Why is Will Smith on YouTube? Why is Naval Ravikant starting a public newsletter and podcast? Because they know they need to become a media asset.
These two men aren’t desperate for cash. They don’t need to promote themselves that hard to get their next gig. But just like your reputation for past achievements opens doors, so does your media reach.
Everyone is a media outlet. Everyone. If you have any sort of digital footprint (even if it’s just a dormant Facebook account or a boring ol’ email address) that’s your media. Your media probably sucks, but you still have it.
For folks content with their life, there’s nothing wrong with a bad digital presence. But for those trying to grow their personal brand, you need to invest in your media.
Media success doesn’t mean a million followers. It means a consistent picture of who you are, where you talk about your area, work, and success to a consistently engaged audience. That’s it.
If you’re a niche luxury field, maybe only have serious 200–1,000 buyers in the world who can both afford your item and are interested in it. Maybe you only need to sell 5 widgets a year to make a profit. You don’t need a large reach. You just need to know how to speak to your incredibly niche audience.
ANYONE can become competent at media. You don’t have to be a cringe motivation “guru” fast-talking people into yet another e-course. On YouTube, it’s actually advantageous to not look too polished. Have good content and good storytelling, of course. But a good camera will never give you that.
It’s not easy to build your media reach, but anyone who is succeeding with their brand can tell you the “formula” is usually quite simple.
Design Your Brand
Before you build out your media, you need to design your personal brand. If you have no idea how to get started, read Personal Branding: Values. In short, you design your personal brand by:
- Deciding your values and what you’ll speak to the world about
- Developing the strategies and tactics by which you’ll communicate
Build your brand off of something you actually care about. You don’t have to sell anything if you don’t want to. You don’t have to sound a certain way. But you do need to care enough to actually do it.
In Personal Branding: Appearance, I touch on the basics of digital presence. Consider this post about media “level 2” of branding. You’re not just showing up and looking your best—you’re building a monetizable asset.
Pick Your Medium
If you’re a big name like Wendy’s or Goldman Sachs, you’ll have a footprint almost everywhere. But when you’re starting out (and your product and brand itself isn’t centered around media) then you’re forgiven for only being in one or two digital spaces.
If Gary Vee was answering this question, he would say “build on all of them.” That’s not usually a good idea. His intention with that statement is different—his biggest thing is he just wants you to start.
Good at writing? Start a blog and a Twitter account.
Better at speaking? YouTube, podcasts.
Physically attractive and have a winning personality? Instagram, plus any of the above (or TikTok if you’re funny).
Don’t do Facebook. It’s bad for brands and “pages.” The only content that’s relevant is what your Facebook friends post, and you can only have a maximum of 5,000 friends (and you look weird if you’re a brand trying to send people friend requests).
The only exception to Facebook are the businesses building their service through FB Messenger. But I don’t use messenger and that’s not even how they’re building their brand, just delivering their product. So.
These suggestions are guidelines, not rules. There may be a niche area where you’ll build an audience, like a subreddit or a Discord server you’re a part of. Great, go for it.
Experiment and find out what works for you. Maybe you do better with Tweets instead of blogs, so you initially just focus on building your audience there. The biggest commonality I see in any social media success formula is trying a lot to see what works, and being consistent af.
Own Your Domain
The pitfall about focusing all on one domain is that you don’t actually own your account there. Facebook used to be the go-to place to build your brand. I remember when you would scroll through your feed and it was dominated by brands. Only 1/10 posts was an actual friend. Almost everything was a meme or viral video page. Then Facebook changed the newsfeed algorithm and business’ reach dried up overnight.
For businesses that also maintained Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube accounts, they suffered but survived. Now there are even more options. While creators have been huge on TikTok for a while, you’re now starting to see brands actually figure out the platform as well and create native content.
Yes, diversify your platforms.
Nevertheless, the one single thing you can own is email.
You don’t own your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, Vine (RIP), WhatsApp, or anything account. The rules can change, companies get acquired, companies go out of business, or your account can get locked simply by mistake. Email is the one thing no one else can touch. I consider email lists an absolute essential.
Email Lists Are Must-Haves
An email list is precious because:
- You can switch from email marketing providers with ease (for better prices, policies, etc.)
- Emails have a lot more flexibility with how you talk to your audience (e.g. embed multiple links)
- Emails are still less crowded than your competition on social media platforms. You hundreds of posts a day on social media, and probably just a few dozen emails.
By all means, be on social media. But take steps when you can to capture the one asset you can take with you when the platform dries up—email addresses.
If you have an email list, you need to exporting and saving the contact list regularly. What if the service goes down, or your contacts get removed from the database, or you get kicked off somehow? You are still legally allowed to email anyone who has signed up for your list and haven’t unsubscribed, so make sure you don’t lose the asset you spent time building.
If your business or brand doesn’t make sense to have an email list or regular newsletter, at least diversify into different platforms. Twitter, Medium, Insta, Substack, Telegram, a private Slack community, a private Mighty Networks community, anything. Just don’t put all your digital eggs into one basket.
Okay, This is a Lot to Manage
Yes. This is level 2. You’re shifting from “I look good on social media” into “I have an actual audience on social media.”
If you don’t want to manage this, hire someone. If you don’t post enough to hire someone, start posting more.
No matter how well you delegate, you’ll always have to be part of creating content. You can’t really outsource that fully. If you’re a writer, you need to write—but maybe you can hire editors.
Eventually, you either hit a point where you expand your brand enough to say “alright, we’ve grown so now I’m going to bring in other talents” and you start to expand your brand, or you decide you don’t want to expand anymore. That’s fine—that’s just your cap. It’s your plateau.
Eventually, everyone hits a plateau in their digital brand, and that’s not bad—unless you want to keep growing.
Will Smith and Naval Ravikant have all the connections and attention they want to get their next project started. Maybe they’re just posting online for fun. More likely, they’re expanding their digital reach to speak directly to audiences. These two guys know their craft backward and forward, and if they’re developing digital brands, the rest of us still trying to grow can’t avoid it, either.