🧑🏼‍🚀 Blueprint 026

Comparison, storytelling tips to improve retention, internet ripples, passive selling vs active selling, why are youtubers quitting, trusting your gut

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 26 weeks since I went on my own full-time.

Today’s topics:

  • 📈 | Week 26 recap and metrics

  • 🧐 | Comparison, trusting your gut, and the journey ahead

  • 🎯 | Storytelling tips to improve retention

  • 🌊 | Internet ripples

  • 🏷️ | Passive selling vs active selling

  • 🛑 | Why are YouTubers quitting?

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 worlds. If that’s you…let’s ride 👩🏻‍🚀

WEEKLY RECAP
Recap

Found out that my grandmother died yesterday 😢

Although it had been a slow decline for the last year, death has a funny way of instantly changing your perspective on everything.

Life is so short. So so incredibly short.

My grandma was fortunate enough to live 98 years. She experienced the Great Depression, World War II, 9/11, Covid, booms and busts of all kinds.

If I make it to 80, I’ve only got 50 years left. 38% of my life is already gone.

Fuck.

I’m going to spend every day from here on out sending it as hard as I can.

For some reason the concept of “no do-overs” never really resonated in my mind. It just did.

Most of the below was already written before I found out the news.

I was going to skip sending this week, but writing these feels therapeutic.

It’s funny reading some of this back with the added lens of her passing…makes me realize how little most of this stuff really matters.

This is all just one big silly game. Without proper perspective, it’s so easy to get caught up in the minor stresses of the level 1 nonsense.

A good reminder to everyone to worry less and play much more freely.

In the spirit of transparent capture, I’m going to share the raw thoughts I had before finding out.

— — — — — — — — — —

Lately, I’ve found myself comparing my approach, strategy, and progress with others online.

In small doses, it can be super valuable to look at others for inspiration, ideas, and mental reframes to help work through blockers and blindspots.

But the key is “in small doses.”

Unfortunately, I’ve been doing this in large doses over the past few weeks, leading to endless spirals questioning whether I’m on the right path.

I’ve found these spirals to be black holes for creative ideas, sucking the fun out of the process and sanding down what makes me special.

There’s a famous quote from Teddy Roosevelt that says, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

I’ve been feeling a lot of that lately.

It’s not that I’ve lost the joy for creating…it’s that I’ve lost the joy in creatively experimenting because it isn’t what I see others doing.

Here’s a tactical example of how this manifests.

I’ll look around at other creators and see them growing faster and seemingly monetizing at a bigger clip. Most of these are creators that (from the outside) appear to be putting in less work or have a less calculated approach to the process.

Of course, most of these facts are just my assumptions from the outside (and probably untrue), but nevertheless, it’s the mental picture I draw in my mind.

This leads me to ask myself, “What are they doing that I’m not doing? Surely if I adopted some of their tactics, and applied more time & intensity to them, they’d work even better for me?”

So then I go into a spiral trying to analyze why their 10 second, 4 image, low edit video drove 30,000 new followers, etc.

And the more new creators I come across, the more often this happens.

And the more often this happens, the more likely I am to converge the middle, the average of the influences I’m seeing.

The middle is where mediocre lives. To cut through the internet noise, you need to stay on the edges, in your own lane.

The ironic thing is that I’m aware this comparison trap is happening, yet I still fall into it over and over. Smh.

The remedy for this (I think), is to go the opposite way and purely follow my gut.

Following your gut is the only zag to the internet sea full of zigs.

So what does “purely following my gut” mean?

Make what I want to make, in the way I want to make it. Trust that my intuition for topic/format/frequency will play out in the long-term. Ignore the metrics completely. Stop trying to compare myself to others.

Along this line of thinking, something I’m starting to feel in my gut is the urge to make longer, slower content.

The type of videos that are lower edit, lower frills, me talking raw to the camera about a topic or story that interests me.

More value, less makeup.

Funny enough, my wife has been telling me to do this for a while now. Annoyingly, she’s usually right about these things.

If I had to analyze why I didn’t do this in the first place, I’d say that I made higher edit content to cover up a self-perceived lack in ability. Faster cuts, faster switches, flashes & bangs on the screen create more visual confusion which distracts a viewer from a lack in pure storytelling ability.

My favorite content to make is this newsletter and our wknds podcast, both of which are a more “raw” form of sharing my thoughts with the world.

So in the spirit of following my gut, I’m going to start making more of that type of content, both in long-form on YouTube and short-form.

The last thing I’ll say here, that I can’t get out of my head, is how important it is to get people to buy into a journey.

I covered this a bunch in last week’s Blueprint.

So far I’ve mostly been “talking about” stuff in my content.

When you’re on a journey and making content documenting that journey, you’re “being about” stuff.

And there’s a huge difference.

I could make a video talking about an AI tool and why it’s good for creators…or I could actually build something and show how I’m using that tool in a real use case.

The latter is always going to be more compelling and more relevant to your audience.

So for me, it’s time I start on a journey.

