The Hard Truth About Social Media
1 key arbitrage opportunity
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Get ready to learn the hard truth of social media.
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A few weeks ago, I hosted an Ask Me Anything (AMA) in a social media marketing subreddit and 2 questions kept coming up:
- "How do I grow my social media following?"
- "How do I get a job as a social media manager with zero experience?"
I'm going to answer #2 first and then we'll get to #1.
For questions #3 through #300, check the original Reddit post.
To answer #2, I always give the same response: grow your own profile first.
Never hire a social media manager who hasn’t build up their own profile.
You wouldn’t trust a mechanic who didn’t fix his own car, would you?
— Jason Levin (@iamjasonlevin)
Jan 4, 2023
If you don't want to grow your personal page, it doesn't have to be that page. It can be a meme page, fanpage, aesthetic-page, etc.
The point is: if you don't have experience growing a social media profile, why should anyone trust you and pay you to manage theirs?
Ever since I hit 10,000 followers, I've been asked to manage Twitters. I now manage 2 brand accounts and ghostwrite for several founders, venture capitalists, and C-suites.
My friend Aadit Sheth does a lot of ghostwriting on Twitter and told me he had a similar experience. Once he hit 20,000 followers, that's when requests started coming in.
I previously worked with Charlie Light, a writer who grew a meme page to 150,000 followers then leveraged his success to build a social media management agency.
Like I said, you can do it without building up your personal page.
The point is you need to grow a big following on an account you manage.
It makes sense. A big engaged following is proof-of-work. It shows you put in blood, sweat, and tears building your reputation.
And the hours are worth it. Because once you get a big enough following, it's easy to find clients via inbound messages, cold DMs and emails, and referrals.
By the time you hit 10,000 and above, your problem will be too many potential clients and not enough time. That's where I'm at now and where you can be too.
So now to the #1 question: how do you get more followers?
There's only one way to do that.
A creator must provide value to a consumer.
In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand wrote that men "must deal by trade and give value for value".
In the attention economy, consumers trade their attention for whatever value your content provides. No value, no audience.
Online, value usually means Education, Entertainment, or Both.
If you're willing to repeatedly educate people or entertain them for free, then you'll succeed on social media. If you can do both, even better. It's really that simple.
In every piece of content, you should be a) trying to teach, b) trying to make someone laugh, or c) do both at the same time. This goes from posting a tweet to a TikTok to a reply under an influential account.
When you know exactly what value you're trying to share with the world, then it becomes very obvious how to share it. Throw a funny tweet here, an educational thread there, send some cold DMs, and repeat 3-5 hours per day and sooner or later you're at 10k baby.
Sorry there's no magical growth hack. Yes, there's things you can do like borrowing audiences, doing digital apprenticeships, and forming coalitions. But this is the hard truth of social media (and business). You just need to repeatedly provide value.
It took me a while to figure out what value I could provide via Twitter and Cyber Patterns. As I kept writing and iterating on my value proposition, I figured it out. Now it's a combo of education and entertainment focused on content strategy and career hacks mixed with random musings on tech, startups, and venture capital.
If you don't know what value you want your content to provide, now is the time to stop and think about it. Seriously, take a journal or open up Notion and write what value you aim for your work to provide. Do some soulsearching. When I was unsure of my work, I did this, no shame about it. Because if you — the creator — are unsure what value your work provides, imagine how people who see your content feel.
Most people on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok make mindless content: to vent their thoughts, post a cute pic, or make themselves laugh. I scroll through Twitter and see millions of people tweeting with no theme or purpose, just shouting into the abyss.
In this sea of mindless selfishly made content, there's an arbitrage opportunity.
If you're willing to think about what your consumer wants and then work as hard as you can to give it to them, then that right there will put you ahead of millions of creators.
If you're posting selfishly made videos with little to no thought for the consumer, then don't be surprised when people don't like your videos. It's like giving a gift to a friend without thinking about what they'd actually like.
Your content is a gift. Make it a gift that people will value and not just throw in the trash.
3 resources that helped me be a better creator this week:
📕 Shane Snow's Smartcuts is a dope book about accelerating your career by taking shortcuts and working smarter.
🎙 Tim Ferriss and Mark Manson chat book deals and creator life for a memorable episode. Basically The Subtle Art of The 4 Hour Workweek.
📆 My content calendar is now available as a Notion template! Just press duplicate.