Building a Following: What I’ve Learned from One Million Visitors

It’s now been over two and a half years since I first started blogging for The Emotion Machine – and just recently I’ve passed over one million visitors.

It’s a significant milestone to me, but more importantly it’s provided me with a lot of experience about what it means to build a following.

I’ve certainly learned a lot of important things over the past few years, and I still have a lot more learning to do as well. I hope to share at least some of what I’ve learned here in this post.

In many ways, I think these principles apply to anyone who is trying to build a following around anything – whether it’s promoting a band, or building a business, or recruiting people around a certain cause.

Here are those 4 principles.

Most people won’t care about you.

When building a following of any kind, it’s an unfortunate and discomforting fact that most people will never give a damn about who you are or what you do.

That’s because we vary so much as individuals. We each have a different array of values, interests, and priorities, and many times those values, interests, and priorities don’t match up with other people.

You have a metal band? That’s great, but the truth is 90+% of music fans probably don’t care for metal.

Should that discourage you? Absolutely not. It’s a trend you are going to find in almost any niche, so don’t beat yourself up when most of the people you try to reach out to are apathetic toward you.

Usually it’s nothing personal. It’s often just a difference in character. Maybe what you do just isn’t their “thing.” Or other times people are just too busy being distracted by other stuff.

This principle is especially important to keep in mind when you are first starting out, since it may take awhile until you start noticing some positive feedback (or any feedback at all, for that matter).

A lot of people will actually like you.

Building a following takes time and patience, but I promise you that eventually you will start finding people who actually like what you do.

The truth is that despite how unique you may be, there are still many others out there who share your values and interests, and who will therefore appreciate what you bring to the table.

So often I come across people who have a fervent passion for something, but they don’t pursue it because they question whether anyone else will care. I’m here to tell you that, yes, you will find plenty of people who care – so long as you care – and you remain persistent in searching for the right people.

Once you start finding those people who like what you do, start actively listening to what they have to say about you. What is it that they like exactly? If you dedicate yourself to building off their feedback, your influence will continue to grow.

A few people will absolutely love you.

Over time while building a following, you will begin to come across that small percentage of people who absolutely love you and everything you do.

These individuals make up your “core tribe.” They hang onto every word you write or say, and they continue to come back to you for more. Often times they share your work with others, which is one of the most effective and organic ways of expanding your influence to new people – by word of mouth. The more you have other people creating a buzz around you, the less you have to promote yourself. And the truth is people always trust the word of a friend or family member more than they trust a random stranger who is trying to sell himself.

So despite these individuals being only a small minority of the visitors you get, they are easily your most valuable asset. They bring support and enthusiasm to your message that you can’t possibly create all by yourself. And in many ways, these people add tremendous value to the work that you do.

Every great message needs loyal supporters. And when you find people who care that much about you and your work, you should reciprocate and give back as much as possible. Treat them with the utmost of respect, and many of them will have your back for life. The benefits from maintaining these kinds of relationships is incalculable.

Some people will hate you.

While building a following you will eventually come across certain people who will criticize you or hate you for a variety of reasons.

It could be that you or your work represent something that they vehemently disagree with. Sometimes differences in values can create real conflict. It’s an unfortunate, but very real part of human nature.

Other times, a person may just be envious of your success and they’d rather see you fail so they can feel better about themselves. This kind of hating often stems from low self-esteem and insecurity – and it’s also pretty common.

The only way to successfully deal with “haters” is to ignore them and continue on despite them. If you really believe in yourself, your values, and your work, then you’re just going to have to persist forward regardless of what some people may think. All I ask is that you don’t be too surprised when met with this resistance.

The good and bad of building a following.

As you can tell, building a following isn’t always a completely pleasant experience. You will undoubtedly experience a lot of frustration and criticism, and it’s going to take some time, patience, and dedication before you start to see some traction with people who actually appreciate what you do.

I just wanted to write this post to get you more familiar with how things will probably break down as you reach out to more and more people. The distribution of these 4 categories (apathy, like, love, hate) will vary from person to person, but almost anyone who has ever built an influence has had to deal with each of these.

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