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The Embedded Entrepreneur (Arvid Kahl) – Book Summary, Impressions and Highlights

Buy the book here – Print Kindle

⭐ Impressions

This book is such a banger. If I had to recommend one book on how to find ideas to start a business and build an audience, it’d be this one. There’s lots of $1000 business courses and typical Gumroad “How to Grow Your Twitter Audience” eBooks that are all encapsulated in this book for like $20. This isn’t one of those books that talks about everything at a high-level either; it actually goes into specifics (i.e. what tools you should use, what specific questions to ask people if you want to find out their problems etc.).

The most valuable, slept-on sections in the whole book are probably the chapters on Communities/Platforms, Valuable Content and Creating a Twitter Schedule. They’re absolute gold-mines; you’ll learn the secrets of how you can successfully engage with different types of communities, gain access to private groups, use special tools to gain insights on your audience/communities, create various types of valuable content and what a winning Twitter schedule (with tips on how to automate it) looks like. Also the chapters about the Audience Audition and Warning on Validation (and why invalidation is better) were crazy insightful for someone who’s new to building an audience and business. Can’t rate this book highly enough!

Note that it doesn’t actually tell you how to build the business (that’s a topic for another book entirely). Its focus is on helping you discover how to concretely find out what people want so you can build a business around that RATHER THAN just building a product based on what you guess people want. But honestly, once you know what people want, building a business is easy.

🚀 TL;DR – the book in 4 bullet points

  • The most common strategy to build a business is to take the Product-First Approach – come up with a good idea first and trust you’ll find someone to sell to later – but this is risky and involves more guesswork
  • This book is focused on the Audience-Driven Approach – define your idea AFTER you choose/explore an audience for your business – less risky, builds on validated assumptions of what people actually want
  • Find an audience you care about, has interesting problems, is able to pay for a solution and is large enough to sustain a business → learn more about them by embedding yourself in their communities → find their critical problems by learning what they complain about, ask for help, recommendations, or alternatives for → build a solution to their problems and build your own brand/audience in the process
  • The end result will be a profitable business that’s less risky than the Product-First approach and a personal and professional brand as an expert that endures long after the business does

📑 Short Summary – the book in 5 minutes

  • An audience is everyone who should be interested in you, your business and your products
  • The most common strategy to build a business is to take the Product-First Approach – come up with a good idea first and trust you’ll find someone to sell to later – more risky/more guesswork
  • This book is focused on the Audience-Driven Approach – define your idea AFTER you choose/explore an audience for your business – less risky, builds on validated assumptions
  • Here’s a rundown of the process:
  • Audience Discovery – find the audience you want to serve that fits you best
    • Step 1 – Awareness – Create a list of possible audiences based on your experiences
    • Step 2 – Affinity – Filter the list based on how much you care about them
    • Step 3 – Opportunity – Filter the list based on whether they have interesting problems
    • Step 4 – Appreciation – Filter the list based on whether they are willing and able to pay
    • Step 5 – Size – Filter the list based on whether the market is large enough sustain a business and small enough to deter large competitors
  • Audience Exploration – learn more about/become closer to your chosen audience by embedding yourself in the audience’s communities
    1. Find the community experts, follow them and follow those who engage them
    2. Find breakout communities and follow the conversation
    3. Engage the Engaged – reach out and build relationships with people
    4. Make notes of common themes and complaints
      • For each community, the aim is to answer two central questions:
        • How can you spot problems and challenges in this community?
        • What questions should you ask the members of this community?
  • Problem Discovery – find the audience’s critical problems that you can build a business around
    • Critical problems are painful, cause pain every time they occur, are frequent and recurring and take up non-negligible amounts of time
    • To find an audience’s problems and learn about problem awareness in the community, look for when people:
      • Complain about a pain they feelthey aren’t aware of their problems
      • Ask for helpthey know they have a problem but don’t know of a solution
      • Ask for recommendationsthey know their problem can be solved but don’t know you offer a product
      • Ask for alternativesthey know what you sell but look at the competition
      • Share crude systems they’ve made to solve problems
      • Look to hire someone to solve a problem
  • Audience Building – build a solution to the audience’s problems and build your brand/audience in the process
    • The first goal – building your brand as a trusted domain expert in the community
      • There are three things you need to do to do this:
        • Engage with people – don’t just yell into the void
          • At the start, when you have no followers, do the Audience Auditionput yourself in front of a reputable community member’s existing audience and attract them to follow you as well by proving your value
        • Empower people – lift them up and help them by amplifying their message, boosting their confidence, cementing their reputation or sharing insightful resources
        • Provide meaningful, valuable content regularly
          • For content to be valuable, someone other than you needs to gain something from it i.e. via monetary gain, peace of mind, enjoyment, stimulation etc.
          • You don’t have to be original, you can add value by curating other people’s content – this is great in the early stages to learn what great content is
    • The second goal – build a product/business that your audience needs
      • There is a process to this: learn something from the community → validate the problem → build to solve it → observe the community’s reactions → learn something….
      • While doing this, invite people to follow your journey as a founder and building a product
        • Founder journey – share assumptions and validation strategies, decision-making, failures and struggles, “mind level-ups”
        • Product journey – share milestones and metrics (regularly), big events in the business (good or bad), product growth and feature insights

📕 Chapter summary – the book in 1 hour

Introduction

  • This book is not about ideas, but action – it shares the stories of those who’ve done audience building well and then equips you with the tools/strategies to do it yourself
  • You will learn how to:
    • Discover your future audience
    • Embed yourself in your audience’s communities
    • Extract business opportunities through observation
    • Build a following that will grow your personal and professional brand
  • The focus on people, where they congregate and what they need is called the “Audience Driven Approach” to building a business

