The Pitfalls You Need To Know When Building Your Audience
Having an audience and people to address presents new opportunities and opens up a whole new world to you. However, it comes with challenges to be aware of.
Let’s not hide away from the fact that building an audience is very hard.
We’re going to look at the real difficulties that can hamper your efforts as you grow something you are responsible for.
What Does Building An Audience Mean?
When building your own audience, this isn’t about gaining more social media followers. It’s how you can put your flag in the sand (via your landing page), tell people you are here (so they leave their email) and you find a way to bypass the algorithm to find your true audience (people who receive your info, enjoy and stay).
This is how I define an audience (read more here on the difference between an audience and community). AN AUDIENCE are people who agree to receive information from you. If it is good enough, more people will come on board. You can monetise, you can connect, you can grow.
Building an audience is not about looking for new clients and knowing you have a quota to fill, but having something to say that can help others and at the same time, give them a place to feel at home and be a part of something. You are also partly taking yourself away from the social feed and addressing people directly (either online or offline).
The key is being consistent and persistent with your output, so revenue starts to play a role. This means that all the hard work you have put in starts to see a return for your efforts. This could be paid advertisers for your newsletter, through to people paying to come to events.
Why I Decided I Wanted An Audience And Why Is It Important To Me?
Back in 2013 I was wasting money and not making my own path (coming back to something I had responsibility for). The marketing budget for my business was spent on outsourced PPC, ads, sales promotion and was delivering a slim return. The outgoing wasn’t helping me build momentum.
I wanted to have something that could stand the test of time and wasn’t just driven by adspend and sporadic organic social posts for people to know that I was here. This is how You Are The Media started where I made something and just kept going. The side project was supplemented by the marketing company I had.
As the years progressed, I started to realise I was creating for people who wanted to hear from me. It then became a way for me to figure out how to bring people together so they could say ‘hey, I’m a part of this too.’ What began as a way to build my own profile, became a way for people to feel associated with something and with each other.
That is why having an audience (that can become a community) is so important to me. It means you can weather the storms that could be on the horizon (YATM was the thing that saved me in the pandemic whilst many other projects were halted).
The Difficulties And Dangers Made
Building your audience is not something that happens quickly. Getting to a place with others comes with a lot of lessons, struggles and trying to figure things out by yourself.
Here are some of the challenges that can hamper your efforts and I am writing here from experience. Finding and building your audience is hard. Here are hurdles and dilemmas you are likely to face.
Knowing what people want is different from what you probably think they need to know.
You have to be prepared to be flexible and shape your narrative alongside a growing audience. If you ignore what strikes a chord with others, you start to lose relevance. Look at your analytics, speak to others, if people share, pay attention to what they are sharing. The only way you will know what your audience enjoys is to put the effort in what you create and then monitor it. It doesn’t come down to audience profiling before you have started.
Always come back, you can’t drift or leave it once you’ve started (at least for the next year)!
This is what lets so many people down, as there has to be an overall theme/curiosity to follow. Execution is hard, consistency matters. When you start you have to keep swinging to find your voice and what feels comfortable with you. My rabbit hole became this idea of small businesses and owners being able to find their voice, space and get people behind them, rather than traditional marketing routes ie. brand, digital marketing, promotion.
Converting people does take time.
It is wrong to think that just because you started posting and publishing more, it’s going to bring more people to your side. What converts is people seeing your track record and a continued presence. Never think that just because you have a landing page for people to leave their email, you can take things easier. You’re not even at the starting post.
You have to think way beyond creating useful content.
Growth comes from the outreach you do. It’s the connections you make and the conversations you have that helps form your true audience. If people can see the work you share and then you take the time to know others, this sits hand in hand with building an audience (they can see you put the effort in). The simplicity of reaching out and bringing a face to everything cannot be underestimated.
Finding what isn’t documented everywhere else is quite difficult.
Repeating what is already present doesn’t help anyone, you will never grow your own space. To start to become more compelling to others is to put your own stamp, curiosity and experience on the subject matter. If you have faced hardship that is relevant to your overall topic area, share it. If you have had lightbulb moments that have inspired you, be ok with presenting how you figured things out. It can take time, but if you have a central theme, what happens is your personality starts to shine the more focused you are on your topic. Plus, you start to find your competitive advantage. I like this sentiment from Jay Acunzo
Loyalty happens with time, you can’t force it.
Who knows what direction a person subscribes takes? This almost becomes a fun part. Maybe the person who now receives an email from you is never going to glance and take part, it’s up to you to decide whether to cut ties (clean your database and unsubscribe) or persevere. On the other hand, the person with who you have no relationship, joins in, starts to be vocal, shows up, tells others, can be worth their weight in gold that no ad budget could replace.
Buying reach is easy, but you can’t buy trust.
If you have been used to paid ads as the way for people to see you, your business and your work, that is absolutely fine. It means paying for more eyeballs to see you. However, what works is continual and sincere interaction as a way to develop trust. If you lose it, money isn’t going to get it back. Trust is always earned and something you always have to work on.
Keeping people engaged is why they stay, it’s not always about the content.
Linked to the outreach work that you have to do, making people feel a part of something is integral for them to stay and to tell others. You have to recognise ways for others to feel a part of the process. This is about making sure the distance is minimised between you and someone else. It could be people having their place in your newsletter (someone always begins the YATM newsletter with the YATM Takeover) or inviting people to participate and lead in events (the audience being a part of YATM Learning). Your work feels like a partnership with everyone involved.
Security and staying power come from creating and making ideas happen. If you can build people around an idea, you can progress and continue for many years to come.
No one who ever built an audience made it happen with ease, particularly when you are doing it for the first time. You have to start and that can be the hardest part.
Building your audience comes with many hurdles but an impetus to dig deep. You do it so you can learn and grow alongside your audience. That in itself is an empowering place to work from and develop the thinking that gives you direction as well as joy in what you do.