Who Gives a Shit About Your One Million Followers?

Influencer marketing is all about going after vanity metrics.
Photo by George Pagan III on Unsplash

Lately, my social feeds are flooded with ads from digital marketers, content creators, and social influencers.

Facebook’s and Instagram’s algorithm are doing their thing and showing me what they believe is relevant. Instead, I’m being bombarded by self-serving and self-proclaimed ‘gurus’ who claim they know the secret to social media success.  

If you’re in marketing or sales, or if you’re working towards building an audience, you’ll know the posts I’m talking about:  

  • “Follow my step-by-step guide to gaining one million subscribers on YouTube”
  • “Hit one million views by the end of the month with my fail-proof strategy”
  • “Here’s how I reached one million followers in 30-days”

These cocky coaches come at you from all sides touting their social media prowess, kickass courses, and plug-and-play templates.

And they all guarantee you success for a value-packed price equal to a down payment on a house.

The irony is despite their massive followings and all-star growth strategies, I haven’t heard about any of them, nor am I familiar with any of their work.

None are featured amongst the moguls of marketing, their accolades leave a bad taste in your mouth, and their claims scream absolute clickbait.

So, I’m here to call bullshit.  

Something stinks about influencer marketing

When I think of content marketers and creators who achieved massive success, a few names come to mind. And not one of them set out with the intention of gaining one million followers.

Joe Pulizzi founded the Content Marketing Institute in 2010, which was later acquired by UMB Global in 2016 for $17.6 million and arguably holds the most engaged community in the space of content marketing.

Pulizzi’s goal was to bring content marketing to the forefront of digital marketing, and to highlight the importance of serving your audience authentically.

His track record speaks volumes, while his genuine and selfless personality cultivates trust and loyalty more than any anonymous coach or social media influencer ever could.

Another example is the infamous Howard Stern and his racy broadcast, The Howard Stern Show.

From 1991–2004, his show was syndicated over 60 markets and was credited as being the highest-rated morning radio show reaching 20 million listeners.

In 2004, Stern was offered a blockbuster deal from SiriusXM, a subscription-based satellite radio service, resulting in his show being aired on the platform until December 2020—the initial contract was for five years and worth a whopping $500 million.

And while The Howard Stern Show is an acquired taste, its popularity is undeniable.

Still, I wouldn’t go as far as calling Stern himself an influencer, and I doubt he’s put together a how-to guide on becoming the “King of All Media.”

Finally, there’s Joe Rogan and his podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience.

In May 2020, Rogan signed an exclusive, multi-year licensing contract with Spotify that reportedly earned him a cool $100 million—what’s more staggering is the deal went down during the peak of a global health crisis.

Currently, The Joe Rogan Experience is the most popular podcast in the world with over 10 million listeners. That’s largely due to the show being available on several different podcasting platforms, but as of September this year, the show will be exclusive to Spotify and its 286 million users.

Again, you haven’t seen Joe on Instagram selling coaching services on how to become a famous podcaster and earn a nine-figure paycheck.

What’s my point?

Rogan, Stern, and Pulizzi all share a similar story: they defined their own audiences and faithfully served their own communities.

They didn’t set out to steal their competitor’s audience, nor did they seduce another’s following by getting into bed with influencers. The three of them learned everything they could about their listeners and subscribers and delivered them content accordingly.  

Simply put, each put in the work and cultivated their own audiences from the ground up.  

Put your audience first, not somebody else’s

As a marketer, educator, entertainer, or content creator, it’s vital to understand the individual members that make up your audience.

The more you get to know the people within your community, the stronger your connection becomes.

Of course, this goes beyond basic demographical and geographical profiling.

It’s about digging deep and unearthing the needs, wants, and desires of your audience. It’s about getting to know what they’re thinking, feeling, and doing; what makes them tick, what gives them pleasure, and what makes them laugh.

Your audience is made up of more than just leads and prospects or customers and clients.

They’re your friends—they’re your family.

It’s your duty to:

  • Draw a line in the sand—choose to align yourself with a defined community rather than trying to satisfy everybody
  • Pinpoint the values—encourage an open dialogue amongst your audience members and identify what matters the most to them
  • Show commitment—lead your community members by example and dedicate yourself to serving their needs and solving their pains  

If you build it, they will come—if you nurture it, they will stay.

Choose quality over quantity for million-dollar results

Next time you see John Smith’s 10-Step Guide to Building One Million Subscribers or an influencer pandering their secret sauce and guaranteeing you a massive following, think about your own audience first.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Are you doing enough to serve each member?
  2. Are they being given the attention they deserve?
  3. Are you helping them overcome their challenges?
  4. Are you providing the proper solutions to their problems?
  5. Are you dedicated to their cause?
  6. Are you their trusted leader?
  7. Do you stand with them or above them?

Do the work.

Talk to the members of your audience and actively listen. Engage with them, learn about their individual struggles, and commit to helping them overcome the obstacles together.

Content marketing—and by extension, social media marketing—is the long game. What you’re being sold is short-term gain laden with risk.

Do you think it’s worth it?

To hear another rant on the same topic, check out Your Daily Dose of D. on IGTV.

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