Getting started often brings valuable lessons that shape our paths in life; my chat with Erica Schneider, an expert in building authentic personal platforms, is a testament to this. We navigated the terrain of creating an authentic personal brand, focusing on the courage it takes to do so and the power of authenticity in the digital realm. Erica’s journey from persona to person, the struggles with online negativity, and her triumphant return to authenticity offer profound insights for anyone aspiring to cultivate a genuine online presence.
We dove into the fascinating world of audience building, stressing the importance of resilience amidst criticism. With Erica’s rich wisdom on the subject, we discussed practical strategies to engage audiences and maintain personal authenticity online. Erica’s knack for writing shone through as we discussed how well-crafted words can create connections and open doors.
Arvid Kahl 0:00
Welcome to The Bootstrapped Founder, episode 252. Today, I’m talking to Erica Schneider: writer, editor, creator and business coach. She’s an expert at building an authentic personal platform. And she’s focusing on the long game. And yes, you heard that right, personal platform, not personal brand. We’ll dive into this pretty fundamental difference during our chat today. Erica discusses her experiencing developing her personal audience and the business around it and her current cohort program to help others do the same. And from the looks of it, that program is pretty successful. As Erica is already sharing her sales figures in public, I can see that it’s well north of $20,000 in sales a few days after launch. If you want to learn how to do that yourself, listen to this conversation. A quick shout out to our sponsor: acquire.com. More on that later. Now, here’s Erica.
Erica, thanks so much for being on the show. When I go to your Twitter profile and I’ve recently done this a lot because I really like your work on Twitter, the first thing that I see is that you had an image up there and it says prioritize value, win the long game. And I really, really liked that. It reminds me of the infinite game, the concept of the game that you just keep playing and that’s winning, right? Winning means getting to keep playing. And why is this something that people actually need to learn? Because most of us probably need to learn this, right? Why are we when we are trying to build an audience or work on social media, why are we so focused on short term wins instead of playing the long game?
Erica Schneider 1:33
I mean, we’re focused on that because that’s what all of the gurus and influencers tell us to be focused on. But it’s terrible advice, which is why it’s in my banner. And it’s why I talk about it so often. So like building a personal platform, which is my new name for personal brand, which we can talk about later. It’s a long game. If you view it as you know, I need to reach this certain amount of followers or I need to make this much money in this amount of time. You’re giving yourself these really short term goals. And it’s, you know, just to be real, you’re probably not going to achieve that right away. Because so much of what people promise is going to happen is fluffy. So there’s a good chance, I mean, most businesses don’t succeed. So it’s the same deal here. Most people that want to reach these, like really lofty goals. They’re not going to succeed and then they’re going to feel really bummed and start to feel deflated. They pretend that their ego is not involved. But everyone’s ego is involved. Even if we say it’s not like it hurts if we don’t achieve these goals, right? And if we don’t have the followers that we want and we’re not seeing the success and so we will likely at that point quit, take a long break or maybe turn into a character of ourselves that we don’t really like online because we see that that’s working for other people. So we go towards this. And if you lead with the long game in mind, it takes all that pressure off. Like you don’t have to try to reach some certain, you know, vanity metric. You don’t have to do some short term hacky goal, like you’re in this for the long game. And especially if you have a business that you have built or you’re building in public, then you know, you’re obviously you want that to last. And so if you need to think of your personal brand, your personal platform, as your business in that sense of like, this is me showing up as myself representing my business and I want this thing to last. So I’m going to play the long game. I’m going to make this sustainable. This is a marathon. This is not a sprint. It’s going to have ebbs. It’s going to have flows. I’m going to show up every day here or maybe then I’ll have like a life event happen. And I won’t show up all the time. And that’s okay because I’m in it for the long game. So that’s why it’s so important.
Arvid Kahl 3:55
Yeah, authenticity, right? That’s at the core of all this. It feels hard, honestly, like being surrounded by so many these glowing examples of success. And that’s the thing that the algorithm on whatever platform you’re on really pushes towards you. It stays hard to stay kind of accountable to your own authenticity, right?
Erica Schneider 4:14
It’s so hard. Like, it’s the hardest part because especially if you’re new. But even if you’re not, even if you’ve been doing this for a while, like you and I. These people pop up all the time and the algorithm like shoves it in our face and it’s like, oh my God! I just had, you know, a two day launch and I made $200,000. And now I’m sitting on a beach and like chillin and, you know, freedom and all of this stuff and I’m happy for those people that have had that success. But, again, you know, not everybody needs to do that. Not everybody will achieve that. And that is not the only way to be “successful” online. A lot of the people that I work with have success in the backgrounds and they’re making like, a shitload of money at their business. And it’s not like, you’re not going to show up every day online and be like, I signed like five deals today for this and that, especially if you have more like, you know, contracts and things that you can’t necessarily talk about. But yeah, it’s so confusing to see all of these people doing this stuff. And it almost makes you feel like you’re kind of in like a popularity game. And you need to like, show off a bit. But yeah, if you lead with authenticity and you are yourself and you’re interacting with people that make you feel good, like it’s also another way to just, you know, not really give a shit about that, like, yeah, okay, good for them. But you know, they’re doing that and I’m doing me. If that’s you like, cool, then you should go for that. And you should absolutely you can achieve that online. Like, I’m not trying to say you can’t, but if that’s not you, like staying true to yourself is the best way to sort of sense check that and be like, would I feel happy if that was me? Would I feel happy if I was acting like that? If the answer’s no, then you probably shouldn’t.
Arvid Kahl 6:06
Well, maybe that’s a good topic to talk about because I feel I struggled with this too, particularly having a sizable audience. And I think we both are kind of in the same echo on there, right? We both have, like 10s, dozens of 1000s of followers, like being authentic, sometimes, like you are just spiral. It’s like, well, is this what I’m doing authentic now that I’m thinking about it as an act of act to do on social media, right? Like, is it just me doing the thing? Or am I talking about the thing as this kind of performative act? How do we determine even if something that we share is an authentic part of ourselves? Is that even possible? What do you think?
