November 10 update: shifting frameworks and creating impact
Peter wrote a reflection from his past few weeks – read on for his learnings on what being a creator should is actually about. (hint: it’s very different from what he originally thought).
I got together with Mina Irfan a few weeks ago, she told a story that has completely changed my understanding of what success looks like for someone with less than 1000 followers.
For the past eight weeks, I’ve been so focused on the number of followers I have.
”I’m going to 50,000 followers in 90 days!”
So I did everything I could to get lots of followers. I posted every day, one reel or post and seven stories (ok… I didn’t get the stories in EVERY day). I told everyone I knew I was pursuing this goal and asked them to follow me. I went to Funnel Hacking Live and told people I was on my way to 50,000 hoping they’d follow me too. I did Instagram lives with other creators (a great growth hack, btw). But I didn’t get the viral growth I was dreaming of.
Eight weeks into this challenge I am at 723 followers—a far cry from my 50,000 goal.
So, I’ve been searching for more hacks to grow my audience. Asking myself what else can I do to reach more people? Watching videos, reading books, talking to as many creators as I can about how to grow a following. All good things to do, but I realized in a conversation a few weeks ago that is the wrong thing to focus on or at least the wrong orientation.
So when I got together with Mina for an Instagram Live, I was hoping to learn secrets about growing my following fast. But she shared nothing like that. Instead, she told a story that has completely changed my understanding of what success looks like.
Early in Mina’s career as a content creator, she had about 9,000 subscribers on YouTube and was making less than $100 a month. Mina met a woman who had only 500 followers and was making six figures. I can still hear her telling the part of the story where she finds out how much money this woman was earning.“I was CONFUSED”, she said emphatically.
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Long story, short, the woman was selling something valuable to her small audience and making a good living doing it. Mina had way more followers but wasn’t making the same impact on people and as a result the same money. That is when it hit me “it’s not about the followers” (probably also because Mina said that over and over again).
Of all the creators I have met and studied through my years working to help creators sell at Thinkific, Mina has the most vibrant, engaged audience. Her followers love her. The comments people wrote about the conversations she and I had on Instagram are glowing with gratitude about Mina’s impact on their lives. That impact is what success looks like: people glowing about the impact we make on their lives. Mina is also one of the highest-selling creators on Thinkific Payments, so it’s good for business!
So, thanks to Mina, my focus has shifted to making an impact on people’s lives and through that impact creating an authentic connection. While I‘m still on a mission to 50,000 followers, my first priority is to connect with the people I am setting out to serve.
So the next question is, how can I impact people’s lives and create a connection through my content? Brendon Burchard taught me something important about how to do that, that I want to pass along to all of you. He helped me see that my content must fulfil four things to connect with people and impact them positively:
- Desire for aliveness: It is my job to bring aliveness to my audience’s life. I need to create content that demonstrates passion, fun, and engagement. I must speak with vigor, move around, smile big, get loud.
- Desire for connection: I should create connection by talking about my audience’s hopes for their children, their partnership, their family, community, team, or closest friendships. To support that connection, I can tell stories about my (future) kids, partnership, family, community, team, or closest friendships.
- Desire for meaning: I can help those watching see that their work is a meaningful pursuit. I can help them see that their work matters and tell stories about how they make a difference in the world. (I see the impact you are making on families around the country Brandon Doerksen 👀).
- Desire for growth: I can help people see that they will grow with me. That I will push them to change and help them set big goals. I can create some positive discomfort in their lives. I should tell stories about how I pushed myself—because if they don’t know that I push myself, they haven’t a good reason to join me.
Follow @impossible.creator to see how my content evolves following these principles! I hope you’ll notice my content improves, and that it impacts your life in a way that establishes a connection between us.
Have you found something that creates an authentic connection with your audience? Share what you’ve learned in your Instagram stories and tag me, I’d love to learn from you!
