February 17, 2024

Revealed: The Social Media 'Game'

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On Tuesday night, I was enjoying some time in my new online community - answering questions and sharing advice.

A post from a new member was getting some traction, and the topic grabbed my attention.

The post:

“A creator with a big following states that 100% of people who’ve built successful brands on social media have paid for engagement or traded with other creators, or both. No exceptions.

Further, he states that ‘It’s a big club and you ain’t in it’.

Curious what you think of this and if I’m naive to think I can do this on my own.”

I stared at this post for a bit before adding my thoughts - which was basically that I think there’s a bit of truth to that. But it’s not entirely true.

I’ve never paid for impressions, engagement, or subscribers. Most of my friends who have large followings haven’t either. I’m sure many people have. I'd be naive to think they haven't.

But I do know how to play the game of social media. And there’s no two ways about it - social media is certainly a game.

The Game of Social Media

Social media isn’t a ‘big club’ as that post suggested. It’s a game. And if you can’t figure out how to play the game, you’ll probably never succeed on social media.

You gotta play to win, as they say.

The game is played in levels. And at each level, you acquire new skills and new points of leverage that you can use to move ahead.

Today I’m pulling back the curtain to show you how the game is played.

Let’s dive in.

Level I: What the f*ck am I doing?

Every single creator or entrepreneur on the internet begins at level 1. Nobody is born with a million followers. We all start at zero.

And most of us have no clue what we’re doing when we start. This makes up 95% of the people you see on social media at any given time. Flailing around, cringey writing and videos, non-sensical content that will never get read or engaged with. Harsh but true.

The best thing you can do at level I is figure out how to get out of it as fast as possible. To get some traction that helps you move ahead.

Here’s what I recommend to  anyone at level 1: create simple content for beginners.

It doesn’t matter what topic, industry, or niche you write about. The majority of people on the internet are at the very beginning of their journey, too. They’re trying to figure out the basics. The 101. Help your target audience figure out the basics.

And when you help them, make it easy to understand. Simple words. Simple sentences. One idea per post. Good spacing. Clear and concise.

Here’s an example:

This content is so, so basic. Think about it.

I took a common problem and stated it: Everyone seems paralyzed by choosing the right business idea.

I offered my perspective on the problem: Ultimately, you'll need traffic no matter what idea you choose.

I offered one, simple actionable piece of advice: So start by figuring out how to generate traffic and let those people guide you to your idea.

There’s nothing complicated about this Tweet. I didn’t write a manuscript about how to go find traffic, or the difference between SEO, social, paid, and direct traffic.

I just suggested one simple thing → Find traffic, and let that traffic guide you to your idea.

Level one content creators should write content like this day in and day out. Basic. Focused on one area of expertise. Simple and useful content. Every. Single. Day.

Because the majority of people are beginners, this is a great way to build a big following. And with a big following comes amplified content.

And if you’re not getting traction, it’s time for some self-reflection. Because it isn’t the algorithm, the platform, the software, or the time of day you post. It’s your content. It’s time to go study people creating successful content, and figure out how to be simple and clear.

Level II: I’m figuring this out on my own

Once you’ve provided simple and useful value for a long period of time, you’ll have a following of people that look for your content on a regular basis.

And with that bit of traction, you can introduce two new ‘power ups’ to your game, that help you move levels.

Power Up #1: Diversification of content

The first power up is when you start to add more content ammunition to your arsenal. You’ll move from simple, useful pieces of content to a more diversified set of plays that you can run over and over.

Go back and look at your content from the past year.

Identify your top 20 pieces that resonated, and study them. Why did they resonate? Are there any similarities in topic, structure, style, length, image, etc?

Once you know what worked well and why, replicate your success continuously. Take each post and rewrite it 20 different ways. Different hooks, different body copy, etc. Then, put the content into different formats:

  • Tweets
  • Twitter threads
  • Visual Twitter threads
  • LinkedIn Posts
  • LinkedIn Posts + Image
  • LinkedIn Carousels
  • Instagram posts
  • Etc.

