🧑🏼‍🚀 Blueprint 021

Turning pro, your teachers lied to you, followers don't matter anymore, the only way to win big, platforms are diverging

Welcome back to Blueprint, a weekly series where I share an unfiltered, behind-the-scenes look into my journey as a full-time entrepreneur & creator.

It’s been 21 weeks since I went on my own full-time.

Today’s topics:

  • 🧮 | Week 21 recap & metrics

  • 🏆 | Turning pro

  • 📈 | The only way to win big

  • 🤦🏻‍♂️ | Platform divergence

  • 👀 | Followers don’t matter anymore

  • 👩🏼‍🏫 | Your teachers lied to you

A reminder that this internet game is not zero-sum. Everyone reading this can win at an unlimited scale. I’m writing this for the internet astronauts building their own digital worlds. If that’s you…let’s ride ✌🏼👩🏻‍🚀

WEEKLY RECAP
Quick Adjustments:

Wanted to call out a couple of quick updates before diving in:

  • 📊 | Dashboard Graphic - On the graphic above, I’ve added tracking for posts, views/engagement, and costs/profit. Felt like it was a bit misleading to including revenue without considering costs. For now, I’m just including recurring costs. Will leave out fixed one-time costs like studio equipment, etc. I also added in a column for wknds (my podcast with Roberto). We’re super early in that journey but figured it’d be good to track live

  • 📣 | Bio - I’ve noticed that my content is some of the highest engaging on social (sometimes better engagement rates than Kim Kardashian), but my following doesn’t grow super fast. This is either because of poor profile conversion (bad prof pic, bio, above the fold pinned content, etc.) or a because I cover multiple categories. I’ve had the same bio description since the beginning, but just changed it to “Breaking down genius moves from the world’s best brands” as a way to try and concisely encapsulate my sweet spot. If you are good with words and feel like you have something better, lmk!

  • 🤝 | Talent Manager - I’ve found a talent manager that I’m super stoked to work with. Will reveal more about out systems, process, and progress over the coming weeks. For now, he’s going to help significantly bolster my rates and reach around brand deals and activations. More to come here.

The Recap

The theme of this week is turning pro.

I’m graduating from the season of invention to the season of leverage.

Dude you’re talking in riddles…wtf are you saying?

I used to think, “If I could just create something people wanted, I’d win.”

I failed and failed and failed, but finally, I’ve created something people consistently value…my content/POV.

So I should win, right?

Wrong. I realize now that invention is only half of the equation.

The real skill, and other half of the equation, is figuring out how to scale that invention with systems, processes, and leverage.

Elon has this famous quote where he says, “Large scale manufacturing is somewhere between 10-100x harder than making the prototype.”

The real innovation is the factory, not the car.

So for me, the question I’ve been obsessing over is, “How do I build my version of a content factory?”

But the easy answer to this question is a trap…because most people are okay trading quality for scale.

They take something that is a 9/10 (and special), and drop quality to 6/10 in order to 5x quantity. They think they’re winning with quantity, but they will actually lose over the long-term because they killed what made them special, the quality.

I refuse to approach it this way, as it erodes the thing that matters most to me…becoming one of one with max audience trust (my interpretation of quality).

So the real question is…how do I build a content factory that increases scale while maintaining (or improving) quality?

The short answer is controlled leverage.

A tactical version of the same question is…how can I take every single minute spent doing something outside of my “zone of genius” and delegate it to someone that is better than me (or costs less than my equivalent time)?

To answer this, we have to define “zone of genius.”

Your zone of genius is the thing that you are best at in the system. It’s the thing that if delegated, would make the outcome worse.

For me, the only thing I’m world-class at in content (from my POV) is taking a given story, condensing it down, repackaging it into something more entertaining, and delivering the new message. In other words, the storytelling.

Every other thing…and I mean everything…should eventually be done by someone that isn’t me.

Finding the stories, editing the video, posting the video, repackaging the video for other platforms, reviewing analytics, finding brand partners, selling brand partners, collecting money from brand partners, operationalizing the process/system, keeping track of the accounting, etc.

To be truly max leverage, I shouldn’t be doing anything of those things.

Not because I don’t want to or am lazy, but because my time spent on zone of genius activities will drive more ROI than the cost savings from me doing anything else.

Seems logical. This should be an easy shift, right?

Not really.

Here’s why shifting to a model like this is so hard…

A delegation-first mindset is a completely different way of thinking than an invention-first mindset.

