Did you know that having a core tribe of super fans is the key to success for getting more views on YouTube? In this week's episode of TubeTalk we discuss how to grow this invaluable community with Pat Flynn.
Super fans are the key to getting more views and subscribers on YouTube. Why? Because they absolutely love your video content, and will go out of their way to recommend you to their friends and colleagues. But how do you find such a superfan? How do you build that community? How do you build that tribe? Well, if you're looking to build a successful business and you want answers to these questions, today's episode of TubeTalk, the YouTubers podcast, is especially for you. You will learn:
Why building a tribe of YouTube super fans will future-proof your success
How to turn a YouTube viewer into a super fan
Why creating content for super fans will help your brand grow
Why a hard-core following of super fans is more valuable than thousands of unengaged subscribers
Today I have one of my personal favorite people on the show. His name is Pat Flynn, and for the one person who doesn't know who Pat is, well, Smart Passive Income should ring lots of bells. He owns several successful online businesses and is a professional blogger, keynote speaker, Wall Street Journal bestselling author, and host of the Smart Passive Income and AskPat podcasts, which have earned a combined total of over 55 million downloads, multiple awards, and features in publications such as The New York Times and Forbes. He is also an advisor to ConvertKit, LeadPages, Teachable, and other companies in the digital marketing arena.
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Why Super Fans Can Get You More YouTube Views: Full Transcript
Pat Flynn: I'm excited to be on TubeTalk. Thank you for having me, and you know, listening to that sort of list of stuff, I'm like, "Wow, maybe I'm doing too much." I don't know.
Liron Segev: No, this is only the stuff I could remember. I mean, Smart Passive Income really got my attention. When did you make the move, thinking, "Oh, I need to teach this stuff. I need to share this stuff. I need to do something with content." What was that thought like?
PF: Yeah, it was actually out of a successful online business that I created any architecture space. I actually went to school for architecture, thought I was going to be a lifelong architect and those were my dreams, and then in 2008, I was laid off from a very good job that I actually loved and I had no idea what I was going to do next.
I got involved with a group of people who had a podcast, actually, who had some courses and some good knowledge to share to help people who were sort of aspiring entrepreneurs, and I decided to take some knowledge I had about an exam that I took called the LEED Exam. Very, very specific, very little tiny world of the architecture space, but it was an exam that I took that I knew was very difficult, and I also knew there wasn't much out there in terms of support.
So I decided to create a website and help people. I spent maybe 12 to 16 hours a day, sometimes even more, not just putting blog content on my website, but also being involved in forums and talking to people and just answering questions. And, little did I know, I was becoming this sort of go-to person in that space and I launched a study guide. I sold it for $19, and it was just through a simple PayPal sort of thing and another tool called E-junkie that would allow a person to have it be delivered to them via email after purchase. In that first month after launching at the end of 2008, I had made $7.908.55 from a $19 ebook.
And I was just like, "Wow, this is like ..." First of all, I thought the FBI was going to come and break down my doors because it just didn't seem ... Like, how did this even happen? Google picked up on my website. A lot of people started to share it and it just became the go-to resource, and so it was after that success and seeing that I was making more money doing this than I was with architecture, I was like, "Oh, I got to share this." So I started smartpassiveincome.com to show people how this all happened and what I learn and what I wish I did differently.
Then over time, I started to build new businesses. A lot of them you mentioned, and just sharing the entire process along the way. I also did something that was ... I wasn't the first to do this, but I was, I think, one of the most well known, is I shared exactly how much money I was making and exactly where it was coming from in each of these businesses, which inspired a lot of people, and now, like you said, I do a lot of keynote speeches. I've written books before, self-published but still bestsellers, and I have this new one coming out and I'm just so blessed to have the opportunity to help more people and pay it forward, which is really where all this is coming from.
The reason it's called Smart Passive Income, and the passive income part is because even though that's the last step of the process, like I always am upfront with people and say, "You know, this business stuff is not easy. It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of failures and mistakes, but the whole reason to do it is because you can get some time back. You can build these businesses and invest that time upfront so that these things can start working for you instead of the other way around.
