Have you ever wondered what it’s like to have hundreds or even millions of people who follow and subscribe to you?
Imagine what that could do for your business! Building an audience online is perhaps one of the most difficult challenges you’ll likely face when starting from scratch.
Most people tend to give up even if they have awesome content or an awesome product to sell.
In this post, I’ll be sharing a really cool strategy to build an audience online as a complete beginner.
This won’t be like other posts. I’ll be sharing what’s actually been working for me and what I think would likely work long-term. It doesn’t matter if you’re planning on using Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or any other platform to build your audience, this strategy actually works!
So let’s get right into it!
Why should you build an audience online?
The number one reason you need to build an audience online is to drive traffic and get attention to your online business. That’s it!
There are many different methods for running your online business. Here are a few of them (I’m sure there are many more that I might have missed):
- Starting a YouTube channel to earn money through ads.
- Starting a new blog to also earn money through ads.
- Starting a dropshipping or eCommerce store on your own website or something like eBay to sell physical products to people you don’t know.
- Starting an affiliate business using social media to earn commissions on products you recommend to other people.
- Starting a digital agency to provide marketing services to other online businesses or local businesses.
- Selling your online course to teach people something you know really well.
- Selling other types of digital products that people might really want.
No matter which method you follow, it’s all well and great if you managed to put in the time to set up your online business or paid someone to set it up for you. However, no matter how amazing your business is, you’re never going to make a single cent if you don’t drive traffic to your business. It is perhaps the most crucial element of starting an online business that you need to get right.
You can have a thousand videos on your YouTube channel. However, if no-one is watching your videos, you won’t make any money from ads.
Similarly with blogs as well. You can have hundreds and thousands of blog posts, but if you’re not driving readers to your blog, you won’t make a single cent.
Same goes with eCommerce. You need to drive visitors to your product pages to make money. With affiliate marketing, you need to get people clicking your affiliate link to increase your chances of a commission. With a digital agency, you need people to be able to find you to solve their digital issues. With online courses, you need people who have a problem that your online course can help them solve aware about your business.
You really need people to know you exist!
If you can’t get eyeballs consistently on your business, you would likely fail like the 90% of people who start online businesses.
To be that 10% who succeeds online, you need to focus on building your audience online first!
When you build an audience online, you’ll find it much easier to drive traffic, which in turn can help drive sales (or ad revenue, commissions, etc).
You will also find it easier to build an even bigger audience.
Easier said than done, how do you actually build an audience online?
In my opinion, this isn’t easy! If you’re running an online business yourself, you’ll find this SUPER hard. If it were easy, anyone could become superstars.
How do you build a list of people who love what you do and become raving fans?
It’s more difficult in this day and age to build an audience online as access to resources (like building a website, streaming your video, etc) are now really easy and can be done for next to nothing. You also have to deal with increased competition which can be fierce in this day and age. Especially now that many people are working from home.
So if you’re looking to build a real audience who craves what you do, be ready to put in the blood, sweat and tears because it is going to be an uncomfortable ride. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
At times it can feel like you’re climbing up the hill and everything is going smooth, and at other times it can appear like everything has halted and looks like it’s time to give up. At these moments, you need to focus on your WHY which is a popular mindset thing that all the successful people use.
So now that you know why building an audience is really important, let’s look at how we can actually build an audience online from scratch.
Content Marketing is king
The quickest way that people will tell you to drive traffic and build an audience online is to run paid ads. This is true, you can drive traffic literally overnight with paid ads.
However, if you’re starting out, this is completely ineffective in my opinion.
I’ve tried this before using Facebook ads and had failed hard. I’d even convinced myself that Facebook ads were a scam.
The truth is, if you’re just starting out, you’re main issue is going to be that of trust.
Put it this way, let’s say you saw a product that looks interesting on Facebook ads.
You click on it to buy and you land on a website that you’ve never seen before. The whole site has only 3 products and there’s no reviews or no other info about the seller on Google.
This would make you skeptical of parting ways with your money with a gut feeling not really knowing whether you’ll be scammed or not have the product at your doorstep at all.
You might then Google or go on Amazon to find another similar product like the one you just found and buy from them. Why? They’re just more trustworthy.
If you’re starting out with paid ads, they only know you. They don’t like or trust you. I know it’s harsh, but it’s the truth.
When starting out, you’ll have to rely on free and organic methods to build an audience online.
Personally, and this is purely from own experience, the best way to build an audience organically online is with content marketing.
No, I don’t mean spending years building a blog and focusing on SEO and all that stuff.