Erica Schneider 6:44
Yeah, it’s so confusing. So I try to approach social media is the same way that I approach relationships in the real world. I’m not going to meet somebody at a party for the first time and just like ramble at them with a diary of what I did that day.
Arvid Kahl 7:01
Yeah, that’s right.
Erica Schneider 7:02
So I feel like people confuse like, when we people like me or anyone says, be authentic. They’re like, okay, like, I had a really good cry last night. I should probably just tell everyone about that. It’s like, well, okay. I mean, if I guess if you would tell that to a person you just met and you’re comfortable with that, then by all means. But it’s basically just relationship building at scale. So however you’re authentic in your relationships in the real world, you should be that way online as well. And again, like it takes time. I wasn’t as “authentic” when I first started as I am now because it’s like getting to know people. You know you have to have the conversations. There’s a lot of talking. There’s a lot of listening, you know and you’re teaching people like why the hell should you care about what I’m going to say? Like this is who I am. You know you kind of like putting your name tag on. And then you add to, you know, you add layers to the name tag as you’re there and as people get to know you. But the hard part is that when you’re constantly getting more followers, you sort of have to, like reintroduce yourself every once in a while. So that’s why it’s so important to have this like diversity in your content, like, you always need to lead with how am I helping? Who am I? Like why everyone’s following? And then, you know, when you turn followers into fans, you can sort of share more things. Nobody would have cared when I first started that I have nine month old twins and it’s like really fucking hard. But now that people know that about me and I say something, you know, like my wife got sick last week and I’m having a hard week, you know, working and also doing childcare, over 100 people liked that post because they know me and they give a shit. Like, no one’s gonna care about that at first. So authenticity is a journey. And it’s layers and think of it as more like how you would talk to people in real life and not just like, public journaling.
Arvid Kahl 8:57
I think the party example you gave is a perfect, like, just way to look at this, like a little mental framework. I use this a lot when people ask me about engagement, like how should I engage on Twitter or social media in general. The example that I tend to give is like well, if you go to a party, do you just walk into the center of the room and start yelling at everybody there about the thing that you’re interested in? Well, no. Right? You go to a group of people that are chatting about something you care about, you stand there, you listen. And then at some point, you engage. It feels like the party, like the concept of the real human party can be pretty much applied to most social interactions on social media. But that’s the thing. Like you said something about relatability, right? You want to give people something they can relate to and you kind of have to learn which parts of your journey are relatable. I very much experienced the same thing. I was not as authentic in the beginning as I am now. I think I went from person to persona and back to person. That is my journey and I kind of feel most people go through that. Did you go through the, too?
Erica Schneider 10:01
Probably, yes. The reason why I hesitate is that I’ve actually lost part of my memory after having these babies. I can’t, like the past nine months are a bit of a blur. So I started just to give context to that, I started this audience building thing one and a half years ago. And so smack in the middle of where I started to where we are now I had kids. And so that has just like, totally shifted like who I am and how I talk about things? I think when I started, I was definitely a bit of a persona, like I was the writing head of content person. This is me, like I trained writers. You know, everyone, no one knows how to do this. Like, I know how to do it better and like all that stuff. So that was the persona. And then I actually had it. Something happened to me that changed a lot, in my point of view. So I actually got very seriously trolled from a LinkedIn post. It was one of the first times that I got a bit more authentic, I guess. And I was going on vacation. My wife’s family lives in Greece. And so I was trying to tell people, hey, I’m actually not going to be posting for a week. By the way, I’ve never do that. Now, I would just disappear and come back later. But like, I didn’t know and I was like, maybe I should tell people I won’t be here. So I told them that, you know, I’m going to this beautiful place in Greece. It’s where my wife lives. Like, aren’t I so lucky to have this view, essentially? And you know, somebody interpreted that as me bragging about my wife’s family being very rich, which is very ironic because they have no very little money. And it ended up on an Instagram meme page with half a million followers. And so 8000 people basically told me to go die. And so when that happened, that actually paused my authentic journey because I was like, oh, I’m actually going to share absolutely nothing about myself. And I had it, you know and I can talk more about like that if you want me to. But I paused and I went back to the persona. But because I’ve been doing this now for several months, it felt like boring, like, okay, I’m here. And now I’m just playing this character of like writing Erica and like I can’t do what my next level of relationship building. So I had like an inflection point. Do I want to just stop altogether? Because this isn’t fun anymore. And I can’t go a level deeper or do I want to say absolutely fuck it, like fuck anyone that ever fucking comes for me again. Sorry for all the cursing.
Arvid Kahl 12:37
Erica Schneider 12:38
I’m just gonna be me. I’m gonna go even deeper into me. And I chose the latter option. And, you know I’m glad I did. Because it’s the only way that I enjoy showing up is because I can now talk about me without fear. But I understand because this happened to me. Like I understand there’s a fear of if I share too much, what if someone comes to me? There’s trolls, there’s that. It’s hard. You know, it’s hard. But I do think that naturally with time as you start to share, like you’re going to crave being more authentic. You’re going to crave it. So I think I had a similar journey, persona, you know, to start and then person and then back to persona because of what happened to me. And now I’m like, I’m just such a person. Like, I don’t have any time for any of this persona bullshit.
Arvid Kahl 13:24
Well, thank you for sharing this. And I am interested in how you dealt with this because that sounds like a pretty strong goal. And like a very personal one, right? People becoming like envious or jealous or whatever that is and then acting it out on the internet. How long did it take for you to deal with this? Like, what did you do to not completely throw everything away? Because I know people who just stopped being on social media after something like this.
