A case for forgoing growth in the short-run
The gold standard for a creator is —
* You make what you love to make
* You learn how to package it in a way that attracts the right audience
* You consistently deliver a great experience for viewers (that often includes an “oh wow” moment)
* People love watching what you make so much that they turn notifications on, buy things that you sell, and meaningfully engage
* Rinse and repeat
The problem is, most creators never realize the gold standard. And that’s because getting to the gold standard is harder than fast-following, publishing all kinds of hyperbole to get clicks, chasing trends, or riding the coat-tails of empty growth.
It’s about putting your head down, and creating something great. Then putting it out, gathering feedback, and iterating obsessively.
We treat creator businesses as if they are so wildly different from other businesses, but I don’t think they are. Their role in society is still to deliver great experiences, to meet needs, and to establish trust over time. Just like any other.
The problem is that creator businesses are built off measurable and visible hype, and therefore creators (founders) are even more susceptible to falling into the trap of only focusing on vanity metrics.
A general rule in tech is that growth often comes at the cost of product innovation. If a founder is solely focused on getting more users, then she’s probably taking short-cuts and pouring all kinds of money into Google and Facebook ads. Eventually these businesses fail because the growth was propped up on spending massive amounts of capital, not creating a better product and finding better product-market fit.
The equivalent for creators is generating a bunch of clickable titles and thumbnails without ever really focusing on how to make the best videos, essays, or podcast episodes. It’s about focusing too heavily on the vanity metrics (views, subscribers, followers) and inflating growth based on what’s trendy. And it’s neglecting to focus on what actually matters. Like, how do we find / create a tribe of raving fans? How do we achieve creator-market fit?
Achieving the gold standard is all about playing the long-game. This might mean you’ll fall “behind” your peers in vanity metrics in the short-run. But you’ll be here long after they’re gone. Because while you were building a stable base, theirs was falling out from under them.