Let’s start with a confession:
I am a serial unsubscriber.
I cannot stand the sight of a new email. I’ll do anything to get rid of that red notification bubble on my iPhone. And if an email goes unread for more than two days, then I open it and unsubscribe.
And it’s not just email newsletters. In the last month, I took four podcasts out of my rotation. I abandoned an Xbox game I had almost beaten. And god knows how many people I muted on Twitter.
Despite my complete lack of hesitation to unsubscribe from almost anything, I don’t want you to think I’m a total monster. There are an elite few (four creators, to be exact — Jason Zook, Caroline Kelso, Paul Jarvis, and Austin Kleon) that I would never dream of unfollowing.
And why not?
That’s a good question. That’s the same question I asked myself as I started thinking about this “problem” (although I don’t know if it really qualifies as a problem for anyone other than the person/brand I unfollowed).
But to really answer that question, I think we have to start with its converse:
Why am I so quick to unfollow literally everyone else?
The simple answer is that I get bored easily. I think we all do. I mean, the primary reason someone unsubscribes from my list is because “they’re no longer interested.” (Although I am willing to concede this could be partially due to the fact that “no longer interested” is the first option in a list of six choices).
It makes sense to me though — it’s the primary reason I unsubscribe.
But I didn’t want to rely on my opinion alone. So I put on my lab coat and did a bit of field research (aka got on Facebook) and asked people why they’d unfollow someone?
Here are the results:
And while it didn’t take rocket science (or any science, since it was what I already suspected) to come to this conclusion, it’s simultaneously surprising.
What does consistency mean?
I’ve read a lot of articles about how “consistency is key” when it comes to growing your audience. I even wrote a popular article that advised bloggers to consistently write on the same topics in the same style. And I’ve accepted that fact without thinking any deeper, in the same way I accept that 1+1=2. That’s just the way it is.
But my thinking has since evolved. I’ve started asking myself — what exactly does “consistency” mean?
Is it releasing content on a consistent schedule?
Is it sticking to a consistent theme or topic?
Is it a consistency in branding, tone, and voice?
Is it all of those things?
Yes. It’s probably all of things. But also, it’s not.
Focusing on any of these specific “tactics” misses the point — consistency is about setting expectations and then meeting (or going beyond) those expectations over and over. It has nothing to do with form and everything to do with the promise you make to your fans.
I don’t stop liking my favorite bands because they only release an album every few years. I didn’t stop loving my favorite non-fiction author when he tried fiction. I don’t stop watching my favorite shows or stop rooting for my favorite teams because they take a few months off after a season ends. That’s all part of the unspoken promise that I implicitly understand.
When I really think about it, I unfollow people because they’re too “consistent.”
If they continue to produce the same kind of material, share the same kind of information, or say the same thing — never evolving, never growing — then they’re breaking their promise. They’re not helping me grow.
Saying the same thing or writing the same way may sound like consistency, but it’s not “good” consistency.
So I guess the takeaway is that you need to take risks.
Taking a risk may seem like the opposite of consistency. How do you know if you’ll clear the bar and make good on your promise if you’re not entirely sure how something is going to turn out?
It’s something I struggle with all the time. Like right now.
I’ve had this podcast idea for eight months. But it’s kind of a weird concept. No one else is doing it. I’m afraid. I’m afraid I won’t be able to follow through and I’m afraid people won’t like it. I’m afraid that’s why no one else is doing it — because it’s a dumb idea.
And where has that led? To me writing the same “tips” articles 100 times over. To me being “consistent,” which is preventing me from consistently helping my readers grow (or even growing myself).
So what if I try something new and blow it?
We’ve all got a Cars 2 in us. It’s inevitable. It’s part of the process.
Hopefully, though, it won’t mean that everyone decides to unfollow me.
Because when I think about the four creators I named at the beginning of this article, they’ve messed up. They’ve broken their promise to me once or twice.
And yet, here I am. A lifelong fan.
Because they’re people. Real people. They take risks, share their process, and are honest when they screw up.
They’re consistently human. And in some small way, they’re my friends.