Make people give a shit — without losing yourself
I’ve been blogging, starting businesses, designing, writing electronic music and playing punk rock for the past 10 years. And the one thing I’m sure about is that it’s tough to make anyone give a shit.
It’s tough to make anyone care about the work that you do and why you do it. It’s tough because everyone in the world is constantly bombarded with messages from everyone else.
There’s so much crap out there, and there’s so much marketing that it’s really quite hard to be the signal in all the noise. You’ll struggle, and you probably are struggling right now, to be heard.
The real trick is to make people give a shit without losing yourself. That’s the challenge, that’s the sticking point.
It can be really tempting to just sell it all out by giving people what your analytics tell you they want, but in doing so, you’re in danger of losing who you really are.
Being authentic is essential
People complain to me about the way I write, and the topics I write about. I know I could get a bunch more readers if I didn’t swear so (fucking) much and if I wrote positive posts full of life hacks and special keys to happiness, but if I went down that path, I wouldn’t be me.
There’s a lot of posts that I’ve thrown out because they don’t represent who I am and what I believe. I won’t publish anything that I can’t stand by and follow myself, I won’t publish anything that’s not true to me.
I think being authentic is essential — not because your readers, viewers or customers can see through you when you’re not being genuine.
I think being authentic is essential because you’re the one who’s got to live with yourself, and if you aren’t being true to what you want to say and do, it’s going to eat you alive.
And if you’re showing your true colors, and letting people into yourself, they’ll start to give a shit about you. As soon as you’re a person to them, not just an abstract figure, they’ll start to care.
Treating people with respect is essential
I don’t market to people like an asshole. Because I hate when people do it to me. There’s no spam from me, there’s no harassing people. There’s no pushing people with a billion calls to action, I try to show my readers that I respect the hell out of them.
I try and take the time to respond to everyone on Snapchat, everyone on Twitter and everyone on my emails, and it doesn’t always happen — but the intention is there. It’s not hard — I really do respect my readers. They’ve given me something that I can never refund — their time.
When you show people that you respect them, that you’re not there just to pump and dump, you’re going to make ’em give a shit. They’ll start to give a shit because you’ve shown you give a shit.
Sticking to it is essential
You can’t just throw a bunch of crap at a wall and then walk away. You have to keep it up, you have to give your audience your work to enjoy.
The hardcore bands that I grew up listening to — bands like Black Flag, Fugazi and Bad Religion — they recorded music all the time, they played shows almost every day, they constantly got out there and made their music.
You’ve got to keep it up, and even if it feels like there’s nobody listening or watching or reading, you’ve got to keep creating what you want to create. Even if people only start to give a shit one by one, that’s progress.
And while I’m talking about that…
…remember, one person giving a shit is better than zero
Having a big audience is awesome, and I’m not going to try and pretend that I don’t want it. I enjoy it. But I also enjoyed what I did when I had no audience at all. I enjoyed what I did when I had a band who literally only sold 5 CDs in our entire history.
That was still 5 people who gave a shit about my music. That was better than zero. Having any kind of audience is something to celebrate, so if you start out by just finding one single person to sign up for your startup, or buy your book, or read your blog, pop open the champagne.
There are hundreds of millions of things posted online every single day. If just a single person in that multitude has found something you made and enjoyed it, that’s a victory.