Salon #13 - Comet Tail Content
21 min read

Salon #13 - Comet Tail Content

Salon #13 - Comet Tail Content

The Salon is a weekly Zoom call (Wednesdays, 5pm UTC/London) where we increase our knowledge through conversation. See list of upcoming topics here.

16 curious people joined me for this Salon to talk about Comet Tail Content, a metaphor I proposed to think about putting a showcase on the content that you are creating.

This was the second time that we recorded the Salon and again I edited it (with the kind help of my wife Jasmin) in Descript. So feel free to listen to the recording below or read (or more likely, search through) the transcript further down on this page.

I again believe that a shorter write-up would have provided more value (and would have taken me less time, as well) but I am still curious to experiment with this format. So I hope you are fine with the full transcript for now. Let me know what you think via Twitter.

Full Transcript

Achim: [00:00:00] Thank you for taking the time for the salon. I'll do an introduction now, because last time at the very end, I noticed that some people were still trying to figure out what this is about.

Here at the Salon it's our goal to create insights through conversation . Especially insights that help you on your path as knowledge entrepreneur.

A knowledge, entrepreneurs is an expert who creates for an audience, earning an income. Thanks to technology there's currently a window of opportunity so that everyone here in the call can do this by creating value at scale and earning a part of that value in return. That income can be enough. It can be enough to make your expertise sustainable. It can be enough to make a living. It can even be enough to put  all financial pressures out of your life. It's this value at scale component that makes it so interesting. In the past only companies were able to reach so many people. Now single individuals, like you can do this themselves.

There are some bits and pieces to it. Technology is one important part, but also mindset.  Here at the salon, we are talking a lot about mindset. I'm doing it mostly because I believe in this and I want to make the point that it's possible. So I'm going that way. It's not my main job, I'm having a startup on the side that also takes quite a bit of work. I think everybody should consider to do a knowledge entrepreneur on the side.

Today the topic that I bring to the salon is "comet tail content".

Shared notes in Notion document

One more thing we're trying often something out here in the salon. This time I have prepared a shared notion document. It serves a couple of purposes. First of all, I put some information in there. It's writeable, you can write in it . Even in the browser.  For writing, you need a notion account. It's free. Most of you, since when you're at Ness labs, you probably know the drill.  The interesting part are two areas, that I've put in there.

One is called individual notes and one is called running notes. This was a learning from the Braintrust, I did recently a workshop where I got so much value out of a shared document that we created. And that way emerged:

Individual notes where you can put your name and then with this little fold out list you can write whatever you want. Even, if you don't raise your hand, if you cannot talk, if the time runs out, you can write down in the individual notes section here, just your name and type what you have to type. That's opening up all bandwidth that you need to add your remarks to add your insights to it. That helps other people , but also yourself, because you can always come back to this document.

The other thing is running notes. Running notes is when somebody else is talking, then you write down what resonates with you for the others. It's more like a documentation what somebody said. Because when you talk, you cannot write it down at the same time.

You have these two section: one, if you want, do whatever you want under your name. And the other one is keep track, help a little bit the group to add, things that were said, and that resonated with you and that you want documented.

So again, it's an invitation, no need to feel pressure to participate here, but that added a lot of value to past workshops that we did.

Here is a link to the document we created during the session:

Notion – The all-in-one workspace for your notes, tasks, wikis, and databases.
A new tool that blends your everyday work apps into one. It’s the all-in-one workspace for you and your team

Comet Tail Content

Comet tail content, it's a metaphor. Nowadays content is really not enough. You have to seed your content. You created something nice. It could be a video, an article, it could be a workshop. If you just put it on your website, if you've just put it on YouTube, it will have very limited reach. Because content is so abundant these days.

But when you start doing something, if you've mentioned it to other people, if you go on Twitter, if you help other people with it, then it gets more and more visible. And at some point I thought, of this comet.

It's actually a good metaphor because a comet has a nucleus. That's the comet itself and luck has it for this metaphor that this is some of the darkest objects in space. You don't see it. If it would stand still somewhere, it would be hidden. Nobody would see it.

But once it gets heated by the sun and gases evaporate called a coma. A coma is growing out of it and it starts to glow if you want . You have suddenly this object, which is at the very center, that's your content.

You have a coma around it. And that I thought is a nice metaphor for people getting an experience out of that.  Your content, people will read it. Your YouTube video, they will see it. They would think about it. Like it's getting, lighted a little bit.

