Building an audience: investing in social capital

9 min readJul 10, 2021


Reality entrepreneurs (source: NFX)

I think we’re now in a world where you do have to play this game, you don’t have an option anymore. I think the notion that you could have one job forever and it could be pretty secure as long as you just did a good job in that position, I feel like those days are over

What I think we’re saying here is that perhaps writing, or marketing, or figuring out how to get more attention is the rewardable talent for the current age and going forward. I think we’re moving from this world in which people just had a job at a company, to a world in which more people are self-employed and pursuing work with greater degrees of autonomy and self-direction.

We used to have this shared culture, we were all on the same page, and everything was great. We are wired to seek approval from others, because throughout history, if we were kicked out of the tribe, then it would have been very difficult for us.

It’s less that today is the era of fake news and more that it’s the era of an explosion of news. With the internet and social media, it gave everyone a voice.

So, reality, in a very major sense, is up for grabs in many ways.

Mastery Not Metrics (source: Srinivas Rao)

It’s harder than ever to build an audience because there’s a scarcity of attention. Most people spend a few minutes on dozens of web sites instead of several days reading the books of one author. With such a scarcity of attention, the only viable strategy to build an audience for your work is to focus on mastery instead of metrics.

You only have control over your actions and not your results. By focusing on the things you control, you tap into the profound power of consistency, experience visible progress, and build momentum. This more than anything is what it means to create for an audience of one. The more you create, the more you’ll learn about what resonates with people and what matters to you. Stick to a schedule and put your work out into the world

When you commit to mastery, you increase the likelihood of producing something with emotional resonance. Do things people notice, and overwhelm them with joy.

If it has emotional resonance, it will continue to spread without hacks and tactics. There’s no tactic more powerful than someone who is a true fan of your work. Instead of wondering how you get somebody’s attention, you focus on creating something worthy of their attention.

Do you make them think? Do you make them laugh? Do you make them smile?

You want someone to have an emotional response to your work. If somebody feels something, they’re much more likely to do something, figuring out the message of their work causes people lots of unnecessary stress. Your message will be revealed through the work that you do, and will also evolve with time.

People overlook the profound power of consistency when it comes to building an audience for anything. When you set the expectation that you’re going to show up consistently your audience will as well. By the time you know about somebody’s work, they’ve been at it for a long time.

Sam Altman famously said your most significant competitive advantage is a long-term view which he defines as ten years. Quality is usually the byproduct of doing something for a long time.

It’s the result of years of deep work, deliberate practice, and becoming a master of your craft. But it’s also much more likely you’ll create something timeless. As Ryan Holiday one said, “nothing can survive long-term without word of mouth.”

Social Capital

What people should realize is when you create the many-to-many, a lot of people credit you for making that connection. Many of them will have you in mind as the genesis of their relationship and you develop a lot of social capital from that.

  • Value is creating a place where people can get utility that helps them solve the core problems that they have.
  • Values is the set of values that people can build their identity around. A common mission and common interests that people can bond over.

For example, in the Malta Startup Space group I form part of, as moderator by posting company updates, achievements and sharing transaction news, other people see that behaviour and say, “Oh, I want to get credit for posting someone else’s news. I too want to be the news”, this creates the amplier effect, which could lead to an ecosystem emerging from a community. Once you give them eyeballs and recognition, they’re more likely to share in it.

When you build in public, you enable people to get involved and have a sense of ownership over the community. They have a sense of involvement. With generosity, you build up a balance of social currency. When you do that, it’s much easier to make withdrawals.

Why Building An Audience Is So Hard (And Why I’m Still Trying) (source: Ash Reed)

Great content should make you feel vulnerable and a little discomfort upon publishing.

“I think people believe that those who show up consistently have some sort of magic power or inherent ability. “It must come easy for him,” they say. “For others like me, it’s hard.”

Here’s the reality: it’s not easy for anyone — even the people that make it look easy. In fact, if someone is making It look easy, they’re probably working all the harder.”

Knowing I have to create content on a regular basis, means I can’t skip writing. Rather than hindering, I believe it actually liberates me from thinking I have to come up with something special and game-changing each time. My personal cadence is one post per day.

This cadence also determines the length of the post, the depth of thought put into it, and critically the expectation of the audience when reading it. That expectation framework allows you the freedom to create within that space, and to test and play with the edges, moods, news swings and trends that emerge within that framework over time.

