It is crazy to me how so many people have such high expectations of social media.
They make it sound like it is the ONE thing to crack to build themselves a successful business. And I’ve been wondering why - now I know.
When you’re constantly showered with posts sharing their crazy sales numbers (which is a bad way to build in public), you start to form these mental pictures that a large audience = a successful business.
And you think you can become that top 1% to make it too.
But the truth is … it likely only works if you’re covering super hot topics like audience building, productivity, etc. If you are not and you’re talking about Kinesiology (like my student Christine here), this approach won’t work.
I still remember this video from my friend, Kevin Shen, where he talks about why he was shifting direction after accumulating 20,000 YouTube subscribers.
“Hope isn’t a viable business strategy” - Kevin Shen
You can’t create more and more content and hope that money comes your way suddenly one day. I struggled with this in the past. And if you’re a first-time entrepreneur, you likely struggle with this too.
After bootstrapping my own online business for 2 years, I see the reverse to be true.
I do amazing work to serve people, so I have a growing audience.
Once you shift your thinking this way, you no longer see social media as the ONE thing. It is now part of the puzzle that you’re solving for your business.
And hey, I don’t mean social media is bad!
It is actually an amazing piece if you know how to use it, so here I want to share the A-B-C-D ways I use social media, particularly Twitter, to solve my puzzle!
With so many people constantly scrolling, social media is heaven to learn about the people you serve and test new ideas.
If you’ve started things before, you know that it is important to do user research and interviews. Usually, you have to reach out to your target audience and schedule calls. Then you finally get to ask questions to unravel the insights. The problem is that this takes forever.
Now, even if you only have a few dozen of people around you on social media, you can ask questions! Because people love sharing their views! This is human nature.
So these days, I almost don’t do anything without first learning what the people around me think about it.
For example, I have a brief idea about a book promotion I want to do this coming week, so I decided to throw it out and see what I can get back.
It took me less than 1 minute to put together the tweet before I went to bed and I woke up to 15+ data points! Then I assessed the data and used it to decide how I wanted to go with the promotion.
“Social media’s real role is to help you scale up your user interviews and get 100x more data in less time”
For some strange reason, people love to act tough and pretend to be know-it-all on social media. It is usually because they’re insecure about themselves so they do it to hide their real side.
But if you pause reading here and relook at the top 3 people you absolutely rave about, you’ll find that their branding is nothing like that.
You love one thing, and you do another thing. How strange!
I read $100M Offers by Alex Hormozi and have been consuming his content since. Apparently, he is the latest Internet rave. Why?
Because while he portrays himself as a mega-successful entrepreneur, the way he talks and shares brings him back to the ground level - the level we stand on.
I have no idea whether this is a shaped personality to build his brand or not, but at least he got me to keep learning from him after reading $100M Offers. So it is working.
The right branding for you is when you show up as close to your real-life self as possible. I’m someone who keeps sharing my failures or mistakes with my real-life friends, so I prefer to do the same online:
I was actually aiming for pixel-perfect here and it was such an amateur thing to do as an entrepreneur. Do I think this would make me less credible to my customers? Definitely not because my students and customers have been telling me that they feel connected to me.
“Social media’s real role is to help you scale up your public relations and get 100x more trust”
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve helped over the years who continue to believe that they can broadcast messages, buy some ads, and create a successful business.
It only seems this simple because people want you to believe it is this simple so you buy their products. You’re a victim here and it is only a $47 product so what are you going to do about it? Ask for a refund? Complain? It is not worth your time so you don’t do anything. And more people become victims.
In contrast, do you know why so few people work on topics around relationships? Because relationships don’t sell. It is hard to learn. It takes time to get results.
But I’m a true believer that you can build a successful business with your community, so inside my Build in Public Mastery course, I keep telling my students -
“Treat the people early in your journey as partners, not customers.”
So many people are desperate for sales so they just want to sell sell sell. They see each person coming in to be worth say $200.
What’s one reason they want to charge? Well, maybe because many veteran entrepreneurs suggest that charging is the only way to validate. I agree, but not in a way that jeopardizes the key relationships that can potentially bring 10x results in the future (in this case, $2000!)
I use social media to build new connections all the time because each relationship can bring me more and more:
“Social media’s real role is to help you scale up your networking effort 100x without going to another event”
I love my email list!
Because it is the only place I can reach my fans directly. But you know what sucks about it?
It lacks word of mouth. You can put in a referral mechanism but it is still very hard to get people to do anything. This is because the default behavior for emails is to read and move on.
But then, social media is a different beast.
On Twitter, you can easily retweet or quote-tweet. On Instagram, you can easily share the story when someone tags you. On LinkedIn, you can easily reshare the post.
This means it is so so so easy for someone to cheer and support one another (which I wrote a short piece for Courier Magazine). It creates a referral and viral loop to your work that cannot be replicated elsewhere.
Word of mouth is also the best marketing because it is free and it embodies a lot of trusts. The downside? You need other people to help you with this. And this goes back to Connection.
The upside? They happen all the time if you build the right Brand for yourself.
For example, I didn’t expect this but Mattia went all the way to write a thread about me - that’s insane!
“Social media’s real role is to let your fans spread the word for you and scale up word of mouth 100x”
So now you know social media is great for being discovered and referred, how will you use it to grow your email list?
If you haven't set up your creator business model yet, then you should definitely consider building a powerful freebie as an entry point for people to know you.
And to me, the most powerful freebie is a free email course.
Because how else can you:
- Get permission to gradually show value to a stranger over 5-7 days?
- Get into someone's inbox and directly communicate your stories?
- Establish a writer-reader relationship?
This is SUPER powerful!
Also, the best email course can even become a growth engine to help you draw more people into your world — that's the best social media X email strategy.
I was once focused on the follower number too
To be honest, when I first started, I was feeling lonely and needed the initial community and credibility, so I brute-forced myself to 600 Twitter followers.
It worked and took me 12 weeks.
But once I reached it, I moved away because I knew it wasn’t a viable strategy to build a business.
Since then, I’ve been relentlessly focused on:
- Getting feedback from real people → great training for me as a growing entrepreneur
- Building a personal brand → people can talk about me when I sleep
- Making loads and loads of friends → help them generously and word of mouth will come back
- Letting people discover me → I focus on building my business and let social media takes care of this
My final word to you
If you want to grow an audience, great! I’m super happy for you. It is a great asset to have.
I just have one question for you -
If I put you in a room with 10 people who have a slight interest in your topic, how would you work with them?
These are the real roles of social media in your business.