Being a content creator takes an ironclad mindset. It's legitimately one of the hardest things to do in the digital space. And when you're just starting a new project, you'll take any help you can get to grow your fans faster and reach more meaningful monetization.
That usually means relying on people who already (hopefully) like you as a person — your friends and your family. But here's the thing: your friends and your family are not your fans. And treating them like they are can lead you to make some mistakes.
Your Friends Are Not Your Fans
First, a point of clarification. When we say, "Your friends are not your fans," we're not saying your friends and family don't actually like what you do. In fact, they may be some of your biggest supports and genuinely love what you're making. If your content is an extension of your natural personality, there's a decent chance your content would resonate with your friends even if you didn't know each other.
After all, they're your friends for a reason.
But that also means your content is naturally going find them first and they're already predisposed to want to support you. They may see everything you do with rose-colored glasses. Or, maybe you're really creating out of left field and making something they never would expect from you — or would never actually seek out. If they don't seem to want to share what you do or support it, that's fine.
Either way, it kind of renders their opinions on what you do somewhat meaningless. Because the ultimate goal with content creation is to build a tribe around your content, weather that tribe is niche or global. You need to focus on how you find people who otherwise would never know you — not the low-hanging fruit in the form of the people already in your world.
Your Mom Thinks You're Cool
Similarly, what your family thinks — particularly those closest to you — is also pretty much irrelevant. And that's kind of tough to think about.
For one, if you're really going all-in on your content, you'll naturally want to talk about it with the people closest to you. And in the best-case scenario, everybody is super open-minded and on board with what you're making.
But in the worst case, you'll find yourself looking for validation from people who may never actually be your fans if they didn't already know you. That can lead to second-guessing the type of content you make. It can lead to you censoring yourself or being afraid of losing the respect of people you love. And it can prevent you from taking the kind of creative risk that just might have helped you break through to the next level.
So while we're all big fans of cool parents and guardians who give you a full-throated endorsement (or even help fund some of what you do — those piano lessons weren't free, you know!), we have to be able to separate their personal opinions on your pursuits from what you're creating.
The Type Of Input You Should Be Paying Attention To
Alright, so just because you know that your friends and family aren't really your "fans" in a traditional sense, it doesn't mean you need to just completely disregard them. Especially if they're being really cool and showing up to your performances, sharing your latest video, or helping you land a podcast guest.
It's important to appreciate the things these people do for you, even if you know this is not typical behavior of a fan, nor is it a sustainable way to grow. But when you're just starting out, you don't really have a whole lot of options. You can either ask the people close to you to share your content, try to build an audience by collaborating with somebody else, or run ads. Honestly, all three are a smart move — but trying to build early support from your friends and family is usually the first step most people take.
What you want to be looking for is the support from the early adopters and the people a few degrees removed from your immediate friends and family. You know, the girlfriend of the friend your friend brought to your show. What do those people have to say about what you're making? Are you hearing similar comments or comparisons about something in particular? It doesn't even necessarily have to be people who outwardly love what you do. Just listen for commonalities from people who otherwise haven't paid attention to what you make before.
This is where utilizing short form video posts and ads really help you garner that early audience quickly. Even just a few bucks a day (if you can swing it) really helps bring in fresh ears and eyes.
How You Make Fans Matters
The biggest reason we're harping on this idea — that your friends and family are not your fans — is because how you make fans matters a whole lot. And let's be honest, making friends can be very difficult, and your family definitely doesn't grow at the rate you need your audience to grow.
Even getting them to share your content or come to your performance is a limited exercise. They can only do it so much, and their network is only big enough. That's why you need to be intentional about your growth strategy, whether you're just starting out or you're trying to go from a six figure audience to a seven figure one.
Relying on any one method to build your fan base is a perilous strategy. Ads can be great at helping spur growth, but they're more of a catalyst than a scalable solution (unless we're talking about a traditional sales funnel for products — but even then you're largely selling to people who are aware of you, not trying to build that top of funnel).
So if you make all your early followers from ads and release content sparingly, you'll probably only be able to grow by continuing those ads. But if you're mixing in a lot more organic content and trying to strengthen your fan relationships with consistent communication on multiple platforms, you're in a better position to strengthen your overall community.
Just be hyper aware of where your growth moments happen and — to the best of your ability — analyze why they happen.