April 19

How Ideas Spread in a World of Noise

Ideas don't spread because through the kindness of strangers on the internet. They spread because of people who care, people who feel like you've made a difference. They spread you when people would miss you if you were gone.

The internet is undergoing a fundamental shift. The tools are becoming more powerful and easier to use. Execution speeds are rising. It's becoming easier by the day to write content optimized for search engines and more likely to be found. As the media landscape becomes more crowded and fragmented, this will be truer.

The most significant competitive edge will be making people care about what you're doing.

When I ask listeners of Unmistakable Creative how they heard about us, it's never because of a Facebook ad. They almost always mention a friend who shared an episode.

In recent conversations with our listeners about moving to a listener-supported model, I've asked people if it's worth a dollar a month? They've all been kind and said that's too low.

Nobody has ever said to me "I bought your book because of a Facebook ad." My second book has spread almost entirely through word of mouth. As Ryan Holiday wrote says in his book Perennial seller, nothing survives long term without word of mouth.

But publishers spend thousands of dollars every year on interrupting strangers. As Seth Godin writes in Unleashing the Idea Virus, "All those ads you ran are a great way to get someone to your site, but it might cost your site $100 in marketing expenditure to get one visit from the consumer. If you don't get permission to follow up, the entire $100 is wasted." Ironically, the same publisher who published his book has done exactly that.

If they spent that same money catering to the small army that's already supporting someone's work they'd sell more books. Instead of doubling down on Facebook ads, they could double down on giving an existing audience an experience they'd never forget. They'd turn fans into fanatics.

Why don't they do it? Because there's no map. It might not work. The marketer cant' go to her boss and say "Here's how much I spent. This is how many clicks we got." It's hard to measure the ROI of large, unmistakable statements that you can't ignore. But there's also an infinite value to things that can't be measured.

There's nothing in any publisher's rulebook that says, give your entire book away for free on a web site, and make a kindle version. But that's precisely what I chose to do with the scenic route. You can read the whole thing for free. I wasn't just interested in writing a book. I wanted to design an experience. If you enjoyed it, you can support us by sharing it or buying the kindle version.

Tradition often dictates how organizations make decisions. But this comes at a cost. For a very long time, Google had a policy in place for their Associate Program Manager role. You had to have a computer science degree to be qualified. A young Stanford grad didn't have a computer science degree. So he left the company and started his own. His name was Kevin Systrom. That policy cost them a billion dollars.

Just because you've always done something a certain way, that doesn't mean it's the best way to do it.

It's not the product that makes a startup successful. It's how that product helps the users.

I love Beautiful.ai because it helps me create amazing presentations.

I love the team at Delesign because they've made it possible to expand my creative vision at a ridiculous bargain.

Ideas spread when you empower your users. They spread because people get emotionally invested. If you make someone feel something, it's much easier have them do something.

The paradox, however, is if you aim to reach eyeballs instead of touch hearts, your ideas won't be worth spreading.


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