Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur selling a physical product or service, a blogger, or hoping to become an internet influencer sensation, you’ve got to build an audience.
There’s no question that it takes time to develop an engaged following and there’s more than one way to do it, but the fact remains: it’s a crucial part of earning money online.
Without followers, no one will buy from you because you have no one to sell to.
It’s that simple. Seems simple, right?
In theory, it is. But building an audience online takes a lot of work and consistency. The beginning stages are oftentimes the hardest because you may not see much return for all the elbow grease you’re putting into the work. But with time and dedication, you’ll soon have your systems running practically on autopilot and bringing in more and more fans to your audience.
So, how do you do it?
5 Ways to Build an Audience
Like I said, there’s more than one way to build an audience. If you want to maximize your reach, your best bet is to utilize a mix of social media, email newsletters, and online content.
No matter how you go about it, you’ll have to do a little research to see what will get your people to engage with you. This might mean testing a few things at once (not everything at once!) or trying one thing at a time for a few weeks to see what works well and what doesn’t.
The main ingredient here is to determine who your ideal audience actually is and where they spend the most time online. If you can figure that out, then you’ll know where you focus your efforts.
Here are the X main areas to focus on when building your audience.
1. The Social Media “Big 4”: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn
Social media is a huge, HUGE part of building an audience – there’s no doubt about it. As of 2019, people around the globe spend an average of nearly 2.5 hours scrolling through their social feeds every day. That’s a lot of social time.
It makes sense that every business and brand wants to have a strong social media presence. But, like everything else, it doesn’t make sense for every brand to have a profile on every platform available.
Sure, massive companies like Nike, Apple, Starbucks, and others probably have social media accounts and followers on every conceivable platform out there, but they also have massive staff and advertising budgets that allow them to give multiple people the responsibility of keeping those profiles updated consistently.
As a solopreneur (meaning you’re doing everything yourself, girl!), you don’t have that luxury. Instead, you need to focus on where your ideal buyers are spending the most time.
The safest bets are Facebook, Instagram, and maybe Twitter.
Facebook is a no-brainer. Since its debut all the way back in 2004, it’s remained the largest social media platform on the internet. Everyone who is anyone (ahem, all the peoples) spend at least some time on Facebook every week if not every day.
Facebook has created some great ways to communicate with your followers. While Facebook pages have lost their luster over the years, Facebook groups are a fantastic way to offer value to your fans and build trust so they’ll eventually buy from you.
Build your Facebook audience by engaging in other groups, inviting friends from your personal circle of relationships and acquaintances, and talking up your page or group when you’re engaging with new people both on and off the internet.
Instagram isn’t technically in the “top 3” most popular social media sites, but when we hear the term “social media,” tell me Instagram isn’t one of the main platforms you think of. (It ranks in your head with Facebook, doesn’t it?)
Instagram is, obviously, image-driven. Increasingly, videos are becoming more popular on the platform, too, but it remains a mostly still image site. It’s harder to share links here (you can only do that well in your profile bio) and there’s no such thing as “Instagram groups,” but as humans, we love looking at pretty, interesting photos.
Instagram isn’t the best place to focus for everyone and it can be tougher to engage with your audience on this platform. On the flip side, it’s a great place to be for many entrepreneurs.
Build an Instagram following by researching hashtags that correlate to what you do or who you’re trying to reach. Start small here – look for hashtags that have 1,000 or fewer images linked to them. It’s easier to be found with these by new followers who are also searching the same hashtags; it’s a lot harder to be found as a newbie entrepreneur with a still-small following using hashtags that have hundreds of thousands of images linked to them.
Twitter, in my personal opinion, is a dying breed. Yes, the US president likes to air his grievances there at all hours of the day and night and yes, there are plenty of celebs that have great Twitter accounts that are very entertaining… but it’s a hard place to gather a following that will buy from you.
Twitter can, however, be a good place to interact with fans. In that sense, it’s not fair to completely shut it out of the “social media for business” running. After all, if we look at some big brands like Wendy’s (a US-based fast food restaurant) or Netflix, it’s clear that a dash of humor can go a long way in attracting an audience and engaging with them.
Build your Twitter following by following like-minded and -centered brands and influencers, big and small. Search for and use relevant hashtags in your tweets. Engage with others who have similar interests by commenting or retweeting their tweets. To make the most of Twitter, you’ll need to spend a significantly larger amount of time there than you might on Facebook or Instagram – you should be tweeting an average of 7-10 times in a single day.
LinkedIn is different than the other social platforms because it’s specifically a place for professional social relationships. It’s not a “bad” place, per se, for Twitter-like funny quips every now and then, but the tone is quite different than all the other social platforms.