In a way, Blueprint has kind of been that….but so far, it’s only been “a journey of me learning how to make content.”

If my end goal was to start a content agency or a consulting firm that advised brands on content strategy, this would be the perfect journey to match with my “product.”

But that isn’t my goal.

My goal is to build a brand for “world builders” (entrepreneurs, creators, makers, dreamers).

So next week, that journey begins…and I’m going to start documenting it on YouTube.

Subscribe if you want to follow along with the visuals (will continue writing about it here too ofc)

STORYTELLING TIPS
Storytelling tips for improving retention

I received a message from a Blueprint reader saying this newsletter was their favorite thing to read, but they wanted me to start also adding in actionable tips on how to implement the learnings I share.

Roger that 🫡

Over the last year, I’ve experimented with a bunch of little tricks to help improve retention in short-form content.

These are my best ones.

To be clear, there’s a difference between intentionally baiting a viewer with schemey tactics vs using psychology to retain them. These all fall in the latter bucket.

  1. 👩🏻‍🎤 | Pop Culture Grounding - If you’re talking about a niche topic (or something that’s default kinda lame), use a popular brand, celebrity, or pop culture reference that has broader appeal to help find common ground with the viewer. The reference doesn’t even need to be tied to the base story. For example, let’s say you’re making content about installing windows. You could open the videos with pictures of celebrity houses and be like, “What do Taylor Swift, Kim Kardashian, and Drake all have in common?” [while showing pictures of their homes]…they all have homes with arched glass windows. It’s the new trend.” And then you go into your knowledge based content. By default, more people know about those celebrity names than know about windows, so you’re instantly establishing common ground with a broader audience more quickly. Sometimes I do this with visuals only…that’s why I use gifs of celebrities/recognizable people in my videos. If a picture’s worth 1,000 words, what’s it worth if people recognize who’s in the picture? Got this framing from my friend Rom

  2. 🐇 | Cult Hopping - When trying to find topics to make content about, pick brands, people, movements, that already have a die hard fan base ready to spread the message. People are much more likely to share content about Stanley Cups vs other drinkware. Why? There’s already a cult movement behind Stanley. It’s much easier to ride an existing wave than to create a new one. I’ve used this successfully in most of my super viral videos, like this one and this one

  3. 👁️ | Leading the Witness - In short-form videos, it can be hard for a user to follow along if the graphics/text/eyes aren’t all in the exact same spot. Confusion in where to look means missed visuals/messaging and faster bounce. To solve this, sometimes I’ll use a red arrow or circle to help guide the viewer’s eyes to exactly what I want them to see. This helps connect the story better with the visuals and keeps them watching for longer. Got this from my friend Riley, who used it in his Google Gemini video that got 20M views.

  4. 🫣 | Peeking - I’ve tried this 3 times and it’s worked super well twice. Basically, the first scene in the video is me looking down at the b-roll, shaking my head or saying, “holy shit no way.” This creates an open loop in someone’s brain asking, “Wait what is it?!” so they keep watching to learn more. I don’t think this would work if you used it for every video, but in small doses, it’s a unique way to retain attention. Here and here are the two examples where it worked super well

  5. 🫨 | Headfakes - Using “but or therefore” and then headfaking the story against where it is naturally flowing is a core element to storytelling. But and therefore are proxies for unexpected conflict. People keep watching after conflict because their subconscious mind seeks resolution. This is a core tenet in all of my scripts. SouthPark creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone talk about this approach in this video

The truth is, you can deploy all the psychological tactics you have in your arsenal, but the best way to retain a viewer is with a great base story.

Is what you’re talking about actually interesting…even to you?

Or are you just creating to hit some arbitrary “post weekly” quantity threshold you set for yourself?

Above all else, be interesting. Then sprinkle these on top to add fuel to the fire.

INTERNET RIPPLES
Using internet ripples as a brand

When I advise brands on how to use content to supercharge a product launch, I base the strategy around creating internet ripples.

A ripple is the phenomenon that happens in water when a droplet hits the surface.

The bigger the impact, the larger the concentric circles created.

The real chaos comes when lots of droplets hit the water in different spots at the same time.

This creates a temporary disturbance all over the surface.

As a brand launching a product, you’re trying to create a frenzy of attention across the internet.

At base state, the internet is like an uninterrupted lake. It’s “still” relative to the attention your brand is getting.

The best way to get attention on your brand and “feel like you’re everywhere” is to have lots of huge ripples hit at the exact same time.

Your longitudinal “brand awareness” strategy is to drip small ripples in your sector of the lake every single day.

But your “product launch strategy” is to cause massive ripples in a short burst that are hard to ignore anywhere along the surface

One brand that does this super well is DJI, the Chinese drone/camera tech company.

They just had a small product release of these DJI Wireless Mic (Second Generation).

In advance of the launch, they send free units to dozens of top creators in the space, across multiple platforms including YouTube, Tiktok, and IG.

