People sometimes ask me how I built an audience, and I want to tell them that I don’t know. I never tried to build an audience, I tried to push ideas via tweets. That seemed to me the most natural approach, because if people followed me it would be for what is intrinsic.
I’ve never been good at playing the Twitter game. I lose followers constantly because I am true to myself. My thoughts, heck my self, is too distinct and personal. It’s like Marmite to a lot of folk. I’ve had my fair share of people follow and unfollow repeatedly depending on what phase I am in. I sympathise, because I am not consistent.
But it leads me to something overlooked in the modern social space, something the long-game players understand implicitly. You can have a lot of followers without being a leader, and followers need leaders. I am not talking gurudom or all-knowing elitism, I am talking honest, relatable and courageous figures whose ideas will endure.
There are innumerable ways to develop an audience and I’ve outlined many of these before. You can be an aesthete that sacrifices all for the sake of information sharing, a dealer of irony and referential takes or even someone that adopts no position and adapts to whatever narrative works for the moment.
Tweets with a bearing on societal issues, worldly events or appeals to emotion will always outperform the life-altering logical deconstruction or construction, unless that presentation carries with it an emotional impetus itself. This isn’t Twitter, this is human nature, just ask anyone that works in sales.
Human nature is allowed to flourish in its most delightful and ugly forms on Twitter. It is a naturalistic forum. Some people find this inability to find a safe space disconcerting but the realists find it liberating. It disabuses the complexity of Facebook and focuses on the organic development of connection.
The mechanics that allow for this organic process are ripe for exploitation, however. I predicted this long ago when I accused people of divide and conquer tweeting. This is devising a contrast and using one pole of the opposite to marginalise a group. This rose in popularity because drama is attractive to us; we are primed to be sensitive the tenuous ties of tribalism.
This tendency to be exploitative via contrast has since expanded into insight-generation of the opposite feeling context. Instead of dividing people by means of logical standard, people have found the more effective strategy is being as inclusive as humanly possible. The net result however is saying nothing of substance.
In both instances, be it divide and conquer or hugbox generalising, there is a sacrifice of integrity which spreads inevitably to the impressionable who think they can replicate the pattern and develop a following all of their own, for often tainted motivations and to assuage a lack of personal achievement. A partial generation of people living in the abstract.
This is not the right motivation. There are two primary motivations for building an audience on Twitter: being an eager student or a humble master. In far too great a number, we have people with no life experience acting like experts and people with a great deal lacking the humility of the student. Neither, I must stress, are able to lead their audiences past the superficial glamourising of ideation.
An audience confers a certain semblance of responsibility. Even those who have cast aside the number as an online triviality eventually come to realise that the abstraction represents buy-in to an aggregate message. What are you going to do? Disregard that people care about your message? This leads us to the inevitable question. Why did you even start tweeting?
Once you have a couple of thousand people willingly following along it is vital to interrogate your aims. There is a chasm of difference between the person effortlessly sharing life lessons and those repeating oft-used wisdom cliches. The latter are a dime a dozen and rarely develop true connections, forgetting that social media is about being social, and being social is revealing yourself.
In the modern online space, there is a great fear of risk; risk of showing yourself, risk of being human, risk of not being the deity or wise visage that is portrayed. If you act in fear of this risk, there is no good cause that you should have an audience, because you are not a leader. You are a false idol, a sham in the light of the exposing sun, hoping people do not notice the discrepancies between your clickbait-style revelations.
If you have respect for your audience, and respect for yourself, inevitably you must spread your message from a congruent position of human relation and risk exclusion on the grounds of your self, or you adopt the position of the fool and think yourself a ruler, because three-hundred people liked your tweet. Those people reckon with one truth: it’s never actually you that posted that tweet, is it?
People want to seem above-average, but nobody seems to accept that not everyone can be, at least in some domains. They post quotes like ‘wolves don’t listen to the opinions of sheep’, like everyone else. To be a leader, things have to be done your way. Every action must be a risk of a sort, because that is how you change the world. When you have an audience, you can never underestimate the difference your courage can make to people’s lives.