15 February 2016
Have you ever been listening to a podcast, watching a YouTube video, or reading a blog with a big smile on your face, and you realize, I really like this person!
I’ve had that reaction many times. I’ve also had the opposite reaction when consuming content I’m interested in, but I find it difficult to read/watch/listen to because I don’t like the way the hosts are treating each other.
Having a likable persona as a content creator makes people more likely to consume what you create. And share it. And support you in other ways.
Why does this matter for crowdfunders? First, hopefully you’ve been building a tribe through content creation well before your campaign. Second, as soon as your project launches, you have a content platform to maintain. You’re going to appear on videos and updates, not to mention other peoples’ podcasts, blogs, and YouTube channels.
This topic has been on my mind for a while, and I’ve been compiling a list of attributes that I believe add up to a likable persona for a content creator. Keep in mind that these are somewhat subjective–for example, if you’re the type of person who finds joy in other peoples’ misery, you’re probably not going to connect with this list.
Top 10 Ways to Be a Likable Content Creator
- Act as if you like your co-host. A lot of the podcasts I listen to involve more than one person. If the co-hosts convey that they actually like each other, I’m much more likely to like them as well (e.g., The Secret Cabal). There are other podcasts where the co-hosts belittle each other or treat one person as a punching bag, which is tough to listen to.
- Talk to your audience as if you’re addressing one person. So many YouTube videos and Kickstarter project updates begin with, “Hey guys!” or “Hi everyone!” But when I watch the video, I want to feel like you’re talking directly to me. Because, really, you are–there aren’t thousands of people huddled around my computer to watch the video with me. If you can train yourself to extend this method beyond the greeting, you’re able to let thousands of people feel like they have a direct connection with you. Destin at Smarter Every Day excels at this.
- Convey passion in your words and voice. Regardless of whether or not you like the thing or game you’re discussing, if you talk about it with passion, your listeners will be much more engaged (see Bower’s Game Corner). This is a tough one to execute, because we all express passion differently. However, I’d recommend listening to yourself or reading some of the older content you’ve created to give yourself some perspective on how people perceive you. The key, really, is to avoid sounding bored and uninterested.
- Replace platitudes with stories and specific examples. If you’ve never listened to Rob Daviau (co-designer of Pandemic Legacy) on a podcast, do yourself a favor and give it a try. Rob checks off every item on this list, but the thing he may do best is that he always has a specific example or anecdote to illustrate what he’s trying to say (even if it’s a fake example to avoid spoilers). It makes you feel like you’re just hanging out with Rob and sharing stories rather than have a highbrowed professor lecture you on what you should or shouldn’t do.
- Use inclusive language. No matter which industry you’re in, there’s a lingo that only people who are well-versed in that industry will understand. For everyone else, it creates a huge barrier to entry if you’re using terms and acronyms they’ve never heard of. It’s like telling a private joke in public. This doesn’t mean you have to over-explain every phrase, which would alienate your core audience For example, a board game review could talk about how a game is AP-prone…or they could just say the words “analysis paralysis,” which at least gives the listener some context from which they can derive the meaning. I have a feeling that Tom Vasel of The Dice Tower gives these instructions to his team, because they’re quite good at using inclusive language. Bonus tip: To make your content as welcoming as possible, pretend that your audience is brand new for every entry/video/recording.
- Reply to at least some comments. When I post a blog entry, project update, or game design video, I read every comment. But the commenters don’t know I’m actually reading anything unless I comment in response (which I do for all questions and some comments). By itself, this doesn’t make me more likable–sometimes I reply a comment more bluntly than I’d like. But it at least shows that I’m here to connect with you and hear your thoughts, whether or not I agree with them. Rodney Smith of Watch It Played does this exceptionally well, especially give the scale of his channel (70,000+ subscribers).
- Geek out with your audience. After I saw the latest Star Wars movie, I came home and watched/read a ton of video reviews. At that point, I wasn’t looking for a critical dissection of the movie; rather, I just wanted to geek out about it. I found that the reviews I enjoyed the most (for that purpose) were ones where the reviewers had strong, over-the-top reactions (Harry Knowles at Ain’t It Cool is always good for these). I think that’s why certain “let’s play” video gamers are so popular too, as it’s simply fun to see how they react to games.
- Be tactful when talking about something you dislike. Unlike the Star Wars example above, the reason I consume board game reviews is to get an honest opinion (and to increase my knowledge of game design). That means you’re sometimes going to talk about stuff you don’t like. But it’s the way you talk about things you dislike that reflects on your likability. Here’s my tip: Talk about stuff you dislike as if the person who created it is reading/listening/watching your review. It’s not about looking out for their feelings–in fact, it’s not about them at all. Rather, that method will help you retain your humanity in the eyes of the other viewers.
- Show your love for more than just yourself. Have you ever met someone who only wanted to talk about themselves? They never ask questions or express interest in anyone other than themselves. Perhaps they’re an author who only wants to talk about books they’ve written instead of any of the billions of other books in existence. Don’t they come across as self-centered and self-promoting? After your first conversation with that author, are you compelled to return to them, or are you more drawn to authors who express their love for other books too? Patrick Rothfuss strikes a good balance (The Name of the Wind) in these regards. He gives his fans what they want (insights about the book, his writing process, and random personal anecdotes), but he’s also brimming over with love for literature and other writers.
- Have fun. I know, most generic advice ever, right? Perhaps this is a better way of saying it: Be acutely aware of the amount of fun you’re having, and find ways to have more fun (or take a break). Your audience is only going to have as much fun consuming your content as you have making it. There’s a great food blog in St. Louis called Off the Eaten Path. Recently the blogger–who had been posting less and less–revealed that it had simply stopped being fun for her. She says it took a while for her to admit this to herself, and when she did, she decided to take an official hiatus and only return when she is truly excited to write something new. I really admire this approach. It’s okay to take breaks or pivot to a new format/discussion. Maybe you started off writing a blog about movies, but now you’re much more excited about cats. Give yourself permission to make the switch to the thing you’re going to have the most fun with, and your audience (old or new) will like you all the more for it.
Thanks for the opportunity to make this list. I have several speaking engagements coming up (one in a few hours!), so it’s been really helpful for me to think about this whole “likability” thing and try to embody more of these traits.
What do you think? What of these attributes do you associate the most with likability, and which ones did I miss?