Most articles on how to build a fanbase will cover tactics such as Facebook Ads, cross-promotions (joint ventures), and SEO (search engine optimization.)
I’ll share my thoughts on tactics, but the most important thing is this:
A true audience gives you their consistent attention.
That’s the kind of audience you want to build: a loyal following that has grown to count on you, and therefore, an audience that you can count on to engage with your content, share it forward if they like, and to actually consider your products and services.
If you don’t start with that understanding, then you’ll do grossly inefficient things such as buying Facebook Ads to get more “likes” to your fan page. This may actually move you backward, as you end up with thousands of fake fans who “like” your page but don’t pay real attention to your content.
A fake audience doesn't engage with your content or buy from you. I’ve seen this happen many times. This is why the term “vanity metric” exists.
A true audience cares about your content, and about you.
You have developed a feeling of kindred spiritness with your following. They’re not consuming your content in a drive-by fashion, only taking what they need and then disappearing. They are genuinely interested in your journey and growth.
How does this happen?
You have shown genuine caring for your audience, rather than make them feel like they’re part of a marketing funnel. You’ve consistently shown up, so they feel like they can count on you. And you share your true journey of ups and downs and what you’re learning, aka you are authentically you, so they feel like they can really trust you.
These are really the values of how you approach audience building, and each of us will apply them in our own ways.
Now let’s get to the tactics.
There’s a myth that almost everyone seems to believe in the beginning:
I’ll just post my blog or videos on social media, and the right people will find it!
Once you’ve tried this a few times, you’ll realize the truth:
Unless you already have a true audience, nobody even saw your content because it was drowned in a sea of millions of pieces of content that were also posted today.
And even if a few people saw it, they weren’t your target audience anyway.
This is where paid advertising comes in. It gets your content in front of enough of the right people. Actually, as many as your advertising budget can afford.
My favorite is Facebook Ads because you can very specifically select what kind of person you want to reach, with what kinds of interests, age and other demographics. Based on years of experience with it, I now teach an online course about Facebook Ads.
The other major alternative is Google Ads, which allows you to reach people who are searching for the specific topics that you want your content to reach. I’ll be teaching a Google Ads course soon. Get notified here.
The simplest, easiest way to build an audience is through paid distribution/advertising of your content.
Again, I remind you that content needs to be authentic (true to you), consistent (your audience can count on you), and relevant (what the audience cares about.)
Paid distribution, and any of these other tactics, are amplifiers of good content, not a substitute.
And content is what builds a true audience.
This is simply where someone else promotes your content, and you promote theirs. When it’s the right fit, it’s a win-win.
Look for peers in your topic (or a related one) and with a similar-sized audience, and see if you like their content. If you do, reach out to them, praise their content (be specific), and ask if they might want to cross promote so that you can help each other grow your audiences.
Include links to 3 of your best pieces of content that might interest their audience.
The way to cross promote will vary. Some partners will include your content in their email newsletter. Some will link to you on their website. Some will post it to their Facebook Page (if so, I would recommend paying them $10-20 to have them boost it to their fans, to ensure you reach at least a couple hundred of their fans.)
The most impactful way to cross promote is with an influencer whose audience is much larger than yours. Why might they promote you though? See this article for the method: How to Do Influencer Marketing for Free
If you find a blog that has a similar audience as yours, they might be up for you writing an article for their blog.
Usually they’ll want your article to be exclusive to their blog, at least for a few months, before you “syndicate” it on your own website too, or in other places.
In your guest blog post, try to link to your own website (perhaps to a specific article or resource) within the article itself. And include the link to your website at the bottom of the blog post, along with your bio. Doing these will help you to build your audience.
Podcast guest-speaking is another possible tactic, but I don’t love this method because podcast listeners are usually doing something (driving car, walking dog, doing dishes) where they can’t go to your website, no matter how much they liked your episode.
The only exception is when you speak on a podcast that has a large audience (thousands of downloads per episode). Then perhaps you’ll get 5-10% of them visiting your website.
(However, you might want to do cross-promotion with that podcast host in other ways, e.g. on their Facebook Page.)
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
No article about building an audience would be complete without discussing SEO.
I’ve written a whole article about that already so I’ll just refer you here if you’re interested: Simple Guide to Authentic SEO
Currently, my focus is on Paid Distribution (See tactic #1 above) and some cross promotion, and the occasional podcast that is either hosted by a client, or from someone else that might have a large enough audience to make it worthwhile.
However if I had more time (besides Paid Distribution) to build an audience from scratch, I would definitely pay attention to SEO.
Keep Returning to Content
Content is King. Distribution is Queen. These are equal forces in building a true audience.
If your content is good, and you’ve done a good job distributing it, it will spread, and your true audience will grow.
To keep it sustainable and fulfilling for you, keep returning to your deeper purpose for growing an audience: making a positive impact, and growing your own skills.
Do this and you will be sought out, and referred. You’ll build an audience you love. ❦
George Kao is a Marketing Coach for small business owners, especially solopreneurs such as Coaches and Mentors. He focuses on ethical & effective ways to grow one's platform and build true livelihood.
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