Our early-stage entrepreneurs ask how to build an audience, and all online articles we’ve seen, assume you’re looking to GROW an audience instead of how to BUILD an audience. Here we’re going to focus on how to build an audience FROM ZERO!
There’s no magic software out there unfortunately that scoops your perfect audience up and then adds them into your marketing funnel.
Learning how to build an audience is about patience and celebrating the little wins first. Most startups want to spend nothing at first as they’re starting out, often under their own finances before they go to a venture capitalist. We do the same thing here at Alacrity. Therefore, we understand the concerns (and excuses) we can have over obtaining an audience.
Some days, you’ll see no new followers. Some days you’ll see more people leaving than joining and there’s nothing you can do about it. If people do go, they’re not interested, and that’s okay. We’d rather have a 100 person email list of interested people than 1000 people who won’t even open the email.
Presuming you have a consistent message and you’re speaking to your personas correctly, you can now learn the simple steps of how to build an audience.
Do You Have Friends That Listen?
You haven’t got time for content curation yet, but you have a message. It’s time to test that message out on your friends (and their friends). Get to social media and start spreading your word to your friends. If you don’t have a Twitter or LinkedIn page, then create one and start following all of your friends and (former) colleagues. Add their email addresses to your database (get permission though to apply with existing GDPR and privacy laws)
Create a business feed and then invite colleagues and friends. You may have loads of contacts that start to fill it up. At this stage, we’re more interested in volume than a targetted audience. We’ll clean this up later and naturally people will drop-off.
Start writing and sharing. These messages at first will be terrible but find out what works and move to that version instead. For us, shorter notes and common-style, branded thumbnails work much better.
Naturally, you will achieve new followers, and your audience will adapt and develop but use this early time to get your message right.
Keep Shouting About Your Message
On each social media platform, we are all bombarded with cut-down messages and in most cases, spend little time on these platforms. For instance, Twitter; users spend, on average, ONLY 3 minutes per day on the platform. If you’re sending out tweets and your audience isn’t looking at the screen in that 3-minute window, then they miss your message.
We Didn’t Say Stop! Repeat, Repeat!
We don’t want to miss out on this traffic though; therefore KEEP SENDING IT! Again and again! People these days have such short attention spans that we need to keep repeating our message so it reaches more people and sinks in. Scheduling tools like Buffer and Hootsuite are great for this. We use Hubspot, which is fantastic, but expensive… By scheduling the same message every-so-often, then you have a higher chance of visibility.
How often have you received an email or seen an advert and thought you should action that later; and then forgot…? Beginning a cycle of repetition will be good practise, and this is key to building a new audience.
There are many ways of sharing a message and plenty of different styles of writing, so add a load to your channel queues and see how they perform.
How to build an audience is also about convincing them to follow us in the first place. The first message they see may not inspire them. The second one they see, there will be recognition of the brand. And the third time they may start to pay attention, so repetition is going to win eventually.
Get it Shared
Content creation from articles and posts is only half the battle. The rest of the time, we need to encourage people to share. Everyone within your business should be on point to spread your message. Not just once, all of the time! We like and reshare every one of our tweets and have set up notifications when one of our tweets is sent so we can quickly like and share it further.
Marketing, especially digital marketing, is about sharing. We need to plant seeds of interest in people that they interact with by sharing, liking and re-posting. With any luck, they may even purchase your product (which is the point isn’t it)!
Patience is a Virtue
Annoyingly, this process takes time to build up an audience. If you’re using YouTube or Instagram, for instance, then you can actually ‘buy’ subscribers and likes etc. But, these are not going to be of value as they are not your target market. There are (some small) benefits to using a service like this. Still, we won’t touch on those here sorry, and you need to be careful as it could negatively impact your efforts.
While you’re repeating your message and amplifying your content through repetition, you need to have a lot of patience. Be in it for the long run. Play the patience game while learning how to build an audience!
In the early days, some posts will work, and some will fail. Work out (if you can) which ones seem to work better and either tailor the language and images to match. We find that shorter tweets work better than longer ones. Also, a lot of retweets occur from specific hashtags. You’ll identify these as well and recognise complementary hashtags to use too. Through LinkedIn, hashtags that you follow will alert you (over email usually or through notifications) of people talking about relevant content. This means you need to get in the conversation and start contributing and sharing your own posts and experience.
Social media looks easy but trying to gain an audience is hard, very hard. These dark-arts of marketing (as we like to call them) take time, patience and constant adaptation to start to work eventually. We never said it was easy learning how to build an audience from zero. Sorry.
(Our) Key Takeaway
We started with Twitter and shared relevant articles we found online that we felt our audience would appreciate. We had bookmarks from websites and every week we would trawl them and add anything we liked to our Buffer feed. From the Buffer feed, the tweets were queued and sent out about 3 times per day.
We committed to this simple task for 12 months. We achieved 500 followers relatively quickly through this process. As we started to write our own content, this was added into our feed as well. It was beneficial to find and share articles that we appreciated across multiple channels as we were writing our own content.
But, we did have to commit to this method and be diligent. If we gave up after 3 months, we would have seen minimal traction. It was only after 6 months that we started to see improvement, and our ‘hockey-stick’ of followers began to grow.
The critical takeaway from how to build an audience from zero…? Shout, repeat, share and be patient.