How to build an audience online? It is a question I used to ask myself, and you might ask yourself too. It might even look daunting at first, and you might ask yourself "who would listen to me? I am no expert in anything". On the same note, you might fear what other people think about the content you publish.
However, that is normal, and everyone has these thoughts. At first, it is a bit daunting putting stuff out on the internet. Mainly because we fear criticism and the people ripping us apart for making mistakes. We can encounter this fear by focusing on people that like us and the stuff we write.
Therefore, building an audience online should not be so daunting, and in this article, I am going to write about how you can do this. We can do this in several ways, such as:
- Using social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and so on.
- Having a blog or a YouTube channel or a podcast
- Maintaining a mailing list
Why bother to build an audience?
First of all, if you want to start freelancing, building a name for yourself is a must. How else can clients find you? Besides that, you can get lots of opportunities, such as:
Job offers (do not search for jobs, let jobs find you)
Side income (paid articles, paid work, etc.)
Meeting different and cool people
Participating to conferences
Being part of communities
You might ask "did YOU get any of these opportunities?". The answer is yes, I had all these opportunities come my way except number 1.
Be active on social media
The first step in building an audience online is to be more active on social media platforms. You have to experiment with each platform and see which one works for you. However, if you ask for my opinion, I would recommend Twitter as a starter. You might ask "why Twitter?". The reasons why I recommend Twitter are because:
- It has a very active tech community
- It is a text-based platform, and thus you can document your journey
- Information spreads easier compared to other platforms such as Instagram due to retweets
- (Most) people in tech are very supportive and willing to learn
- You can become part of different communities. For instance, you can become part of the AWS or React communities or both
Once you have an audience on Twitter, you can expand onto other platforms such as LinkedIn or Instagram. Again, if you ask my opinion, I would recommend LinkedIn after building an audience on Twitter. Moreover, you can start being active on both Twitter and LinkedIn, for instance. However, it is more work for you, but the rewards are double. I would recommend focusing only on one platform as a starter, though.
How to start with Twitter?
My top tips when starting with Twitter are as follows:
- Use a decent, real photo of yourself. If not, use an image that shows it is you. For instance, I use an 8-pixel image of myself
- Use your real name
- Use a catchy banner. There are multiple ways to do it. You can either use a banner to reinforce your bio (e.g. to describe your interests and the topics you talk about) or you can use it for advertising your accounts on other platforms
- Focus on creating and providing value. If you miss this step, everything is in vain
- Do not chase followers. Focus on providing value and creating a community. Let the numbers of followers be a consequence of your actions, not the goal. If you focus solely on the number of followers, you are in for a rough ride
- Engagement is more important than the number of followers. Having lots of people following you, but no one to interact with your tweets is like being rich in Monopoly, aka pointless
- Do not tweet and close the application. Take the time to reply to people, engage with them, reply to them, make connections
Take care of your reputation
On the same note, reputation is very important in a community. If you provide value, you will be seen as somebody that provides value. On the other hand, if all you do is post pointless and engagement-bait tweets, you will create a bad image for yourself.
Another important note is to be aware of what you do on the internet. Potential employers, and people in general, can get a sense of what you are as a person. If you engage in fights and in negative stuff, you can damage your image and your career. Social media can make or break you, depending on how you use it.
Start a blog
Now that you have an audience, you can start a blog or a video channel, if you did not already. However, we know that the beginnings are hard and not many people read or watch your material, even though you might have an audience.
So what can we do about it? First of all, you should blindly share blog links on Twitter. Try to provide a summary on Twitter and redirect people to your blog if they are interested in more in-depth information.
Also, I recommend cross-posting your blog articles on blogging platforms such as Medium and DEV To. By cross-posting your articles, you can benefit from their presence and their users. Moreover, they have newsletters and social media accounts with hundreds of thousands of people. They share articles from the platform in their newsletter and social media platforms. Thus, imagine the impact that would have on your articles. The beautiful thing is you are not tied to them. Whatever happens to them, you still have your blog. Or if you want to stop using their platforms, you can do it straight away.
Ah, but what should you write about? The question most people have. If you are not knowledgeable in any area, you can still blog. You can write about the issues you have solved or the things you learn. Here are four title suggestions for your blog:
- How I solved [insert issue]
- [Insert issue name] solution
- Today I learnt [insert name]
- Learn about [insert name]
Once you feel more comfortable, you can start creating tutorials on any subject. The more you write, the more you learn. Also, the more confident you get. Therefore, just do it. Be aware to share accurate and up to date information.
Therefore, what did you learn in this section?
- Once you have an audience, start a blog or a video blog
- Cross-post your articles on other platforms such as Medium and DEV To
- You can blog about issues you solve or things you learn
- Make sure you provide up-to-date and accurate information
Build a mailing list
Mailing list and blogs go hand in hand. If you look to build an audience online, a mailing list is a must. The essential reason why a newsletter is a must is that you have total control over it. Besides that, you also build a closer relationship with your audience.
However, you need something to attract people to your newsletter. Usually, people use a lead magnet. The term "lead magnet" refers to a "gift" people receive when they subscribe to your newsletter. That could be a free ebook, premium information and whatever you can think of.
Another important point is to create a schedule. Do not abuse your subscribers by sending one hundred emails this month, and zero the next one. Try to make it consistent and create a schedule. This way, people can expect emails from you and are less likely to subscribe.
Ok, but what service to use? If money is not an issue, ConvertKit is one of the best ones and used by a lot of content creators. However, another alternative, which I am using, is Substack. Substack is like a blog and a newsletter combined together. You can send emails to your subscribers, but you can also post articles. Thus, what do I recommend? I recommend ConvertKit if money is not an issue, and Substack if you are on a budget.
What are the takeaway points from this section?
- Create a mailing list because you have total control over it and you build a closer relationship with your audience
- Create a lead magnet to attract people to subscribe
- Do not spam and abuse your subscribers
- Use ConvertKit or Substack, depending on your budget
This is the end. I hope this article gives you an idea of how to build an audience online. The main takeaway points from this article are:
- Build a presence on social media platforms such as Twitter
- Start a blog or a YouTube channel, whatever is better for you
- Create a mailing list because you have total control over it
- Start getting opportunities