THE AUDIENCE-DRIVEN MOVEMENT

  • An audience is everyone who should be interested in you, your business and your products
    • An audience is related but different to a community
      • Audiences extend beyond individual communities, focus on/show up for only you
      • Communities look in all kinds of directions and people show up for each other
  • The term “audience-first” means “build an audience first” before selling them your products
  • The Audience-Driven Approach – define your idea AFTER you choose/explore an audience for your business
    • This makes for less guesswork and wasted resources as you have feedback loops and validation built into your discovery process from day one
  • The Product-First Approach – come up with a good idea first and trust you’ll find someone to sell to later
    • This is delusional and builds on guesswork/unvalidated assumptions – it’s way more risky
    • It assumes that we understand the market, audience, and what they need
  • This book is focused on the Audience-Driven Approach – here’s a rundown of the book/process:
    • Audience Discovery – find the audience you want to serve
    • Audience Exploration and Problem Discovery – learn how to talk to/find ideas from people in your communities
    • Audience Building – create and build products for your audience so you become an expert

AUDIENCE DISCOVERY

  • Unlike the product-first approach, the Audience-Driven Process has validation built in so you take less risk:
    1. Explore which audiences you want to help
      • Validate – make sure the audience is interesting, the right size, has exciting problems and is willing to pay for a solution
    2. Observe that audience and detect their most critical problems
      • Validate – ensure the problem is important, people are looking for solutions and it can’t be easily ignored or delegated
    3. Envision a solution that solves this problem
      • Validate – make sure your solution doesn’t have unintended side-effects and solves their problem without adding additional work
    4. Finally, think of a product/idea
      • Now is the time to think about whether it will be a SaaS/mobile app, etc
      • This way, your idea isn’t guessed/assumed – it is the result of 3 prior validation steps
  • The first step is finding an audience you want to help that fits you best – there is a 5-step process for this outlined in the next chapters
    • The result of the process is a ranked list of audiences you can help
    • Note – you will need a pen/paper or a note-taking app to create a table/spreadsheet

Step 1 – Awareness – Think of possible audiences

  • To think of potential audiences – start with yourself and expand from your inner circle to the outer boundaries of the people you know
    • Ask yourself questions like what hobbies do you have, what issues do you care about, what social circles do you frequent OR revisit your past experiences, explore your surroundings
  • Aim to have a list of 30-100 businesses – don’t worry about having “too many options”
    • You need a solid base to filter down from into a small amount of candidates

Step 2 – Affinity – Find out how much you care about them

  • From your list of audiences, you need to filter out the ones you don’t care about enough
    • You need to want to genuinely help your audience otherwise you’ll lose interest and quit
  • To your audience table, add a new column called “Affinity”
    • For every row/audience – you need to rate them between 0-5
      • 0 = you don’t care about serving this audience at all
      • 5 = you want to devote your life to serving this audience
  • To find out the affinity you have to a particular audience, ask yourself – do you enjoy having conversations with these people, do you find their work meaningful, do you think you’d learn a lot and benefit from working in this niche?
  • When you’re done, move the audiences with affinities of ≤2 to another sheet – these are the ones you don’t care about enough

Step 3 – Opportunity – Find out if they have interesting problems

  • For every row in your audience list, add another 0-5 value column called “Opportunity” – this indicates how interesting the niche’s problems sounded to you
    • 0 = Not interesting at all
    • 5 = The most exciting problem you’ve ever seen
  • To find out if an audience has interesting problems to you**, do the following:**
    • Find a few SaaS products in their space and see what problems they solve
    • Find a community forum or social media group where they hang out and go through recent posts to find problems people are complaining/struggling with
    • Note – spend a max of one hour for each audience in your list – you’re not trying to be an expert but just get a feel for whether it can reliably sustain a business
  • Move the rows that don’t have exciting problems (i.e. ≤2 opportunity value) to another sheet

Step 4 – Appreciation – Find out if they are willing to pay

  • For each audience in your list, look for positive signs of the following:
    • Purchasing agency – can the people you’ll be selling to make their own purchasing decisions? i.e. or do they have to ask a higher-up (like a manager/boss)
      • Will you have to make personal sales or can you automate the process in some way?
    • Budget scope – what kind of budgets do customers in the niche usually have for products/services?
      • Beware of those who complain about solutions being too expensive/should be free
  • For every row in your audience list, take notes and then add another 0-5 value column called “Appreciation” – this indicates how likely they are to pay/budget for a solution to their problem
    • 0 = Not willing to pay money for anything
    • 5 = Plenty of products in the space they regularly purchase
  • Move the rows that don’t have purchasing intent (i.e. ≤2 appreciation value) to another sheet

Step 5 – Size – Find out if this market can sustain a business

  • You need to find a market large enough to sustain your business and small enough not to attract giant competitors (“Goldilocks Zone”) that you don’t have the resources to go up against
  • To find this sweet spot, find the number of customers you need for your desired income:
  • Look for similar products in the industry/adjacent industries for pricing info
    • You’ll never get 100% of the market so have a safety margin – e.g. assume you can convert 10% of the market into paying customers
      • Zoom out or focus more on the niche (if your audience is too small/big) until you find your sweet spot
  • **Other sources of quickly determining market sizes: **social media group user counts, industry reports, trade show fliers etc
  • For every row in your audience list, take notes and then add another 0-5 value column called “Size” – this indicates if the niche is sized right for your bootstrapped aspirations:
    • 0 = Either way too small or way too big
    • 5 = Perfectly sized market
  • Move the rows that aren’t sized well (i.e. ≤2 size value) to another sheet

Tallying the results

  • Create one final row in your spreadsheet that adds up all the point values for each row
    • Sort the whole table by the highest total point value first (or whatever column you prefer)
  • Now you’re ready to choose your audience or do some further research on before choosing

AUDIENCE EXPLORATION

  • Once you choose an audience, you need to learn more about and become closer to them – to potentially detect unsolved problems to build business around