As soon as the flagship brand releases their highly produced product video, DJI’s creators unleash an avalanche of reviews and endorsements.

For this 24 hour cycle, you cannot go anywhere on creator/filmmaker YouTube/socials without seeing the product pop-up, covered by your favorite creators.

This creates the intended ripple or echo effect, and if the product solves a pain point you’re personally experiencing, you feel extremely compelled to buy it.

Most brands work with too few influencers and stagger their content release schedule.

This weakens the collective ripple effect, which makes it harder to cut through the noise.

If I’m running content or marketing at a brand, my number one strategic frame around a product launch is, “How can I create as many internet ripples as possible?”

PASSIVE SELLING VS ACTIVE SELLING
Passive selling vs active selling

In the early days of the internet, it was stupidly easy to get someone to convert by actively selling.

“Hey X, you should buy Y because of Z reasons”

There were so few quality offers and such little noise that conversion came easy.

Now that we’re 25 years into the internet and 16 years into mobile, I think the consumer is starting to become trained on when they are being sold to.

And they don’t like it.

Now this doesn’t mean social ads don’t work, of course they do…Meta is the best ad engine on planet earth.

But it does mean that content with lazy direct calls to action, “you should buy this,” turn people off much quicker.

I predict a shift to something I call passive selling.

Where active selling is directly driving someone to a buy link, passive selling is creating buy links, but not talking about them directly.

For example, let’s say I have a hat that I want to sell.

Active selling is saying, “Hey, you should buy this hat because it’s cool. Discount code below”

Passive selling is me wearing the hat in a bunch of videos, creating a super clean rabbit hole for someone to naturally find the hat if they want (maybe by mentioning it in a pinned comment, or Youtube description, etc.) and then letting them find their way to buy on their own.

This doesn’t mean I’ll never actively mention it, but the active mentions happen much less often than the normal frequency we’re used to seeing.

Passive selling enables creators to sell products through authentic interest and maintain max trust while doing it.

Idk about you, but anyone I see on social media that tries to actively sell me too often, is forever labeled as a salesman in my mind.

Salesman = low trust. Low trust = low buy/share.

I’m still working through this concept, but my gut feel is that 100% active selling will stop working.

YOUTUBERS ARE QUITTING
Why are so many YouTubers quitting?

Over the last 10 days, you couldn’t go on YouTube without seeing huge creators announcing they were quitting and taking a step back from their channels.

One of my favorites, that has taught me a ton about camera gear and filmmaking, is Caleb Pike (DSLR Video Shooter).

In his video, he talks about having many panic attacks and constant stress as he watched his channel and business decline in growth over the past few years.

Much of his anxiety came from doing all the things outside of actually making videos (e.g., thumbnails, titles, business side, operations, brand negotiations, etc.).

General burnout is being echoed all over YouTube, as it seems that with more channels launching, the juice isn’t worth the squeeze as much as it used to be.

One of the things Caleb shared that really resonated with me was how “content creator” as a job is unique because your input doesn’t predictably map to your output.

In most jobs, you input time and get out an expected hourly rate or salary.

Because of this certainty, you can decide how much time you’d like to put in, how hard you’d like to work to get promoted, etc.

With content creation, you could put in 40 hours on a video and it could flop and net you zero dollars, no audience growth, etc.

On the flip side, you could put in 40 hours on a video and it could change your life.

The variable reward is what makes this career different than almost anything else.

Personally, I love playing a game where there’s a chance for uncapped upside, but I totally see how this uncertainty causes emotional instability.

Two other quick thoughts based on this general trend of YouTubers quitting:

  • There’s never been a better time to get in the game. Everything in the world is cyclical. As a big chunk of Wave 1 creators tap out of the game, that means there’s more potential for new entrants to surface

  • Creator-native vs business native. Most of the creators that I saw took a step back were “creator-native.” What I mean by this is that they got into the creator profession to make cool stuff, and the scaling/business side is what drained them. For someone like me, I’m a business-native person. I really enjoy the creative, but my core DNA is in business. This means if I can just find a way to crack the creative, I will unlock the part of the game that I actually enjoy more. That’s a tailwind for anyone that makes content but isn’t creator-native (e.g., entrepreneurs, athletes, musicians, etc.)

It’s a super interesting time on the internet.

In principle, the easier something gets, the more people that do it, the less reward there is to be had per person.

As AI and other next generation creative tooling make it easier to create world-class content, the hard it will become to stand out.

CONTENT FROM THIS WEEK

My best content from this week:

  1. 🛍️ | Here’s how I’d rebuild IG Shopping: Watch

  2. 🎵 | Something crazy is happening in live music: Watch

  3. 🥽 | The world is underestimating the Apple Vision Pro: Watch

  4. 🦖 | wknds (009) - Obsession years, Apple Vision Pro, quantity vs quality, content role models: Watch / Listen

  5. 🧑🏼‍🚀 | Blueprint 025 - On the attribution of fandom, bangers + bingers + builders, world building, and Nick Bare: Read

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