One of the major problems that Build in Public novices face is how to split their attention between creating their product and talking about their journey. How much do you build before you tell your audience? How much should you talk the talk before you walk the walk?
The first step to finding answers to these questions is to understand that these are related activities. Without building, you wouldn’t have much to share. Without sharing, you’d build on potentially invalid assumptions.
Building and sharing are not distinct but symbiotic, as they establish a feedback cycle. You listen to your audience, they express a need, you build a solution, they use it, you adjust, they express more needs. The circle begins again. You learn, you act, you understand, you share, and you learn some more.
“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn”, rings the line from Phil Collins’ song “Son of Man” from the Tarzan Original Soundtrack.
This “Learn-Teach Loop” is incredibly powerful for Building in Public. In fact, it is the central mechanism of those who build in public successfully. It’s the ultimate feedback loop:
If you learn something while you’re building, you then share it in public. Through that, you will teach at scale, reaching hundreds, if not thousands, of interested and engaged followers. While you teach something, others will learn and engage with you. From that, you will learn more about them and their needs, triggering opportunities to build.
If you keep the cycle going, you’ll never run out of things to share or opportunities to build.
So, when do you build, and when do you share? The balance between doing and talking is something unique to your journey. There is no static ratio, as the Learn-Teach Loop is cyclical but not like clockwork. Sometimes, you spend days, maybe weeks building, and other times, you share and interact with your audience. It comes in waves, yet there is no calendar like we have for the tides.
Building allows sharing, and sharing allows building. It’s not about a ratio; it’s about keeping the loop going. Be flexible: share when you have something to share, and build when you’re eager to make something happen. It’s all at your discretion, and any action you take should always be taken to keep the loop going.
Now, what is worth sharing? What is worth building?
Let’s look at the sharing part first. Anything you share should be interesting, insightful, and instructive. Hit all three, and you’ll have an incredible Build in Public post.
Look at it from the perspective of your audience. If they read your update, is there anything to learn from that? Can they see that persistence pays off? Can they see that a choice you made a while ago is working out — or, just as interestingly, failed to produce results?
The people who follow your journey want you to share. But they want you to share something so they can learn. There is a selfish component to being in someone’s audience. Always consider how you can satisfy that selfish desire to grow through your content. What is it about the thing you’re talking about that can be applied to someone else’s journey?
Now, to the problem of what to build. What’s good to build will be unique to your business. As long as you notice a real critical problem in your audience, it’s worth thinking of a solution to it in or as your product.
Use breakout conversations to determine the quality of the problem you perceive. If you can do this in public, even better. Public scrutiny will quickly point out logic errors and misguided assumptions. That’s the immediate feedback loop that powers all Building in Public: a benevolent audience that has goals that align with yours will be quick to help you be a better entrepreneur. They’re willing to learn from you and share their insights and opinions to allow you to build so that you can teach them what you learned throughout your journey.
There is one central problem here, though. It’s the attention threshold.
It often feels like you’re screaming into the void. Sharing when you don’t have many followers feels pointless, and it’s okay to feel that way.
It’s an uphill battle to find an audience and only those who persist eventually persevere. That’s because, for a journey to matter to your audience members, they need to be invested in it. Building that investment naturally takes time. In fact, it takes action over time — your action — while they’re watching, waiting, and judging.
Consider that you’re always serving the audience you have right now. Your expectations should grow with the number of eyeballs on your journey. If only a handful of people are following your journey, you can’t expect to have hundreds of likes and retweets on your updates. But you can be grateful for the fact that you have a handful of people interested in your journey in the first place. You can show that gratitude by sharing your story with them, and not with the audience you think you ought to have.
Here’s a German saying that describes this initial part of your journey very aptly: “Lehrjahre sind keine Herrenjahre.” This phase means that when you’re getting started, you’ll have to endure some hardship. Reaching the attention threshold — the point where everything you say finds some sort of engagement — is a long-term goal. You can only get there by sharing your story consistently for people to invest in it. Building in public is about creating long-term trust in an authentic, audience-centric way.
There will be days when you think you have nothing to share. When in doubt, err on the side of building: it’s better to focus on creating something meaningful than to share something without meaning.
Do you have nothing to share? Build something and talk about it. Don’t force yourself to “just share something” when you don’t have anything interesting, insightful, or instructive. Instead, engage with people where they are already having conversations, and find something that you can help them with. Work on that, and take your learnings from that project to craft engaging content to share later.
Do you have nothing to build? Same solution:
- Reach out and learn from your audience.
- Share what you did and teach what you learned.
As long as you keep the Learn-Teach Loop going, your Building in Public journey will attract more people. Every time you go from learning to teaching and back, your momentum will signal to your community that you have something interesting going on. By involving your ever-growing audience, you will find the right cadence between building and sharing that will work for your unique circumstances.