Embedded Exploration

  • To explore your audience, you’ll be taking the Embedded Exploration Approach:
    1. Find and embed yourself in your audience’s communities (Embedded Exploration)
    2. Discover real and painful problems within the communities (Problem Discovery)
    3. Leverage those communities to become a domain expert and reputable contributor (Audience Building)
    4. Collaborate with your audience to create a business
  • During Embedded Exploration (step 1) in a community, you’ll be focusing on:
    • Observing pain, problems and challenges – note down common themes/insights
    • Learning how people communicate – understand jargon, learn what content works best
    • Looking for people who sell successfully – learn how they do it
    • THEN engaging with community members to build relationships
  • Note – in this phase, you’re not selling them anything – just observing and engaging

Communities

  • First, you have to find communities to observe them – ideally try to find five communities to engage your audience actively
  • For inspiration – use community exploration tools like The Hive Index to find initial communities
  • Types of communitiescan be categorized based on purpose and platform
    • Goal-driven communitiesform around a common cause (e.g. social progress)
      • Best way to engage – education and encouraging content is welcomed as is anything that contributes to the cause (like time and resources)
    • Practice-driven communitiesform around a common practice/expertise/job
      • e.g. BaristaExchange, Online English Teachers
      • Best way to engage – share your expertise, ask questions which experts will answer, share progress/publicly document your journey
    • Interest-driven communitiesform around people who like the same things
      • Primary motivation for people to interact here is passion – passion > expertise here
      • Best way to engage – be interested and interesting e.g. discuss, share stories, successes
    • Location-driven communitiesform around people in the same place
      • Best way to engage – do something for someone and you’ll be helped out in return
    • Circumstance-driven communitiesform around people with the same circumstances/problems (e.g. psychological conditions, medical problems)
      • Best way to engage – focus on bonding and supporting members, asking people about their stories
    • Hybrids – no community is purely one of the above categories + communities can change categories over time

The Four Principles of Embedded Exploration

  • The goal of Embedded Exploration is to find as many high quality communities and content locations as possible – you want to end up with a list of communities and an account in each
  • After, you should do the following:
    1. Find the community experts, follow them and follow those who engage them
    2. Find breakout communities and follow the conversation
    3. Engage the Engaged – reach out to people who are particularly active and insightful
    4. Make notes of common themes and complaints
  • For each community, the aim is to answer two central questions:
    • How can you spot problems and challenges in this community?
    • What questions should you ask the members of this community?