Erica Schneider 13:50
Yeah. So I was just lucky that I had a really strong support group. So I was in Greece when it happened. Like I posted it. I got on a plane. I got off the plane and I was like no. And my in laws were just like, amazing. It was a very small island. So it’s very easy to just like turn everything off, like go to the beach. But I cried a lot, like a lot. And I was like, this is horrible. I went, I deleted the post. I made sure that everything was locked. So nobody could like find any of my personal information on LinkedIn. I locked my Twitter account. And I actually got a random, the way I found out was a random woman. I’ve never spoken to you again. She saw the post in the meme group and she messaged me on LinkedIn. And she said, hey, by the way, you are now the subject of these people’s hate. You should probably hide for a few days, essentially. Because this has happened to me. She goes, I was on the front page of reddit once and it was horrible. And she goes just lay low, it will pass over and they will find another target. So I was really lucky that I even knew what was happening because the stranger told me. I locked everything and I kind of just hit for a few days and called friends. My wife’s friend is like a very big Instagram influencer. And so I called her and was like, how do you deal with all this hate? You know, like, what am I do? Because I had like 2000 followers. I was very small. And she told me the same thing, just let it pass over, don’t respond to it, don’t say anything, and they will move on. And that’s what I did. And then about a week later, I came back and you know, just went back to writing tips and things like that. But yeah, I cried a lot. I called friends. And I didn’t give any air to it, though, which is what I would recommend.
Arvid Kahl 15:36
Yeah, that’s a good recommendation. And I’m glad you had those people around you.
Erica Schneider 15:39
Arvid Kahl 15:40
Like in many ways, the people around us are the people that make us happen or allow us to happen.
Erica Schneider 15:46
Arvid Kahl 15:46
So I’m glad you had your support group that and also people who know this kind of stuff like that influencer, that just tells you to, yeah, this happens. And then you just duck and cover and they go for somebody else.
Erica Schneider 15:48
Arvid Kahl 15:49
I think that’s good advice. How do you deal with maybe not the large things, but just a small, everyday Twitter, obnoxious people that you are probably much more than myself exposed to? Like, I get them too, but probably by far not as vitriolic or stupid as you do. I would assume, I don’t know, how do you deal with those people?
Erica Schneider 16:21
Well, now I just, it depends on my mood, honestly, like, most of the time, I just ignore them and don’t give any air to the comments. But if I’m in a sassy mood, like I’ll just respond and be with the same energy that they brought to me. And we’ll go back and forth for a bit and eventually they go away. But I think someone didn’t like my LinkedIn post once. They said that it was too long and it should have been shorter to get some information. So you know, I was in a sassy mood and I wrote back, you know, hey, you have two options. Option one, you can read the post, feel the way that you’re feeling and move on and just not comment. Or option two, you can choose not to read the post if you don’t like it and again, move on and not comment, like, pick your choice, essentially. And it wasn’t like, uh, oh, you know, you’re the worst and like, why this like you have to leave emotions off the table like it is just people. It’s never personal. It’s always about them. It’s not about you. And so you have to just realize, like, this is not about you. So you have to just, I just laugh it off now like nothing. Nothing bothers me anymore.
Arvid Kahl 17:31
Erica Schneider 17:32
Arvid Kahl 17:32
Yeah, with experience, right? Comes the thick skin in that regard. Do you think it’s worth it? Like, that’s what I want like, do you think it’s worth it building an audience if this is the stuff that you sometimes have to deal with?
Erica Schneider 17:46
Of course, absolutely. Of course, the opportunities are quite literally endless. Like, everything good in life is hard. You know, you can’t shy away from hard things. This is what I hope to teach my kids. This is how I approach life like, things are hard. But if you want to, you know get to that next level, you have to tap into things that are uncomfortable. And usually when we are at the edge of our comfort zone, we’re about to have a breakthrough. So if you’re uncomfortable online, it probably means you should be there. Obviously, prioritize your mental health. Like try not to burn out. There’s ways you can do that. But of course, it’s worth it. Before I built an audience online, I was a very good content writer and editor and like two people knew that. Like, you know, when I started building an audience, everyone that is an industry peer now knows who I am. I started getting invited to speaking gigs, podcasts. Some really big companies tried to poach me, which was exciting and fun. You know, all these opportunities started to come my way. And then I was like, maybe I should launch a side business. It won’t take that much time. I have this knowledge. It seems like people want it. So I’ve now I’ve made the money. I’m building my own business. Like it’s insane. The people I’ve met, my business partner, I met her online. I’ve got actual friends that I’ve met in real life. It’s like, it’s insane. And I literally never thought that was possible before I started. And when I started, I didn’t know how that was possible.
Arvid Kahl 19:15
That’s the thing, right? Like, you don’t know that that is even an option. Like that’s my experience, too. I started building my audience because I wanted to write and I wanted people to read it. And I knew that they were really cool people that I was already following, but they didn’t know me. I knew them. And you know, in conferences, I sometimes met people and all that kind of stuff. And over time I figured out oh wow, there’s more to this. It’s not just you know, hanging out and chatting with people. This is actually a generator, like a generator for ideas, for opportunities, for partnerships, for money, like for many, many different things. Nobody tells you that, really. At least not as specifically as you should be told. Okay, so one thing that I really liked about your work is your focus on writing and editing. I think you just mentioned this too, like with the content writing and all that stuff.
Erica Schneider 19:59
Arvid Kahl 20:00
And audience building and writing to me are almost the same thing. That is my personal opinion. I don’t think you can build an audience without writing. And I don’t mean like writing long form whatever, writing books or something but writing well phrased prose is an integral part of audience building. So and I guess this is the point where we start going into the self limiting beliefs for people because many people want to build an audience, but people don’t think they can write. How do we overcome this perception? Because that’s how I kind of started for, I guess, the first 35 years of my life. I didn’t consider myself to be capable of writing, neither in my native language of German nor in English, the language that I learned at some later point, mostly by playing World of Warcraft, but that’s a different story. You know, I never considered myself to be a potentially capable writer. I was a great software developer, which is also writing but for machines, but I only later understood that and never thought I could write. How could I a couple of years ago have had a much easier time getting into writing as a means to build an audience?
