When you have an existing online audience, the path to growing that audience is fairly straightforward.
But when you have no audience to speak of, trying to build one up out of nothing can feel like an impossible challenge. In other words, it’s much harder to go from zero to 100 than it is to go from 100 to 1,000. Where do you even start?
A Roll-Up-Your-Sleeves Strategy That Works
There’s no easy way to build a new audience from scratch. However, if you’re willing to get your hands dirty, put in the time, and work at it, you can do it. Here’s a formula that works. Feel free to adapt it to your own niche and goals.
1. Start “Following” 100+ Accessible Influencers
Before you can build an audience, you have to establish your own network. You probably already have some sort of online network — either on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn — but it’s time to expand (with purpose).
Your first goal is to begin following 100 “accessible influencers.” These are people in your community or niche that have influence, but who aren’t so big that they won’t take notice of you. It could be someone who has 2,000 engaged followers on Instagram and still takes the time to respond to every comment. Or it might be someone in your city who is always posting creative content on LinkedIn. That person might be in a totally different industry, but they have their finger on the pulse of your community.
The goal of following these accessible influencers is to engage with them and ask for nothing in return. Like their videos, comment on their blog posts, offer to connect them with people you know. You don’t want to overdo it and always be the first person liking and sharing their stuff. However, you should be so consistent in your engagement that after a few weeks they can’t help but notice you. After that, you can start building up a referral program.
If you do this with 100 different influencers, you’re eventually going to build a robust community of people. They will feel naturally compelled to consume and share your content without ever having to make an ask. Again…it takes time…but it works!
2. Start “Following” 100+ People Who Fit Your Target Audience
The next step — and it should be noted that all of these steps can/should be done simultaneously — is to start following 100 people who fit your target audience. In other words, these are people you think are likely to become part of your audience as you grow. The purpose of doing this is to observe and engage, not sell.
As you follow more people in your target audience, you’ll get a feel for how they talk, what they share, and — most importantly — where they hang out online.
3. Go Where Your Audience Is
Find out where your online audience spends time. You can begin to frequent these websites, blogs, forums, social networks, and groups, too. Again, you aren’t going there to sell or push your own agenda. Make your voice known as someone who helps and gives. Add value and help others. You’re building up your trust and learning a few things about what your audience likes along the way.
4. Create Powerful Content
All the while you’re connecting with people and adding value to other online communities, you should be investing in content marketing. Make it a point to develop at least one piece of content every single day. This could be a blog post, a PDF, an Instagram story, a Facebook post, or a podcast episode — anything! The point is that you should be building up a library of content that supports your brand and connects with your target audience.
5. Share Where Your Audience Hangs Out
Eventually, you’ll gain clout and visibility with accessible influencers and people in your target audience. You can then start dripping your own content on them in an unassuming manner. This looks like sharing content on your social profiles and/or occasionally posting a helpful link to one of your posts when someone has a question about a topic that you’re knowledgeable about.
If you’ve laid the groundwork of giving and adding value, you’ll be surprised by how many people engage with what you have to offer. They’ll see you as someone who is there to help rather than sell a product or push an agenda.
Just Do Something
At the end of the day, doing anything is better than doing nothing. You don’t have to implement this entire strategy over the next seven days. Simply get started by giving yourself one action step each day. Let things scale from there. Building an online audience is an experiment in momentum — just get the ball rolling!