I remember waking up to hundreds of notifications on my phone. Amongst the delirium I spot a text from a friend. Something about being his hero.
I was confused. What makes me a hero?
Then he sent me a screenshot:
It took me years to build the courage to publish my first blog post, and actually stand behind it, promote it.
Mike (my partner at Jackalope) and I started making WordPress blogs after high school. We learned how to make websites like an idiot. We made a couple semi-successful blogs, so we suspected we had what it took to make one in the big leagues.
In 2012: We made our first successful big leagues blog, called Forever Jobless. We helped grow the email list to over 5,000. I believe it was up 10,000 by the next year.
According to a commonly used equation in the marketing industry, that puts the email list’s worth around $10,000 per month.
In 2013: We launched a hit podcast. It was neck and neck with Tim Ferriss’s and beating Dave Ramsey podcast in iTunes marketing category.
By 2014: We’d stopped working with Forever Jobless, and the content quality was never the same after that.
Forever Jobless wasn’t ours. It didn’t have our names on it. I’d never done anything with full ownership.
In July of 2015: I grew the balls to publish my first real blog post.
I’ve been working on a basic formula for content marketing:
The more value you give away,
the easier it is to market.
My idea was to give away my project files for a prototype.
In my mind, the value was extremely high. Some companies would pay at least tens of thousands for a similar service. So it met my formula of being easy to market.
The word spread. People were sharing it.
And here we are three years later and nobody’s run with the idea yet.
Which just proves how dumb it is to keep your ideas secret. As long as the hardest part lies ahead, nobody steals them even when you give it to them on a silver platter.
So, what exactly happens when Tim Ferriss shares your blog post?
Let me give you the play by play:
The Writing Prompt:
A t-shirt company Litographs publishes a writing prompt as a competition. Whoever gets the most likes wins.
Winner gets a share from Medium, Corey Doctorow (author/blogger), and a free t-shirt.
I spot the fact that I have a huge advantage.
I’ve literally been working on a blog post since 2013 that fits the prompt perfectly.
I check out my competition. Easy.
Even if I just forced a bunch of my friends to help me, I could probably win. I think the current highest amount of likes was maybe 80 or 90. This was before Medium replaced likes with claps, so only one like per Medium account.
I plugged the post into a Hemingway editor, put together a resources.zip for people to download, and it was ready to publish.
Publishing and Promoting:
At first, my one and only call to action was asking readers to like the post. Because until I won the competition, that’s all that mattered.
I think I did some light promoting on Reddit, and maybe Designer News.
Within a day or two it was close to winning. No new entries seemed to be coming in.
For the final like, I remember calling my friend, having him make a Medium account just to like my post. That was it. Now I had a share from two powerful influencers coming down the pipeline. Seemed all the hard work was done.
Now to sit back and watch the fireworks.
I then edited the call to action to squeeze readers into an email opt-in if they wanted to download the freebie.
I think I had about 50 newsletter subscribers in July.
Okay, not bad. Not an utter failure at least. Basically 3,000 unique views a day for a couple days. But then it just died off. Based on success we’d had in the past, this was nothing to write home about.
How to get Tim Ferriss’s Attention:
I can’t be certain what got Tim’s attention, or why he decided to share it.
I could say it was more by design and less by luck.
If I were more arrogant, I’d say I reverse engineered it and knew that it would happen.
But I didn’t. Not at all. In fact, I thought one day if I became a decent blogger, it would be cool if Tim Ferriss liked or read my blog. Never would have believed it would happen on my first try. So there was definitely some luck involved.
If I had to guess, I’d say it was mainly due to the fact that I have a pretty good idea how his mind works.
I’ve consumed so much of his material that we now probably share certain thought processes, self-talk, and speech patterns. I guess you could call myself an avid student of his.
As a byproduct of that, I did mention him a couple times in the article. Then I also tweeted a highlight or two from the post to him (I think Medium has a built in feature that can do this).
I would assume he found it on Twitter. But even if that were true, oddly enough, he didn’t share until the next month.
Then on August 11th–
The first traffic spike was when he shared my post to his Twitter and Facebook fans.
The second spike is from his 4-Hour Newsletter: 5 Bullet Friday.
The following months:
That’s with doing no further marketing or promotion.
When I do this again (as I’m doing right now), I’ll definitely have better analytics setup so I can see my referral sources. Because I had no clue where these spikes came from.
This was 2 and a half years ago when Tim Ferriss had just started using his email list. So I’m sure it could whomp these numbers now. Relatively speaking it wasn’t a viral success, but I think it did get the attention of a niche group of people. I made some interesting contacts from people reading this and then contacting me.
Nobody hasn’t made this app yet, and the technology has come so far since. Now we have some really cool possibilities integrating Augmented Reality and smaller cheaper tracking chips.
You might think my confidence level soared and I just started posting blog posts all the time. But I did the complete opposite because I’d rather publish too less than too often. Go for a higher level of quality than 99% of content.
This is my first time posting since. Not a real blog post per se, but I love case studies. I knew some people would find the details interesting.
Also published on Medium.