Why do so many smart experts 'fail' with content?

A Twitter Thread of mine went viral a while back. 10k likes within 48 hours.

Here's the thread that went viral

Then I published a similar thread a few weeks later, which got 5k likes, and I followed that up with a few that did well.

Here, you can see how many B2B threads did well for me

Same thing happened on LinkedIn.

I got hundreds of email subscribers, too, as a result.

But It got me no good-fit leads.

It wasn’t good for business. If anything, the piece set me back months, all because I made one fundamental error.

I’m writing this hoping to help you avoid the same (very common) mistake I made.

But first, let me go back a step.

I’ve spoken previously of how I went from zero to 15k followers in 6 months.

The intention was that I’d attract an audience that would like what I had to say and buy what I had to offer.

On that ‘audience building’ journey, my biggest ‘success’ was this one post.

I called it telling stories through data.

But really, it was a collection of beautiful data visualisations from McKinsey, the names of each graph, and guidance on which visualisation to use depending on the data you have and the story you want to tell.

I’m proud of this piece.

Here's the LinkedIn carousel I made

I spent time on it. It looks good, and there’s valuable ‘content’ in there.

It attracted high-profile subscribers, people at investment firms, VCs, consultants, Premier League football clubs…

So I made more

Focused around storytelling and design.

And it was all ‘working’ because I was listening.

Through feedback and engagement, the audience told me what they did and didn’t like, so I doubled down on what worked.

And that follows this common line of advice you get on social media.

That what you need to do is create content, lots of it, and look for cues from your audience.

When you get good engagement, that’s a sign that you’re onto something.

Make small ‘content’ bets on Twitter or LinkedIn, then you go big on the pieces that get engagement because that’s idea validation.

It makes sense. It fits with the concepts of MVPs, audience research, etc.

And it is a completely flawed way of thinking

Because what it results in is an aimless pursuit attention.

I was kidding myself.

Because I wasn’t making clickbait, or at least I don’t think I was. It wasn’t:

  • 10 things I wish I’d told my 20yr old self, or;
  • 10 TED videos that teach you more than a $200k MBA.

It was credible content, attracting credible professionals.

Which led me to believe I was doing something right.

That, once these people entered my newsletter, I’d figure out what I could sell to them.

But here’s where I feel stupid

Because that wasn’t the business I was running. It got me the wrong type of attention from the wrong type of people.

Even though they were really high-value people, they weren’t high-value to my business.

I don’t sell data visualisation, and I don’t sell to VCs or any kind of investment firm.

I wanted to get buyers for my existing services.

I wasn’t an entrepreneur looking for market opportunities, then building a product to supply that demand.

I have a business already, as do you.

Which is why whole idea of validating ideas on social, for most of us, it’s nonsense

Because what is an audience on LinkedIn or Twitter?

It’s the whole world.

If you’re an entrepreneur looking for the next opportunity, fine.

But if you’re a consultant, agency, or studio, you already have an offer built on top of years of experience.

Social isn’t the place for validating.

And when I look back, I see the root cause of the problem.

It’s not the content.

It’s the value proposition

Either it’s foggy, or as was in my case, it’s completely disconnected from the content (insight) strategy.

And really, the content strategy should be an extension of the value proposition.

This is the person we serve. These are their pains and dreams, and this is the service offering we’ll provide to alleviate those pains or accomplish those dreams.

The insight then communicates every facet of that value prop to the right sort of people.

Catch their attention and maintain it.

And although I feel really stupid for admitting all of this…

I know you’ve probably done this too

I speak with really smart people all the time, and many of them are making (or have made) this same mistake.

They’ll create and promote ebooks on Facebook that attract downloads from people who would never buy what they have to sell.

They invest time and money on SEO when their Fortune 500 buyers would never Google a $100k consultant to fix their growth issues.

And retrospectively, after it happens, they say to themselves, ‘Yeah of course that wasn’t going to work - why did I do that?’

And what they put it down to is that they think they haven’t cracked content or that their kind of buyers don’t read content.

And none of that is true.

You think CEO's aren't subscribed to magazines and newsletters or listen to podcasts? Of course they do. Shane Parrish and Fred Wilson have audiences full of them.

The problem is the value proposition.

Because that’s where content starts.

People like David C Baker and Growth Design develop and publish insight that delivers results, primarily because they know who they are, who they want to work with, and how they provide value to those clients.

The content simply communicates all of the above.

Which is why you shouldn’t use content to validate quality and interest

Not unless the only people seeing it and ‘validating’ it are the very people you’re trying to attract.

Over reliant on referrals and word of mouth?

Every 3 weeks, I publish deep dives into B2B thought leaders, breaking down their journey from unknown consultant to top tier personality.

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