⭐️ Cheat, Pray, Work - How to win the attention game

If you analyze successful Twitter accounts, you will notice that they all seem to have 5-10 accounts that will immediately engage with any tweet they post.

Unfortunately, most people react when they discover this by posting: “Anyone looking to create a Twitter engagement group?”.

Ugh. No. That’s not how any of this works.

Yes, people who are successful on Twitter are usually friendly with other successful people and yes, friends support each other.

But here’s the thing: they are real friends. It’s not some fake engagement group thing going on.

As it happens so often people only see the symptom and fail to understand the root cause.

Now what’s 100% true is that getting early engagement is key on any social platform. Platforms like Twitter and TikTok initally show your posts just to a tiny percentage of your followers. And only if it shows some promising engagement during this initial test run, it’ll be shown to a wider audience. A similar mechanism is used on Reddit, YouTube and ProductHunt.

An initial barrier is a cornerstone all platforms that allow user-generated content use to filter out spam. So finding ways to get over it is key if you want to build an audience and maximize the number of eyeballs that will see your content.

I’m not talking about buying thousands of likes to cheat your way to the top or anything like that. Instead, it usually only takes around 5-20 upvotes to get over the initial barrier. Afterward, the algorithms start showing it to a much larger portion of your followers and also some people who don’t follow you yet. For example, on ProdutHunt or HackerNews, 10 upvotes within the first hour after posting is usually enough to make it to the front page.

Your content still might flop if it isn’t good but by thinking about how to get over the initial barrier, you’ve done a lot to stack the odds in your favor.

There are three strategies you can try to get those crucial 5-20 upvotes that will lift you over the initial barrier.

  • Cheat. Join or create an engagement group. Everyone in the group is allowed to post X number of posts per day which are then liked/retweeted by everyone else in the group.
  • Pray. Focus on creating the best content possible and hope that it will win in the attention marketplaces simply because it is so good.
  • Work. Create awesome content but also invest just as much time building genuine relationships with other creators.

Any of these strategies can work.

Some people simply do get lucky and their content takes off 100% organically.

Cheating definitely can work, even though not on all platforms. Some platforms like Reddit or HackerNews are notorious for punishing any upvote pattern that looks slightly unnatural, whereas for example, Twitter and ProductHunt do not seem to care much about it. The obvious downside is that blackhat strategies always only work for a limited time. Eventually they get too popular and the platforms start fighting back.

But by far the best strategy is number three on our list. Here’s how it works:

You identify a handful of creators whose content you like and then make a conscious effort to help them wherever you can without expecting anything in return.

You do this by providing feedback, advice, and encouragement, by buying their products, leaving reviews, inviting them to events, and sharing their content on your channels. There’s usually a way to make sure you really see all their posts, for example, by activating notifications for specific accounts or creating a dedicated list. Otherwise, you will miss a lot of posts since, as I just mentioned, by default only a small percentage of all followers see a given piece of content initially.

The correct mindset here is that you do this because it’s the right thing you do. After all, you picked creators whose content you like. But of course, over time you’ll also build genuine relationships this way and your new creator friends will happily return the favor wherever they can without you ever asking for it. At this point, the initial barrier will no longer be an obstacle. Whenever you launch a new product or post a big thread, your friends will happily be the first to comment, buy, and upvote.

So the outcome is quite similar to when you decide to cheat by joining an engagement group. But there’s an important difference. You still get valuable feedback from the marketplace since even your closest creator friends will not share your content if it isn’t good. In contrast, in an engagement group people will upvote any crap simply because that’s what the rules say.

Moreover, since it’s not a coordinated effort, you won’t get punished by the platforms.

And most importantly, building genuine relationships with other creators has many other benefits as well. Creator friends do not just help amplify each other’s messages but also share tips, ideas, and encouragement when it’s most needed.

You might have noticed that I always wrote genuine relationships instead of just relationships. This distinction is key here since, unfortunately, there’s also a wrong way to work your way around the initial barrier.

I get far too many DMs from people I’ve never talked to before begging me for upvotes, likes, and retweets. It probably does work, at least in the short term. If you send 10,000 spam DMs you probably will get those 10 essential first upvotes that lift you over the initial barrier. But at what cost? You’ve just annoyed 10,000 people and most likely, the platforms will start flagging you internally as a spammer. So please, don’t do that.

Even worse are people trying to establish a fake relationship by using some formulaic approach. Typically, they’re sending some generic question or comment and then, a few weeks later, follow up by asking for and upvote or retweet.

Once you’ve established a genuine relationship it’s definitely okay to ask for support every now and then. I’m like when my friends tell me about ways I can help them. But usually this is not necessary. Your friends will help you simply because it’s the right thing to do.

So that’s the secret to winning the attention game. Stop thinking about impersonal seas of eyeballs or ways to trick the algorithm. Start building genuine relationships instead.

Written on June 20, 2022

PS: If you're interested in following my journey, sign up below: