The End to Our “How to Build an Audience?” Google Search.
I’ve always been a business enthusiast. Right after graduating from high school, I wanted to start something of my own.
It would be simple — I would make a product (physical/digital), and it would be so good that people would come and buy it from me.
I was learning software development back then, so I could not build a digital product of my own. But I had to start a business anyhow. I found out affiliates.
Now it was a slight change in plan; I was going to sell a product and earn, just that the product would be someone else’s.
So I made an Instagram page to try out and make some money through affiliate marketing. Posted about the products daily, interacted with people, spent a lot of time on the app. Didn’t work. I tried Quora, left it after 14 answers that got 45 upvotes in total.
After one more year of trying Twitter for a few months, YouTube for some more, and even TikTok recently, I was down to square zero.
Not that I didn’t gain a single follower. I had 10s of them on every Platform, but I left as soon as I couldn’t get a sale. Then came a mindset change that I’ve written here, and I began focusing entirely on building an audience.
But it wasn't very clear. So many different platforms, each with varying growth strategies, other formats of content, I was confused as hell.
Then I stumbled across this tweet thread by Bilal Zaidi. It was a game-changer for me.
Generic “How to Build an Audience” conversations on Clubhouse
The rise of the social-invite-only app Clubhouse had many people have audio-only conversations about building audiences, and Bilal found that they were very generic. People were sharing the same advice:
- Stay Consistent
- Keep creating greater content
- Your efforts with show you results in some day.
Even I had heard these lines a zillion times before. But these are prerequisites, but not very helpful.
One Platform at a time
The idea is to pick one single Social Media Platform and adapt to its algorithm. You can learn about how Instagram’s algorithm work’s in, say, a couple of days, but you won’t grow organically from day 1.
There’s a lot of trial and error involved. You learn about what’s working and what’s not. You have to spend time on a platform and use those learning to their maximum.
Anthony Pompliano has over 700,000 followers on Twitter and 170,000 subscribers on YouTube while writing this right now. In a recent podcast with the creator lab, he said this:
I went really hard at twitter right out of the gate. The thought process was that was the Platform where it took the least amount of effort to create content too. It had the most virality kind of engineered into the algorithm. It gave me kind of the feedback loop and so I had a leg up and just that I had worked at facebook and was very kind of aware of how some of the algorithms work at these social media companies.
I did it for about 18 months I literally just went hard at twitter until I launched the email about 18 months later. It takes discipline and consistency to do something for 18 months before you jump to the next thing.
Now you might wonder, well, this sounds like the exact opposite of what Gary Vaynerchuk says, but you need to consider the fact that he has a 20+ member team.
You probably don’t. Ideally, a creator should create while his team takes care of the distribution. But till the time you grow a team, you should consider one Platform at a time.
First, you build the vertical line of the T. That is, grow deep into one Platform; and then expand horizontally.
Making Friends & Leveraging Communities
Cross-promotion is as important as creating new content.
If you are still not doing it, you are missing out on a lot. It gives you exposure to a new set of audiences that might follow someone else that does something similar.
Every Platform’s algorithm promotes content that gets enough engagement in the first few hours of it going live. When a more influential person engages with your content, it performs better.
Everyone is bored at their home, and online communities are growing big. Make friends based on interests. These might become your first 1000 fans.
And, who doesn’t like hanging out with people that have similar works interests and passions?
Let’s look at a few platforms one by one.
Facebook has lost its charm. Even you know this. No new creators are booming out of there now.
Only 1% of your followers are shown whatever you post.
Instagram (without the Reels*)
The organic discover section has been taken over by visually appealing content and models. Better than Facebook, though.
Only 10–15% of your followers are shown whatever you post.
Twitter, TikTok, Instagram Reels, YouTube
You have a chance to go viral instantly. Initial creators on TikTok and Reels had at least one of their first ten posts blow up. YouTube’s recommendations are sometimes weird but never on the wrong side.
You have got a fair chance of getting discovered by a newer audience, which also depends on what content you create.
YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google. Depending upon what content you create, you need to optimize one Platform to its fullest.
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) for YouTube is underrated.
Apple Podcasts and Spotify
Discoverability is nil when you start on these platforms. The majority of podcasts are those which have a viewership on some other media.
Audience DOES NOT mean distribution.
It would be best if you built an audience that is relevant to what you want to distribute.
If Ayodeji Awosika writes a new book, it’ll go out of stock in a day. But starting a cosmetic line won’t work.
You have to know our audience very well. User Research is not limited to digital products or businesses. The content you create is your product. To be able to monetize your followers, the product has to be highly relevant.
Learn about algorithms & do the analytics
Some typical behaviors are noticed and rewarded:
- Having high video completion percentage on longer YouTuber videos.
- Having a high engagement/view ratio on posts on Instagram & videos on YouTube
- Retweets are the easiest way to go viral
And the list goes on.
Some behaviors pull the reach down as well. Make a note of those.
For the analytics part, every Platform has its analytics dashboard. External tools are plenty as well. Like
- YouTube has TubeBuddy
- Medium has Enhanced Stats by Tomas Trajan
- Social Blade is a mix of all
You should be well versed with what tags, hashtags, and content topics are working for you.
As Paul Graham says
Do things that don’t scale. You’ll have to reply to every comment, talk to every person that reaches out individually, even reach out to more prominent creators in the same space as yours.
Yes, these things won’t be scalable, but they will keep you going and growing. If you depend entirely on the algorithm, chances are, it won’t work.
Try out-of-the-box things, even if those cannot be leveraged.