually try help someone else, the more I provide value to people, the more honest I am, the better received my work is. And with every piece I pour my heart into, I gain a sprinkling of new followers.
Now when someone new follows me, I look at who they are. I read their profile, I look at their work. I try to find out what they’re all about.
Why? Because they’re not just a number. They followed me because something I said resonated with them.
I don’t have 10,000 followers on Medium. But what I do have matters to me more. I have individuals who read what I write. People my words resonate with. People who are interested in what I have to say.
I write something new every day. I haven’t gotten bored. If anything, I get more excited every day. I know that I’m providing people with value and that every piece I write has the potential to help another person. That’s exciting.
Would you rather blow steam at 10,000 people or truly reach one person? I choose the one. It’s more rewarding.
I’m sorry if you’re disappointed that I didn’t tell you the step-by-step growth hack to get 10,000 followers overnight.
But I had to write this because this was the story I needed to read years ago.
This is the story I should have found when I searched “how to build a following” every day for days on end.
Because it isn’t about the following. It’s about the effects you’re creating. It’s about being true to who you are. It’s about not getting lost in the numbers and only writing things you think are going to perform well. It’s about reaching someone and making an impact.
What’s working for me is the following:
- Write about things you care about.
- Say what you mean.
- Write every day.
- Write about things you want to write about even if you don’t think it’ll “perform”.
- Build your network of people who care about what you have to say, and engage with these people.
It’s about focusing on the right metric.
The truth is you probably won’t gain 10,000 followers overnight. It’s statistically improbable.
What you can do is write every day and focus on reaching one person. When you do reach that one person, find out who they are. Look at their profile, read their work, engage with them. They’re a real person and it does wonders to recognize that.
As you do this, your following will grow.
You’ll stop thinking about writing online as a “numbers game” and start seeing it for what it really is: the potential to reach and help people at scale.
The “at scale” part comes with lots of hard work, and time. It’s not something you can directly control. What you can control is the quality of your work, your consistency, your effort and your engagement with others.
Focus on these and you’ll be golden.
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