Invention-first is scrappy, resourceful, brute force, jack-of-all trades, living on the edges.

Delegation-first is organized, consistent, controlled, specialized, standardized.

I’ve been thinking exclusively with an invention-first mindset for these first 14 months. And with content especially, I have to reinvent often.

Flipping the switch to delegation-first feels like a violation of the pattern. It’s a hard change to make rapidly. It requires 3 steps back before 1 step forward.

Btw, the only way to make a delegation-first model work is to find people that are actually better than you at non-zone of genius tasks.

These types of people are in high-demand and expensive, which is why they are hard to find and train.

Because of that, most people hire to delegate, but end up with team members that are not better than they are, even though the task in question is outside their zone of genius.

For example, if I hired a VA to exclusively find compelling stories to make videos about, but I was inherently better than them at finding the stories, I would have a hard time mentally justifying paying to delegate and then achieving worse performance.

Extrapolate this out across hundreds of tasks within dozens of systems and you see how hard this can be.

Throughout the next few Blueprints, I’m going to do my best to walk through how I’m setting up systems and overcoming the mental shift of doing so.

Because without systems, leverage and delegation, I will fail to accomplish any my goals.

BUILDING SYSTEMS
The only way to win big

In the first section, I laid out my rationale for why systems are so important.

Here’s where I share tactically how I’m approaching them today.

First things first, it’s very hard to build systems for multiple processes at the same time…so it’s important to slim down the scope of what I’m working on.

I have so much ambition to build all of these amazing things, but I realize the need to automate what’s working today so I can free up more time to add new things tomorrow.

Here’s what I’m keeping on my plate (* = being automated today):

  1. Short-form video - these are my classic info style short-form videos that I post 3-4 times per week (each takes 4-5 hours per weekday)

  2. *wknds Podcast - this is a 1x/week (eventually 2x/week) podcast that has clips, shorts, thumbnails, descriptions, etc. (this takes me 2-4 hours per week)

  3. Blueprint newsletter - this is a 1x/week newsletter (this takes me 3-4 hours per week)

  4. *Snapchat show - these are Snapchat specific episodes (this takes me 2 hours per week)

Before I add anything else (YouTube channel, video Blueprint, vlogs, additional newsletters, etc.), I’m going to systematize each of these content buckets so they are a well-oiled machine.

Here’s a quick look into how I will do that for each one…

Short-form video

I look at short-form video as my A1 product right now. It’s where I have the most consistency, biggest reach, and most engaged audience.

Level 1 automation is me + a savage video editor:

  • Every day I hunt for the most interesting stories. I write and record 1-2 scripts. I send the raw files with light notes about visualization to the editor

  • The editor edits during the afternoon and sends back the file by midnight

  • I post the next AM (this is a half day delay but would save me 4 hours per day of time (20 hours per week))

  • Estimated cost ($1.5-$2K/month). In other words, if I can earn $8K from a brand deal video, then one brand deal every 4 months covers the cost for this (Translation = no brainer). I am currently looking to hire this person immediately

Level 2 automation is me + a savage video editor + a story curation VA + social media manager:

  • Every morning my VA sends me a list of the most interesting stories across any category I care about

  • I write script and record story and send to editor. Same editor flow.

  • Social Media manager picks up assets and programs/posts on my behalf in the AM, writes all captions, repurposes content natively to all platforms

  • Estimated cost ($3.5-$4K/month). This flow would save me an additional 1-2 hours per day (story sourcing and posting).

As you can see, the ROI on automation is extremely high, if you have consistent cash flow coming in. What could I do with an additional 24 hours per week? I could make 10x more shorts, add other channels, work on other businesses, etc.

I’ll keep the explanations for the other 3 buckets shorter because you get the picture, but I thought it’d be helpful to spell out in detail how I’m thinking about this.

wknds Podcast

This is the first content bucket where we are already testing automation. We have a full-team that is currently operationalizing this.

Our goal for each episode is to have:

  • Full episode edited (audio/video) with thumbnail, show notes, links, programmed to publish on YouTube and Transistor

  • 5 Clips (5-10 mins) on YouTube with thumbnails, shownotes, links, programmed to publish on YouTube

  • 5 Shorts (45-60 seconds) on IG/TT/Shorts programmed to publish

In order to achieve this level of automation, you’d need:

  • Primary Video editor (main episode, clips, some shorts)

  • Secondary video editor (remaining shorts)

  • Thumbnail designer

  • Project Manager/Social Media Manager (handles all posting, captions, project management, comms, etc.