Community Platforms

  • This section is on where to find communities (platforms) and what needs to be considered for maximum results
  • Social media communities – usually have a feed/central focus around which conversations/social connections thrive
    • Facebook
      • You can discover interesting groups using the search bar in the Groups section, tools like TargetSnake or messaging people directly on what groups to join
      • You can join the best groups (usually invite-only) and extremely well moderated by:
        1. Preparing a compelling/honest message for your request to join
        2. Be clear you’ll be an observer/student not a marketer
        3. Show that you’ve been part of similar communities in the past
      • Note – Facebook is designed for real-life connections not virtual ones – so consider Facebook a research/observation-only place, not for connecting
    • Twitter
      • There’s no distinct groups on Twitter (unlike Facebook) – to observe a community, you have to follow and interact with as many community members as possible
      • To follow the full extent of accounts from the community:
        • Start with the influencers and follow people they interact with and then follow the people they interact with and so on
        • Use lists (public) – check out influencer’s lists to see who to follow
      • Tips for Twitter
        • The feed refreshes quickly, so take down links to interesting tweets ASAP
        • Observe which accounts create a lot of engagement – what do they share/post?
        • Use Advanced Search to search for valuable content by influencers
        • Use DMs to engage with interesting people – opens up opportunities
      • Questions you should ask members of Twitter:
        • “How do you solve problem X?”
        • “Who else here on Twitter is an expert in this field?”
        • What issues are people complaining about most often? Who is the most vocal advocate for change?
    • Instagram
      • Instagram is very visual and public communities are not well-represented
        • Hashtags are used to categorize content instead and create pseudo-communities
        • Public discussions don’t happen much on IG as they do on text-based social media
        • It’s also very influencer-centric – influencers drive the conversation
      • Private conversations happen through DMs and “Finstas” (fake instagram accounts used to share more vulnerable/intimate content away from the public)
      • Tips for Instagram
        • Find the best insights by finding brands/influencers and following who they follow/interact with
        • The feed refreshes quickly – check for new content + save it regularly
        • Pay attention to stories – creators use it to share vulnerable/”real” content
      • How can you spot problems and challenges in Instagram?
        • Consider the feed as fiction and the genuine interactions between users in comments + stories as truth
        • Find external platforms where influencers talk to communities
      • What questions should you ask members of Instagram?
        • Who else has genuine insights into this community?
        • To influencers – what problems do you see bother the majority of your followers?
        • Where do people who enjoy this content hang out?
    • Pinterest
      • Pinterest is all about inspirational content – people share things they want, like and aspire to – it’s about communicating desires/insights visually
      • Engagement is low – many users use it more as a search engine
      • Users use boards to group similar content (in themes)
        • Follow boards to get exposure to fresh content in your category
    • Cross-community communication
      • Influencers usually funnel their audiences onto other platforms (i.e. private Discord, Slack etc) – where things can happen without the control of the original platform
      • In more closed, private communities – people become more open and talk about things they wouldn’t in public platforms
    • YouTube
      • Main way of bidirectional communication is comments on videos between creators and community members
      • Since video is more complex than image/text – content is less frequent but engagement is higher and so are quality expectations
      • To find similar content – use the recommendation algorithm, find the tags the creator has used on their videos, try playlists and look for who comments on videos
      • What questions should you ask members of YouTube?
        • Which channels have the most insightful content for this industry?
        • Reach out to creators – What kinds of problems do people often suggest you create videos around?
        • Where do people who watch these videos usually hang out?
    • LinkedIn – THE professional social network
      • Join groups where professionals congregate – you need to request access to these
      • Connect with the major professionals in your target audience – they will point you to content/conversations to participate in
        • Start with titans of industry and follow their connections/followers who are most engaged/say meaningful things
        • AVOID recruiters – they aren’t there to engage with you but recruit you for their own purposes
  • Online communities – focused more on subject matter (not a central feed)
    • Reddit – a community hub of subreddits each with their own rules
      • Finding the whole network of a community can be done by joining related subreddits (usually linked in the subreddit’s sidebar) until you can’t find any more
      • Most conversations are held in public comments, with little user-to-user private conversations happening
      • Tips for Reddit
        • Most subreddits have sticky posts – usually of lists of great resources/FAQs
        • Sometimes there are Weekly Advertising posts on subreddits to allow advertisements only in that post – pay attention to solutions being advertised
    • Quora – Q&A platform
      • Best-case – you can just ask questions you want your target audience to answer
      • Worst-case – Quora makes a great research/info archive for problem spaces
        • Search for past questions relevant to your niche – then follow the most prolific responders and see other questions they answered/interview them
      • Follow “Spaces” to show new/relevant questions and discussions/people
    • Slack
      • Slack isn’t just for professionals anymore – it integrates text channels, groups, DMs, voice channels into one platform for any purpose
        • Since Slack is private – people are more open and speak more candidly
      • Tips for Slack
        • Many Slacks are invite-only but you can find links to auto-invite pages if you ask your target audience
        • Threads are great to find what people are struggling with and need deeper discussion on
    • Discord – like Slack but more casual/enjoyable experience
    • Podcasts
      • To find out who to follow in a community, find podcasts in your field and the list of guests they’ve interviewed
      • Build relationships with podcast hosts – they’re involved with the audience community (through interviews/interactions) regularly – let them know what you’re working on
      • How can you spot problems and challenges in podcast communities?
        • Listen to the most recent episodes – figure out which challenges/problems are regularly addressed by multiple guests
        • Find common conversation topics on multiple podcast shows in the same industry
      • What questions should you ask the members of this community?
        • Ask the hosts – Who do you think is the absolute expert to talk to about problem X?
        • Ask the hosts – Where does the community who listens to your show hang out?
        • Ask the community – What’s the most insightful episode of this show for someone who is interested in X?
    • Private online communities – off-the-radar, usually for high-value members only
      • Learn about the requirements to join (and decide if it’s worth your time)
        • Some communities require a lot of participation which might not be ideal for observational purposes
      • Best way to find them
        • Reach out to well-connected experts who you’ve built a relationship with and who trust you
        • Go more private in the community gradually and listen closely
  • Offline-first communities
    • Formal communities – “official”, registered somewhere, have leadership, rules etc
    • Professional associations – e.g. trade associations, guilds and unions
      • These are organised usually around a hierarchy of geographical locations – so you can always find one near your area and connect with many people
      • How can you spot problems and challenges in professional associations?
        • Find the publications and communication nexus of every association – what is being discussed? What are people looking for help with?
        • Reach out to org members with these questions
      • What questions should you ask members of professional associations?
        • Who in this organisation can help me find the experts I need to learn more about X?
        • Is problem X commonly felt by everyone in your community?
        • What institutional roadblocks do you wish would evaporate immediately?
    • Clubs – smaller, local communities (i.e. a local chess club vs International Chess Federation)
      • Usually events are recurring and at the same place – great opportunities to meet your target audience face-to-face
      • How can you spot problems and challenges in clubs?
        • Learn from people face-to-face – ask them about their work, interests, challenges
        • Look for the classifieds where people ask others for things they need
      • What questions should you ask club members?
        • Who of all the members you know personally is the defacto expert on X?
        • What have you done to try and solve problem X?
    • Conferences and shows – huge versions of meetups
      • How can you spot problems and challenges in conferences/shows?
        • Observe relationships between participants – who are the big players and underdogs? Who shows up for every conference and who has disappeared?
        • Look at topics that made it onto the talks/panels – are there common themes?
      • What questions should you ask the members of this community?
        • Who should I talk to right now to learn about the most pressing problems of the industry?
        • Which problems of this industry are not being solved sufficiently by the vendors that are present here today?
        • What do you think people should talk about more?

How To Take Notes In Communities

  • For everything worth writing down, provide Reason, Detail, Context and Followup
    • Reasonwhat makes this useful in understanding my audience better?
    • Detailwhat is the exact content I’m interested in? Can I provide a link/screenshot?
    • Contextwhat was the initial trigger for this content? Is this representative of general opinion or contrarian? Who said this?
    • Followupwhat can I learn from this? Can I reach out to the people involved?
  • But note that note-taking is personal – find a way for your notes to make sense to you

Presenting Yourself To The Community

  • When you’re new to a community – people expect some initial effort after you join
  • First impressions matter – make sure your social media profile has a great description, picture and good content – people will then be intrigued by you and want to build a relationship
  • Learn how thought leaders/influencers in your community present themselves and imitate them

Tracking Influential People Across Platforms

  • You can speed up the recursive community search (for communities within communities) by researching the most influential accounts
  • Influencers usually have accounts on multiple platforms – find all of these and use them to find all the communities where they’re active

The Cardinal Rule of Embedded Exploration: Dwell, Don’t Sell

  • The general rule of every community is – every action taken by a member of the group should benefit all members of the group
    • Don’t critique others’ work without productive feedback
    • All posts should be related to X and should be a question – every post should be a learning and teaching opportunity
    • No personal attacks – criticism is allowed, attacking is not
    • No self-promotion – don’t act for your own benefit
  • “Dwell don’t sell” – be a part of the conversation without making it about your product
    • To be recognised as a domain expert, other people make the choice – you don’t DO anything – it’s about them, not you
    • You want to contribute to and for the community FIRST – not for yourself
    • Sell people on yourself as a person to trust instead of your product/offering

Next-Level Embedding: Get a Job

  • Another approach to Embedded Exploration – get a job in the field you want to learn about
    • By getting a job, you can learn and feel painful problems yourself and gain access to very hard-to-obtain info
  • But it’s a huge commitment – only do it if there’s stuff you can’t learn via mere observation