You know, I have two kids and I can spend most of my time with them. I have a team who helps me run the businesses and just allows me to do a lot of fun things like this new invention or write books and be on your show and all that cool stuff. So, that's kind of how we got to where we are today.
LS: So we could kind of jump a little bit on something that's close to my heart, personally. It's that SwitchPod, and I just want to touch on that for a simple reason that it's physical. Everything else that you've done has been online, has been a downloadable course. You've got a podcasting course, you've got affiliate marketing ... I mean, you've got all of those online courses and now you've gone physical. How did that happen?
PF: So, my buddy Caleb and I (Caleb is my videographer for my YouTube videos and my courses), and we attended VidSummit in Los Angeles and we were invited to go, and it was a great conference, but we noticed one thing that was really interesting while we were there is that everybody had these GorillaPods. A lot of you are very familiar with the GorillaPod, I'm sure, and it's an amazing tool.
It's a tripod that has flexible legs that can wrap around poles and trees and allow you to do a bunch of things. And we just thought it was kind of interesting because, you know, vlogging has sort of picked up steam and Casey Neistat and Peter McKinnon helped push that forward and they sort of ... The GorillaPod has become the vlogger's tool for sort of bending it in a way such that your camera's a little bit further away. You get that wider angle view and it's somewhat portable, but it was really interesting because we were there and everybody had them, but everybody was struggling with them.
Like, kind of opening them, closing them, bending them to the right position and then reopening them again to put them down. And we were like, "Wow, there's got to be a better way. Like, nobody's invented something to help these people?"
So we did research and all we found was just people upset at their GorillaPod for this solution that it actually wasn't built for. So, right at this moment, another person came by who I had interviewed on my podcast. His name is Richie Norton from a company called Prouduct, and it just must have been fate or something, because his company helps entrepreneurs take ideas for physical products and actually make them happen.
And so, Caleb and I were like, "Richie, come here, we just noticed this thing and we have this idea. What do you think of this tripod that does this instead, and it's built for vloggers specifically and it doesn't bend around poles and trees, because I've never done that, and most people we talk to don't ever use that capability?" And he was like, "Let's do it, let's build it." And we were like, "Wait, really? Let's actually do it?" Because I can't tell you how many times I've come up with ideas just on the go and I'm like, "Oh, it'd be cool to do that, but nah, I'm not qualified" or "Nah, I don't know even how to get started."
And he's like, "Just cut out cardboard. Just start, just start." Just do something to get your hands onto something to get you to the idea of like, "Okay, well, what might this thing look like? How might it work?"
And over time, you know, a couple months went by, we had cut out things in cardboard and we sent our drawings and sketches to his team, and his engineer, Cole, gave us a CAD drawing of something that seemed like it would kind of be cool. And we're like, "Okay, where do we go from here?" And he's like, "You know what? There's these places all around the world that you can go to now and give them your CAD file, and they can 3D print that in plastic so you can actually get a feel for it." And we're like, "Okay."
So, a couple of weeks go by and we get this shipment, and it's our first working prototype. And the way the SwitchPod works, it just ... I know everybody's listening to this right now, but if you imagine the legs of a tripod, if you fold the legs into each other to create one sort of handle and it has like grips for your hands. That's how it works, and then you can unfold it back into tripod mode.
I mean, this thing, people saw the Kickstarter campaign earlier this year and it made over a half million dollars, or just about a half million dollars, about 5,000 backers, and thank you for being one of them. And people go, "Wow, that took off so fast," but I mean, people don't hear about the story behind it, which was like six months of prototyping and failures, but here's the thing that worked the best.
We found a problem, and in this little world of vlogging, it's a big problem because the GorillaPod's hard to travel with. It's not as easy to work with. Some people who aren't vloggers, they see the SwitchPod and they're like, "That's the dumbest thing I've ever seen. Why would I use that?" And we're like, "You wouldn't use it. Go get a GorillaPod because you actually do wrap things around trees," but for people who specifically are vloggers who want to open and close their tripod, this is the solution they've been waiting for. And it's only that because throughout the entire process we would build something that wasn't fully working yet or to what we thought it would be, and we shared it.
