Some thoughts on effective growth

‘Get rich quick’ doesn’t work. ‘Grow fast quick’ doesn’t either.

I wrestled this week with a jumbled collection of thoughts that had been bouncing through my head.

For those who don’t know, I started a podcast about four weeks ago. I think it’s been reasonably successful so far in light of the following:

  • Nine full episodes
  • Quality of content and production increasing with each episode
  • $0 spent on advertising/marketing
  • ZERO built-in base (i.e., I wasn’t already “Internet famous” before launching and had no preexisting audience to leverage)
  • 100% word-of-mouth market penetration
  • 100% word-of-mouth guest/interviewee participation

I clearly have a ways to go before I can deem it successful in comparison to many podcasts out there (and as compared to any of the podcasts anybody’s actually heard about). But I really do believe I have something here — at least the kernels of something — that people are enjoying.

I think this because, as it turns out, there are at least some people who do enjoy listening to it, and have told me so. My analytics support this. Which has encouraged me, little by little, to take things further, and make things better, one podcast episode at a time.

As I commented in my latest episode, I’ve read and heard enough from the famous creatives and Internet life-hackers out there to understand that whether you’re trying to write a novel, a play, start a blog, or record a podcast, do it for your friends first. If they like it, others will like it too. And if they don’t, you need to do better (and more) work.

I really think it’s that simple. And I’ve been incredibly thankful for the abundant feedback I’ve gotten from friends and family alike that has been helpful, useful, and thoughtful. Constructive in all the right ways. Not only does it mean, yes, an audience exists that enjoys what I’m doing, they care enough about it to reach out to me — in some cases, I’m getting texts or emails from individuals I haven’t spoken to in years — with helpful ideas for improvement. It’s all good.

So, then, now what? I’ve achieved what appears to be a minimum viable product. I have people who are listening. They feel engaged enough to provide feedback on episodes they’re actually listening to. My analytics, however slowly, continue to improve and show forward progress.

The question then remains: How does it grow from here? Or, as a friend asked me this morning, “What’s your endgame?”

I didn’t do this to be, as I mentioned earlier, “Internet famous.” That is not my goal. (And, if I can offer any advice — as short as my podcasting career has been — I would submit that no one should ever do anything, especially anything creative, if fame is the ultimate end.)

Which brings me to my aforementioned jumbled collection of thoughts. I found myself fretting that the Instagram and Twitter accounts for my podcast seemed, in this overly dramatic moment of mine, to be “languishing.” Look how few followers!

And then I started actually looking around. “A fake follower doesn’t increase clicks, shares, or leads. Neither does an irrelevant follower,” one tweet read.

I suppose it makes sense that paying an Indian click-farm $350 for two thousand fake followers isn’t sustainable — though “sustainable” isn’t even the right word. It’s not real. The importance of this distinction is an unfortunate commentary on the world in which we live, to say nothing of the fake world we try to create for ourselves online.

Then, something else, from an absolute favorite of mine, Seth Godin. He wrote a blog post just last night. His posts are typically short, but they’re all meat. He takes a different approach from the tweet quoted above, but arrives at the same end:

You meet someone. You do a small project. You write an article. It leads to another meeting.
You do a slightly bigger project for someone else. You make a short film. That leads to a speaking gig. Which leads to an consulting contract. And then you get the gig.
How many hops does the ball take before it lands where you’re hoping it will?
If you’re walking around with a quid pro quo mindset, giving only enough to get what you need right now, and walking away from anyone or anything that isn’t the destination — not only are you eliminating all the possible multi-hop options, you’re probably not having as much as fun or contributing as much as you could either.

So, on the one hand, we have an admonition to not try and skip the line. Bluntly: The number of followers you have doesn’t matter if your content sucks. Getting a one-time spike in your Twitter or Instagram engagement is simply not sustainable. So what? Big deal. It’s a nothing-burger.

And then, on the other hand, we have an encouragement, particularly when you’re just getting started, to say “yes.” To not worry so much about what’s in it for you. To invest in creating content that can then speak for itself. Which, in turn, will get you more engagement, more fans, more followers. Bluntly: Creating your following — a real following — has nothing to do with skipping the line, and everything to do with hard work. Said differently by one of the greats, Tim Ferris: “Good content is its own SEO.”

The common thread here: authenticity.

Putting these pieces together over the last week brought much-needed clarity to my thoughts on growth:

  • Slow and steady
  • Good — no, great — content
  • Hard work
  • Authenticity
  • Hustle

This, I think, is an old-school recipe for success that is perhaps even more relevant and needed in a new-school environment, where we are constantly bombarded with enticements to skip the line.

“Get rich quick” isn’t a thing. Neither is “grow fast quick.” This is not said to discourage creation, or even to minimize the incentives that drive it. It’s simply a reminder to those creating that anything good takes time.

And that if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

So here we go.

Nicholas Fitzgerald is the producer and host of ‘Join Me, Won’t You?Subscribe here, anywhere you get your podcasts.