Blueprint

This will be much harder to fully delegate.

In some sense, I like the act of writing it every week. It forces me to crystallize my thinking and think deeply about content.

If I wanted to delegate some of this process, I could have a VA that does all of the metrics and graphic creation (would save ~1 hour per week)

Snapchat Show

I haven’t shared too much about this content stream yet, but I’m very excited for what’s cooking here.

I have a streamlined processes with my producer Mason and our production team to be able to post 1 episode/day. For now, this is as automated as it can get.

Will share more on future episodes with why I’m prioritizing this and how it’s working out

— — — — — — — — — — —

At full delegation, I can run all 4 of these content streams with optimal volume and unlock 30 additional hours of capacity each week.

With that new capacity, I will look at add YouTube into the mix. Then I will run the same process with YouTube until it too is automated. After that, things will get interesting as I can start building businesses on top of the content.

My goal is to have these 4 fully scaled in the next 60 days (by end of Feb 2024).

THE DIVERGENCE
Social platforms are diverging

When I started making content a year ago, there was a lot less competition.

I was able to make a single high quality video and post it across all 4 platforms (Tiktok, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat) with solid results.

Not every video would go viral on every platform, but it was clear the best stuff was going nuclear everywhere.

One of the tough parts about being in the content game is that algorithms change without warning.

Things are wildly different now.

What I’m noticing is that each platform is diverging from the center and becoming it’s own little world.

The best creators will create pieces of content native for both the medium (short vs long) and the platform (Tiktok vs YouTube).

Here’s how I’d summarize the use cases and style preferences I’m seeing work on each platform (for short-form content):

Tiktok:

Tiktok has become the new social search.

The best performing content is either leveraging Tiktok shop (no surprise Tiktok is juicing their own stuff) or is super low frills editing, green screen, talking head, normal pacing, etc.

I thought these lower quality styles of content would be arbed to zero with overcrowding (because the bar to create is so low), but that hasn’t been the case.

My high quality video style only works on Tiktok when I’m covering something that is in the news cycle. And this makes sense with the backdrop that Tiktok is the new social search.

For example, take my video on McDonald’s new CosMc restaurant. I made a certified banger (knew it as soon as it left my hand) and it only got ~50-100K views in the first few days on Tiktok. I was 5 days late on the initial news cycle.

But now, that video is at 846K views on Tiktok. Why?

It’s still in the news cycle and people are natively searching for CosMc’s McDonalds. My video has been assigned that by Tiktok search so now it’s coming up when people search it. And because my stuff is higher quality, if people land on that search, they are going to click it.

The game for Tiktok now is that you have to make content that a) is accurately tagged by the search categorization algo in Tiktok and b) is something that people are searching for. If those two things are true, your stuff will work. If one or both are not true, it will not work on Tiktok

Instagram:

Instagram has become the new Tiktok mixed with a visual diary.

The original version of Tiktok was novel because it was content curated by interest. But now, Tiktok has shifted it’s “For You” algorithm to skew much more heavily to news and current events.

The core features used on IG are Reels, Stories and DMs. Instagram Reels are still very much based on interest categories, regardless of timeliness.

A core difference on Instagram is that visual quality is rewarded. People still win with raw unedited stream of consciousness in stories, but high quality visual aesthetic still works and is sometimes preferred. Also, IG is the best place to interact 1:1 in the DMs.

Youtube:

YouTube has become the new TV. 

If it wasn’t for sports, cable TV would be dead. My hot take is that streaming platforms aren’t much better off.

The common behavior of the day is to pop-open YouTube and let the Home Page surface interesting content.

YouTube has always been designed in that way. It’s the Internet’s TV, with infinite channel options.

Content strategy differs greatly when considering shorts vs long-form YouTube.

With shorts, YouTube rewards storytelling and visual quality. They do not reward raw vlog style content.

With medium-form, I’m a bit out of my depth (because I haven’t yet cracked it), but it feels like a trend towards more authentic, less editing, slow paced type of content. Sam Sulek is a good example for what can work when you’re interesting and your content topic has a broad audience.

Snapchat:

To be honest, I’m not really sure what Snapchat is. If I had to categorize it, I’d say that Snapchat is the new Netflix. 

They have 6-10K curated shows, with gatekeepers preventing new shows from being permissionlessly created.

In a way, this means it’s kind of like YouTube, but with a much more curated selection of channels.

