As you journey through the pages of this manifesto, I will be introducing you to some novel concepts that may be unfamiliar.
They might seem strange at first, jarring even, yet they are important in creating a language framework that paints a fresh, somewhat counterintuitive picture of modern marketing and audience building through a “world-building” lens.
(Pardon me, a “world-building” lens? Yeah, I know, it may sound strange, but don’t worry. The idea of ‘world building’ will become clear soon enough. Promise.)
As we go along, I’ll guide you down unfamiliar paths, explaining the meanings of these concepts gradually, as they slowly make sense, like a story unfolding.
There are footnotes for you to explore, like secret passages, insights to uncover like unearthing buried treasure (you won’t find them all on the first read), and I link to definitions, like keys to hidden doors.
So, settle in, and enjoy this adventure.
- The long tail of the internet has provided a way for sovereign creators 1 and businesses to ‘niche at scale‘ in ways not possible at any other time in history, fostering unparalleled creativity and innovation;
- The quality of an audience matters;
- Being tiny is mighty;
- Delighting the weird is a superpower;
- When you build a business, you’re building a new World on your terms, a “utopian world,” attracting specific people with specific needs;
- Sovereign creators like us shape the narrative when we dance with creativity, embracing the sacred act of earning trust — building and making and creating work that matters for people who care, funded directly by our true fans;
- Worldbuilding serves as a “container,” allowing for non-linear narratives and ‘choose your own adventure’ (CYOA) paths, creating intriguing rabbit holes for audiences to explore and transformative experiences to emerge. Its rich and captivating nature not only retains audience attention but fosters opportunities for relationship building and long-term trust;
- The container of ‘world building’ is a multiplier for “open world” marketing funnels, amplifying conversions without the downside of blunt-force coercion-based marketing;
- Prediction: Creator businesses relying on direct-response marketing that uses linear funnels as the engine of their businesses are a house of cards…
- Thesis: Build a “digital world” around a valuable and interesting idea — a world so rich and captivating that people are attracted to it, want to explore, and inhabit it long-term, where true fans and happy customers organically emerge. I call this a ‘Tiny Digital World.’
As sovereign creators, how we attract and build an audience matters more than anything.
In a world driven and incentivized by ad-based business models, the quest for ‘clicks’ and attention is the perennial gold rush, a game of growth hacking, click-baiting, manipulation, coercion, and concealed tactics employed by everyone’s favorite social media and search platforms.
A better way to attract and build an audience is to create a world people want to inhabit.
A “world” so rich, engaging, captivating, and valuable that it attracts the audiences we seek to serve, pulling them in not through manipulation or coercion but because they genuinely want to be there, denizens of a Tiny World that feel right, deeply resonating with them.
But to fully appreciate this claim, we must understand the shape and dimensions, colors and vibrations of the two essential elements: ‘Tiny’ and ‘Worlds.’
Their synthesis reveals an antifragile and sustainable path for independent sovereign creators to attract and build audiences in an age of distraction and noise and short-sighted tactics.
This Manifesto is a call to arms for sovereign creators like us in how we seek to attract audiences that matter.
I remember reading the Swedish crime thriller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo a few years after it was translated into English. I was new to reading, having started in my mid-thirties (see my personal essay if you’re interested in my backstory and ‘why I write’ as a dyslexic), and the experience of reading this book was unlike any cinematic movie or TV series I had ever watched.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo took me on such a gripping visceral narrative journey as I followed the protagonist, Lisbeth Salander, that it made me fall in love with reading.
It broke me. Or it fixed me.
But I’ve never been the same since.
A good story within a captivating world does that.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo set up the second book, The Girl Who Played with Fire, continuing the roller coaster ride I couldn’t get enough of, concluding with The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest in 2009.
For reasons I find impossible to express, there feels like a weird correlation between that trilogy and what I’m trying to do here. Maybe a kinship with the author, Stieg Larsson, who passed away in 2004, aged just 50, the age I am as I write this.
I suppose the title of the third book gets to the essence of what I’m doing — The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest — which points to the mission I’ve set for myself, to “disrupt,” if only in a small way, a part of the internet marketing establishment perpetuating an expiring form of coercion-based interruption marketing.
I’ve done my small part in changing how email marketing is done for the better through ‘serialized narratives’ (AutoResponder Madness in 2009, then rewritten as Art of Email with my business partner, Shawn Twing, in 2022).
This next project is bigger and bolder.
In an age where everyone seems to be playing the self-serving short-term game of manipulating attention, we go the other way, recognizing that to attract and build an audience for the long term, we need to earn trust and attention first.
Relationship-building is at the heart of Tiny Digital Worlds.
I’ve broken the Tiny Digital Worlds Manifesto into four parts. Each part of this manifesto builds on the former and sets the stage for the next. So read the parts in sequence, as a serial.
This quadrilogy lays the foundations of Tiny Digital Worlds, which we’ll continue exploring and building together.
- Part I: The Old Way
- The Invisible Tsunami
- ‘Closed’ Linear Funnels (Traditional Marketing)
- ‘Open’ Non-Linear Funnels (Open World Marketing)
- Part II: ‘Open World’ Marketing
- What if the internet is like Tokyo?
- Delighting the Weird
- Part III: Principles of Tiny Digital Worlds
- Choose Your Own Adventure
- Storytelling through World Building
- Part: IV: Tiny Digital Worlds
I hope this resonates with you. If so, welcome home.
Please reach out anytime. I read every email.