War On Kittens
If you follow your data to maximize engagement, you will fill a community with listicles, frivolous discussions, and kittens (probably).
You can spend your days dumbing ideas down, trying to shout louder, and optimizing the packaging instead of the contents. If you succeed, you will attract the most transient, disinterested, and fickle audience in history. You might prop up the metrics for a few winters, but it’s a terrible contribution to make to the world.
The majority of people will always want the simplest ideas, in the most digestible form, with a surprising twist.
But you’re not trying to attract the majority of people.
This is such a critical concept to understand (and a harder one to embrace because you’ve set expectations that more is better).
The best way to stand out today and attract the audience that matters is to build an island and raise a flag to appeal to the right sort of people.
The Economist proves that being good still matters. There is an audience out there for creating valuable assets that empower a community in their lives – or simply engages communities on a deeper level. We might watch a gazillion YouTube clips, but we also binge-watch on Netflix.
There is an audience for people who want to read that asset you spent 3 months creating or that free course you’re working on. There’s a market for people who don’t want an expert to just fill a slot in your calendar, but a real expert with new insights delivered in an engaging way.
The people you really want to attract are the people whose trust you need to earn by doing things that are good and valuable, not those attracted who will give you a fleeting glance if you show them something shiny enough.
You don’t need to play the metrics game if you don’t want to. Create real meaning and the community will reward you for it. Let go of the misleading idea you can create and sustain the interest of millions. Focus on the few thousand (or even hundreds) who really matter to you.
This is the perfect time for it. The best time to zag is when everyone else is zigging.