Leveraging the Effort Reward Cycle

I talk about the Effort Reward Cycle, consistency and the one skill you need to help your content grow and find your audience (Hint: it’s honest marketing).

Your Content Doesn't Suck | Leveraging the Effort Reward Cycle

A/N: This is a sequel to a Medium Post I wrote. While this post addresses motivation as an effort reward cycle, the Medium post addresses the problem of feeds and throttling your own content. Check it out by clicking here!

Have you ever heard someone say something along the lines of “We live in an age of unprecedented communication and technology”? I’m sure you have.

Have you then acted upon it, by pouring your heart out into a blog article, podcast, video, or even a social media post? Then I wrote this specifically for you.

If you’re a beginner, chances are you have at most 5 to 10 people consuming your content. And because you can’t seem to grow an audience, you get demotivated and ultimately stop putting out content.

Perhaps you think you’re not good enough of a writer or artist or filmmaker or vlogger. Perhaps you think people don’t want to hear what you have to say.

That’s bullshit.

Your content doesn’t suck just because it doesn’t have an audience. Your content hasn’t found its audience.

The Effort Reward cycle

In our current capitalistic society, human beings operate best with a healthy effort reward cycle. We execute a task with an expectation of a result immediately after. We eat with the expectation of feeling satiated, attend parties with the expectation of having fun, and read with the expectation of learning.

This gets tricky when the reward is delayed or is difficult to recognize. It is why fitness is a difficult goal to accomplish – we don’t immediately see the reward in the mirror. We have to put in consistent and considerable effort over a long period of time. This is why you are likely to fail if you approach fitness with the objective of looking good or losing weight*. Since the reward doesn’t come as quickly as the effort, the well of motivation dries up.

*Instead you want to build discipline and chase the objective of feeling good, which comes as a reward much more quickly.

So how does this concept apply to content creation and dissemination? Simple!

Consistency is Key

The way to establish a good effort reward cycle for yourself is to build discipline, which can be done either by realigning your objectives or by establishing a firm belief (supported by regular testing).

If your objectives are long-term and vague, it is a good idea to break them down into more tangible goals so that you are able to achieve them faster and keep the motivation going strong. On the other hand, if you firmly believe that you’re doing the right things to reach your goal, your motivation won’t dry out.

Whichever way you choose, you’ll reach a point where you will have to rely on your work itself to keep you motivated. Whether you bring the goalpost closer or you kick harder, ultimately you have to train your leg to make the kick. Your most successful strategy will always be to turn your efforts into a self-replenishing well of motivation by turning them into habits. Your work will motivate you to work more.

This is a roundabout way of saying that consistency is the key. As you do something regularly and repeatedly, it becomes easier and faster and you become better. At a certain stage, you stop thinking about it, and your effort becomes muscle memory or reaction memory.

Do Justice to Your Idea

So is the same with content creation. Create a weekly series, and commit to doing it at least 3 times in a row. After those 3 times, commit to doing it for 3 months. Then do it for 6, and then 18. Set progressive goals and watch it become easier as you keep doing it.

This is especially important if you have a big idea in mind, something that gives you a lot of satisfaction. My Talkback Tuesday series does that for me. Through feedback, I discovered I’m making a difference in people’s lives, and I was galvanized to keep doing it. At this point, I’ve been consistent for 6 months, and I can already see an audience building. I’ve begun discovering my audience, and I have been so motivated that I’ve already prepared for many months to come.

If you have a big idea, or an idea you believe in, you owe it to yourself to at least try doing it for 2 years. If you don’t think it deserves 2 years, it isn’t really a big idea. And if it is a big idea, then how can you think about dropping it just because it hasn’t gotten traffic in its infant stage?

(Honest) Marketing is the Skill to Build

In the point above, I mentioned that I discovered the appeal of Talkback Tuesday through feedback. This feedback was from some of the interviewees themselves, who told me how the experience gave them pause and insight. I had a moment of clarity then – that just the act of talking to people is helping them feel better and discover themselves, and I knew then that it is something worth doing.

To those who gave me the feedback, I asked that they share posts. And they did, simply because they believed the same message. And their shares got more people to look – some of whom stayed.

I started a Facebook page for my blog this year, and through trial and error, I learned how to market (or at least, I learned the basics). Half my blog viewership has come this year, and it is growing every month.

I said that your content doesn’t suck just because nobody is looking at it. People contend with their feeds every day. It logically follows that marketing is the skill to build today. Marketing is the art of getting your work in front of people, despite the grind of the feed.

However, there is good marketing and there is hokey marketing. Think back to content you’ve seen which was click bait i.e. it had a very attractive title, but the content didn’t really deliver on the promise. It probably left you feeling cheated. Marketing is only successful long-term if it delivers the goods it sells.

As the audience becomes more experienced with the trends and ways of the Internet, it becomes wary of trickery. Across the incredibly diverse spectrum of people online, the only thing I’ve seen a common hatred for is malicious disingenuity – nobody, and I mean NOBODY, likes people or companies that jump on trends for the purpose of goodwill, sales, or marketing. This is very apparent on Twitter, where companies are mocked for being friendly or “approachable”. They are not taken seriously, because their agenda is plainly visible.

As a content creator, the best thing you can do on the Internet is be genuine and be headstrong. Put your content out unabashedly, but make sure you represent it correctly. Give it the dignity it deserves.

The Takeaway

There are thousands of resources online that tell you how to begin getting audiences to see your content. You don’t need me to tell you. However, I will say that nothing builds as consistently as good word-of-mouth. If you believe in your content, pick a platform, pick some people you know, and ask them to share your content.

On large-scale, algorithm-based platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, ask them to engage with the post (likes, shares, comments, replies, retweets, the whole gamut). Engagement encourages the algorithms to promote your content in feeds. Leverage your friends to get the initial push, and you’ll start discovering your own audience.