I mean, providing value to your audience so that they end up liking and trusting you.
Providing awesome value that they keep coming back to see more content from you.
Providing really awesome value that they see you as an authority and ask for your help and advice.
What are the best ways to build an audience online with content
Here are some of the best ways to build an audience online purely with content.
- Start a blog. Then start posting valuable and helpful posts.
- Create videos. Post videos regularly to your YouTube channel or other video platforms like Facebook Video or TikTok.
- Post useful content on social media. For example, if you’re focusing on Facebook, then posting something engaging, entertaining and helpful at least once everyday. You can try to get more likes and shares to get more and more people to see your content and get to know you.
- Contribute in online communities. This can be places like Facebook Groups, Reddit and forums in your niche.
- Answer questions on sites like Quora. This can be a great place to build your initial audience as you’re providing value exactly at the time people really need help.
If I were just starting out, I would start with only one of the above. Then gradually expand out as you nail each of them. Bear in mind, this is a time consuming process.
You would need to dedicate time to doing this. Once you have a sizeable amount of content, you can then go slow. At this stage, we’re looking to growth hack, so you really need to put in the hours here.
Remember to focus on your WHY here because there will be several times you’ll feel like giving up.
Let’s now take a deeper dive into this and see exactly how you can build an audience online for your niche. What I’ve discussed so far are generic strategies to building an audience online that everyone else pretty much does.
Your goal shouldn’t be to just build an audience online.
You need to build a targeted and engaged audience online.
That’s the best way you’ll snowball your growth and quickly scale to an even larger audience. This will have a dramatic impact on helping you drive traffic and generate sales consistently.
How to build an audience online from scratch
If you’re looking to build a targeted and engaged audience online, the best place to start is to find out where your ideal audience hangs out.
Once you’ve done that, you then hang out where they hang out.
There are many online communities out there where your ideal target audience hangs out. As a first step, you should seek out communities that have the most passionate members who are active and engaged.
Some of the best places to find these online communities include:
- Facebook Groups – you can find a group about almost everything. Beware of the many spammy groups out there, especially if you’re in a really popular niche (health, wealth and relationships).
- Reddit Subreddits – a great place to find your ideal audience as well as current trending topics you could talk about. One thing to keep in mind, is that Reddit hates self-promoters with a passion. In terms of building an audience though, we’re not using the subreddit to spam people to visit our site or check out our offer.
- Popular YouTube videos – this can be great if you’re looking to grow your YouTube subscribers. You would find popular videos and see what people are commenting.
- Quora and other QA sites – great to engage with people who have a problem that needs solving. Finding your ideal audience is as simple as finding out what questions your ideal audience would ask or what problems they constantly face. You then answer questions that directly answers that.
- Online forums – another great place to find passionate like-minded individuals are really into topics related to your niche.
Identify who you want in your tribe
Just like we discussed above, you now know of the many sources of where you can start to build your own tribe.
But you have to dig a little deeper and find out specifically where your tribe hangs out. Once you find out where your tribe hangs out, you then become a part of that community and you’ll need to hang out there as well.
You don’t need to hang out in all the different online communities, especially when starting out. You just need to find out where ideal audience is most active and engaged, and start from there.
If your niche is related to growing a Facebook following, then hanging out on YouTube might not be great. Your ideal audience would likely be a lot more active in other Facebook Groups.
Once you’ve joined the community, check out what they post everyday and also contribute as well. It’s not much different to joining a community in real life. You’ll want to contribute to your online community until you become a familiar face.
The great thing about getting involved and hanging out in communities, is that you can learn and find out actual problems that people in your niche are facing and one that you can potentially provide a solution for (through your videos, affiliate offers, course, etc).
Do not promote anything to your community at this point. You don’t want to come across as a spammer.
You do want to come across as an authority figure though. So keep answering questions for problems that people post. Not just a simple answer, but a genuine well-thought out answer that would provide real value.
Build your tribe
Once you’ve started to become a regular face in your community, it’s time to start getting them into your world.
There’s 2 things you need to do:
- Setup your own online community (one that you can control completely)
- Optimize your profile to get people into your community
Your own online community can be any of the following:
- Your email list (possibly the most valuable out of all the others).
- Your YouTube channel
- Your Facebook Group
- Your Facebook Profile
- Your own online forum site
- Your own subreddit where you control the rules
You’ll want to start with just one for now. You don’t want to burn yourself out by being active on all communities.
Next, you’ll want to optimize your profile page with a call-to-action to get them onto your online community.