We went to conferences like VidCon, and VidSummit again a year later, and many other places where YouTubers existed, and we just handed it to people and go, "What do you think?" And we just watched them play with it and we would watch their reaction and we'd ask them questions like, "Would this be useful to you? How much would you pay for it? Would you travel with this?" They created it for us to create back for them. You know? And that's how it became the perfect solution for vloggers and why it's just getting so much buzz right now.
And it's really cool because now even retailers have come onboard to want to get their hands on it as well. B&H Photo has it, Adorama has it, and it's just like, "How did we, like without any experience doing a physical product before, how did we do this?" We did it because we, number one, connected with the right people who knew how to do it, and that's I think a big thing that a lot of people who want to start something, they go, "Oh, I don't know how to do this," or "I can't do it."
Well guess what? There's people out there who spent years trying to figure this out who can help you and get it done faster for you. Some of them put their content online, some of them put their content in books. Some of them are resources that you could connect with in person, and that's exactly what we did. And then the prototyping phase, trial and error, keep going. Trial, error, keep going. Trial, error, keep going. And that's the same pattern I use for my digital products.
It's a little bit longer in the physical product space, and I'll tell you, this project, the SwitchPod, made me appreciate way more all the stuff in digital for sure.
LS: What I do love about your two stories here, and the trend that I've picked up with you, is that you've always identified a niche. So you went after a problem. So with the GorillaPod and vloggers, that was a problem and it was a limited problem. It was only limited to that community, but same as your architectural exam issue, it was limited to a certain small community, but it was still a problem that they were having and they'll continuously have. So vloggers are going to continuously having issues with their GorillaPod.
90% of us who use the GorillaPod never have wrapped it around anything, but the idea of being able to have something that's slick and quick and I can just open it and close it, that's sold. So you've identified the problem, you've spoken to the consumer who's going to be actually using the product, ultimately, and therefore, they have led you on that design route to get you through the end results. Cannot love this even more if I tried.
PF: You said it better than I could.
LS: All right, so now you've got the physical product, you've got these courses going, and then now you're thinking, "It's time for yet another book." So what inspired this idea that now is the time to get this thing done?
PF: mean, there's a lot of things. It's a bunch of things happening all at once that inspired me to write this, and it ties back into my architecture website, but also where we are now in social media, especially on YouTube. You have subscribers, you have followers, even people who hit that bell icon, yet they're not able to see you. It's kind of ridiculous how much, even though we have fans and followers, we're still not able to reach everybody.
But the truth is, if a person loves you so much and is just obsessed with what you do in your art, in your creations, no matter what they're going to take time to go and consume whatever it is that you have and even become a customer, or a repeat customer. This is where the idea of super fans comes into play. And this really comes from where I think businesses should be focusing nowadays because technology's changing, social media is changing, but the truth is, no matter what happens in technology, you're super fans are people who just love you and what you do. They're going to be with you no matter what happens and this is how you build a future-proof business.
As much as people are worried about search engine optimization on YouTube and Google and paying for ads and getting in front of new audiences, that's all fine, but what happens when people finally get there? We're not focusing on how we can provide those experiences once people come to us and find us to elevate them into superfan status so that they can, not only become fans of ours and repeat customers and ambassadors for our brand, but through that they're going to grow our brand for us from the inside out, and bring new people in with their recommendation, which is going to be much stronger than you paying for ads for somebody cold who doesn't know who you are to try and convince them to come into your brand. So, when you build for super fans, your brand will grow on its own.
It reminds me of back in the architecture website, which is still alive today. I honestly spend maybe two hours, three hours a year just making sure it's fine. It's kind of ridiculous and it still makes a few thousand dollars a month now. But, when I was first starting out in 2009, after a couple months of success with that website, I got an email from a woman. Her name is Jackie, and she was just like raving about how the prep guide that I created helped her.
She's like, "I've studying for years and I couldn't pass this exam. It was just like a knife on my back every time. I couldn't get rid of it and finally I found your guide and I passed in two weeks. Thank you. Can I take you and your family out to dinner? Can we go to Disneyland together? You helped me get a promotion and all this stuff." And it was just like, "Wow, this is incredible that I'm able to help somebody this much with just passing an exam," but then at the end of her email, she was like, "I'm a huge fan, Jackie." And I was like, "A huge fan? How could you be a fan? All I did was help you pass an exam. Like, you're a fan of me? Okay."