It gets even better because you have to comet tail. We all know that the comet looks beautiful. That's actually smaller bits and pieces of air, gas and little crumbs going away from the comet heated up by the sun and getting this nice shape.

You can do this as the creator. You can go on Twitter, you can take little bits and pieces, put them out there so that others can see. Once you see the tail, you can find the way back to the content. That's the metaphor.

Now I want to open this up and talk about this metaphor, about your experiences with content. Do you think there's value in looking at content from that lens?

Chris: [00:05:55] I'll throw something out. it seems like  people are putting their different material out there in different formats as a way to find them. find their way back to the parent location,  your site, whatever it is. And then it just depends on  the platform that you're using as to how you need to structure. If it's Twitter, you want to do just brief little insights, Medium, maybe longer articles. And you can say the same thing in different places. but the more hooks you put out there in the water, the easier, more likely it is, people will find you depending on where they happen to be running and living.

Achim: [00:06:33] Some people look at it like you're recycling the content. It's a little bit cheating. Why should I put it on Twitter? I have it on YouTube here. But if you take this metaphor, you are lightening up your content. You're putting this trail in place. People won't see your content if you don't go out there and do something.

Trevor: [00:06:53] What you just said made this metaphor resonate for me a little bit more. If you think about the nucleus as being your core content, and then breaking off tiny pieces of the content for those hooks. So the little snippets on Twitter , the snippet on Facebook, those little tiny pieces around the coma that lights up the nucleus. Thinking in that terms, the metaphor that works for me. That and other people's experience with the content, that's more, you explicitly breaking off pieces to create a coma.

Chris: [00:07:27] The tail will grow and you put it out there in the world, with the hopes that other people will engage and it'll light something that connects with them, , they talk about it and that causes that tail to grow. It's not as much that you are doing all the heavy lifting, your  getting it started.  Then as other people engage in, grows beyond you, then people say, Hey, where did this idea come from? And then they find their way back to you. You're leaving breadcrumbs out in the world.

Achim: [00:07:54] This is something I experienced that if you think in terms of I have this knowledge. I put it out there for people to use. It's really hard to see that. But if you involve other people , if you bring it to people that get value out of that. If you mentioned people were saying, you asked for something like this in the past, look, I did this.

I often talk about value. Just grabbing people's attention is not value, but making a deliberate effort, to involve people that could benefit from that, that has value. And that lights up your content. That can travel on its own. It can then continue and continue and bring it to even more people.

Social media to promote content

Paul: [00:08:34] I think a thing that's interesting for me with this conversation and the decision I had made a few weeks back is what are the places I want to drop those hooks outside of the social media environment?  I'm on a rogue personal endeavor to figure out what does this game look like if I don't use social media to try to reach folks. Curious to how that might further some thoughts from this community.

Achim: [00:09:02] Social media is the public. It's the marketplace. Think of ancient Greece, and think about, you want to sell something. You could go from house to house. But there was the thing as a marketplace, you could go there and you could say Hey, I've got something to sell. You can put up a sign.

I was skeptical of social media because it has so many downsides, but the marketplace also has a lot of downsides. It's not the place where you want to sleep or where you are in a full mental health.  So social media is this public space where you can then interact with other people. If you're saying  you don't want to go on social media, then you are in this peer to peer way, which can also be a community.  I wouldn't count that fully as social media. I'm curious  what other people would answer to that

Ziga: [00:09:51] Social media, isn't the only place. It's true, there are a lot of people, but you also have search engine optimization. Which in some cases, if you're picking the right niche can actually be way more powerful and way less work than social media. Because you basically allow Google to work for you. Surprisingly enough people search for a shit ton of stuff and nobody's providing answers for it. So that might be an alternative.

Paul: [00:10:19] I appreciate that. I think that's where my head is right now in terms of hoping that is the way in which I can maximize things the most. and obviously it being a single space what  other things I might not be aware of , that exists out there as I try to step away from the social media side of things.

Ziga: [00:10:38] Technologically I'm not aware of anything else although for SEO you really need to be niche because if you're competing with others.

Yina: [00:10:45] The social media route is it's definitely a viable route. It does take a lot of activation energy to get the momentum going. One thing that I've started entertaining is trying to find out what questions people have. Quora has a great database of where you can literally find what are the answers people are looking for and from there determine pin points. It's been a great way to just understand a little bit more about the niche that I'm focused on. What are some of the questions they have. it can be an organic way to generate that additional momentum.