Erica Schneider 21:03
Yeah. So literally, anyone can be a writer. I think that the first limiting belief that you have to get over is that you need to be some sort of a grammatical expert in the English language to be a writer, like, that’s absolute bullshit. It’s not just bullshit in short form. It’s bullshit in long form. Like nobody in the content marketing world that I also live in, is paying attention to very, very, like, you know, high level grammar. So that’s okay. It all comes down to really understanding marketing psychology, like that’s the basis behind good writing, good content writing, not books, not journal articles, but you have to persuade people and tap into their emotions so that they give a shit about what you’re saying. And I don’t mean persuade, like, you know, you have to do this thing that I’m telling you to do it. My way of thinking of it is it’s subtle persuasion. It’s taking people on a journey. And eventually, if you’ve done such a good job giving them value, they’re going to want to just naturally take the next step. That’s in my mind, I label that as subtle persuasion. Everybody’s suddenly persuading everyone, in life too, you know. Like, so it’s like, not just, you know, it’s not just a marketing thing. So it’s very simple. You just have to understand the principles behind what makes good writing. So when I explain what makes a good hook, for example, it’s very simple principles. You have to tap into people’s emotions, right? You have to intrigue them. You have to, you know, pay attention to small things like getting specific, you know and you have to make sure that you’re leaving some sort of a cliffhanger so that they click more. It’s all principles. Once you grasp that, it’s this principle thing, then you can get more into the you know, mechanics of how to actually do that, you know, write in active over passive voice, use the simple present tense, you know, cut redundancy and fluff, don’t use adverbs if you don’t need to, swap the verb to be for power words, like there’s these checklists, that if that means nothing to you, fine. You’ll learn it over time, like that will come. But really, like the idea is that you need to get people intrigued in what you’re saying. And if you’re brand new, usually you think that you need to tell people, I am this person with all this experience. I’ve got, you know, 20 years of success in this and that. So therefore, pay attention to me. That’s not how any of online writing works. How online writing works is you have to make it “you” content, not “I” content.
Arvid Kahl 23:46
Yeah, that’s perfect. I love that.
Erica Schneider 23:48
So, I have spent 20 years doing this thing. Here is my process to help you achieve a very specific thing. Right? So credibility, but it’s about you, like, not me, you. But my credibility is worth paying attention too. But it’s about you. So it’s a mix.
Arvid Kahl 24:11
Yes. I love that.
Erica Schneider 24:13
Arvid Kahl 24:14
That’s, sorry for interrupting you. I think this is something that once you understand this, it becomes so much easier to talk to people in writing, right? Because social media is effectively writing super short form, but it is writing, right? When you spent 20 minutes on Twitter, just typing things out, you have just written a little essay, but all the phrases are in different locations, right? Every reply is part of a larger thing. So it is writing, that’s what I’m trying to say and it starts particularly on social media. It starts in your bio and your profile, the thing you write about yourself and in your Twitter profile that you’re trying to get people to read and then click on follow. And I tell people this a lot in the Twitter tear downs that I’ve been doing over the last couple of weeks like everybody, almost everybody has just something in that it says, I studied here. I did this. And now I’m doing this. And that’s their bio. There’s nothing in it for the person reading that bio. It’s only just about the person that has the profile. And if they’re successful, people who build audiences are people who they have a promise. They have a promise of a future relationship, right there in their bio and that is writing. You can just easily say, follow along for weekly insights into this particular topic. And already, you stand out from everybody else who just tells you which college they went to. Right? That’s where it starts. If you understand this, then everything you do can be something for other people. I really appreciate that. The problem that I had in the beginning and that most people that I see who struggled with writing in particular have is perfectionism, the idea that they need to craft the perfect thing. How does it get easier to write a draft 80/20, good enough and send it? How can you convince yourself that that’s okay?
Erica Schneider 26:01
Look, Twitter is the best platform for that because 9 to 12 hours after you post, no one sees it anymore or gives a shit on you.
Arvid Kahl 26:07
Erica Schneider 26:08
So my phrase that I’ve coined for this is you need to develop experimental confidence. So just post but with intention. So I have a big problem with when people are like, just start, like, just get started. It’s gonna be great, like, okay. But, you know, you need to have intention behind that. It’s very subtle difference. But if you’re just posting and you don’t really have like, an intention to pay attention to how it’s going and how it makes you feel and what you want to say and what will be your path forward, then you’re kind of just like posting for posting sake, so that you can say I’ve posted. If you post with intention, then posts whatever you want, but pay attention to how does it feel? How do I feel after I posted that? Is anybody responding? What questions am I getting? Like people asked me something that is making me realize I need to clarify something more? Or is there a point that actually they’re interested in that maybe I could go deeper on? Who am I speaking to? You know, who do I want to be speaking to? What am I passionate about? What are people relating to about what I’m saying? If you pay attention to all of that post, pay attention, refine, post, pay attention, refine. Like, that is how you start. The perfectionism, it doesn’t matter. Like when I’m editing people’s work, a lot of times English is not their first language. And I will intentionally leave things that aren’t perfect because it sounds like them. It’s more natural to them. And I’ll tell them, you know, on the side on a comment, hey, by the way, if you want this to be “perfect English”, you could rephrase this to say that. But if that doesn’t sound like you don’t change it, you know, that’s okay. As long as the core like message is clear, if it’s about you not I, if you have your credibility, but it’s about you, everything that we just went through, like, the place that you put this word or that word or if you have like a little grammar error, it doesn’t matter. Nobody cares. We are in the business of grabbing attention through emotions, like nobody on social media unless they’re an asshole is going to care about specifically if you said it in the right way, it just doesn’t matter.
