Find Your Nerds

Vlogbrothers Hank Green (left) and John Green (right)

Followers, likes, comments, impressions, “reach” . . . these are all tempting measures of success when trying to grown an audience.

Whether you are starting in blogging, vlogging, podcasting, instagramming, etc., you might be asking yourself:

  • How many followers do I have?
  • How many people are reading/watching/listening to my content?
  • How many impressions is my content getting?
  • How many likes/hearts is my content getting?

This seems to be the common path towards success, right? Increase those numbers and magically you will have a platform with people who will buy your next book, album, info product, or course.

John Green and Hank Green, YouTube stars of vlogbrothers and Crash Course, took a different approach to growing an audience and it has made them much more successful.

First, they went out and found nerds like them.

Then, they created something their nerds would love.

Lead a Community

The brothers were very interested in the videos of people like Ze Frank in 2006–2007. They really liked the community of YouTubers that was forming at the time and they decided to join in the fun.

What was the result?

Years later, they have built some of the most popular YouTube channels in the world creating mostly educational content.

They have raised millions of dollars for charity.

The videos helped John Green hit the New York Times Bestseller List multiple times with his novels including The Fault in Our Stars.

From the outside looking in, an artist might say, “Well, that’s because they got in early and built up their subscriber base.”

There is much more going on.

It’s easy to see the number of views on their videos and get the wrong impression. They weren’t “optimizing” for subscribes and views and likes and comments.

Love > Likes

Instead, they had a very simple goal: create things people love.

I don’t really care how many people watch or read something I make. I care about how many people love it; how many people care about it. I want to make stuff people that they can really care about and be unironically enthusiastic about.
— John Green

Love, not like. Love, not impressions. Love. And that required finding a (at first) small group of people who loved the same things they did.

Thus, the “nerdfighter” community was born.

According to John Green’s website, they first found nerdfighters among fans of Harry Potter and Neil Gaiman. As they connected with them in the comments and in emails and social media, they got to know this community more and more. They started to create content specifically for them, with the sole purpose of creating something they would love. (Again, love, not like.)

If you want to build a platform, find your nerds then create something they will love and share with other nerds.


Who are your nerds?

What can you create that they will love?

Inspired by Jeff Goins’s interview with John Green on The Portfolio Life podcast. Listen here.