The coma, per Achim's metaphor where you can then literally give people answers to the questions that they have, dropping quality to the knowledge you share.

Barry: [00:11:20] I would agree with you  I was reading about Quora last week. I wasn't too sure.  I wasn't too sure what Quora was, to be honest and, and reading about it.  I was waiting to believe , maybe detrimantal for SEO and canibalizes, what you've already published and whether that's on me, Jomar or your blog or whatever it might be.

But I think  I like the idea that it doesn't really matter as its effect in your SEO because you'll find them community isn't Medium and Quora. Quora has got what, don't know, a hundred million users and you can build the community there and then a community on a different platform. I think it's why I like  the quote that , it's no, so much about writing  and it's about distribution more than it is actually creating.

Achim: [00:12:18] Thanks Barry.

Ziga: [00:12:19] No, actually wanted to add something else. Some people consider Pinterest a social media while actually in a lot of developers circles it's called a visual search engine. So I'm part of the mentor community of developers and the main person running, the whole thing is benefiting from the SEO from Pinterest. So basically searching through pictures. In a sense it is social media, but a very different one. So that might also be another way.

Yina: [00:12:45] Do you have an example of someone that's used Pinterest in that way? I'm on Pinterest, but I usually just use it to find recipes or dogs. I've never seen anyone that does it in a knowledge entrepreneurial way. So I was wondering if you had something to anchor that information.

Ziga: [00:12:58] Okay. Maybe not for knowledge entrepreneur but for instance, for travel. If you actually Google the traffic on Pinterest amount of searches per monthly basis, it's crazy. If you can tap and part of that traffic is to figure out where the interest is in the same as like the Google. If you tap into the right part of the traffic.

Achim: [00:13:15] Marco, do you want to answer to that?

Marko: [00:13:18] Not answer, but throw in a smaller question? I would be curious if you could use Reddit successfully for the same things like Quora or Instagram. Do you have any experience about Reddit, if that could work for you?

Yina: [00:13:31] I've tried just people can be mean.

Achim: [00:13:34] I want to make one important point from the knowledge entrepreneurial perspective. SEO, if you want to optimize traffic, it's completely out of your control. It's like financial markets. If you invest in stock, you are in no control. It's a huge thing that happens and you don't understand it. Others can be more advanced than you. It's a game that some people would like to play. Especially maybe technical people but it's hard to stay motivated. If you don't get feedback, if you only look at numbers and it's tough because you don't have really a feedback loop . The algorithm won't tell you I put you in position 100 because.

My alternative proposition for that, one that I also do here, is to start small. Start from the individual, start from helping one person then helping 10 people. Because this starting with communities, starting with individual feedback gives you this feedback loop. It gives you motivation. You create something. It's like a first phase. And then at some point SEO becomes a really good lever you can pull.

I want to put that out here because that's very typical.  I want to go into writing. What pencil does Stephen King use? what kind of pencil do you use? This is not the right question to ask. The right question is how to get into this mindset of delivering value. Can you deliver it to one person? Can you deliver to 10 people? And go from there because SEO will then deliver to many more people.

Ziga: [00:15:04] This I want to emphasize if you want to benefit from SEO, it's good that you can do technical stuff, because then you can reverse engineer how Google ranked stuff, but it's technical. Maybe for somebody with no technical experience it might not be the best part.  I think you can figure out why you're ranked the way you are ranked precisely, but you can get a pretty good feeling. But again, it's not a recipe to ultimate success.

Achim: [00:15:30] Totally. I don't want to discount SEO ? It's very important.

It's like opening the flood Gates to something, but for the path of knowledge entrepreneur . We are not talking about , we have a budget and we hire somebody. We are knowledge entrepreneurs. So we do it all ourselves. And you know how to get value to one person. You know, how to create one article and show it to somebody else. Because otherwise you get quickly into these marketing schemes where people say it's so easy. Look how they, and they, and they have done it. And then you have a huge survivorship bias.

There are better ways that lead to a success with higher probability.  I always distinguish between what is possible and what is probable. these are two different things. no human can jump four meters high. That's not possible. But if you say somebody can jump very high. Can you do it, too? Yes, it's possible. Is it probable that you will do this with your training regimen, with your job? That's a very different question.

