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How Living Far Away Can Help

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I got an email from a Filipino reader of my early ChangeThis manifesto yesterday which I thought was worthy of an answer on this blog. Here’s the question:

I’m from Manila, Philippines [...] I was wondering if you can share with me how I can build my expertise on the web, specifically social media? There are no experts here yet and I’m thinking I could be it. I love the new media.

Here’s what happened to me in Canada, and how living here (instead of the US) helped me get where I am today.

One of the great things about living in another country than the US is that you can take advantage certain things to get you to the top faster. Here’s how:

1. Find out how you can compete.

For me (Canada), that might be population– at 30 million people, there should be 10 times less competition to get noticed in the US (300 million). Your angle could be currency– you can make a lot of pesos for every US dollar you make, making it easier for you to free yourself from a job.

Another angle could be adoption rate. Podcasting was a bit slower to get picked up in Canada (there’s always friction/time in adoption of technologies by other countries), so being one of the first people to use it provided an angle of differentiation (“first in Canada”). It can be the same with you and any new thing people on the web are doing.

2. Build the Community

If the people in your country aren’t making it happen, you need to start right now– it can make you huge.

When you build the local community, you’re naturally putting yourself at the top of it– not by saying so, but through your leader-like behaviour of creating events, etc. As that group grows, you’ll naturally still be at the top of it.

Think of a pyramid: You’re at (or near) the top. Layers get added (newbies, at the bottom), and before long you’re at the top of a much higher pyramid. You didn’t do anything, you just stayed put and kept active.

You’ll also get known as the Agent Zero– read the book to figure out what this means. You’ll become the person who connects people, and everyone will know you. This will increase your visibility and apparent success, which will in turn increase actual success.

3. Differentiation and Status Quo Bias

This is what we say about Greg Cangialosi all the time. He’s the email marketing guy to us, so we always go to him when we need something like that. He’s the status quo. You need to be too.

Blogging is an important part of this– showing your expertise as much as possible in a public forum, and connect it to people in the Philippines (or wherever you, the reader, come from). Be the cutting edge Filipino social media guy is a lot easier than being that same guy in the United States, because you’re the expert on both social media *and* the Philippines. The network will be smaller, so becoming an important part of it is easy. And be more helpful than anyone else, put more time in than anyone else. You’ll have all the relationships you need for years to come.

Read this great Scott Adams’ post for more on differentiation.

Anyway, I hope this helps some people! Does it make more sense now?

* Filed by Julien at 3:34 pm under strategy


Hi, I’m Julien Smith. I'm the founder and CEO of Breather.

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3 Responses to “How Living Far Away Can Help”

  1. Nico Says:

    This is how I started ages ago. I was
    “the argentinian” when there were relatively few podcasts around. People who did a show from their basement were thrilled to hear from someone who was so far away. And even though I’m by no means an expert, some people still know me by my first name only :)

  2. CT Moore Says:

    You know, the mistake I’ve made over and over, with so many projects, was to use the reach of the world wide web to target a market (the US) that is much bigger than my home one (Canada).

    You’d figure that even though Canada is only a tenth of the population as the US, the competition would be proportional — only a tenth of the audience, a tenth of the potential clients, etc… But somehow, it’s sick important to have roots in the market you’re targeting, to understand and “get” it’s consumers.

    It’s like Nietzsche said: “For a tree to become tall it must grow tough roots among the rocks.”

  3. Alphonse Hà Says:

    Thank you.

    That is all I am going to say. You have no idea how much this post helped me.

    Much love!

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