Arvid Kahl 28:24
Yep. Yeah, that’s great. I love the fact that, like, nobody’s gonna see it anyway. Like, in some way, at least not after a certain while. But that’s kind of brings me to, like a thought here. Like the fact that nobody’s gonna see it. That is something people struggle with. Right? Not getting replies, not getting views, not getting likes. And for most people who are just starting to build an audience, that is the reality of most of the tweets that they sent. Because if you have like 20 followers and you send a tweet, like five of them are going to see it, if at all and it’s in the middle of everybody else’s tweets. And you know, like, it’s hard to get attention. How do we deal with this? Like the fact that when we were starting out on a social media platform, nobody’s listening because nobody’s connected to us just yet.
Erica Schneider 29:06
Well, that’s the problem right there and you need to go get connected to people. So it has absolutely, it’s another big mistake. One that I personally made that I think everyone makes it if they don’t make this mistake, they’re lying. You think, okay, I’ve got this, like, you know, I am this amazing head of content. Everybody should know that just by going to my profile and seeing that, you know, that badge. So when I say something about writing people, these random people will listen like absolutely not. So the only way that I started to build traction and my advice to beginners is go reply on people’s posts. Like everything in your first few weeks online, even your first few months, is about replying. The best way to get attention is on someone else’s content that is in one of three categories, your peer, so someone in your industry that is saying something that you can lend your point of view to, your ideal audience, so obviously whoever you want and your ideal audiences’ audience. Right? So who are they? Like go to their followers list, see who’s following them. Like, are there people in that list that maybe could also benefit from some complementary information, go intent. And there’s a process to this, which we don’t have time to get into, but intentionally find these people. And strategically comment on all of their posts. So when I first started, the easiest way for me to get attention was to go to people that were also, you know, kind of heads of content or own their own marketing agency, who were posting advice. But I had the experience to be like, I either agree but here’s my also unique angle or actually kind of disagree with this, be a little bit contrarian. And that’s hard to do at first, but you know, you’ll get there like, I’m super spiky and contrarian now, but that was not how it started. Like, that takes time. But the people that have something to add to the conversation are the ones that are gonna get paid attention to. So you slowly do that. And then people are like, oh, you’re here. Interesting. And maybe they’ll hit follow. And then maybe they’ll see your stuff and start to comment on it. And then, but you have to continue this commenting habit. I think when people start to see, you know, success and people are seeing their stuff, they’re like, oh, I don’t need to comment anymore. No, that’s a killer. Like you always comment. Not only do the algorithms love it, especially on LinkedIn, but people love it. It’s a social platform, like, you don’t want to be that person that just disappears and never engages. Because then people aren’t going to that’s part of the authenticity thing, like people aren’t going to, like feel like you’re actually there. It’s just robotic. So, engagement, start with engagement.
Arvid Kahl 31:47
Yeah, once you detach because you think you have made it, you lose it. That’s the thing, right? It’s not just a social network. It’s an organism and the organism is continuously evolving and people will kind of push you aside. We’ll just categorize you as one of those people that we’re not interacting with anymore because they don’t interact with us. That’s a big deal. And I love the fact that you walk the walk here. I checked your profile earlier on Twitter and 93% of the things that you do on Twitter are replies, like, which is really good. Like whenever I see people somewhere north of 75%, it’s already quite active in terms of replying, but you like 93 almost 94, that is substantial. It’s really nice to see that you still do this almost at 50,000 followers. You still hang out, you chat with people, you do give your opinions, contrary or not. But I love the fact that you’d still do this. And I think that also explains why you are successful and why you are capable of telling people how to do it because you’ve understood the concept of this being a kind of a that’s the long game, right? The long game is to have really nice relationships with people. And for that you need to engage with them. I’m really happy you’re doing this.
Erica Schneider 32:56
I love engaging with people. Because if people take the time to comment, even if they’re playing, you know, sometimes you can tell they’re playing the reply game like, you know or they have an AI generated reply. But you know, we’re all doing this. You know, we all know how this works. I love replying back because a lot of times when you’re someone that has the experience that you and I have, like people, if they’re taking the time to say thank you like it means you really helped them. Or if they have a question, it means that like, it’ll take you two seconds to help them even more.
Arvid Kahl 33:28
Erica Schneider 33:28
So it’s really like, it’s really not that hard, doesn’t take that long. And it’s so important. So, yeah.
Arvid Kahl 33:35
Yeah, and it forges that bond. Right? That’s the thing with the question. If somebody asks you something as a follow up to your thing, that’s one of the most wonderful experiences you can have on Twitter
Erica Schneider 33:45
Arvid Kahl 33:45
Is to have an actual conversation, not just an exchange of pleasantries, not just your liking somebody’s baby pictures or the vacation that they’re on right now, which is also nice. It is a different kind of relationship, right? But the one where you shared something, a thought of yours that they had never thought about and have a follow up question you can make their day. You give them something new, you put something in their mind. What a powerful move that is and you get to have a conversation. I love this about social media, which is why that is also why I’m so active on Twitter, it’s just every day is this opportunity for just literally physically changing your mind. Right? Isn’t that awesome?
Erica Schneider 34:23
It’s amazing! I mean, right before we hopped on this, I posted something about editing and my personal process. And the second that we’re done with this call, like I can’t wait to go see what people are saying. Because so much of the advice on social media about editing is just absolutely horrible. Like it goes as far as like, just read it the next day and you’ll be fine. And that’s not good enough.
Arvid Kahl 34:45
Let’s dive into this please help me because I’m not a good editor for my own work either. So I could probably benefit a lot from this.
Erica Schneider 34:52
Yeah, you’ll like the post. It’s a good one. I’m really excited to go engage with people because I’m sure that there’s follow up questions and I’m excited to answer them. And that is another thing like, you have to find things that are you’re actually excited about in order to play the long game because I can’t wait to get back online and talk to people about this. And like, if I posted something that I don’t care about or I’m playing a character of myself, I’m not going to give a shit. I’m not going to want to talk to people about it. So and then you just kind of like fizzle. And again, like people see you as this robotic person that you’re just kind of bringing people like to buy a product to make money, like, I actually care about this stuff. And so if you can find to that, then that’s how you play the long game. You’ll always want to talk about it.
