The best way to build your brand is by connecting with your audience to turn them from casual viewers of your content into avid fans and loyal customers.
But before you can connect with your audience, you need to have an audience. If you’re starting from zero (or close to it), it can be difficult to know where to start. Your organization has important things to say, but it doesn’t matter what you say if no one is listening.
So how do you get people to start listening?
Here are five tips for building your audience.
1. Think Deep Before You Think Wide
It’s important to set goals for the amount of growth you want to see in your audience numbers, whether you are measuring those metrics in terms of email subscribers, social media followers, web page visitors, or all of the above. But obsessing about those numbers can sometimes actually work against you.
In your effort to increase them quickly, you may end up focusing on short term strategies that build a follower count without actually creating an audience. Some content marketers turn to third party services where they can purchase email lists or social media followers. Buying social followers never builds an audience. Purchasing an email list can get you started, but it can be difficult to turn those subscribers into an actual audience, and engagement rates can be low.
The best strategy for building an actual audience is the slow, steady work of incremental increases in a small number of highly engaged followers, rather than an influx of a high number of disengaged followers.
The way you achieve this is by focusing on depth before you begin thinking about width. In other words, unless you’re willing to focus on engaging the followers that you already have, it will be an uphill battle to acquire new ones.
So spend a great deal of your time learning who your audience already is and deliver content that is highly relevant to them. Instead of trying to reach everybody, focus on reaching the small niche that is already listening with content that is tailored to them. Give them content that they can’t get anywhere else, because it solves the very specific challenges they’re dealing with.
Your audience members can get generic platitudes and truisms anywhere. Distinguish yourself by addressing the very specific conversation your very specific audience wants to have.
2. Be Consistent
Once you’ve defined your specific niche and the specific value you can add to their lives, make the focus of your efforts delivering high quality material that’s relevant to them on regular intervals.
If you’re trying to build a social media following, never miss a day when you could be posting. If you’re trying to build out your email list, never let a week go by without engaging with them.
Consistency over time keeps your organization top-of-mind for your audience. It also puts less pressure on any one social media post, blog article, or email campaign. Not every one of those pieces of content is going to be a home run. But if you are consistent in showing up for at-bats, you increase your chances of getting some points on the board.
3. Be Social
Too many organizations use social media simply to broadcast. But if your audience members feel like there are no people behind the logos, then they will quickly disengage. And that’s because they will feel like your content has an ulterior motive—which it does. People can sense when they’re being used or monetized, and it’s a turnoff.
On the other hand, if they feel like they have a relationship with you, they’ll want to support you by reading what you write and buying what you sell.
In light of that, be sure to always treat people like people. This is an important principle for life, and it translates directly into content marketing. So if someone direct messages your organization, reply to them in a timely manner. If they reply to your email, reply back to them. Let them know that there are people who care about them behind the logos.
As your audience grows, you may need to expand your support staff to maintain responsiveness. For some organizations, your audience may eventually grow beyond your capacity to respond to everyone. But even when that becomes the case, still seek to do for the one what you wish you could do for the many and reply to some. Never lose your personal touch. Don’t seek to be “big time” and thereby alienate yourself from your audience.
4. Track What Content Is Getting Engagement and Make More of It
Along the same lines of being personal with your audience, your organization should also pay close attention to how your audience interacts with different pieces of content and adjust your strategy accordingly.
As a marketing team with talented content creators, it can sometimes be surprising which pieces of content garner attention and which don’t. If your content team believes in what it creates (which it should), then you may be tempted to double down on content types or topics that just aren’t landing with your audience, hoping that they’ll “get it” this time.
The better thing to do would be to simply watch for what’s getting attention and put your own attention there, even if it is on the pieces of content you thought were “filler” or “throwaway.”
5. Partner With Someone Else to Add Value to Their Audience
Another way to get traction with growing your audience is by partnering with someone else whose already established audience may be interested in your content, products, and services and getting your content in front of them.
These opportunities are best when they arise organically from a genuine connection you or your organization has with another content creator, when your target audience has a similar profile to theirs, and when your products or services are complementary rather than competing.
Nevertheless, if you can forge a genuine connection with someone who wants to share your expertise with their audience, it can give you a great deal of exposure. Further, once your audience has been established you may consider doing something similar for someone else whose audience is smaller than your own.
Don’t Give Up.
When you’re trying to build your audience, it can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. Progress can be slower than you had hoped.
But if you remain consistent, maintain a personal touch, and double down on what’s working (even if only in small numbers), then your audience will continue to grow. And eventually, you may reach a point of critical mass where it begins to grow exponentially.