PROBLEM DISCOVERY

  • Now that you’ve embedded yourself in your target audience’s communities – it’s time to find their problems and challenges that you can build a business around

Properties of an Interesting Problem

  • A “problem” is anything that stands in the way of people accomplishing their goals
  • To find out if a problem is critical or not, look for the following properties:
    • Painful – involve a loss of some sort (i.e. in quality of life, money, time etc)
    • Cause real and measurable pain every time they occur – can’t be ignored/opted out of/delegated – you’re stuck with them until they’re resolved
    • Frequent and recurring – they keep coming back and need to be solved again and again
    • Take up non-negligible amounts of time – can’t be solved quickly
  • Since critical problems are experienced so vividly – people will gladly pay for a solution as long as paying for it is cheaper than continuing with how they solved the problems before
  • Generally, people will pay for a solution if it is critical and saves them time, money or makes them money

The Shape of a Problem in the Wild

  • Note – problem awareness can’t be expected by default – people are often blind to the things that are wrong/problems in their lives just accepting the way things are
  • To categorize the different states of clarity about a given problem, use Eugene Schwartz’s Prospect Awareness Scale
    • Completely unaware – not aware of the problem at all
      • Seen when people complain about a pain they feel
    • Problem-aware – understand they have a problem but unaware that there’s a solution
      • Seen when people ask for help
      • More beginners ask for help – but pay attention to when experts ask for help – these shed light on critical problems even the experts can’t solve
    • Solution-aware – knows their problem can be solved but doesn’t know you offer a product
      • Seen when people ask for recommendations
      • When this happens, take note of which things are most recommended across different questions, who recommends these things, do the recommendations work and how are they monetized?
        • Note – beware if the recommendations are all free
    • Product-aware – knows what you sell but also looks at competition
      • Most likely to ask for alternatives to your products/your competitors’
      • These people have a solution to a pre-validated problem that is not properly solving it
    • Most aware – person knows your product and only needs to be convinced to use it
      • Note – this is not interesting for problem discovery, but important for sales later
  • Other messages that are indicative of a problem
    • People sharing crude systems they’ve made to solve a problem
    • People looking to hire someone to solve a problem

On Budgets and Purchasing Agency

  • Not everyone with a critical problem has the means or intent to pay for a solution
    • E.g. software engineers may have a boss they have to ask before purchasing a tool for the company (they had no budget insight or purchasing agency)
  • If possible – move into markets where budgets for your solutions already exists (i.e. if people are asking for recommendations/alternatives rather than complaints)
  • Observe your audience for who sets the budgets and who makes the final purchasing decisions
    • These are the people you want to talk to if you want to make money

A Warning About Validation

  • No amount of validation can guarantee a successful business
    • A business is always a risk – no matter how much validation you find that indicates success, all it takes is a single counterexample to disprove your “validated” assumptions
  • Try and INVALIDATE your assumptions rather than validating them
    • If you invalidate a theory – great, that’s one less mistake waiting to happen
    • If you fail to invalidate a theory – you have something useful to work on
  • Two things are essential to successful invalidation:
    • Leaving the building – i.e. learning about your customers without involving them
    • Avoiding the wrong questions
      • Everyone loves to show support with words (since they’re cheap) – instead of asking people if they like your idea – get them to talk about their problems
      • Don’t ask yes/no questions – ask qualitative questions to reveal stories
        • Examples – “What problems do you encounter when you try to do X?”, “Which tool are you using more than Y times a week?”, “How often do you run into problem X while you try to do Y?”

Finding the Problems You Want To Solve

  • Once deeply understand one/many problems in the community, you need to decide on one to focus on
    • You can do this by listing all your discovered problems in a table with the columns:
      • Problem (your understanding of what the problem is)
      • Appeared as (was it a complaint, recommendation, request for alternative?)
      • Who had the problem (a link to the user who asked the question or contact details)
      • Date, Link, Notes
    • Then choose a single one

AUDIENCE BUILDING

  • Once you’ve found your ideal audience and discovered their problems, you then have to both build an audience and build for that audience
  • This is the final step and it never ends – it’s also a slow process that takes at least a few months to see meaningful results and produces more value the longer you stick with it
    • But the personal brand you build from this step outlasts any business you create
  • Note – most of the strategic insights from this chapter can work for every audience, but the tactical advice is restricted to the Twitter platform (since the author is most familiar with it)

The Goals of Audience Building

  • The first goal – building your brand as a trusted domain expert in your community
    • You want to have your brand as the “accomplished founder” or “founder on the journey to accomplishment”
      • E.g. in the same way Richard Branson is the Virgin brand
    • Becoming a domain expert is based on trust – which takes time to build
  • The second goal – build a product/business that your audience needs
    • Consider this step to be an ongoing feedback loop at the core of the audience-building process: Learn-validate-build-release-observe and repeat
    • Learn something from the community → validate the problem → build to solve it → observe the community’s reactions → learn something….

The Abundance Mindset

  • Being involved in a community is an act of abundance, not a zero-sum game – you don’t lose anything if you add value to someone else
    • Being exclusive actually reduces the potential impact you can have on others
  • The whole community, not just your potential customers, should be something you support
  • Competition is not a problem in a community – even for attention
    • Attention can be shared and it’s a triple win
      • Win 1 – you get a bit of credit for boosting someone else’s tweet
      • Win 2 – it’s interesting for your followers because they’re interested in what you share
      • Win 3 – the person you amplify benefits from a larger audience

Impostor Syndrome and Building Capital

  • There will be times when you feel like you’re acting more knowledgeable than you are and that there are people more experienced than you so why are you talking?
    • This is impostor syndrome and it happens to everyone on an upward trajectory
  • The key is to accept it, listen to it and then ignore it
    • Remember – real impostors don’t suffer from impostor syndrome
  • People want to follow real people – who are honest, quirky and imperfect
    • So be your true, honest self
    • Anyone who doesn’t like your imperfect self is better off not a part of your audience – since you probably don’t want to interact with them anyway