Arvid Kahl 35:35
So is that the antidote to the performative nature of the reply game is just to care?
Erica Schneider 35:40
Well, yeah, caring goes a big way. Yeah, it does. And it goes a really big way.
Arvid Kahl 35:47
Yeah, absolutely. Like if I didn’t care, like the first thing I do most of my work day, I guess, after the puppy is wanked. And all these little things that I need to do is to go to Twitter and see what happened. You know, because it’s an ongoing conversation too, like a thing I said, a couple of weeks ago, people reply to that still. And it’s kind of this narrative that just keeps unraveling, which is really cool. And the thing about narratives, I guess, with you talking a lot about editing, talking a lot about writing and the personal platform, which is a concept that I really like as kind of opposed to the personal brand. Where’s this going? Like most of us creators and I would call you a pretty huge creator in our space, both in terms of the impact that you have in the community and the size of your following. They have this kind of vision of what’s next. And we work towards that. What is that for you?
Erica Schneider 36:37
My vision is to help people, authentically show up online in a way that helps them grow their business. So I want to help people do what I’m doing. But that are a few steps behind me. And I don’t mean that inexperienced, like I want to help people. Most of the clients that I’m helping at the moment with Kasey Jones, who’s my business partner, they’re older and they’ve got like 30 years of experience and they’re dealing with something that we call the curse of knowledge, where they have so much to share that they don’t know how the hell to do anything, but potentially, they’re pivoting in their business. Or they decided that they need to now join this online game. And so I want to help people from all walks of life, from beginners but more so the people that have been trying to do this and are struggling because the advice out there is so bad and so templated and so samey and so grossly. I want to help people that look at that and go, oh, that’s not me. Find a way to have fun online and build businesses in an authentic way and feel comfortable overcoming this fear and going from persona to person and staying in person and finding that value in there. And then using that to build relationships and make money, grow their businesses. And so the reason why I can’t stand the word personal brand is because when I think of brand, I feel like I’m productizing myself. And when I think of productizing myself, I think of the bros. I just can’t help but that’s where my mind goes. You know it’s these people, men and women who have a very, you know, very photoshopped image of themselves. Or maybe it’s the AI mid journey, one where they’re looking all like, you know, with the screen. And they, you know, they all use the same hooks, they’re all selling the same thing, they’re all talking about the same thing. There’s a little personality, but you can tell they’re just adding personality to play the game, like it doesn’t feel real. And they dominate the market here in terms of how you should be online. And I want to be the antithesis of that. But I don’t want to just be known as someone who’s an anti something. I want to be pro you. Right? And so I see this is, you know, I feel like revolution is a bit strong of a word, but something you know, it’s a movement. It’s a movement towards, you know, people that have actual experience helping people that have actual experience do this, right?
Arvid Kahl 39:07
That is so cool.
Erica Schneider 39:08
That is my vision. Yeah.
Arvid Kahl 39:09
I love this. And the bro thing, that makes perfect sense to me too. I know you have a history with the term and the fight against it. And that is super exciting just to look into as well. But yeah, like have you considered dropshipping like that kind of stuff. I just cannot handle this like it’s such a bizarre reductive way of presenting yourself too, right?And I love the idea of turning this from brand into platform because also as we are creators who exist on platforms and this is kind of where my mind goes here, Twitter, LinkedIn and all that. The brand feels like it’s something that is just glued on top. I think your visualization of it that the mental model of something that people just to kind of slap a little bit of their personality on top of but not too much, right? For it to still work for the template to still work. That’s the old way of presenting yourself on social media. But now what you’re really building is a platform in itself that stands maybe slightly on top, but at least with many different legs on all these other platforms on which we express ourselves and share the things that we care about on social media. That term makes perfect sense to me. And I love the fact that that’s what you’ve chosen to look into. It’s really cool.
Erica Schneider 40:19
I would love to see a visualization of what you just described because that’s really cool. I’m picturing like, a big like, ha, like,
Arvid Kahl 40:25
Yeah, like an elephant with more legs than just a couple and you sit on top of it, right? Like it’s kind of monster ish but it feels like you need to have solid footing in many different areas to be independent really, right? As a creator, as somebody even a business owner, like you need to be not just present on one platform. And if you rely exclusively on one dependency and they go out of business, your business is pretty much done for as well. Right? So diversification happens on many different levels. So what shape is this gonna take? Like, right now you’re sharing a lot, you’re writing a lot. Where’s this going? This is going to be like, like a chorus or community. Where are you heading with this?
Erica Schneider 41:06
Yeah, so that is a work in progress. But for the next step, Kasey and I are launching a cohorts the first week of November. And it’s going to be a live in person training. By in person, I mean, online. But eventually, actually, it’d be really cool to do actual in person stuff. And it’ll likely be four weeks and it’s going to be us taking you through the journey of, you know, figuring out exactly who you’re speaking to in your positioning and how you want to position yourself, your strategy for showing up online. So the engagement process and getting in the minds of the right people and then your content pillars, what are you talking about? How do you talk about that? How do you incorporate I while making it you because that’s one of the most important parts and then, you know, more specific, like social writing stuff, but not too crazy. I mean, there’s other ways that you can learn all of that for free. But really, it’s the mastering of the editing part, like how do I make sure that what I’ve just presented is actually going to make an impact, which is kind of what I talked about today. And so we’ll be running that cohort in November. And from there, I think it’ll be you know, potentially a community down the line. A bunch of, you know, self serve on demand courses for people that don’t love cohorts. And we’ll see where it goes from there. You know, we’ll see. We’re gonna build this in public, so.