So think about, is something probable. Is it probable that you will learn SEO and do this, or is it probable that you reach out to people?

A little bit sidetracked here, I was really happy what Barry said , like bringing in Quora and that it's not  about creation, but about distribution and that's the point. You created something nice. I think we all do this mistake. We discount what we created and go with the new shiny object.  We want to create something new, something better, but actually a lot of people have proven already that, you created something now it's time for distribution. Now it's time for seeding. Now it's time to showing it to people. Now it's time to do the work that nobody really wants to do. I have to go out there and actually show it to somebody? But that's the key.

Chris: [00:17:19] I was on another forum and we're talking about that. If you have an area that you're focusing on and you have some sort of a story you're trying to tell something you're trying to share, and you're going to have two or three main stories to talk about who you are and what you're doing. You need to learn ways to tell those same stories, a hundred different ways. I know we don't like to repeat ourselves but if you ask: what do you do? It's this, and it can sound like a marketing pamphlet, but really it's all about stories. So all these engagements on Reddit, on Quora, Twitter, wherever you see somebody, you engage with them  and you tell them what you're doing in a way that answers their question. With your story, tailored to them. And then you make it personal. They then make the connection and they may then want to come to see you.

Achim: [00:18:00] My goal is not to sell my information and make a buck. My goal is to get so much value to other people that they say:  Whoa, this guy really helped me in this and that, because that gives me a good feeling. I know I created value. I know I will earn. That's for sure. And so I have  to stay on them.

Here, for example, we have a community already. I have people here that already know some context of what I said in the past. I want to help them to go this path of a knowledge entrepreneur. And I would encourage you to do the same in your expertise. Because expertise is key. You want to be a tool for other people that they want to come back to and use again.

Ziga: [00:18:41] I wrote into the chat to before that, it's really good to be able to build your distribution and the long tail and all of that based on your skills. Because if you don't know SEO, it doesn't make sense, to pay somebody to do it for you, if you can do social media for free. And actually one of the things when I actually started to during the whatever writing knowledge entrepreneurship, I figured I can pay people to do writing for me, coding for me, and I would progress way faster. But then I said having time I can invest it. I learned those skills and I don't have to pay people to do it.  Then you see people paying, 500 bucks for an artist, 200 bucks for an editor and they publish a post. They get, I don't know, 5,000 hits on hacker news and they're super happy. They got 30 subscribers and that doesn't scale.

Achim: [00:19:28] We all have to pick our places.  And it's best to start with the things that are most natural to you. So for me, Twitter is really hard. It's not easy for me to  put myself out there to a broad audience and I'm slowly learning it. I think Twitter is really crucial for every knowledge entrepreneur. And there's a way to learn it. For example, I noticed that I would use it less for consummation. I would not scroll my feed and look what other people are saying. Because it is really hard to see: Oh, they're all doing this great stuff. This typically Instagram effect. But for conversation, it's powerful. The moment I dive into a thread by people talking with each other. It's a wonderful tool. It's no problem at all. So I'm already slowly taking notes and I would say Twitter for conversation, but not for consumation.

Other people may have different things. For me, conversations like this are very easy. I love that.  It's like seeing people and engaging with people. For you it might be a zoom call . I can already tell you it's really something that every one of you can do and a lot of people are doing it. And I'm so glad to see that. Dan was doing it, here, and he was in the call and Indie had a great session . You can all do that. The difference I did here was to make this a regular thing. And I think there's so much value. But again, pick your medium, but pick something where you can make your core content more visible.  Make this little comet tail.

Has somebody an example of their own content where they thought there was  a little tail.  I put something out and then there was a discussion something happened there. I was really  getting something out of it or visibility to my content.

Suzy: [00:21:18] I've had a YouTube channel for probably four years now. And nobody watched it except people that I already knew, and they didn't even mostly watch it either. I'm a teacher. I'm from Georgia, not the country, but the Southern state, so pardon my accent.  I had this channel out there with fewer than a hundred subscribers. And then I hit on a little niche almost by accident for a tool that teachers were using, but they weren't using it the way that I showed it. And so , I'm not even exaggerating from a whole four years of content. And then within two months I went from a hundred subscribers to 11,000.