Whether you’re on Facebook, YouTube, online forums, Quora, etc, you’ll have your own profile page. It’s sort of standard for social media. The next big social media platform will likely have something similar as well since we have grown accustomed to it.
On this profile page of yours, you’ll want it to be descriptive and have a compelling offer to get people into your own community.
You should also use a picture of yourself as your profile photo, as that can help with building your personal brand. It also plays into the whole know/like/trust factor. The more you see someone, the more you eventually like and trust them (unless they do something which repels you).
Since you’re active in online communities and helping out people every day, chances are that people will eventually be curious about you. They’ll check out your profile and would likely become a member of your online community if they like what they see.
There are other ways you can go about proactively start growing your tribe in the meantime. Here are some of them:
- Adding people as friends on Facebook
- Commenting and subscribing to other YouTubers that are similar size as you.
- Giving an amazing answer on Quora, then adding a call-to-action at the end of the answer to check out your blog/website/video/etc so they can learn more about the topic (don’t overdo this though).
- With online forums, they usually have a footer area for your posts where you can promote you social and website links. This can be a great place to throw in your call-to-action. Then you can simply focus on contributing to the forum only and watch the audience grow organically over time.
- Reddit is a difficult beast. I’m not a pro with Reddit and have rarely made it work. I’ll update this post if I have any new findings. The best method I’ve learnt is that for every 10 non-promotional value-only post, you can post 1 promotional type of post. Even then, you still need to be subtle about it or risk getting shunned or banned.
Build a relationship with your tribe
As you keep building your tribe, you also need to foster a relationship.
Building your tribe only gets people to know about you.
The eventual goal is to get people to like and trust you.
The best way to do that is to interact with them directly and personally. Talk to them like you would take to another human. Get to know them and become their friend.
Seriously, this would separate you from all the other influencers out there and help you build your audience online super fast.
For instance, if you’re looking to grow a YouTube channel, then always go out of your way to respond to all comments. Yes, every single comment on all videos (unless it’s an obvious troll which you should delete anyway). Try to respond as quickly as you can and even look to have a conversation with them right then and there.
Trust me, this would really help to explode your growth online and would separate you from other wannabe influencers who post videos and don’t reply to any comments while expecting the viewer to turn up again and again for all their videos.
It’s understandable if it’s a larger channel with many thousand comments, but if you’re starting out, you definitely want a more personal approach as that can help you springboard your success.
Similar if you own a Facebook Group. If anyone has posted something in the Group or is struggling with something, send them a personal message and start a conversation aimed at helping them. As you start to become a big influencer, they will really appreciate your personal outreach and would happily recommend you to their friends.
You don’t need to do any fake small talk and ask about the weather or the virus.
They’re in your community since they’re passionate about your niche. Since you love your niche as well, you’ll always have something to talk about.
If you like to take it to the next step, that MOST other influencers don’t really do, you can even have 1-1 video calls with your tribe if they reach out to you. This is a super quick way to build know, like and trust. It’s always good when people feel like they’re speaking to another person rather than a faceless website. This will multiply your conversion rates significantly if you’re selling something.
Rinse & Repeat
Now it’s just a matter of staying consistent daily.
You need to do the following daily:
- Contribute to online communities you join
- Build your tribe by proactively getting people into your own community
- Building a relationship with your tribe by posting value and helping others when they have problems.
While the steps sound easy and straight forward, the hardest part is getting yourself to do this every day.
It can be a real pain and can even affect your motivation when it seems to stagnate, which can happen from time to time. This is completely normal.
If you follow through the steps consistently everyday, you will eventually experience a snowball effect and building an audience online starts to become easier and easier.
It will be a struggle initially. Not many who have started have successfully come out unscathed. This is where you really need to muster your WHY and get through it.
If you’re planning to use Facebook to reach your ideal audience, check out my post on Facebook Organic Marketing Strategy.
So just keep a few key points in mind when building your audience online.
You should focus on:
- Hang out where your ideal target audience hangs out
- Interact and build relationships with them every day expecting nothing in return
- Consistently providing value long-term
If you can do the above 3 steps well enough, you will stand well above most of the other online businesses out there and will indirectly help you reach the income goals you’re after.
Don’t start with Facebook ads or any of that stuff. You don’t have enough people knowing about you or even liking/trusting you enough to get any real results from those efforts. You can add advertising later which only serves to enhance your results once you have a sizeable audience that you’re able to profit from.
The method shown above not only works now, but will continue to work for many years to come (even if Facebook or YouTube shuts down or a new player comes to market).
Now go ahead and read the next part in the series: Creating a killer content marketing strategy to turn your audience into fans.