Arvid Kahl 42:35
Yeah, that’s why I was gonna ask you next. So I’m glad to hear you mentioning this. Like, you’re going to be sharing the process and the learnings of the whole thing?
Erica Schneider 42:42
Oh, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. I think starting next week, we’re going to have a couple of master classes as like a test run up to the cohort to sort of show people like, this is what you’ll be learning. And you know, if you want to learn more, come to the cohort. And when that’s done, absolutely. We’re going to do a retrospective on how did those masterclasses go? How did it influence what we’re going to put into the cohort? When the cohorts done, it’s going to be how did the cohort go? What did we learn? What does our audience really need? And how did we help them? And how are we going to pivot and other ways to help them? And yeah, I want to talk about all of it in public. Yeah
Arvid Kahl 43:15
That’s gonna be exciting, right? That’s gonna be cohort one and all the learnings from that is going to go into cohort to hopefully, one one question that I have, as somebody who also is playing, we’re toying with the idea of turning my more written knowledge into some some kind of active cohort course. And how did you decide like the format of this? Because as a creator, particularly as a writer and editor, you have a lot of ways that you can communicate the things that you know, right? You could write books, you could do like, just self paced courses, you could do video stuff, you could do audio stuff, you could do a podcast series on this for that matter. So
Erica Schneider 43:49
Arvid Kahl 43:49
Like, how did you get to this decision to make it a cohort thing?
Erica Schneider 43:53
So the best part about a cohort because we’ve actually run two cohorts already. But that was called impactful social writing. And we’re pivoting. So now we have to do another one. And the reason why is we learned so much from the first two, which is why we’re pivoting that we now it’s the best way to test ideas in real time with real groups of people. So yes, you can test ideas with writing, but if you actually like when you can see people’s faces and you can see how it’s helped them. And you can have these back and forth and they’ll ask you questions that you can then go deeper on and then go, oh, okay, that’s something. You take all of that knowledge. And that’s what you then bundle into something that’s self serve. So it’s the test before you build model even though it’s incredibly valuable in and of itself. I don’t want to be in the business of running cohorts every month like that is from personal experience, they are incredibly exhausting. And especially if they’re going to be four weeks long, you know, it’s a full time commitment. So I think it’s just the best way to make sure that what you’re doing is having the impact that you want it to do. And then you can do self serve models from that. And then you know, from there who knows? Maybe I think you should always be interacting with people about these things, though, whether it’s one on one or two on one or small group coaching, like, it’s important to get that live feedback.
Arvid Kahl 45:15
Yeah. Thank you for sharing this. This is really cool. Like also understanding that it’s not going to be like an ongoing, like churning out cohort after cohort but is like it’s kind of an MVP, right? You have your minimum viable info product in VIP, I guess. The thing, just you look for the resonance of the thing, of the content, of the individual units and see what works well, what doesn’t, what needs refinement and can you can then take that into other products into other perspectives on the same thing. That’s a wonderful perspective to have, like for your own journey. I have lots of questions. But two questions: would you do this all by yourself as a solo creator? And I guess secondary like, do you already have a plan laid out for how you’re going to use these learnings? Like, is there a book in the future? Or is there like a self paced thing? Or will you decide that when you’re done with it?
Erica Schneider 46:07
So to answer the first one first, absolutely. The reason why I’ve teamed up with Kasey is that we both truly believe that if you want to have success, you can’t just be a writer. You also can’t just be a strategist. So Kasey’s, like got decades of experience in business growth strategy. And she is an absolute genius when it comes to figuring out you know, who you are, how you want to show up online and all of these things. And so I always tell people that come to me for writing advice, like do you know who you’re talking to and why you’re talking to them and all of that stuff? Because anything I’m about to teach you, it’ll be valuable. But if you’re applying it in the wrong place, it’s not gonna really matter. So it’s same thing in content marketing. You know when you’re planning a blog, you can have the best written piece on something totally unrelated to what’s going to actually drive business to you. It’s not going to matter. So, yes, I can absolutely do solo things. And I plan to do solo things on just the writing side. But it would have to be very obvious as a prerequisite, know these things about yourself and then come to me. If you don’t know these things, then come to us. If you don’t need writing help, but you need help with that, go to Kasey. So I imagine, you know, I’ll have my thing. I have my thing already, but only more obvious like websites and things that we’re still building. I have my thing. Kasey has her things, but we come together. And I think that’s really powerful because so many people do one or the other. And in order to have like a really well rounded personal platform, you need it all. So
Arvid Kahl 47:40
That makes perfect sense. It’s kind of why people run well with co founders that kind of augment their skills. And Kasey is your co founder, right? That’s pretty much what that is, is just not a software as a service business like many people in my audience, indie hackers understand it to be but it’s an info product. It’s an educational business, right? You’re effectively a school, which is pretty cool. I have one big contrarian question.
Erica Schneider 48:02
Arvid Kahl 48:03
Because I think you might like that approach. Can you skip learning how to write if you want to build an audience?Like do you need to learn how to write? Or is that optional, if you want to go into the game of audience building?
Erica Schneider 48:16
Oh, you know, you need to know how to write. Of course, you need to know how to write unless you’re never planning on writing anything. And you’re only doing podcasts, for example, but you still need to understand like, the basics of how to move people from A to B, that’s writing. So scripts for things are that like thought processes or mental models of conversations. That is essentially writing. You have to understand the principles behind writing, which is cohesion, coherence, you know, a structure that makes sense, how to tell a story, how to center the reader, all these things. I think your question is based on questions I get a lot, which is like, who gives a shit about about, you know, sentence structure? And, you know, all of these specific, I think when people think of writing they think of like, English teachers that are obsessed over like little things with red pens. My whole purpose of showing up online and talking about you know, writing every day is the mechanics like yeah, sure, like learn them if you really actually want to go be an editor, but otherwise, like, learn the principles. Like the principles behind writing are writing just as much as copy editing is writing. And when it comes to editing, like I spend most of my time making changes, literally saying like, why does this matter? What do you mean by this? Like, how do you help the reader hear much less suggested edits or to make it sound better? You know, that’s later. That’s later.