I've now made, not even via YouTube, but from teachers watching my channel and referring me to their districts to say, pay this girl. I've now made I think $8,000, which that's obviously a side gig, but Hey, I love to see it circling around. So how to hit that again? I don't know, because I feel like I've exhausted everything I know about that topic. I don't know what else to say about it, but I'm looking for another  tailwind to come back around. We'll see.

Achim: [00:22:17] That's such a great story and a great success, and you touched on something that is also very important, which is using the right words, the right use cases, the right angle on your topic. You describe a tool for teachers in a certain use case. That can make a huge difference. Also trending topics, like Clubhouse  and  for example, Daft Punk. Cam, he wrote an email recently in this newsletter, like Daft Punk and..., and when I see Daft Punk  now I'm really  paying attention, that's a topic that a lot of people are talking about. He chose this because  it has a nice vibe to it. Lot of people are interested. It's like the comet tail again. And it leads back to your content in a way that's totally fine.

Trevor: [00:23:05] I'm curious. Can I just ask a quick question to  Susie. when that channel started building, did it build primarily on YouTube itself, or was it building where your videos were being posted out to social media and other things and being direct to them in some, most of the traffic was coming from outside? was it because YouTube has its own search engine that can build in itself as well? So what was the primary driver?

Suzy: [00:23:30] I still, because I'm not making consistent revenue, haven't probably invested in tools, analytic things as much as I should. I think I have Google analytics set up, but I never look at it.

So I'm terrible example, any business sense, but it was cold to say though , in direct proportion to the channel growing, my Twitter was growing and I was saying people, the resources have been shared everywhere, but I don't think people are always good at tagging the author to let them know that something was shared.

I had friends tag me and say, Hey, your resource was here in this Facebook group. Or my email list has grown in proportion. I had 80 people on my email list and now I'm at 700. So it's not as fast, but it's been a steady growth as well. I feel like maybe as content creators, we could do a better job of giving our fellow creators a little tag to say, Hey, so-and-so loved this. Or this is where it was shared because it's hard to follow. If we're going to go back to the comet metaphor. Sometimes it's hard to know where the comet came from. We put it out there, but then where did all the influence come fromI dont't know.

Achim: [00:24:29] We have one question here in the chat from Zyga regarding good references, how to use the Twitter search.   Dan said that the Twitter search is a great tool to doing research on anything. I've heard that a lot. I heard it from people that even said the Twitter search is even more important than the Google search, because if you put on the right terms and especially the advanced search, then you get people talking about it. It's always with context. It's other people talking about the content and about these topics. Does somebody feel like an expert, when it comes to advanced search?

Dan: [00:25:06] I could just jump in there really quickly. not about being found, but about using Twitter, too. I keep tabs on ed tech, the ed tech industry. Sometimes when you just type in the word, ed tech, you just see what comes up really quickly. You see what jumps up at you. You don't waste a lot of time and then you could even dive in a little deeper if you want to explore for example NFTs.

The digital art world that's now booming. Twitter gave me a quick learning and it's been very helpful. There's Twitter algorithms. They also know who I am or who I follow already. It helped form the search for me. So I used to use Twitter as a search tool, whether it's  a higher level of  concept or if I want to dive deep in and you can just see what pops up, I've always found it very useful more than a Google search, by the way.

Achim: [00:26:01] Twitter advanced search is really powerful and there are definitely a couple of experts at Ness labs for how use this. I put here in the chat, one story that I got from a newsletter from George Mac. I also put it in notion and  he makes the point that the FBI couldn't find the Silk Road guy but one person used  Google search, to track down this person and actually succeeded. It's a nice story.He then suggests in this newsletter Twitter advanced search for that

The key is the engagement or the number of likes . You can go to the Twitter search and then you would say, show me only the tweets that has 10,000 likes. No come up . Then you say 5,000, 1000. So you kind of distill the things that got the most engagement. And that gets you a very different picture.

The second way, how to do it is with tweet deck, extra software, where you have Twitter in these rows, and there you can define searches and tags and keywords and so on for these individual rowes. And that gives you this power. I will reach out to one person that mentioned that. Sourav also had mentioned that he uses this a lot. I will follow up on that and let you know. .

We reached the 45 minutes, I am sorry. I always try to stay on time.  This will be now the official end. I will do the write-up again. I will condense here some information. We can also continue this at other points. I will try to use this metapher more going forward. I'm happy for feedback as well.

Thank you. I hope you got something out of it and I'm looking forward to see you at a future salon.