The Practice of Audience Building

  • Audience building is an active, ongoing process with no end
  • First, you need to deal with your own monkey mind (i.e. distraction, procrastination)
    • To make steady progress, you need to set up systems to allow you to do so
      • The most important system is an Audience Building Schedule
    • You also need to execute your systems – for that it’s recommended you set up an accountability mechanism that works for you
  • Notes on expectations – audience building can be brutal
    • There are days where nothing happens and it feels like you’re talking to a walland other days where a large account picks up your content
      • To weather this rollercoaster ride – be consistent, persistent and insistent
      • Accept that it takes time to see results
        • The Advertisement Rule of 7 – a customer becomes aware of a product only after being exposed to it at least seven times
    • Audience growth isn’t linear but geometric/exponential
      • The bigger your audience, the faster it will grow – since more conversations happen, more people talk to/about you and this exposes you to more people

The Three Pillars of Growth

  • There are three pillars to audience-building growth – they affect your follower count, the quality of your work and the impact it has on your community
    • Engage with people – don’t just yell into the void
    • Empower people – lift them up and help them
    • Provide meaningful, valuable content regularly
  • With these three things, you’ll attract people interested in you, your work and your opinions
    • It needs to happen in public because isolation is not great for engagement

Engagement

  • Out of the three pillars of audience building growth, engagement works right from the start
    • You can always engage with someone, regardless of your follower count
    • Empowering someone requires you to already have a helpful audience
    • Creating valuable content doesn’t work if noone reads it
  • When first starting out, you won’t have much of a following so posting something will get barely any attention
  • It’s recommended that as your first step to audience building – you do the Audience Audition
    • Put yourself in front of a reputable community member’s existing audience and attract them to follow you as well
    • Hunt for attention and gather followers
  • Audience Audition has two parts:
    • Hunting for opportunities to engage
      • You need to find the right venue to show your potential – this usually means an account with a large audience that is likely to be interested in what you have to say
      • Here’s what to look for in a good Twitter Audience Audition candidate:
        • Posts content that gets regular engagement
        • Has a sizeable, but not overwhelming following (that they can’t engage with)
        • Followers are active, positive and supportive
        • Followers consider themselves to be part of a supportive community
        • Follower are eager to invite new voices into their community
      • Find accounts worth engaging with and then add them to a private Twitter list named “Audience Audition” and turn notifications on for new tweets on the list
        • Use TweetDeck and create a column for your private list
        • Now you’ll be ready/one of the first to engage whenever they post something new
          • Being early means your reply is more likely to be read and replied to by others
      • Making yourself presentable – avatar, bio, pinned tweet
        • Your profile should be inviting people to be friends
        • Your profile picture and handle is your visual brand – pick a handle/image you can use for a long time (as it’s how people will get used to and recognize your account)
          • Try and use your full name (rather than a pseudonym) for your handle – it shows professionalism and ownership of your identity (more trustworthy)
        • Your bio should arouse curiosity in people – find a unique combination of the following approaches that works for you:
          • Share what you talk about – e.g. “Tweeting about writing and clear thinking”
          • Share things you are – e.g. “Father, Husband, Entrepreneur, Speaker”
          • Share what you’re working on – e.g. “Building @permanentlink”
          • Make jokes – e.g. “I’m the best designer my mum knows”
        • Having links on your profile to something like a personal website or important project is a good idea – it might convince people to follow you
        • Your pinned tweet should be your best tweet to show social proof
          • You could show your best-performing tweet, your best work, latest project etc
          • Don’t let it go stale/old – people will wonder why it’s still up there after so long
    • Gathering followers by actively engaging with the original author of the tweet and their followers who are responding to it
      • Conversations are at the core of engagement
        • Find your place in a community by contributing and participating in conversations
        • People look for many things in conversations:
          • Help – via complaints or questions
          • Moral support
            • To these – avoid giving actionable advice; instead listen, show empathy and validate the person’s feelings and experiences
          • Distraction – via controversial/polarizing topics
          • Alternative viewpoints – rare but most useful
          • Refining their vague idea into something concrete – people want to test and validate their own ideas by asking the community
          • Sharing their journey – e.g. sharing MRR, customer cancellation emails etc
            • To these – engage and be a team player and foster good community vibes
          • Note – don’t engage in any of these:
            • Fishing for compliments – this is selfish
            • Looking for pity without a way out
            • Clear examples of unreflected cognitive biases/arguments
            • Baiting and trolling
      • What to avoid while you’re engaging in the community:
        • Don’t be needy/desperate – don’t ask people to follow you
        • Don’t spam – i.e. don’t try to be the first reply to ALL of your Audience Audition account’s tweets
        • Don’t condescend, argue or judge – to attract kind/interested people, you have to be kind and interesting yourself
      • What a good Audience Audition tweet looks like
        • Any Audience Audition tweet should add value in one or more of the following ways – Expand, Focus, Syndicate or Invite
          • Expandbring broader insights/perspectives to the conversation (zoom out)
          • Focuszoom into an issue even more to focus on the details, hidden concepts
          • Syndicateexpose the conversation to a bigger audience
          • Inviteexpose/make sure specific experts see this conversation
      • Asking good questions – a good question provides intent and context
        • E.g. asking “Why is that?” is a boring question – it’s 100% demanding without offering any value – it feels careless and disrespectful
        • OOTH “I have experienced similar problems in my job running a SaaS for Frontend Developers. Now that I work with DevOps Engineers, I don’t see as much of that anymore. Why do you think that could be?” is great

