The Path to a Massive Audience
One of the biggest problems with having an audience is having an audience. Not kidding. When you have any amount of people looking at you, I’m talking even a hundred, it’s easy to fall into one of two traps:
1. You treat views, subscribers, etc. as just numbers
2. You hyper-focus on certain individuals in the group
The first trap is a defense. You have no idea how to fathom one hundred, one thousand, or one million people interacting with your idea or your art, so you have to create this dissonance. The downside of this is obvious. Those are real humans on the other side, and views are a poor proxy for that. While this dissonance might protect you in the short-run, it will hurt you in the long-run.
The second trap is based in insecurity. You start thinking about all the people that could possibly be watching your videos or reading your essays. And you try to tailor your message so that it doesn’t offend any of them or makes them all proud or whatever. This is exhausting. You’re thinking about how to make your uncle proud, how to get Oprah’s attention, how to make sure your high school bully think you’re cool, and how to get that one gnarly fan down in the comments to be quiet.
In trying to manage all of these versions of yourself and turn them into one digital persona that hits for all these different people, you end up creating for the average. Which is counter to what you probably want to do: find some raving fans.
The truth is: what makes your mom proud of you is probably not the same thing that will inspire a 19 year old gamer. It’s almost impossible to make something that resonates with them both, unless your mom is really into Fortnite.
The only solution is to find a way to strike a balance, by deciding: who this is for and who this is not for. The easiest way to do this is to pick one person. Every time you release a project, focus on creating for an audience of one. The one can change, but the rule stays the the same. Write, make, build with one specific person in mind: A close friend. Your grandpa. A younger version of yourself. Your future daughter. Your friend from high school. Or that one guy you want to retweet your thing.
Take a step back and ask: would this have some utility, inspiration, or meaning for this one person? Is it packaged right to even reach them? If your answer is “not really,” then you need to rework it.
Focusing on a specific person feels counterintuitive. But it protects us from falling into these traps. And if you execute this strategy for long enough, you’ll wake up and realize, the one will turn into a whole hell of a lot more than one.