I just kind of let it go until a couple months later I checked my customer list and I found out that there were like 35 different customers who all had the same sort of end of an email address like hers. They were from the same company and she apparently told her boss and convinced everybody in her office to buy my guide too. And it's just like that one person who got a little bit of help and extra attention to help her with her major problem in this little world of the LEED exam, like you were talking about earlier, she then went on to help spread the word and get me 35 more customers.
She could have easily just been like, "Hey, everybody, get my ebook that I bought and you don't have to pay anything," but she made sure that I got rewarded for that. And just imagine if you had just a 100 Jackies in your YouTube?
This takes me to an article that was written by a man named Kevin Kelly. I often recommend this as required reading for anybody, any entrepreneur, creator, because Kevin Kelly wrote this article called a 1,000 True Fans and when we talk about how big do we need to grow? If you just have a 1,000 true fans, those fans who are going to watch every single video even if they don't get notified for it. They're going to travel eight hours to hang out with you at a little meetup that you put together. Those are your super fans.
If you imagine they pay you $100 a year for whatever your craft is, which isn't very much, that's less than $10 a month. Maybe they're on Patreon but $100 a year times a 1,000 true fans. There's your six-figure business right there and just shows you that you don't have to create a blockbuster hit to have some amazing success.
That ties directly and perfectly into what you said earlier about, you know, I'm not building something that changes the entire world. The LEED exam, like most people don't even know about. The SwitchPod, like most people in this world couldn't care less about it, but for those little micro-worlds where that thing is solving their problem, that's everything to them. And because of that, you're able to stand out to reach them more, you're able to have less competition, and then from there you can even branch out.
And if I was smarter and had more confidence back with my architecture website, I would've then created the next steps. I never did that. Like, after you pass this exam here, now take these tests, now take these tests, and I didn't do that. But I wouldn't have had the opportunity if I didn't start small.
LS: And it wasn't about numbers. And I think that's kind of the big misconception is that people from the outside look at this YouTube world of ours. They're looking at where we're living ... and it's all a numbers game. You know, you can only make money when you get a million subscribers. And that's all nonsense. I mean, I did my first brand deal with Samsung. Gosh, back in the day, I had less than a 1,000 subscribers on YouTube, but I could offer them value. I could give them a return on their investment. I can help them with their funnels.
They weren't buying me, they were buying access to my audience, which listened to what I had to say. But as soon as you realize that, then the numbers are irrelevant because a blog could have a 100 views or a YouTube channel could have a 100 views on a video, but if those 100 people, like clicking on that affiliate link, and they're buying your stuff, that's more than the AdSense is going to pay until you get to your AdSense. But, stop focusing on that $4.95 on AdSense, focus on building a brand, building a business. Everything else will come. Right?
PF: Even if it was one person of that 100 who paid for a coaching program, I mean, that's going to be months of AdSense right there perhaps. Did you hear that story about that Instagramer? She had two million followers on Instagram and she was selling a T-shirt and she only sold 26, and she was really upset about it. It kind of went viral and it's just like, "I bet you there's some people with 26 followers who could sell a hundred shirts."
LS: Completely. One of our previous episodes here is with a company called Crowdmade and they supply some of the largest YouTubers with their merch, and he was saying exactly the same thing. It's amazing how many six-figure YouTube subscribers who've got millions of subscribers cannot sell merchandise because they haven't made that connection with their audience. But smaller YouTubers have made such a great community they hang on to every one of their words. When they say go buy this, they do. So, it's not the size.
Do you find that there's a line somewhere between oversharing, but oversharing in terms of giving away too much on an open platform, and then when you want to sell somebody a course, it becomes a bit of a harder challenge?
PF: I don't. And there's an argument here obviously, because if you share the whole thing then why would people pay to get kind of the same thing? But they wouldn't, they're almost paying you back for all the value that you've given them. And if you build super fans, they're going to feel bad if they aren't supporting you. Right? And that's not why you build super fans to make people feel bad, but, it's a byproduct.