Content that works on Snapchat Shows is often faceless or high graphic based without a ton of talking head.

— — — — — — — —

While it’s not clear where each platform will end up, what is clear is that creating a single version of your content and cross-posting will likely result in only one platform working well for you…whichever one you had in mind when you starting creating in the first place.

My strategy is to do my best to find interesting topics, storytell differently for each platform, and then use automation and delegation to create unique versions of each piece of content so that I can win on all platforms at the same time.

FOLLOWERS SCHMOLLOWERS
Followers don’t matter anymore

If there was one content hill I would die on right now, it’s that followers no longer matter.

The legacy influencer/content space worked something like this:

  1. Amass a bunch of followers

  2. Brands calculate a blended CPM rate based on your number of followers

  3. Brands would pay you that rate for a sponsored post and cross their fingers that it performed well

This made sense as the meta because social platforms delivered content based on a follower model.

Your feed would consist of content only from people you followed. The Discover tab, which wasn’t really used, would show you things from people you didn’t follow.

But the dominant user behavior was to scroll the feed.

When Tiktok came along, everything changed.

It started showing people content based on what they were interested in, regardless of who they followed.

And it turned out, people liked this much better.

So all social platforms quickly followed suit.

This meant that anyone, with any amount of followers, could go viral at anytime.

In other words, followers no longer mattered.

Now, if you are reading this and wanted to push back, you might say, “Well followers obviously still matter a little bit. Having a lot of followers means your stuff will get amplified further/faster, even if the majority of people that see it aren’t followers”.

And you’d be wrong.

I’m looking at Alex Hormozi’s Tiktok account right now. He has 780K followers on Tiktok and his last 3 videos have 1.2K, 4.6K, 12.1K views.

Followers do not matter.

Okay, so if Kallaway’s right and followers don’t actually matter, where are the opportunities?

The biggest opportunity is the arbitrage between what brand marketers think matters (followers) and what actually performs (reach).

Day after day, brand marketers are getting burned overpaying legacy influencers that bought their following for huge campaigns that don’t perform.

That means there’s daylight to rearchitect the way brand marketers pay for placement. I’m working on something here.

The other opportunity is to start making content, native for a platform, immediately.

If you wanted to be a content creator in the past, starting from zero was a huge disadvantage. The only way to win was to spend years slowly building the foundation.

Now, you don’t need to wait. If your content is high quality, you can reach millions of people overnight.

This also means that legacy influencers with large followings and low engagement are significantly overvalued.

I’d expect lots of these creator-led businesses, funded on the promise of large owned distribution, to go out of businesses.

Ironically not because of poor management, but because of poor distribution.

A+ FOR YOU KAREN
Your teachers lied to you

The more I play this game, the more I realize how little I actually knew about the world and naive I was.

Here’s a mental reframe that’s helped me and goes well with this edition of Blueprint.

I used to feel bad about being bad at things.

School teaches you that you need to do well in all subjects.

If you get 4 A’s and 1 C:

  • You’ll feel bad about the C

  • Your parents will get mad about the C

  • Your teacher will baby you about the C

  • Everyone will tell you to improve the C

But that’s not how the world actually works.

The world rewards specialists, not well-rounded generalists with all A’s.

You’re actually better off become world class (A+++) at one thing and hiring people to do everything else that you’re not world class at. This is another way of framing the “zone of genius” bit from above.

In a school setting, that would mean being a savant at math but getting F’s in history, science, english, spanish, etc.

Schools would never allow this.

I think this is the difference between employees and entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs realize the power in leverage that comes from specializing in 1-2 things and being willing to ignore the rest.

Great employees feel bad when they’re bad at even one thing, so they’ll work to improve and close that gap. They aren’t willing to ignore the bad.

The flip side to this argument is that when you’re at the very beginning, and it’s just you as an entrepreneur, you’re going to need to be the jack-of-all-trades, because you can’t afford to outsource the things you’re bad at.

If you can’t get through the beginning phase, you’ll never make it to the end.

VIDEOS FROM THIS WEEK

My best content from this week:

  1. 🍟 | McDonald’s new restaurant is coming for Starbucks: Watch

  2. ⚾️ | Will Shohei Otani’s $700M deal change baseball forever: Watch

  3. 🤖 | Humanoid robots are the biggest business opportunity of the next decade: Watch

  4. 🎁 | Mr. Beast is giving away free holiday gifts: Watch

  5. 🦖 | wknds (005) - The Ultimate Guide to Making Money as a Creator: Watch

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