And keep this in mind - If a message resonates on one social platform, it’s likely to resonate on another one too. By reusing content that works (but altering it slightly), you’ll stay on message and give your audience what they want.

Every piece of content feels fresh and new. You’re going deep.

Power Up #2: Small, supportive groups of other people who ‘get it’

Eventually, you’ll notice the same people coming back to your content all the time. What a great feeling it is to see familiar faces of support when you post. You’ll also see other people on your feed posting about something similar to you, or tangentially related to your subject matter.

Take notice of both groups. Go click on every single profile of a person who is supporting your content or whose content you see in your feed.

Who’s growing? Who’s showing up daily? Who’s figuring it out like you?

These are your new social media game teammates. But you need to get ‘em on your team.

Reach out with something like: I really appreciate you coming around and supporting my content each day. Thank you for that. Looks like you’re getting some traction too. Any interest in jumping on a quick Zoom? Would love to figure out how to support each other more.

Find 5-10 people playing at your level, and build a go-to-market content team. Engage, comment, host each other on podcasts, do live events together, co-market, etc. This is the time to be generous and get creative.

I want you to think about how this applies to anything in work and life.

When a high school football player gets recruited to a college, he recruits other great players to come along and play with him. He wants to win.

When two people in the music industry start getting traction, they release a collaboration or a song together. They want to be superstars.

When politicians are on the come up, they endorse other popular candidates just like them. They want to get elected.

This IS the game!

Your goal at Level II is to become the guy or gal who has the leverage.

Double down on your strengths, and forget your weaknesses. Go all in on the thing that makes you the best in your category.

For example, I went all in on LinkedIn, and became “The LinkedIn Guy”. And when other big creators from Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram want to come to LinkedIn to grow their brands…who do you think they reach out to?

This is leverage, and it’s Level III.

Level III: I’m using my leverage to move levels faster

When you become somebody known for a thing, you have leverage. And leverage is powerful.

Because now you can trade and barter with people who want your expertise.

Once I mastered LinkedIn, big name Twitter creators were interested in learning how to use LinkedIn like I do. And since many of those people had their own leverage (500,000+ Twitter followers,) we were in a position do a mutually beneficial knowledge share.

By learning from the top Twitter folks, I was able to start writing on Twitter and get some good traction pretty fast. 842 days later my following had grown to 473,000.

I now have leverage on two platforms, LinkedIn and Twitter. And with that increased leverage comes access to more opportunities on other platforms. Leverage compounds.

Here’s the part of this game that everyone misses, forgets, or just straight up ignores: You can’t get to Level III without being top 10% in something.

And you have to work hard for that thing.

You have to show up daily and write, record, interview, respond, engage, and so on. And you have to get it right. Just showing up doesn't guarantee results.

I study copywriting, human emotion, and psychology. I’ve shown up every morning for the last 1,968 days on LinkedIn. I’ve shown up for the last 842 days on Twitter. Sometimes twice or three times a day. And I almost never miss a day of responding to comments, building my network, and therefore - increasing my leverage.

When I go all in on Instagram, it's not a matter of whether I'll grow, but simply how fast. Because I can reach out and use my LinkedIn and Twitter leverage to meet the people who already know the Instagram game.

In Conclusion

Maybe pulling back the curtain on the game will sour you a little bit. But I hope it doesn’t.

This is how the world works across every industry or career.

The best athletes form super teams to win championships. The best musicians make music together to sell tickets and albums. The PayPal Mafia builds and funds new startups. Big-name actors and directors work together to create blockbuster hits. Top fashion designers collaborate with celebrities to boost sales. Best-selling authors co-write books to capitalize on each other's fan base to sell more books.

And the list goes on and on.

So now that you know how the game works, it’s important to ask yourself…

Are you ready to play?

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