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Tim Ferriss Gave a Dire Warning to Content Creators That’s Worth Paying Attention To

by | Feb 13, 2023 | Writing

Many people who give advice to creators are amateurs.

They’ve made peanuts from the craft, have a tiny audience, or are afraid to sell and call their competitors sellouts.

I don’t take creator advice from just anyone. But I do take it from people like Tim Ferriss who has one of the largest podcasts in the world. You should listen to what he says extremely carefully.

The most important conversation many creators missed

Recently Tim Ferriss and James Clear got together.

Many creators missed it or thought it was nothing more than a lifestyle p*rn orgy. But it wasn’t. No, Tim and James swapped notes on how they continue to build their massive audiences.

And Mr Tim Ferriss dropped a bomb.

Tim had several of his Twitter accounts suspended for no reason. What’s more frustrating is once his team got the accounts back, they’d get suspended again only days later. This continued without explanation.

The only plausible explanation Tim and his team have is that all the accounts in question linked out to Apple Podcasts as their primary objective. This isn’t in the little birdy app’s best interests.

It appears some form of automation picked up on Tim’s honest social media strategy to grow his podcast and handed out suspensions like Don-John Trump-et hands out insults to his enemies.

Tim also says all the content you give to social media apps is theirs on some level, which many creators don’t know because they don’t read the terms and conditions.

A friend of Tim’s told him a story about a business he built on several Facebook Fan pages. “I feel like I have the most profitable McDonald’s in the world built on top of an active volcano.”

The dire warning Tim gives to content creators is to stop thinking you own your social media accounts. You don’t.

There are further warnings he offers…

Organic reach is out of your control

James and Tim riff on the idea of organic reach.

This just means the number of people your content can reach for free before you’ve got to buy expensive ads.

The challenge, they say, is you can wake up one day and a platform can decide to change its strategy. You can go from 100,000 views a month down to 1000 overnight and there’s nothing you can do.

I’ve seen this happen in the last 6 months.

Two of my good friends built their audiences on platforms they didn’t own. In a short space of time, both of them have seen views plummet and the money they made off the back of their writing go right down.

To supplement they’ve had to get second jobs and resort to teaching.

Meanwhile, I’ve seen similar trends and been fine because I own the bulk of my audience, thanks to the habit of being obsessed with email lists.

Tim calls it “rent versus own.”

Websites, email lists, and podcasts are audiences you own. Everything else is rented and you can be evicted at any time because of the way you look or one controversial thought you dare to speak.

The obsession with short-form video is massively overrated

If you’ve been a creator for more than 5 seconds, you’ve likely been told to double down on Youtube Shorts and TikTok.

“Soon everything will be short-form video.”

Bullsh*t. We’ll all become monkeys wearing clown suits dancing for useless ‘likes’ if we’re not careful.

Tim and James believe short-form video isn’t timeless, therefore, it’s disposable like a pair of poo-stained underwear that won’t clean up.

If you’ve ever made decent money as a creator like I have, you’ll know the money is in long-form timeless content. That’s what people pay for.

Don’t get tricked into the pole dancer life of short videos.

Revisit vintage platforms

Tim believes platforms like TikTok have become saturated with copy-and-paste sheep, so it’s hard to win.

He’s thinking about going back to vintage platforms like Reddit that have been neglected. They’re still massive and can drive huge amounts of traffic to your work if you take the time to understand the nuances.

Don’t overlook the classic platforms that have product-market fit and enormous numbers of users.

Getting traction for a new social media app is near impossible.

It’s why we’ve seen no new good social apps in a long time (until Web3 takes over, that is, and users demand decentralization and to own their data).

Don’t be on every platform

Both James and Tim are only focused on a handful of rented platforms that drive traffic to their content.

They believe focus is power, and I agree. I see it all the time in my academy. Students have way too many platforms to maintain so they end up doing a bad job and just copying and pasting from one to the other.

But all social media apps have a unique voice, style, and use case.

Ignoring these factors is what causes nice people to go to LinkedIn and drop the F-word without knowing you can’t do that there.

1–2 rented social apps is enough. Mastery is the path to traction.

Don’t let algorithms run your life

The two also touch on the problem with being a data-backed creator.

Often the most extreme ideas go the most viral. Tim says if you don’t have a few rules then you can easily find yourself doubling down on extremism to keep getting the dopamine drug of ‘likes.’

This can turn any normal, good human into a monster.

I am guilty of this. Some of my early content was borderline a**holery and it still makes me feel bad years later. Don’t sell your soul or make your grandmother turn in her grave with what you post.

Bottom line:

Be careful with too much contrarianism and controversy. Small doses.

The superpower of sending emails that most creators overlook

I’ve left the best tip until last.

No doubt you would expect both Tim Ferriss and James Clear to be obsessed with email lists and sing their praises as if they’re Jesus reincarnated. Both wouldn’t be where they are today without their huge email lists. I’m the same.

Without my 1350,000-person email list, I’d be back at a job kissing my old boss’s hairy butt and on my knees begging for pay rises.

Halfway through James and Tim’s chat, James drops a bomb. Tim is trying to get advice on what he’s doing online. On Tim’s website the focus is on his podcast. On James’s website the focus is on signing up for his email list.

James opens Tim’s eyes (and mine).

People often watch videos and listen to podcasts when they’re on the run or out and about. And even if they are at home and sitting down, there’s one big problem.

Clicking links isn’t a native action you take with videos or podcasts. But clicking links is the #1 thing you do when you open an email.

And getting people to click links is how you make money as a creator. Now, plenty of podcasts read out simple links people can remember. The problem is the audience doesn’t usually take action right away.

With email links they do.

James then blows Tim out of the water when he says the click-through-rates on emails are substantially better than any other format.

Final Thought

Email lists are where creator careers are built.

They allow you to own your audience and sell products, subscriptions, and services by including links. If building an email list isn’t your #1 focus, you’re not going to make it as a creator.

Study the art of email until your eyes bleed.

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