Empowerment

  • One way to give back to your audience that follows you as you build in public is to empower them by:
    • Amplifying their message – i.e. by sharing it with a larger or different audience OR endorsing it
    • Boosting their confidence – i.e. by congratulating them for a success OR consoling them when they suffer through failure
    • Cementing their reputation i.e. by inviting them to help someone else as an expert OR calling out the positive impact their actions had on you/your peers
    • Other ways – sharing insightful resources, connecting people with others, celebrating their successes, offering encouragement/lifting people up etc
  • Always consider the abundance mindset when doing these – it costs you nothing and means a whole lot to the people you’re empowering
    • The presence of kindness, altruism and an abundance mindset are what will really help you grow – helping others will make them help you
    • That being said, you want to be kind AND make money – you’re running a business, not a charity – it’s about balance
  • The benefits of empowering other people
    • Making friends – the more you empower others, the more they’ll empower you
    • Building an opportunity surface – setting yourself up to be lucky
      • People unlock opportunities for you, so by connecting to them meaningfully, you increase your ability to be lucky
      • Whenever you help people selflessly, other people take notice and your “luck anticipation battery” charges up
        • Over time this battery fills up and new opportunities present themselves to you because people want to give back/reciprocate as they find you worthy of their support

Valuable Content

  • Producing valuable content is the most reliable way to become a reputable professional
    • For content to be valuable, someone other than you needs to gain something from it i.e. via monetary gain, peace of mind, enjoyment, stimulation etc.
    • Note – don’t become a content spammer and release content 12 times per day
      • Look at other notable people in the community for how often they post
  • Curation as the first step to creating vauable content
    • Curation means finding interesting things that others have created and presenting them to an interested audience
      • Museums, Spotify playlists, art exhibits, libraries and Twitter itself does this – all these places show you things others have done that you might like
    • By curating good content – you can see the best content and model your own content after it – but curation is the first step
      • Curation also prevents you from being overwhelmed at the start of your journey
  • Types of content
    • The Insight – writing content thats insightful, dense, quotable and packs a lot of wisdom
    • The Thread
      • This can take two approaches
        • A longer piece of text split into individual tweets (i.e. creation)
        • A list of interesting resources shaped in a thread (i.e. curation)
      • Tips on creating threads that perform:
        • The first tweet needs to captivate/engage people to read the rest of the thread
        • The last tweet is the launchpad – add any links/CTAs so that people can reciprocrate the value you gave them in the thread
        • Create a noticeable, engaging pace between the first and last tweet
        • You can easily resurrect old threads by adding more tweets to them
        • One idea per tweet – keeps the thread more readable and allows for more quotable individual tweets
    • The Quote – curated insight in the form of quotes from well-known people
      • Note – make sure you attribute the original author of the quote
    • The Observation – quote-tweeting with your commentary on an insight/something someone else wrote
      • Bare minimum – acknowledge the value of the thing you’re quoting
      • Better – add your own experiences/context to the insight
    • The Question – create opportunities for people to learn and engage by asking questions
      • Specific questions will result in reduced engagement but higher quality followers
      • Questions are best used alongside other types of content i.e. a question + an infographic + how-to tutorial can be a base for you to build a thread around
      • Note – just asking questions (or quotes and visuals) all the time makes your account less interesting to follow – your content should be equally varied
    • The Link
      • You can use links to lead to your funnels, blog posts and other interesting content
        • Make sure the link is actually useful to your audience and not just self-promotional – people should want to click the link (sell it well)
      • Note – most social media platforms penalise external links because they want their users to stay on their platform
      • Recommendation – save any interesting links you come across in a spreadsheet/Notion table so you always have interesting links to share at the ready
    • The Progress Update – share what you’re working on, learning and where you’re struggling – easiest when you build in public
    • The Visualization – add value with visuals instead of just text (to yours/other’s tweets)
    • The Shoutout – highlight other people for their contributions to the community
      • The reputational gain the other person gets will always come back to you
        • The other person won’t forget the belief/connections/kindness you showed
        • The other person also increases their “opportunity surface” by gaining access to a new audience (yours)
    • The Follower List – creating a list of accounts to follow in your niche – shouting people out at scale
    • The Report – sharing your takeaways from events like conferences, meetups
    • The Poll – people love voting and seeing how others vote – polls are great for engagement
    • The Meme – funny and break the ice (depending on how much your niche values less than serious content)
  • On re-using content
    • Creating original, valuable content is hard – don’t be afraid to reuse and repurpose your old content to make it more accessible and well-timed
      • Content accessibility – make your content easier to consume/access e.g. make shorter-form content, convert to audio/video/text versions or use a different distribution channel (e.g. a newsletter instead of a blog)
      • Content timing – make sure your audience sees your content at the right time ****
        • The solution to this is to repeat yourself (within reason)
    • You can also curate/reuse other people’s content in original ways to add value
      • Here’s a few ways of adding value to someone else’s work
        • Contextualization – share your commentary/opinions or link to another resource that the original author will appreciate
        • Summarization – you can condense a longer form of knowledge
        • Recommendation – let your audience cut through the noise using your recommendations of lists of resources
    • The flywheel effect – one piece of content can create many more i.e. a blog post can be a newsletter, a podcast, a tweet
      • Then you can cross-link all your re-purposed content which has other benefits
    • Reuse content involving you – any content that involves you (i.e. a podcast episode, guest post on blog etc.) will be interesting to your audience and can be reused
  • What to avoid when creating content
    • Don’t be bland with your content – be your honest, flawed self and let it shine
      • People like to follow real people – not faceless corporations
    • Don’t make it hard for your audience to engage
      • i.e. if you produce 5000 word essays and noone can be bothered reading them, create summary posts or offer audio versions
    • Don’t drown other voices with too much content
      • Stick to the average content you see other influencers in the niche post

