It's been a wild week on Twitter.
On Thursday evening, basically every trending topic was along the lines of "#RIPTwitter" and covering the turmoil happening internally at the company.
In case you missed it, the TLDR is that Elon issued a 36-hour ultimatum for employees to affirm their loyalty to the company or immediately leave with a 3-month severance.
Many, many employees took the severance.
As a result, the world believed (maybe still believes) that Twitter will be unable to sustain itself and quickly implode.
Ironically, all this discussion was happening on Twitter where the site continues to experience all-time highs in usage...
To be honest, I don't typically follow stories like this too closely. But this one is a little different.
Twitter is one of my favorite places on the internet. And over the last couple of years, it's actually become a meaningful part of my business – I can attribute a lot of my income this year to relationships formed on Twitter.
And just over the past few months, I've doubled down on the effort I've put into creating on that platform:
So when I heard people starting to yell, "Mayday!" on the platform I've been putting a lot of time into...I felt some frustration.
Thankfully, what I DON'T feel is terror or desperation; if Twitter went away tomorrow, my business would be fine. In fact, if any third-party platform went away, my business would be fine.
I've designed my creative platform to support me as a sovereign creator and I think you should too.
What is a sovereign creator?
Sovereign creators build sustainable businesses without the need for third-party social media or discovery platforms. While many of us enjoy the benefits of creating content on platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, or even YouTube, depending on those platforms is a risk.
A lot of creators depend on social media for distributing their messages or even providing an income (AdSense, creator funds) and may have a lot of success!
But if any of those platforms went away or even just made meaningful changes to their services, it could have a major impact on the creators who depend on them.
Sovereign creators are platform-independent. They build relationships directly with their audience that cannot be taken away.
The core of my business is built on email. I further develop trust with my audience through my podcast. And my largest source of revenue comes from my membership community.
While I leverage software tools to support my email list, podcast, and membership community, those are direct relationships that I can maintain and sustain even if the specific tools I use went away. Email and podcast RSS are open protocols that will allow me to communicate directly with my audience without the interference or imposed rules of a third-party platform.
Of course, there ARE tradeoffs – namely, discovery. Email, audio podcasting, and membership communities don't have the same benefits of organic discovery that social platforms and YouTube do.
However, by constructing the foundation of your business to be independent, you are exposed to much less risk by leveraging those discovery platforms.
Independence isn't avoidance
I was an email maximalist for a long time. I believed that email was not only critical to my business, I believed it was the only platform I should meaningfully create for.
Today, I see things a little differently.
Email is still the foundation that allows me to be sovereign. But the larger and more engaged that list becomes, the even MORE sovereign I become.
And the reality is that the best way to grow your email audience isn't by writing great emails. That's necessary, but it's not sufficient.
The best way to grow your email audience is to consistently introduce your emails to a new audience – and that typically comes from a discovery platform.
Sahil Bloom grew his email list to over 125,000 subscribers in less than two years. How did he do it? He consistently promoted his email list to a Twitter audience of now nearly 800,000.
Tori Dunlap once added more than 100,000 subscribers in one week. How did she do it? She had a TikTok video go mega-viral.
My friend Marie Poulin has a much larger email list than I do, and until recently, she wasn't even sending emails! How did she do it? She gets a TON of views on YouTube.
So while I used to focus on operating independently of social and discovery platforms, today I focus on leveraging those platforms to deepen my independence.
Choosing to be platform-resilient instead of totally platform-independent gives you access to all the upside potential without the downside risk.
How to become a sovereign creator
If you believe your creator business is currently dependent on any social media or discovery platform, it's worth taking steps to become more platform-resilient or even become a sovereign creator yourself.
Luckily, it's not difficult. Your north star is to form direct lines of communication to your audience that cannot be taken away – for both your sake AND their sake. Your audience doesn't want to lose touch with you either.
Sovereign creators create independent systems of distribution and monetization.
Here are a few steps you can take...
Redesign your creative platform
Your creative platform is the mechanism you use to connect with your fans. It's your entire online presence and all of the ways people can interact with it.
If your creative platform is dependent on third-party platforms, you'll want to make it a little more secure. That starts with having a dedicated website for yourself – and while that may sound like table stakes to you, a lot of creators on social still don't have their own website.
This website is built using the open-source Ghost codebase and hosted using Gloat.
Your website is a great home for your creative platform, but you'll want to develop an independent means of communication too. And for that, I still believe email is the top choice.
Develop independent distribution
The beauty of email is that when people opt-in to hearing from you, your emails will hit their inbox until they decide they don't want to hear from you anymore. And while some email providers (like Gmail) will sort incoming emails into Tabs or Folders, there is nothing preventing your email from arriving in that inbox.
No algorithms, just a direct relationship with the person who asked to hear from you. This is the beauty of independent communication and distribution.
If you don't have an email list today, I highly recommend you start building one. ConvertKit is my choice and recommendation. My email subscribers are saved in both Ghost and ConvertKit.
It's worth noting, another viable option here is SMS. I haven't gone down this path so I don't have a ton of advice to offer – but building a text-based audience is totally viable.
Create valuable, free assets
There is definitely more friction to getting someone to turn over their personal email address vs. hitting a "follow" button. An inbox is a personal place – so while this relationship has more friction to start, it also has more opportunity for depth.
Since it's more difficult to get people to subscribe via email, you may want to create some valuable, free assets that you offer in exchange.
These are often called Lead Magnets but there are other free, valuable assets like workshops, webinars, etc. that require registration.
Build your own income engine
Instead of depending on revenue from native ads or creator funds, develop your own paid products and experiences. This may take a little bit of time to build up demand and consistent sales, but it's well worth it.
You can consider:
- Pre-recorded courses
- Cohort-based courses
- Individual coaching or consulting
- Group coaching
- Templates or presets
- Sponsorship or brand deals
- Physical products
- Software as a service
Developing your own independent revenue streams will provide a lot of optionality.
Budget based upon your paid products
If your expenses depend on a level of income being provided by a third-party platform, then you're at risk.
What happens when creator funds dry up?
What happens when CPMs on AdSense go down?
If you develop your own products and distribution system, you'll start to see how much revenue you can drive month-over-month. Those figures are much safer for you to rely on when considering your expenses.
Compound your sovereignty through discovery
After you've developed independent systems for distribution and revenue, then you are in a position to take advantage of the opportunities presented by social media and other third-party discovery platforms.
And let me be clear – there is a LOT of opportunity on these platforms! They can meaningfully change the course of your business overnight.
You just want that impact to be enduring – and you enable that by using discovery platforms to invite people into your sovereign creative platform.
There's never been a better time to be a creator. With so much opportunity for sharing your message and finding organic reach, it's easy to build your business on rented land.
The most sustainable path forward is to become a sovereign creator with independent systems of distribution and monetization. Once you develop that base, you'll be in a much safer position to leverage all of the opportunities that social media and other discovery platforms provide.
Want a more step-by-step guide to becoming a sovereign creator?
Enroll in my Sovereign Bundle.