235: The Bad Kind of Attention

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Welcome to the Bootstrapped Founder.

My name is Arvid Kahl and I talk about bootstrapping,

entrepreneurship and building in public.

Yes, building in public.

Today, we'll dive into three ways that people on Twitter

used to get attention and how that kind of attention

can massively backfire.

Everybody wants to build a Twitter audience, sure.

But I would argue that no one wants to self-sabotage.

And yet, way too often, I see people lay attention traps

that they themselves fall into at a later point.

After today, you'll be armed with three clear pitfalls

to avoid.

And before we get to that, let me

thank the sponsor of this episode, acquire.com.

Imagine this.

You're a founder who's built this really solid SaaS product.

You've acquired customers.

And all of this is generating consistent monthly recurring


The problem is you're not growing for whatever reason.

Maybe it's lack of focus or lack of skill

or just plain lack of interest.

And you feel stuck.

What should you do?

Well, the story that everybody would like to hear

is that you buckled down and somehow reignited the fire.

And you got past yourself and those cliches.

And you started working on the business

instead of in the business.

You start building this audience.

Get attention.

And you move out of your comfort zone

and do sales and marketing in front of these people.

And six months later, you've tripled your revenue.

The reality is not that simple.

Situations may be different for every founder who's

facing this crossroad.

But too many times, the story ends up

being one of inaction and stagnation

until the business becomes less valuable or even worse,


If you find yourself here or you think your story is likely

headed down a similar road, I offer you a third option.

Consider selling your business on acquire.com.

Capitalizing on the value of your time

is the smart move at any time.

Acquire.com is free to list.

And they've helped hundreds of founders already.

So go to try.acquire.com/rwip.

And see for yourself if this is the right option for you.

And now, attention.

It feels like attention has become

a currency of its own right, in our digital economy at least,

where the eyeballs go, the wallets follow.

That's common knowledge.

And naturally, we all want a slice of the attention pie.

We all want an audience, be it readers or followers

or customers or supporters.

We want everything.

And we want their attention.

We would do a lot to get that.

And quite reliably, this makes us do things that ultimately

sabotage our efforts.

Today, let's discuss the pitfalls

of gaining attention on social media in the wrong way.

Many strategies can grab people's attention, for sure.

But not all are effective for long-term engagement.

Most are not.

The kinds of things that we can do

to ramp up a lot of short-term visibility,

well, they end up working against our long-term goals.

They don't foster sustainable connections

with your followers.

They just do some quick stuff.

And chasing virality, as an example,

is one of the most common attention mirages.

We try coming up with the funniest and most quotable


And we hope for thousands of likes and retweets.

And many Twitter users have seen quite an influx of new followers

after striking gold with a viral tweet.

So it works.

But then, their followers all turn their backs on them

over the next few days and weeks.

Audience growth turns into a net negative.

The reason why people followed you in that case

was an outlier, a lucky guess that grabbed their attention.

They came for more, but they got something else.

They got more attempts, feeble attempts,

at recreating that one lucky tweet.

The people that follow you for a viral tweet

are very different from those who

follow you for the sustained efforts

that you put into building and empowering

a community around you.

A viral tweet attracts short-term gain seekers.

A public history of having shown up every day for months

and months, that attracts long-term thinkers.

And those are the ones that will stick with you,

because they are the ones that will introduce new opportunities

into your journey.

They will get more people to look at what you have to offer.

That's what long-term thinkers do.

Short-term thinkers, they only look

at what they can get in that moment.

And they want more of that, more of that.

And that's it.

Long-term will create more opportunities.

And those opportunities tend to be delayed.

Trusting someone enough to share a new product or a service

with your friends, that takes a while.

Trust is very slowly built and often quite quickly lost.

And one common mistake that audience builders make

is relying on transactional attention.

That's where you lose trust.

Here, people interact with you expecting a return interaction,

some kind of quid pro quo.

And there's nothing wrong with transacting with people online.

Let me just get this out of the way.

If you sell stuff, that's a transaction.

If you give somebody something, they give you something back,

that's a transaction.

Happens every day.

And some degree of transactionality

exists in all human relationships,

like buying something from a store.

But it shouldn't dominate our interactions online,

because we're not limited to a short time windows where

we want our customers to fill their carts to the brim

with our wares.

That's old store thinking.

We don't need people to buy as much as possible

while in our store.

Our store is the whole internet.

And people don't just spend five minutes there.

They'll be back.

They'll be back later today.

They'll be back tomorrow, maybe in a week, a couple of months.

They will return.

You don't need to cram it all into this one interaction,

because then it becomes a transaction.

What matters more than average cart size

is people coming back for more reliably, for more insights,

for more help, and one day more purchases.

I'm not saying you shouldn't sell things.

Let me just be very clear here.

A successful connection with people

that often combines transactional aspects

with relationship building efforts.

You must provide something valuable, something meaningful,

to be able to create loyal customers who then recommend

your brand and contribute to its growth over time.

But you don't need to shove it down their throats.

There's the difference.