Arvid Kahl 49:45
Yeah, like writing is thinking, right? You have to learn how to think and how to convincingly structure arguments, so that other people feel compelled to believe them and want to know more. Right? That’s what writing is. I love that. That’s for making a case for writing, like, as somebody who had to work his own way into writing, I feel this is what made it click for me is that writing is just thinking clearly and then conveying it to other people. So if you don’t want to learn that, then why are you like conversing with other people? Right? That’s kinda why writing is important. The only thing that I see often enough, unfortunately, in people even experienced people and I bet you also have run into those people, they have experience of decades of being an expert in that particular field, yet they think the people around them, they already know this kind of stuff. What do I even have to say? Like the things that I know like, they’re not going to be a big contribution. I would rather not write about them because I think people already know them. How do we deal with this kind of self limiting belief, obviously?
Erica Schneider 50:43
Literally, the answer is nobody else’s you. So nobody else has your specific experiences, your specific point of view. So that is the answer. Every single time you think someone else has said this already, cool. But like, you experienced the same exact thing that they’ve experienced, what was the moment that you experienced that? What’s your story? No one else has that. Because I felt the same way when I first started. No one else needs to hear about content writing on social media. Everyone talks about that. But when I really reflected, I thought, like, what am I most passionate about? And what can I add to this conversation that I don’t see a lot of? Editing, right? Like no one talks about editing. But also, you know, even little things like everyone loves to say, write the hook first or write the introduction first. If I actually think it’s better to not do that, that is an angle to the conversation, that is saying something else, you know. And if I completely agree, then I could say, yeah, actually, I do agree. Here’s my specific process for doing it. That might be different than someone else’s that could help someone. So no one else is you like, everyone has said everything. Everyone knows everything, but like no one else is you. So you deserve to show up. And please show up.
Arvid Kahl 51:59
Yeah, it’s like the hero’s journey, the monomyth. Right? The idea that every story is effectively the same story. Like Harry Potter is Star Wars, it’s the exact same thing like orphan goes finds Jedi Master wizard to help them through their life. That’s just the same story in different clothes. But we have a completely different access to that story because of the unique coloring of that story. And you’re 100% right. Your lived reality or my lived reality, gives rise to things that other people would never experience. Because just you know, randomness of life. You see things that others don’t. And that is worth sharing. And I’m really glad you’re encouraging people to do this. Because I think everybody should write. Everybody should share. Building in public is a big thing that I stand for because I feel for founders, for creatives, this is the way to make people aware of what you do and get the success in doing it by having people you know, contribute to energy. They’re investing their time and reputation and money and friendship and partnership and that stuff into you and your platform, not going to call it brand anymore. I really like your phrase. Thanks for helping people finding that way to that. If people want to find their way to you and your expertise and all these subjects, where should they go?
Erica Schneider 53:11
Yeah, so on Twitter, it’s @ericasmyname. On LinkedIn, it’s Erica Schneider. But really, there’s just a big push right now to get everyone to the Power your Platform newsletter. So it’s in both of my bios that I just mentioned. So we would love if you join the newsletter because we’re just giving like tons of really good, valuable information away in the newsletters. So
Arvid Kahl 53:36
That’s generally a good move for any creator is to have people become part of their own platform, which the newsletter very much is. So I highly recommend subscribing to this newsletter. And then if you are a creator listening to this thinking about how you can have your own newsletter as well, to get people into your own platform. Thank you so much, Erica for joining me today and sharing all these wonderful insights into building audiences and writing and editing. That was really, really wonderful. Thank you.
Erica Schneider 54:01
Yeah. Thanks so much for having me.
Arvid Kahl 54:03
And that’s it for today. For most entrepreneurs, info products and services like the ones we talked about are stair stepping milestones as Rob walling would say. Many of us want to end up building SaaS businesses and getting there and running them is a whole other ballgame. Let me talk a bit about our sponsor today: acquire.com. Imagine this: you’re a founder who’s put all this energy into building a business, took years to get there and you built a really solid SaaS product, you acquired customers and everything is generating consistent monthly revenue. The problem is, you reached a ceiling, you’re not growing and for whatever reason you don’t really know. Is it lack of focus or lack of skill or just plain lack of interest? You just know you feel stuck. What should you do? Well, the story that I would like to hear is that you buckled down and reignited the fire in you the entrepreneurial fire, you got past yourself, the cliches and all that, worked on the business rather than just in the business and you start building this audience you always wanted to build, moved out of your comfort zone, do sales and marketing, the stuff we really don’t want to do as technical founders. And six months down the road, you’ve tripled your revenue. Reality, unfortunately, is not that simple. The situation is different for every founder who’s at this point, but too many times, the story ends up being one of inaction and stagnation because you don’t know what to do. And then the business becomes less and less valuable and ultimately worthless. So if you find yourself here or your story is likely headed down a similar road, I can offer you a third option. Consider selling your business on acquire.com because capitalizing on the value of your time today is a pretty smart move. And acquire.com is free to list. They’ve helped hundreds of founders already. Go to try.acquire.com/arvid and just see for yourself if this is the right option for you today. You don’t have to sell but you can and acquire is going to help you with that.
Thank you for listening to The Bootstrapped Founder today. You can find me on Twitter @arvidkahl. Please say hi and you’ll find my books and my twitter course there too. If you want to support me and the show, please subscribe to my YouTube channel, that would really help. Get the podcast in your player of choice, that would really help and leave a rating and a review that would really, really help by going to (http://ratethispodcast.com/founder). Any of this will help the show and you don’t have to do. It’s not obligatory, right? So thank you very much for listening and have a wonderful day. Bye bye