How this millennial became one of the internet’s most popular writers (w/ over 20M views)

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The growth recipe: Millennial author Nicolas Cole on how he has grown a massive presence online before turning 30.

If there’s one common denominator amongst history’s most successful leaders it’s this: they all have the ability to rally the troops – to assemble a following. As the adage goes, “if you lead, they will follow”. Today, there are countless examples of those who once served a very small audience, and eventually millions around the world come to be following them – Tim Ferriss, Tony Robbins, Gary Vee, Gerard Adams, and Brian D. Evans… and now millennials like Nicolas Cole.

This type of following and influence doesn’t come by chance. There’s a recipe, and I think Nicolas Cole has cracked it.

The recipe is part connecting with passionate consumers on an emotional level and part connecting the communities you’ve created.

Nicolas Cole has captured the hearts and minds of over 20 million readers online.

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“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

The young (26 years old) but accomplished author, thought leader and speaker (and Chicago native) was recently named by Forbes as one of the Top 25 Marketing Influencers you need to watch in 2017. His work has reached over 20,000,000 people online and has inspired countless. You can find his thought leadership in publications like TIME, Huffington Post, Fortune, Inc and many more of the Internet’s largest and most influential publications.

I sat down with Nicolas Cole to ask him specifically how he has been able to reach over 20,000,000 people with his work. He shared some incredibly valuable insights with me on how you can get your voice heard, start building an audience and become a thought leader yourself.

These are Nicolas Cole’s 4 keys to building an audience online through writing and thought leadership.

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1. Contribute to publications you read.

Establishing yourself as a credible voice starts with writing on websites like Medium, Quora, LinkedIn, etc. These are the platforms Cole highlighted specifically, since they already have users on their platforms and your work is likely to be seen by the right kind of people.

The process is simple: write an article about a topic you’re passionate about or have considerable experience with. Once you’ve begun to build some sort of readership around your content on a social platform, you can then begin offering it to various blogs and publications as a free contribution (via one of their writers/editors). If you author a well-written article about a relevant topic, they’ll often accept it. Afterall, that’s how publications survive.

You can increase the likelihood of acceptance by looking up the publication’s author profiles (always listed on their sites with contact info), then finding common connections on LinkedIn. From there, ask your friend for an email intro. Most of the time, if the editor likes the article, they’ll ask you to become a contributor.

Cole notes, “It’s about proving your value and then laddering it up to bigger and bigger platforms. My earliest content was on Quora, which eventually got republished by TIME, Forbes, Fortune, The Huffington Post, etc., until eventually I became a columnist for Inc Magazine. It’s a ladder, and climbing your way up is just about writing things that provide value to readers.

2. Choose a 1-2 social channels and dominate them.

Don’t spread yourself too thin. Just because Pinterest has millions of users, that doesn’t make it a necessity. Don’t waste your time on Snapchat if you don’t like selfies. Further, it’s a huge pain to manage several social accounts, especially ones you’re not passionate about.

But, do choose a few channels that you know how to use well, and double down on them. Cole recommends starting with one, and then once you’ve built a loyal audience there, begin building a second and third.

Which platform(s) you choose, however, depends primarily on who your audience is and what social applications they use most frequently. For example: Twitter is very popular in the business world. It’s great for sharing articles, and, it’s easy to get influencers to share your tweets. The commitment needed to retweet something is a bit lower than Facebook or Instagram.

Instagram is great for those interested in building a visual brand, and engagement is currently soaring. And tools like SociallyRich make it very affordable to grow rapidly.

Whichever channels you choose, put thorough focus on ultra-high quality content and consistency. From there, find friends who can help magnify your message.

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3. Collaborate with top influencers.

It goes without saying, but networking really is critical – and there’s a science to it.

You should always be seeking out thought leaders who can add value to the content you’re creating – and ultimately build relationships with them over the long term.

From a marketing perspective, Influencers are the key to virality. They grow your reach exponentially through the network effect, while captivating followers with credibility, influence and trust.

The science lies in their reach and engagement. Numbers don’t lie. If they’re reaching 100k and thousands of people are interacting with their posts, they hold the keys to your virality.

Don’t think that because they’re influential and powerful that they’re untouchable. Influencers are human just like you and I.

As Cole explains, “Just reach out. If you’re genuinely looking for good connections and friends, most influencers are willing to find ways to collaborate. Especially in the world of entrepreneurship, there is this unspoken code of reciprocation. I have always found people to be extremely helpful, as long as that respect is mutual.”

Bear in mind… it’s critical that you do your homework and know the background of the person you’re reaching out to before you connect. This will provide you a few points of commonality to jump off from.

4. Proceed with confidence.

If you take one thing away from Cole’s story, it’s confidence. Confidence in your own experience and voice. Confidence that you can get published by the big boys. And pride in the content you release on your social channels.

I approached my first posts on Quora with the same conviction I still write with today. You really have to believe you have something valuable to share. If it’s not coming from the heart, people will know. It’s less about writing or sharing something you think people will want to hear, and a lot more about asking yourself what you genuinely believe would help someone else. All my best writing online contains something vulnerable in it. That’s the biggest thing I try to teach people. If you want to build an audience, if you want to build yourself into a name or a brand that people recognize and follow, then you have to be willing to let people see the real you,” said Cole.

He went on to explain that stumbling in the beginning is part of the journey. Getting started writing is the first step. And butchering a few articles is nothing to guilt-trip yourself about. We’ve all done it. Write passionately and consistently, and over time the puzzle pieces will fall into place.

For those who are new to thought leadership and influencer marketing, Cole just released a course that can help you. It’s focus in on finding your author voice and establishing confidence as a thought leader and influencer.

Everyone has a story. The art is in learning how to tell it and share it.

If you’re looking to take your influencer game to the next level, I would highly suggest checking out Nicolas Cole’s writing course. Not many 26 year olds can say they’ve been published in every major publication on the Internet and accumulated over 20,000,000 views on their work. He’s clearly mastered his craft, and now he wants to teach others how they can do the same.

Written by Jonathan Maxim

Jonathan Maxim is an app designer, digital marketer and thought leader in the fitness and technology realms. After leaving his job at a Fortune 50 company, he merged his management experience with his passion for technology and innovation to create Apps that encourage fitness and wellness. Educated at San Diego State University first in Graphic Design and User Interface, he went on to gain his Masters of Business from SDSU as well. Currently he serves as founder and CEO of Vea Fitness, an app that rewards you for working out with monetary incentives.

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