Shoving down their throats,

that's not a trust building exercise.

In fact, I think it erodes all sense

of you wanting to actually build a connection in them.

They will see it as a transaction, because it is,

and then they're just not gonna want

to build a relationship with you.

Many founders and creators fall into the trap

of focusing on those immediate gains

because of their measurability.

It's so easy to measure something that happens immediately.

Much harder to measure something that may happen tomorrow

or a year from now.

And this leads Twitter audience builders

to run things like giveaways every week.

And they seem to work, right?

They attract a lot of attention,

but it's yet again, attention of a poisonous kind.

Giveaway participants tend to be interested

only in potential winnings,

rather than genuinely being interested

in your brand or your products.

They come for the free MacBook that you offer.

They don't come for you or your personal brand

or the things that you do.

Just because it's easy to track conversions

doesn't make it a long-term strategy

that fosters relations beyond the sale.

In fact, it destroys them.

Another pitfall is offering things for free way too often.

Just like making things cheaper,

throwing your work out there for free,

that attracts followers who believe

to deserve valuable items without cost.

It shouldn't be surprising that these people rarely convert

into paying customers down the line,

because all they look for is free.

And when you're followed by people who only want free,

they will invite more people who think the same way.

And more importantly, I think they will voice

their expectations when they interact with you.

They will resent having to pay money

whenever you talk about compensation or pricing.

And their dissent will be widely noticeable.

It will be very public,

'cause these people, they really will tell you

what they don't want,

which is to pay any kind of money for anything.

And this is not the kind of reply

you wanna invite into the activity feeds

of your followers, your future customers, your prospects.

Generally, I think you need to be careful

around curating the conversational tone

and topics in your feed.

And the price thing I was just mentioning,

that's one of them.

But every other thing also counts towards this,

because what goes around comes around.

Or as we Germans say,

(speaking in foreign language)

which means whatever you yell into the forest

will be reflected back at you from inside the forest.

Because you have to avoid negative sentiment attention.

That's an important part.

And it's surprisingly easy.

Just don't be negative.

If you don't want people around you to be negative,

and if you don't want your feed,

the thing that other people also get to see

around you to be negative,

just don't be a negative person on Twitter or social media.

Polarizing opinions.

These things invite negativity or vitriol

onto your feed reliably.

And this tends to attract more people who are inclined

toward argumentative exchanges to be negative.

And you know who I'm talking about, right?


And even worse,

this kind of activity will repel

potential positive minded followers.

I personally mute people who are too edgy

and constantly stir up controversy in their feeds.

I don't engage with them too much

'cause I just mute them after a while.

And I don't want that stuff crossing my path.

But do you know what?

I would actually like to read,

well, stories, real stories of struggle,

overcoming the odds, empowerment, and kindness.

That's the stuff I wanna see and will interact with.

And by doing that,

I surround myself with people who think the same way.

I find positive people

because I interact with positive people.

I avoid negative people because, not a big surprise,

I avoid any kind of negativity if I can avoid it.

So aim for relational attention.

Focus on long-term relationship building.

That's really what this is.

Don't think about short-term stuff.

Think about how you can foster a long-term,

meaningful long-term win-win relationship with people.

And most of the ideas that people tell you

about audience building will immediately

be disqualified from this, right?

Try to get people to give you a lot of money right now.

What kind of relationship is that gonna build?

Not a good one.

And people will see this.

They will see other people saying,

well, I didn't want that.

And they will see you actively pursuing it.

You really don't want to be this person in public.

Be kind, be inviting, and seek value-based attention

that recognizes the worth of what you offer.

Look for positive conversations

that project hopefulness and kindness

around your personal brand.

And remember that everything you say or do

influences how social media algorithms show content

to users and ultimately, whether they choose to follow

or engage with you over time or not.

Building lasting relationship lies

at the heart of audience development efforts

and understanding what kind of attention

surrounds your personal brand becomes incredibly crucial.

You have control over what you say

and whom you attract in all of this.

So do that intentionally.

It turns out that most of the wrong kind of attention

that I've been talking about here comes from a misalignment

between your long-term goals

and people's short-term interests.

Keep that in mind when you talk about yourself

and your work on social media.

You're honestly the best way to deal with this.

Be the person you want your followers to be,

and they will become your followers.

And more of them will join you and your brand.

And that's it for today.

Thank you for listening to the "Bootstrap Founder."

You can find me on Twitter at avidcar, A-R-V-I-D-K-A-H-L,

shout out to acquire.com for sponsoring this.

You'll find my books and my Twitter course there too.

And if you want to support me in the show,

please subscribe to my YouTube channel,

get the podcast in your player of choice,

and leave a rating and a review

by going to ratethispodcast.com/founder.

Any of this will really help the show.

Thank you very much for listening,

and have a wonderful day.

Creators and Guests

Arvid Kahl
Arvid Kahl
Empowering founders with kindness. Building in Public. Sold my SaaS FeedbackPanda for life-changing $ in 2019, now sharing my journey & what I learned.
235: The Bad Kind of Attention
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