When I was young, I had my obsessions. I’d watch TV or listen to music and want to learn more once the program was over. Too much was never enough, and by today’s term, I was a superfan. So I turned to the internet to get more content. At the time, the web was regarded as a sketchy place, and I felt like a bad kid for being 11 and going online without my parents watching me. What did I do while violating their trust and surfing the net? Watching music videos.
Even in 2001 there seemed to be an endless supply of websites discussing music and the meaning behind songs. I was fascinated, taking every word I read as the truth. These websites were typically made by an unknown user and any comments would be made by random people assigned guest usernames. In the earlier days of the internet, it seemed like anonymity was the way of life.
Times have changed, and now people post their polarizing opinions on social media without shame. Being fascinated by a TV show, sports team, or musician is tame by comparison. You can find communities based around your obsession and engage with fan, or you can simply start your own.
From Superfan to Self-Learner
Superfandom was my starting point into content creation. As time progressed, this obsession blossomed from anonymous obsession to a catalyst for learning and an opportunity to explore new interests. Now, we see people gaining success because they’ve started their own channels or websites and stuck with it for years.
When I was in jr. high and high school, I was obsessed with competition reality shows. It felt dorky to say, in fact it still feels kind of dorky, but the feeling was prominent during this time because no one else in my school shared this obsession. So, I turned my fascination toward internet communities and would chat online. Then, these communities shut down, and I had to search elsewhere. Eventually, I decided I would just take my own path and start a blog. Thus, StopBeingPolite was formed.
This really began an interest in writing and blogging. I was able to write in a style that felt comfortable and less rigid than the essays I had to write throughout high school and college. Flash forward a couple of years and my interests progressively grew. I cared about my lay out, branding, traffic sources, information hierarchy, and search engine visibility. Each topic required research, but I conducted the research because I had a passion project that guided my studies. It all seemed more important than theoretical studies because the information I learned had practical use toward a personal project.
In terms of knowledge acquisition, this seems unconventional. After eight years of blogging, I hold a level of comfort in my writing. Not just because I’m a superfan who has an excuse to never shut up about my favorite shows, but also because I’ve learned many of the tactics involved with content development. For example, I can talk about changes in the Google search algorithms, not because I was particularly interested, but because they impacted me so I deemed them important.
We have so many tools available to us right now, anyone with an internet connection and launch themselves into digital success. It all starts with that one topic you can’t stop talking about.
Finding Your Channel
Perhaps blogging isn’t your cup of tea. In the earlier days of the internet, that’s where most people turned. Video creations weren’t wildly shared, but YouTube has changed that. Young Americans are inspired to become content creators and influencers, and this is because they’re raised in a world where people build their identities around random obsessions.
The goal is to identify the one topic you can’t stop talking about, the area in life where you’re a superfan. The topic itself doesn’t matter too much so long as you can discuss it for hours. You could be a superfan of: the NFL, frugal living, sunset photos, music reviews, uncommon US tourist attractions… the possibilities are endless. Then, you need to determine the best ways to convey your message. It could be videos of your travels, a podcast recapping football news, or a blog about financial literacy. Once you have your topic and channel selected, you have the ability to begin communicating with the world.
For me, this was all it took for my learning to begin. The early stages of my blogging was simply recaps and short opinion pieces. This gave me a little bit of traffic, and that’s all I needed to determine what was success and what was not successful. This motived me to try different styles of blog posts incorporate more lists, history-based posts, and informational pieces. These attracted more traffic, and became a starting point developing content strategy. Then, I began using Google Analytics to gain more information about reader behaviors, which was a foreign concept to me before I had a website of my own. Now, I have used my knowledge to study user experience design and some graphic design elements. While this may evolve into more than just a blog, my starting point was an obsession with TV shows.
Whatever you choose to do, you’re not that unique. This is not a bad thing, because this means other people have documented their journeys. If you’re ever stuck, you can find articles and videos discussing the ways to improve your podcast, YouTube channel, or website. It’s all been done before, just not in your unique compilation.
Using Knowledge to Build Knowledge
We’re fortunate that the stigma behind superfandom has started to dissolve. I recently started playing the game Roller Coaster Tycoon again, a game I first played in 2000. I went on YouTube and there were hundreds of videos. The old game still had fans, and I was able to learn some new tips and trick for the game. The guys who created the videos must have been a fan for over a decade, but he made some side income on YouTube. Not only did he master the game, but he also learned some basic video editing and content strategy skills. He could transfer these skills to Twitch or a different streaming platform.
These successes don’t happen overnight, and building an online presence takes a lot of perseverance. This is why you center it around a topic where you’re a superfan. Your interest in writing, video creation, or graphic design are likely to decrease, but your motivation to continue developing skills should be guided by your interest in your superfandom. While you often become your own teacher in these cases, the end product is all yours. It’s not a requirement for a degree, it’s an opportunity for you to leave an imprint on the digital world.
As influencers and public figures become more visible, the need for anonymity is dissolving. When people consume content online, they want to know their source is an expert. If you have an archive of material, your credential can be confirmed. Even if you’re new, you probably know a number of sources you can cite. Not because you have to do extensive research, but because you’re talking about a topic you’re truly passionate about. You know these sources because you’ve been reading, watching, or listening for years.
This lack of anonymity give you the freedom to become a vocal superfan. You can demonstrate subject knowledge and document your successes with content creation. There’s no need to hide your success, the landscape for superfandom continues to improve. I don’t think we’ve reached the peak yet, but right now we have more opportunities than ever on the internet. Major companies are taking notice, and doors will continue to open if you continue to improve upon yourself.
Originally published at https://www.michaelbeausoleil.com on July 7, 2020.