The Counterintuitive Way To Build A Loyal, Lasting Audience

Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash

Tim Urban, writer of the phenomenal Wait But Why blog, tweeted the following advice about finding an audience:

If you create art/content — songs, YouTube videos, articles, podcasts — think about people who come across your work as 4 categories of reactions:

1) Didn’t like it

2) Thought it was solid / fine

3) Really liked it

4) Absolutely loved it

1s and 2s are gone forever. 3s might come back. 4s will subscribe and evangelize your work to everyone they know. 4s are what make your work take off, not 3s. A piece of work that yields 4s at a 20% vs 5% rate probably ends up with probably 10X (or 1,000X) the spread.

The thing is, content that yields a lot of 4s also usually yields a lot of 1s — more 1s is the cost of going for more 4s. Likewise, creators trying to minimize 1s also usually minimize 4s. So it’s really two choices: the 1–4 strategy or the 2–3 strategy. 1–4 beats 2–3!

I love this quote! It’s a reminder that “good” content placates an audience, while great content polarizes.

Most content creators are slugging it out over the fickle attention of the 2’s and 3’s, while ignoring the 4’s that will gleefully evangelize their work.

Why is this?

Most of us our deathly afraid of “polarization”. Something that polarizes has a distinct point of view. It forces your audience to have an opinion on your work.

This shouldn’t be a bad thing. It is the quickest way to building a following. People are either in for the ride or they aren’t, it weeds out the ambivalent hangers on.

Conversely, there is less competition for polarizing work. Most content is designed to be disposable. It’s meant to momentarily wrangle someone’s attention until they swipe along to the next shiny object.

Avoid the echo chamber. Dare to write with a unique voice. Veer in the direction your competitors won’t dare to go.

It may fly over the heads of the masses, but it may also glide into the hands of the people who want to hear it.

Educator and Copywriter Who Writes About Creativity, Marketing, Pop Culture, And Occasionally Mindfulness Meditation