If you look up how to start a podcast on YouTube, I'm number one, currently, which is really cool, but I also sell a podcasting course, which discusses a lot of the same things, but I do go into a little bit more detail but I also offer office hours every week for all my students. You know, where there's customer support and you can get your questions answered in a Facebook group, and there's community and accountability there. But even though it's like the same material, people go through that and they go, "Wow, I've gotten so much here, I'd love to join the community and let me buy your course for 100's of dollars. But whenever they share it, they might share either, but either way, people are getting to see my style.
And I think, yes, you could argue again, "Oh, you want to give away 80% of it and then leave the 20% sort of behind a paywall," and that just never sits right with me because then you're doing it for the wrong purpose. For me, if your whole goal is to make money, you're already going to lose.
Your whole goal should be to serve people so well they can't help but want to pay you for it. But, of course, a lot of people serve people really well and aren't getting paid anything, and I think that's where marketing has to come into play. A lot of people see me give away everything and other people give away everything too, but then they don't have opportunities for people to pay them back. They don't put affiliate links in there. They don't have the courage to ask for people to pay for things when it's worth paying for because they're scared. And that's a whole other topic and conversation about, you know, the fact that you can serve and sell, or sell and serve at the exact same time.
I want to give so much and it's always come back to me in some way, shape or form. Even if it's not a direct monetary giveback. Sometimes it's a recommendation to somebody who could influence the business in some way or just, you know, a testimonial or just a thank you, even. And that goes a long way.
LS: Circles back to building that tribe. How important is that for us, as YouTubers, as creators or perhaps maybe we're still blogging, which I am, I don't think blogging is dead yet, but how important is that for us to kind of build that community, that tribe?
PF: I mean, it's everything. It's an insurance policy. It is your connection to who it is that you serve. It is where you will understand what you should be doing next, what videos to create, what products to create. That all comes from the people that you're serving. If you ever tried to build a business on your own and you're hiding behind your keyboard and you're not talking and having conversations and doing research on what those problems are, well then you're just guessing. And when you have that community, you no longer have to guess.
Not only that, you're going to understand exactly who you are building or creating for and your material will be that much more real. It'll be that much more authentic. It'll be that much more just on the nose for what those people need and will position you more as an authority, as an expert and gets those people to be confident enough to share you with their friends and family and other communities who also have the same problems that they know you an expert for. And it just kind of snowballs from there, which is really great.
The truth about it is that, you know, when you're trying to build a community and generate super fans ... I mean, they're not created overnight. You don't listen to a song and then immediately you're a fan of that band for the first time after you listened to the song. It takes many moments. It takes multiple listens of that song and digging into their album and then going to the concert and then getting into the VIP area and then going backstage and then getting a handshake and then maybe they say your name and "Oh my God, now you're a fan" and you have all the action figures and bobbleheads related to that person, or whatever. Right?
It's moments over time and this is why a lot of people are only focusing on those initial moments and even failing in that, but not like, "Okay, how do we bring them up into the community? How do we make them feel like they belong? How do we give them a voice? How do we make them want to continue to stick around and speak to each other and find each other?" Because once people find their people, I mean, you know the communities and groups stick together based on similar interests and you are the facilitator. You are the group owner, you are the YouTuber. The person who has that power to do that and many people are just not even seeing the opportunities that are right in front of them.
LS: Pat Flynn style, step-by-step. Let me hold your hand and walk you through this process.
PF: It is literally that. That's my style and it's easy, but it's powerful, and it's something that I am so behind right now in terms of all businesses, whether you are a sole YouTuber, just sharing your little makeup lines that you buy at Walmart on video and you just have a couple 100 subscribers, or maybe you are the owner of a Fortune 500 company.
It's so important to build for these fans and create these experiences and this book will go from the moment people find you, how do you trigger them to come into your brand and be an active subscriber in some way, shape or form? And then, having them become an active subscriber, because just because you're a subscriber doesn't mean you're playing the game, right?
The analogy I like to use is when I was a kid, I was very short. I was five feet tall my senior year of high school. So, I was a shrimp. But, my friends were taller and they all play basketball. So, they were nice, they invited me to play with them, but I was always last picked and I never got past the ball and I never got to shoot the ball. Therefore, even though I was on the court, I never felt like I was on the team.