This is a better place to be if you’re selling a “professional” product or service. In fact, professional services do the best here. LinkedIn gives its users some special tools, like groups, that are reminiscent of Facebook, but it also has some extra tricks up its sleeve.
LinkedIn is a great place to show the world you’re an expert at what you do because you can create a sort of mini-blog there. Writing and publishing articles on topics of interest to your ideal audience is a great way to help yourself stand out from the crowd and gain a following or potential customers or clients.
Build your LinkedIn audience by seeking out others in your field or similarly-aligned fields and connect with them. Search and use hashtags like you would on Instagram or Twitter and engage with folks often on their posts. Write articles to publish on your LinkedIn account that are native only to LinkedIn and not on your website.
Other Social Platforms to Consider
While the “big 4” should be on your radar, there are a few others you might not want to ignore.
For example, TikTok has become all the rage in the last year or so. In my mind, it’s the new Snapchat. Both of these platforms are places where a mostly younger crowd spends time. In essence, unless your ideal audience or client is under the age of 25, it’s likely not worth worrying about these platforms.
That said, if you enjoy them and think they may be beneficial to your business, by all means, use them!
Technically, YouTube could be classified as both a social media platform and a search engine.
As videos are open to consumption for anyone surfing the web (assuming the account owner has left them open), viewers can leave comments and interact with the person who uploaded the videos. This makes the platform social. YouTube also gives channels with large subscriber followings the option to do “stories,” something that originated on Facebook and Instagram.
As it’s owned and operated by Google, the search engine side of it makes a lot of sense. Have you ever noticed that sometimes when you type a search question into Google that the results will come back with a few video options on YouTube? It’s pretty cool, right?
YouTube is a powerful tool and if you’re comfortable being in front of the camera, it can be an awesome place to build a following.
Build your YouTube following by using a few strategic keywords in your video titles. Also, make a point to comment on your own video and ask questions to engage viewers to respond. Make sure to invite viewers to subscribe to your channel often.
3. Your Blog
Your blog is a major place for you to build a following for a few reasons:
- It plays a crucial role in search engine optimization (SEO) for your website.
- It gives you a place to demonstrate and showcase your expertise.
- It shows your audience that your business is alive and kicking.
- It offers a place for your audience to gain free value and ultimately helps you build trust with your followers.
Personally, as a content creator and marketer, I think every business should have a blog. I’m not kidding. Every. Freaking. Business. Needs a blog.
To make the most of your blog and grow your following, you need to write articles that
A) Are on topics that your audience finds interesting or answers frequent questions they may have, and
B) Are consistently offering value.
Here’s the thing, buttercup: No one wants to read a blog article about how you added a new team member to your company. Or about how you’ve gained a new customer. Or spotlighting something that’s about only you or your company.
People will come to your blog because you have something of value to offer them – information, tutorials, tips and suggestions, and so on. Don’t make it about you because ain’t nobody care about you. We’re all selfish (and that’s okay sometimes!), so make it a point to keep your topics focused on your followers’ interest.
4. Online Advertisements
You certainly can “pay to play” on social media or search engines and drive traffic to your website. While I don’t recommend this for entrepreneurs just starting to build an audience and are still getting the swing of things, paid advertising can be a powerful tool.
If this is something you want to start considering, I would recommend beginning with Facebook/Instagram or LinkedIn advertising. All of these platforms are very affordable and have robust options to set up ads that, with research and practice, are fairly easy to use.
I would also recommend that you drive traffic to a landing page to download a free tool or product, like an ebook or Trello board or spreadsheet you’ve designed. This way, you can add those folks to your email list, which brings us to my last point…
Unlike social media, email newsletters are the only guaranteed way you have to connect with your audience. Why?
Because you don’t own your social profiles, social media platforms do. You could get locked out of your Facebook or LinkedIn group at any time and if you don’t have a backup list of all those people in your group (because let’s face it, who does that?!), then you’re screwed. How are you going to connect with your people?
Also, none of us have control over social media algorithms. We simply can’t compete and “organic reach” – meaning the number of people who see your posts in their news feeds without you paying advertising dollars to get your posts front and center – isn’t what it used to be.
By sending consistent email newsletters, though, we can be certain all our followers have an opportunity to hear what we have to say. Sure, we can’t guarantee that all those people will open our emails, but we can be sure it lands in their inbox and they at least see it there.
Build your email list by offering freebies like I mentioned above – ebooks, spreadsheets or worksheets you create, Trello boards, or other tools you can develop or set up and share. Set up shop with an email service provider like Mailerlite to keep everything under one proverbial roof and stay organized.
Building an audience takes work, yes. But it can also be a ton of fun and as time wears on, it’s well worth the effort you put in. If you’re hoping to make money online in any capacity, you need a flock of fans who are excited about what you have to offer.