Setting Up a Twitter Engagement, Empowerment and Content Schedule

  • Before scheduling, consider two important factors that apply to every audience:
    • Finding enough time for Twitter/building relationships and your primary business
    • Optimizing your content to reach where the majority of your audience is located on the planet and what time are they most active?
  • To cater to these, you should:
    • Set up automation systems to automate anything that optimizes your reach
    • Take the time to do things manually that increase your connection
  • Arvid’s Twitter schedule – daily (unless specified otherwise)
    • Manual tasks
      • Engage with at least three major influential accounts from the community
      • Share atleast 5 good fresh tweets (via retweets) to boost their initial audience
      • Celebrate atleast 3 users for something they accomplished/shared as a quote tweet
      • Weekly – spend an hour brainstorming new ideas for valuable tweets and schedule them for the rest of the week
      • Whenever off-platform content is created (i.e. blog post) – schedule a post for around the time the content is released
    • Automated tasks
      • Post at least one piece of original, valuable content at an optimal time
        • Automatically retweet it six hours later (so followers in other timezones see it too)
      • Share atleast 10 interesting retweets at random intervals during the audience’s day
      • Retweet atleast 3 of my past best-performing tweets to expose them to new followers
      • Whenever podcast episode gets published – automatically show it on Twitter
  • How to set up a schedule if you have very little time (a side-hustle)
    • Here’s a reasonable schedule for a side-hustle that takes 30 minutes each day
    • Manual tasks
      • Weekly
        • Take 15 minutes to come up with 3-5 tweets and schedule them on different days at different times
        • Take 15 minutes to find 10-20 interesting tweets from your timeline and schedule them between your original content
        • Pick one person you admire for their work and give them a shoutout
      • Daily
        • Retweet atleast three interesting articles or insights
        • Quote tweet one interesting article/insight with a thought-provoking comment
      • Whenever you see someone struggling/celebrating, retweet their message
    • Automated tasks
      • Automatically retweet your original tweets six hours after they’re published
      • Automatically retweet the 10-20 interesting tweets you’ve scheduled
      • Once you have a few well-performing tweets, consider setting them to automatically retweet at random points
  • How to set up a schedule for a full time project
    • Recommended – take Arvid’s personal schedule above and play with the numbers until you find something that allows you to work on your business and audience at the same time
    • In the early days – limit social media time to 30 minutes per day
      • You need to get other work done too besides building an audience

Tools of the Trade: Using Twitter Professionally

  • The tools that matter to Twitter can be split into two groups:
  • Operational tools
    • Scheduling tools (i.e. Hypefury) – ESSENTIAL for automation and controlling your time
    • Monitoring tools (i.e. TweetDeck) – helpful to know who interacts with you and what interesting content is created
  • Research tools
    • Account analytics (i.e. Ilo.so) – give insight into your engagement stats (like impressions, best-performing content)
    • Audience analytics (i.e. Get the Audience/SparkToro) – give insight into your audience (like when’s the best time to publish, who is influential, quality of followers for accounts)
  • Note – don’t overly rely on tools – you still need to be able to engage manually when opportunities come up

Building (For) An Audience

  • Besides your personal brand (talked about in the previous chapters), your business/professional brand also needs to emerge from your work
  • Your professional brand needs to have two parts (with overlapping content):
    • The experienced founder
    • The successful product
  • While sharing your founder journey, also share your: assumptions and validation strategies, decision-making, failures and struggles, “mind level-ups”
  • While sharing the product journey, also share the: milestones and metrics (regularly), big events in the business (good or bad), product growth and feature insights
    • Be public about how you approach building the product – you don’t have to spill your secrets/inner workings of the business
  • The point is to invite people to follow the journey of your business – the more people along for the ride, the bigger your opportunity surface
  • Note – DO NOT mindlessly advertise to your audience every chance you get
    • But people usually accept reciprocration-aware marketing
      • This is when you point people to your product after you have provided value to them for free (i.e. a link to your blog at the end of a great thread you wrote)
  • Even if your audience is not on Twitter – you can transfer the advice/concepts in this book to any other platform i.e. the idea of Engagement, Empowerment and Valuable Content
    • Note – as an entrepreneur, being on Twitter is recommended to engage with the founder community (and gain all the benefits that brings)
  • Growing beyond Twitter – opportunities to keep an eye out for:
    • Appearing on podcasts – follow and interact with podcast hosts and tenantively ask what it might take for you to end up on their show
    • Giving interviews – find (by Googling) where influential accounts you follow have given interviews → build relationships with those editors
    • Writing guest posts on niche authority blogs – this gives you a big SEO boost and access to an off-Twitter audience
    • Speaking at events – spend your time talking to people in public, no matter the group size
  • Platform Risk and the Three Kinds of Audiences
    • In the Audience Funnel, there are three tiers:
      • Rented audiences – this is where you build an audience on Twitter/other platforms
        • The platforms effectively own and control your audience
      • Owned audiences – opt-in audiences where people allow you to contact them directly without an intermediary/platform – built on free content
        • I.e. free email lists, Telegram groups
      • Monetized audiences – people pay to be your audience
        • I.e. membership communities, paid newsletters
        • These have the highest intent and commitments
        • But you can’t just start with a monetized audience – you have to rent, then own, then monetize
    • All audience building efforts should start at the rented level to have better reach and discoverability

Audience Graduation

  • Over time, your followers will churn since people move on/graduate from your content
    • You’ve taught them everything they need to know – now they need someone else
  • Short-term goals (e.g. teaching developers how to get their first freelancing clients) will cause short-lived audiences
  • Long-term goals (e.g. focusing on growing the green energy industry) will cause your audience to be more permanent as you push the boundaries of content
  • To keep audience retention high and churn lowaccept that Audience Graduation happens and it’s fine, expected and even a good thing as it means you’re empowering your audience
  • To deal with Audience Graduation:
    • Grow with your audience – stay ahead of their journey and teach as you go
    • Carve out your expert niche and be consistent – operate on the bleeding edge of your space so people subscribe to stay informed
    • Build an audience funnel – constantly find new followers to offset the ones that leave
    • Understand your cohorts – understand what people talk about at different stages of their journey (i.e. from the earliest cohort to the graduating one)

The Journey Ahead

  • The journey never stops even if you build and sell a successful business
  • Your audience becomes a part of you just as much as you become a part of the community