October 12 update: creating emotional connections, dealing with burnout symptoms, and loving the journey
For this update, we interviewed Peter on his last few weeks. Read on for some proven tips and on building connections with your audience, and insights on creator burnout.
What did you learn over the past 2 weeks?
wow, what a question! I’ve learned too much.
I spoke with Tim Schmoyer, Creator of Video Creators, an agency and YouTube channel that helps YouTubers build an emotional connection with their audience over video, so people return to their feed over and over.
Tim shared that we need 7 things to create an emotional connection with an audience:
- You need a creation story. Something that tells people how you came to the work you’re doing and why it matters to you.
- You need a creed. The set of beliefs and core values that your business holds. This is your reason for being. People who share your beliefs will join your community.
- You need icons. These are material things that concentrate meaning and make you stand out. Unique glasses, the way you dress, the hashtags you use, and your background are all examples of icons that concentrate on your purpose and association with your business.
- You need rituals. These are repeated actions that people grow to love and expect from your brand, actions for people to bond over. This might be a skit you run, an activity you do together, or a celebration.
- You need sacred words: insider language. This might be an acronym or metaphor. It should be simple to understand but require time spent with your channel to get it.
- You need non-believers. This one is my favorite. You need to stand against something. Tim said, “your audience will only be as strong as what you stand against together.” Beautiful. Many of us don’t want to alienate anyone, but if we don’t, we won’t have a strong enough culture to build an audience that can support our dreams.
- You need a leader: whose creation story does the audience fall in love with? Who teaches the creed and sacred words? Who introduces the icons and performs the rituals? Who leads the stand against the non-believers? This person is you!
I found this framework really helpful. I’m now watching other people’s videos noticing their creeds and original stories. I’m creating my own videos on who I stand against and of my origin story (though, I don’t really like my origin story yet).
I know I need icons but are not sure what to use. I really like how @ceomattyi has made the way he dresses something people recognize him by.
Why is building an emotional connection important? How do you build an emotional connection with your audience without coming across as fake or manipulative?
I can remember being in high school, in the 8th grade, and I really wanted to be friends with the popular kids. I would try to hang out with them at lunchtime, trying to be as ‘cool’ as I could, but I found it hard to connect with them.
We were on different levels of maturity, so I had to pretend to like the things they liked and act in ways they acted before I was ready. I was posturing and inauthentic. There was no room for an emotional connection. There was no natural draw to spend time together.
When I finally gave up on that and started to spend time with people I was a better fit with, we shared interests, came from similar places, developed rituals and shared language. We connected emotionally and I developed life long relationships. We naturally were drawn to spending time together.
Connecting with our audience is no different. We’ve got to create an emotional connection so they are naturally drawn to spending time with us and our content. To do that, we’ve got to be authentic. The framework Tim shared gives us a template we can follow to accelerate creating what’s needed to build an emotional, authentic connection.
How are you feeling about the journey so far?
I am loving it! I am nowhere near my 50,000 goal but I have learned so much. Before this project, I was someone who interviewed a lot of creators. Since starting, I have become one. I get weekly messages from people who relate to the content I am creating and express that it impacts their lives. I love the feeling I get when reading those messages. This experience has been wonderful.
At the same time, I’m a bit worried about my emotional and physical health. Between @impossible.creator and helping creators sell at Thinkific, I am working from the moment I wake up to when I go to bed, except when exercising or with Robyn (and even sometimes when with Robyn). I’ve started experiencing headaches, which I have never before. So, I’ve set the intention to find better ways to rest and care for myself.
What’s coming up next that we can get excited about?
September 23 update: new things, workshops, and support systems
Peter is now at 199 followers – only 49801 more to go!
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This week Peter ran his first workshop with fellow creators. The goal was to connect and learn from each other. Here’s how it went:
What they covered
- An exercise to find their authentic voice and philosophy
- Reviewed the profile of @ellietalksmoney to see what worked so well about her Instagram
- Completed a set of questions to define the philosophy of their brand
- Although only 3 creators attended the workshop was a huge hit with both Peter and the attendees. As Peter says:
“That’s when it hit me: this is how movements start. Movements begin in very small groups like this one. They start with just a few people.”
