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How To Increase Your Surface Area Online

Kevon Cheung

Founder & Head Teacher

My 2-year-old loves playing games nowadays.

This game called “Shopping List” is our latest favorite. It is quick and fun.

But what I want you to do is look at the packaging below: can you see that they repeat the exact same information on each side of the box?

Why are they doing that? And how does that relate to you - the creators who teach online?

What this game teaches us about marketing

The game manufacturer does this because they have no idea how the retailer would display their game on the shelf. They’re worried that customers won’t see their game. By just repeating the same information, they increase the game’s surface area (chance) to be seen and bought.

This is actually all around us when we market our products!

From what I’ve observed around me, a lot of creators have a linear way of thinking about attracting, nurturing, and selling to their target audience.

They build something new and sell it to the channel they’re familiar with. Once it is done, they build another new thing and sell it the same way. This happens repeatedly.

It is not enough to mention that this can be an exhausting process. This linear way is not efficient as well. It doesn’t fuel your growth because the return on your effort is very low.

Instead of repeating that cycle, what you should do is exactly what this packaging teaches us - leverage the tiniest effort to increase your surface area (exposure).

It means that you can tweak one piece of work in many different ways easily to get more eyeballs on your work. I have a few ways to share with you what that looks like.

1. Give your content more surfaces

Hey. Be careful. I don’t recommend you to start off with many channels at once. Too many people try to do too much at the start of their journey.

What I mean is that let’s say you master one surface area, e.g. writing tweets.

Now that your tweets are doing quite well and your audience resonates and engage with you, you can use the same topic and bring the content to your newsletter.

Once your newsletter is going well, you can expand to YouTube and use the same topic to make a video.

I know what you’re thinking - “If I’m talking about the same stuff everywhere, wouldn’t my audience lose interest in what I have to say? I feel like I need fresh thoughts in each place!”

I faced the same challenge when I started out but soon realized that you can hardly find someone who has that much time to follow and see your content all the time everywhere. Plus, people don’t follow you everywhere. There’s a high chance your Twitter followers don’t even know that you have a newsletter.

If you mix up the timeline for each channel, it works even better. For example, I can talk about “increasing your surface area online” on Twitter this week, 2 weeks later I can write about it in my newsletter, and 2 months later I can post a YouTube video.

This is generally called repurposing.

It is a way to increase your surface area online without the extra work.

I’ll stop here because you can google “repurposing” and learn a lot more there. What I really want to focus on is my next point.

2. Increase the leverage of your work

You might wonder how this is different from the last point.

The key difference is I’m no longer just talking about free content. I’m now referring “work” to your knowledge which can be part of your paid products like books or courses.

Why? Because many creator-educators put a lot into one course they’ve built and stop thinking about how they can use the same knowledge elsewhere.

It is a big missed opportunity.

Think about the last lead magnet or paid product you created. Did you spend a lot of time on it? Where did you put it on at the end? Was it only in one place? How are people discovering that now?

If your answer is “I spent a lot of time and people can find it on my website and Twitter bio”, then it is time to change that!

It may be easier if I share more examples with you.

How I surface my book, Find Joy in Chaos

Once the book is published, it is time to maximize its exposure.

Here are a bunch of ways I’m surfacing it with tiny effort:

  1. Students go through Making Twitter Friends, my free email course, discover my book
  2. People go on Public Lab website to find my book under Products
  3. People go on Amazon to find my book
  4. People subscribe to my newsletter and discover I have a book
  5. People reading my newsletter find the book in the footer
  6. People attending my events related to Twitter get to know my book
I was thrilled to hear that Vivida found me on Amazon!

There are literally dozens of ways to do it. Most are embedded in the workflow so no extra work is required, which is my favorite. Some require an action from me, e.g. mentioning it at events, but that’s easy work.

How I surface my courses

I have a few video courses available: Making Twitter Friends and Easy Content Magic.

Other than selling it myself on my website, I also put them on Udemy and Skillshare.

147 students have taken my Making Twitter Friends video course on Skillsare - sweet surface area!

Once I upload the videos and write the description, it requires no extra work from me.

And when people search on these marketplaces, they have a chance to discover me.

If I’m being honest, although they haven’t been too successful for me, I still connect with a number of people who found me through these platforms. Without Udemy or Skillshare, they might have never found me!

So who says these new surface areas have to be big ones? Small ones work too.

In fact, while I was writing this article, someone left me a review on Skillshare!

Getting reviews like this randomly is a great feeling!

The secrets behind free & paid knowledge

So far, I talk about putting free content and paid products in more places. But … what if you can do a crossover? Can paid products become free content? Can free content become paid products?

Oh my - you’re likely scratching your head.

Because if you do this, it feels like you’re being unfair to your customers.

I really don’t think so. You’re not hiding anything. All the information is available for everyone to see. You leave it to customers to decide what they want.

Of course, I’m not suggesting you make 100% of your knowledge into both free content and paid products. That would be bad! You want to be selective and strategic.

How I increase my surface area

In my case, I have this article called “20 Tweets in 60 Minutes: My 5-step Content Creation System”. It is free and everyone can read it.

Also, on my Public Lab homepage, I have this button “I want to level up my content creation” that brings you to a Gumroad page to enter your email. Then you can download the PDF version of the 5 steps.

Then in my core program, Build in Public Mastery, I also teach and go deeper into this 5-step system.

Can you see how you can crossover free and paid knowledge?

How Arvid increases his surface area

Arvid Kahl is one of my favorite creators. He is generous and delivers a ton of value to his audience.

A while ago, he was promoting his Twitter course, Find Your Following.

He created a number of short videos as marketing materials. He spread out these videos on Twitter over a long period of time. He also uploaded all these 50 videos on YouTube to take advantage of YouTube’s search engine.

Now, the question is how much of the paid content in the course overlap with the free videos.

I have no idea! But I can bet that it might be more than what you expect.

A common question now is “Why do people need to buy the course if they can already get the 50 short videos?”

The answer is here:

  • People are buying a structured learning experience. A course requires a learning journey, and short videos can’t provide that
  • People are buying the exercises provided in the course
  • People are buying community access along with the course

As a creator-educator, it is time for you to think that you’re selling more than just content and information. Those side benefits are as valuable.

Will people get mad and ask for a refund?

It could happen. But if you ask me, I’d say 99% of people won’t and 1% might ask for a refund.

Now, a question for you:

“Are you giving up on a chance to get more exposure because you are afraid of missing out on the sales from the 1%?”

If you do the math, it is clear that the benefits outweigh the harm. Be nice and offer the refund to the 1% and move on.

And generally, I’ve noticed that if a digital product is under $50, people generally prioritize convenience. They want to learn and move on instead of arguing over a $50 spending.

Fear and limiting beliefs are blocking you

It is normal, but don’t let them hold you back from proactively putting your work out.

It is important that you grow your business so that you can stay around and serve more people.

Finally, I want you to picture your neighbors.

How many times have you bumped into them lately? You might expect a lot because you live near each other, but reality tells you that it is not that often since both of you have very different lifestyles.

Same to your audience, they have a hard time bumping into you, so how are you going to get out there more?

By the way, what if you can get your customers and fans to help you increase your surface area?

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Table of Contents

Build in Public Guide

This free guide has been downloaded over 30,000 times. In 8 short chapters, you’ll learn how to leverage this modern marketing strategy in growing your business and audience in parallel.

Download the Guide

Build in Public Guide

This free guide has been downloaded over 30,000 times. In 8 short chapters, you’ll learn how to leverage this modern marketing strategy in growing your business and audience in parallel.

Download the Guide