The Secret to Engaging Your Audience Without Sacrificing Your Authenticity
Making content should be like making love.
Making content should be like making love. Everyone involved is enjoying it.
While writing on medium, sometimes I make the mistake of trying to choose between writing what I like, or what my audience would like. Posting a personal story would feel cathartic, but a listicle with bite-sized ‘actionable steps’ gets more claps. Do I write what I like, or do I write for the masses?
But that would be asking the wrong question. Because there’s a middle-ground solution. It involves trusting your gut and doing what you want to do.
Creatives are making a mistake when they ask themselves ‘should I make what I want to make, or what other people want me to make?’
Making content should be like making love. You have a relationship between what you create and your audience. No one else’s opinions should matter!
I’m using sex as an analogy for content creation, but hear me out. If you want to create something beneficial, meaningful, or successful, try thinking about it this way.
Making content, and, well, making love, have these things in common:
- The relationship has a natural push and pull of ideas
- You do what you like, but still, choose what you based on your audience and their reactions
- Both you and your audience like the content
You can enjoy making more than one type of content
There’s probably plenty of different kinds of content you enjoy making. I know that I feel that way, even with writing.
I like writing in informative how-to formats like this one, I like writing about some of my most gut-wrenching personal experiences, and I also like writing 3000 words of angsty fluff at 3 am. The key is finding where each thing belongs. My rants stay in my journals, and my useful stuff gets fine-tuned and put out into the world.
I’m constantly experimenting with finding what I enjoy, and what captivates my audience’s attention. Sometimes I can tell what will flop and what will do well, sometimes I get surprised.
If your goal is to create something meaningful, resonating, or profitable, pay attention to who likes your art.
Take this article for example. I’m writing whatever the fuck I want, I’m having fun writing this, and I’m going to translate it into actionable steps for your own benefit. I’m not trying to decide between writing for myself or for others, I’m just experimenting to find what works.
If you just want to make money and be ‘successful’ (whatever that means), don’t forget to pay homage to your own unique creative weirdness.
Writing purely for other people reeks of ingenuity
Even worse, it’s boring. People aren’t stupid (mostly). If you’re being inauthentic, they can tell. Your fake persona is obvious. In the famous words of Bob Marley,
“You can’t fool all the people, all of the time.”
Writing purely for other people isn’t just obviously fake, it’s useless. And repetitive. Dull. Lifeless. If you do what everyone else is doing, there’s no reason to pay attention to you.
You’re not bringing anything new to the table. Worst of all, you’d be depriving the world of your single most unique and valuable quality: your unique weirdness. Doing the same things as everyone else won’t benefit humanity. It won’t even benefit you.
If hundreds of people are doing the exact same thing, don’t do it. You’re not just stifling your creative power, but also alienating potential new followers. People will like you for the unique things you have to offer.
You can copy an idea here and there but please, for the sake of my sanity, add something original. You don’t need to completely reinvent the wheel, but at least paint it a new color. Try things out. Learn what does and doesn’t work.
Jerking yourself off has a time and place
Being able to create objectively ‘bad’ things is a life skill. It helps you relax and increases your creative thinking. Actually, it being bad isn’t the point. ‘Bad’ isn’t even a factor. The point is to be creative without worrying about the pressure of it being good.
Making crappy art is the birthplace of good ideas. Mindlessly scribbling down a hundred ideas usually works better than trying to come up with a single good one.
Scribble words in your journal. Dance alone in your room. Hum a tune and sing off-key. Type out incoherent poetry. Draw like a child — create like a child. Be free and uninhibited.
It’s important to regularly create bad art. This is where free creativity comes from. It removes mental blocks and makes everything fun. Most importantly, once you relax, the art you put effort into gets better.
Don’t engage in a creatively self-indulgent jerk off if you want to make something that resonates with others. Sure, you could make a self-indulgent-artsy-whatever that nobody will understand. That’s okay if it’s just a hobby. But if you want to make something that is resonating and meaningful to your audience, it’s important to consider their tastes.
There’s somebody out there who will always respond to authenticity
Creating meaningful art is an empathetic conversation. Don’t make it all about you. It’s not all about you. It’s about being vulnerable for the benefit of others. You are giving your audience content, not trying to take something for yourself.
If you’re truly authentic, someone will always appreciate that. Not everyone will like it. Not everyone will respond to it. But not everyone needs to be your fan. Instead, focus on those who already resonate with your authenticity, and figure out the best methods to express it.
There are many ways to say the same message. That’s why art exists — to express that message in a variety of ways.
I made a diagram to explain this.
You don’t need to choose between doing what you like and what your audience likes. Do what you like, and find the best way of expressing that for your audience. Make content like you’re making love. Happy creating!