- People have wonderful and varied purposes for trying to build an audience online. For example, just in Peter’s 3-person workshop, one person is teaching parents to help keep children safe, another is helping women develop confidence in their authenticity, and the final attendee is teaching creators to write better copy to grow their own businesses.
- 3 creators that use Thinkific to deliver online courses that found Peter through Instagram and the Thinkific Facebook group
Learnings to implement
- Peter plans to help 2 or 3 people to build an audience every day to help grow his audience
How can people sign up for the next workshops?
- Workshops take place on Fridays, roughly every other week. The next workshop will take place on October 7th at 10:00 am PST. Creators can pre-register here!
- Peter will send an invite out to those who have pre-registered on Monday, the week of each workshop. Workshops have limited space so sign up soon.
That’s what Peter Fitzpatrick (@impossible.creator) is trying to find out.
He estimates the challenge has “less than a 20% chance of success.” But these colossally low odds only serve to energize him in the pursuit of his goal.
Why he’s doing it
So why even attempt such a lofty number? It would definitely be easier to try to hit say 5000 followers in 6 months, or 15,000 followers in a year.
Peter speaks to content creators weekly in his role as VP of payments at Thinkific. Time and time again he hears that the number one challenge they’re struggling with is building an audience. Without an audience, content creators can’t share their knowledge, or sell their online courses. This is a bit of an issue, to say the least.
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He wants to learn what works to build an audience and what doesn’t so he can help creators who are struggling and empower the rest of Thinkific to help our customers in a real way.
“The most successful creators pour a great deal of energy into audience building. I want to show people what’s possible by doing it myself, and draw attention to the fact that most creators need to focus more energy and time on audience building.”
Clearly, this journey won’t be an easy one. Already Peter has run into some challenges (even though he hasn’t even officially kicked off yet!).
“It’s scary to put yourself out there! I’m in no way a content expert, and I’m putting myself out there to be judged. Right now my only comments are from my mom.” He laughs.
This is a sentiment often repeated by beginner content creators who are nervous to start. He also mentions challenges with knowing what to post, and coming up with enough content that feels authentic.
“Authenticity creates connection with other people. I’m trying to avoid sharing things because I think other people will like it. Instead, I share my real life and just hope it resonates with people.”
While Peter doesn’t have all his posts planned out, he has a few key pieces of content he’s excited about.
Via his Instagram page @impossible.creator he’ll share what he’s learning and experiencing while growing his audience: interview clips, Instagram strategies and tactics, mindset development, and mental health concepts. He’ll also host small weekly whiteboard workshops with creators to connect on learnings for the week. The first one is September 16th, you can pre-register here.
He’s hoping to foster a community of creators all with the same goals to support one another.
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Additionally, he plans to host weekly interviews with successful creators who have built their own audiences and people who can help develop mindset, skills, and tactics for audience building. These learnings will be posted to Instagram (and maybe YouTube) as well.
Look forward to interviews with creators such as:
- Teri Ijeoma, who has sold more than $40 million in courses and has an Instagram audience of nearly 200,000 across her personal and Trade and Travel accounts
- Ed Blunderfield, an executive coach who helps people develop a mindset that fosters peace while pursuing huge objectives like reaching 50,000 followers in 90 days
- Tim Schmoyer, the creator behind the YouTube channel VideoCreators (which has over 570,000 subscribers) and is an expert in building emotional connections with an audience using video.
As for what will be in between: you’ll have to follow along to find out.
Join the challenge
Peter’s kicking off on September 8th on Facebook live. Click here to join the challenge and try to grow your own following!
We’ll be posting updates right here on the Thinkific blog each week with key points from the weekly workshops and learnings from his expert interviews.
Follow Peter on Instagram at @impossible.creator to see it all firsthand.