Audience Monetisation (source: Jon Radoff)

Audience Monetization, in the most basic terms, is the process of effectively generating revenue from your audience. This can be done in a number of ways and through a variety of approaches — it will vary based on your product, the channels you use, the technology you are able to employ and the level of insight you have on your audience.

An optimal monetization approach delivers a highly-personalized user experience and employs a highly tailored monetization mix.

The creators are making content and experiences for people, and their competitive advantage comes from their unique understanding of certain communities, new ways of connecting with audiences, new forms of storytelling and mastery of new forms of expression.

Solutions at this phase of the market are harder to make. They require:

  • An understanding that creators need to connect more directly with communities and learn/react/grow with far greater agility.
  • Methods for easily monetizing creator effort, and connecting creators with markets of audiences and buyers.
  • Workflow oriented towards the pragmatic realities of the creator’s process.

Radical democratization: Far more creators participate in the market, and there’s a power-law distribution of economic opportunity (e.g., individuals and tiny teams often can generate huge results).

The Passion Economy and Its Hidden Currency (source NFX/ Li Jin)

Has technology made it easier for people to monetize individuality and to earn income through work that feels more fulfilling, and more meaningful, and creative?

The passion economy is about growing your audience or intensifying the relationship that you have with your audience and your customers. It’s about building a depth of fandom.

You can monetize your super fans to a higher degree such that you don’t need to become widely mega-famous if you can be deeply, vertically famous.

You Are The Product

I think in the passion economy, every individual creator is trying to offer a product and trying to find product-market fit for it, where the market is their target customer base and they themselves are the product. Joe Rogan is the easy example here, his work is an extension of himself.

I think it’s really important to find creator content fit, or better yet, Creator-Format fit

It’s determining what feels natural to you, what feels the most authentic, and comes the easiest to you? You now have to be like one of the best people in the world in a certain niche in order to be successful, so its much easier if that niche is an extension of your personality, wants and likes and its in a format that you are actually good at.

An example is NFTs and how they enable creators to do price discovery in a really powerful way.

NFTs allow super-fans to identify themselves.People will purchase digital art not merely because they anticipate they would sell it for more. They were doing it because they were interested in supporting the person who was selling it and the work that they were doing.

When people typically talk about the attention economy, they’re referring to creators amassing the attention of an audience, and then, after they have the attention, they’re able to monetize that attention in all sorts of different ways. Attention has become such a scarce thing NFTs allow us to capture what people with emotional resonance are willing to pay for it.

NFTs capture so much hope because the business models we currently have leave a lot of writers still without a great business model. And those writers left without a great business model are perhaps publishing at a lower frequency, at a lower cadence subject to the power-law. Just a few make a ton and almost everybody else makes nothing.

Web 3 and the angle that I would love to explore more is,in so far as it serves as a vector for allowing platform participants to become the owners of the platforms themselves. We can involve all of the platform participants as co-owners and stakeholders in these platforms. Those individuals who are utilizing those platforms and services, they’re just as meaningful to making that platform valuable as the employees who are doing the engineering full time at that company.

Community Economics (source:

Blockchain technology and NFTs enable the creation of new gameplay and world designs that directly support the long-term health of a game through cooperative token-based economics, or “community economics.” The current video games market requires a huge amount of money advertising their games to find the 2% that will pay. On the premium game side, players won’t pay more than $60 for a game. But the games can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make, putting a lot of risk on developers to deliver a hit, whereas a miss is a total failure.

Blockchain solutions around collective ownership via token economics allow early adopters to benefit from being an early fan as well as earn economics from secondary transactions of in-game items won, crafted or collected.

But those who operate the computers on the chain have to be rewarded, and the cost of those computers can be hefty. So there are “gas” or energy fees associated with blockchain transactions. The user experience is another big problem. Cryptocurrency wallets are hard to use. Someone can hack your account and steal your money. Or if you lose the code associated with your cryptocurrency, then it’s gone forever. Lastly, game developers have to be careful about money laundering. They have to know who they are doing business with and be compliant with anti-money laundering laws and money transmission laws in various countries.

Blockchain technology is still pretty nascent, it’s difficult to use and to scale. One is capability, and then a cost associated with transactions. And those are really salient for this technology to work at a mass-market scale, globally, with games that have audiences of tens of millions or hundreds of millions of users a month. It’s a fundamental technology infrastructure layer that still has to be built — and that makes for a hot investment space.

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#startupstories #audienceeconomy #socialcapital #communityeconomics



AdiG Early stage company advisory and startup fund raising. Human connections that build relationships, add value and move the needle