How do you build an online audience?

audience attraction getting started Apr 16, 2024

One of the biggest questions I get from those who are in the process of creating an online platform is, “How do I develop an audience?” That’s certainly an important question because if you don’t have an audience, you don’t really have anyone to effectively communicate your message to. I have a few suggestions that I find immensely helpful, but before I offer those suggestions, let me share a positive experience I’ve been having lately with one of my podcasts.

In addition to the work I do to help people build online platforms, I also serve as the pastor of a church in my local community. I have been serving in pastoral ministry since the late 90’s, and that means that by this point I have preached thousands of sermons and have taught thousands of lessons. (I have kept most of them, by the way).

The recordings of my weekly sermons are shared on one of my three faith-based podcasts. The show is presently called “Dwell On These Things,” but it when I first started the show, it went by a different name. In fact, the show had three different names before I fully settled on the current title.

For a long time, that show was my lowest-performing show as far as daily downloads were concerned. The numbers weren’t bad, but they just didn’t compare to the other shows I host. In recent days, however, it’s become my best-performing show and it’s reaching a whole new audience.

On an average day, that show is listened to by between 8,000 to 10,000 people. This is a recent development, so I’ve been very grateful to see what’s happening. That means that in any given week, that show is reaching between 50,000 to 70,000 unique listeners. When you think about it, that’s an audience that’s big enough to fill an NFL stadium.

When I noticed this spike in listenership and audience growth, I did a little research to figure out why the show was growing so quickly compared to the previous years of its existence, and I think I have a good handle on what’s taking place. I’m going to share five specific ideas that are contributing to the growth of my audience, and I suspect you’ll find them helpful as well.

Here's what I’ve been discovering…

1. Consistency builds trust. Consistency is one of the words that I mention a lot when I’m teaching about online platform development. It impacts just about everything we do in this space. If we dedicate our time and our intentions to creating content that gets released on a very predictable schedule, without fail, we will gradually earn the trust of our audience. They will also recommend our content to others because they know we won’t embarrass them by failing to show up.

2. Accessibility builds connection. I work hard to remain accessible to my listening, watching, and reading audience. I make myself accessible in multiple ways. I regularly reply to emails. I have even started to publish my email address in some of my books and essentially daring people to email me to see if I’ll write back. I also host online meetups with my audience via Zoom. When people participate in my crowdfunding campaigns on, I reply to every single message or gift that’s shared there. I also make a point to show up in more than one place online. That kind of accessibility has deepened the connection I enjoy with my audience.

3. Contests and giveaways build interest. There are few things in life as fun as giving someone else a gift, and books are one of the easiest gifts to give away when you have an online platform. You can give away digital copies, or if your budget allows, you can mail physical copies to those who listen to your shows or read your content. You can also give away access to your courses, or even access to you via a call or online meeting. Running a contest or offering a giveaway helps generate added interest in what you’re doing, and that added interest often results in audience growth.

4. Invitations to share demonstrate loyalty. When I first started sharing written and recorded content online via my blog or my podcasts, I would regularly ask people to share it with others. As I did that, I often wondered if people were actually doing so. It turns out that they most certainly were, particularly my most loyal followers. A significant portion of my early audience came from people sharing my content with their friends and family.

5. Collaborations feed momentum. Collaborations and partnerships are also some of the best ways to build your audience, even if you’ve been doing what you’re doing for a while. Coming back to my podcast, “Dwell On These Things,” one of the major reasons it’s experiencing a surge of growth has to do with one particular collaboration I’ve been doing in recent months. Last year, I joined the LifeAudio podcasting network which is a podcast network for faith-based shows that’s owned by the Salem Media Group. They also manage some very popular websites, and now that I’m collaborating with them, they share links to my content on their sites. That collaboration has been very fruitful and it is most certainly feeding momentum while connecting me with a broader listening audience.

So whether your online presence is highly established or you’re new at developing a message-based online platform, let me encourage you to give some of these suggestions a try.

  • Consistency builds trust.

  • Accessibility builds connection.

  • Contests and giveaways build interest.

  • Invitations to share demonstrate loyalty.

  • Collaborations feed momentum.

Give it a shot and let me know what’s working for you!

© John Stange, 2024

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