And, as a business, as a creator, you need to make people feel like they're a part of the team, right? Allowing them to get the ball every once in a while. To have a voice, to have a say in the direction or to be able to speak up and be seen and be heard. And then from there, there's a lot of things that I think a lot of people are losing the opportunities down on to go from the community to then become a super fan.
And sometimes the community, naturally people will become a super fan, but there's a lot of things you can do in there to make people feel really special and to have them really grasp a hold of you and what you do. I mean, I'm at a point now in my business where I can tweet or share a Facebook message that I'm going to be at a restaurant somewhere and I'd love to meet people and then all of a sudden there's been like a 100 people there, and it's just ridiculous.
And I'm just a regular person. Right? And like in this little small space. The same thing was happening with my architecture website. The same thing's happening with the SwitchPod now in video space, which I wasn't totally a part of before. But man, and like we all have that capability and it's just, you know, I think people just need a little bit of direction and that's what I'm here for.
LS: And it is a step-by-step. So, whether you have a small audience or like virtually no audience, is that still a good time to kind of pick this up and maybe set yourself up for success?
PF: Oh, 100%. I mean, you're going to be way ahead of the game on your competition or your future competition because they're not going to be doing these things. And I think the other part about this is because it's not so centric on keyword research and SEO, which of course, like I said, are still important, but it's fun. This building of super fans is so much fun and it adds a lot more flavor into the business from your end. And when you're having fun, guess what? Your audience, your viewers, your subscribers are going to have fun. Your community's going to have fun, and it's a win for everybody.
So, I just appreciate you allowing me to share this and, as you can tell, I get really excited about the topic and it's because I've experienced it myself and nothing I share isn't from ... Everything I share comes from my own experience, and it's because I'm just continuing to pay it forward for all the blessings that I've had in my life with, you know ... and I think about getting laid off and honestly it was probably the best thing that could ever happen to me.
LS: Crazy. As we kind of wrapping up with this, obviously we'll have links to everything in the show notes, so nobody will miss a thing. If you could put one message out into the world, be it a tweet that the entire world will see, or a billboard in New York Square, what would that message be?
PF: Your earnings are a byproduct of how well you serve your audience, and if I could have a little sort of symbol underneath it would read "serve first" and that's what I live by. That's what has helped me become successful and that's what I teach others, is to serve first because you will be rewarded. Nobody's ever been poor by helping others.
LS: Well, there we go. That was very, very powerful. I've got a bit of goosebumps. I'm not going to lie. Okay, that was awesome. Pat, what have you got going on? Obviously, you've got the book going on, let us know where we can find you. What's the best way to stalk you online?
PF: Yeah, no, thank you. So I'm @PatFlynn on most places online, including on YouTube as well. But if you would like to get your hands on super fans ... If you happen to hear this before August 13th, which is the launch date, you can pre-order it and submit your receipt at yoursuper fans.com and if you do that, I'm going to give you the audio book for free. So again, that's yoursuper fans.com, just put your receipt there. You can pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and even Target as well. It doesn't matter where. Just submit your receipt at yoursuper fans.com before August 13th and thank you again for all the support for that. And then my main website at smartpassiveincome.com.
The other thing with the SwitchPod like we talked about, which may be of interest to your audience after discussing that today, and again, thank you for allowing me to share that story. It's always fun to think about how long and crazy this journey has been. But switchpod.co is where you can see it and check it out and it's going to get in people's hands ... It's going to get in your hands by end of August as we promised, or early September if everything else goes to plan.
So, by then it'll be available with additional inventory that we have but for right now it's still available for pre-order on Shopify on our website at switchpod.co but our backers are going to get at first because they deserve it.
LS: I am definitely a superfan. Definitely excited to get the book and also extremely excited to get my hand on that SwitchPod. Pat, thank you very much for your time.
Liron Segev, aka TheTechieGuy, is the Director of Customer Success at vidIQ, an internationally celebrated Digital YouTube Strategist working with some of the largest brands and YouTube influencers in the world. Over the past 20+ years, his work has taken him to South Africa, the UK and the US where he frequently speaks at conferences and provides expert tech commentary for various print publications, radio, and TV while actively running his Tech YouTube Channel.