The keys to building an online audienceNov 14, 2023
Not long ago, I was coaching someone who is in the early stages of developing her online platform. She’s defined her niche, found people to collaborate with, and is gradually releasing her content, some of which she’s been working on for a while.
Her big question for me during our call was, “How will people discover the content I’m creating?” That’s one of the big questions all of us who create online content wrestle with. For obvious reasons, it’s hard to develop a successful online platform if we don’t have an audience of people to share it with.
So what does it take to build an online audience? Is it something the average person can do, or is it only available for the superstars among us?
Building an online audience can feel like a slow process, particularly in the early days of working on it. But many people who have succeeded at developing one will tell you that eventually, after multiple seasons of faithful content creation, you can hit a tipping point. Something you create is going to land, or something you say in front of the right audience is going to connect. You may be surprised at what it is, but you’ll never discover it if you quit too soon.
When you’re trying to build an online audience, the keys really involve showing up and adding value. It’s the same in every area of education and influence, whether online or offline. Let me give you a very recent example from my life of these two principles in action.
You’ve probably heard me say that I recently started teaching classes at a local university. I have taught there before, but I took a several-year break. Unfortunately, when you take a break from a university, you’re quickly forgotten because there’s always a high turnover of students and faculty in an institution like that.
When students first signed up for the three-hour class I teach on Fridays, they had no idea who would be teaching it. They basically signed up for it because it was a requirement. A few weeks before the semester began, I agreed to teach it and people started wondering who I was. Some students who know my son who also attends the university started asking him, “Is that your dad? Do you know if he’s any good?”
The semester started with a little skepticism, but each week I have been showing up and presenting the content to the best of my ability. It’s a three-hour class, so I’m sensitive to the fact that it can easily become a snooze-fest if I don’t keep the pace moving. I try to be creative, interesting, engaging, and helpful. I’m also trying my best to make sure the students know I’m genuinely interested in their success.
Over the semester, here’s what’s been happening. Students are participating at a high level and most are getting very good grades. They’re giving me valuable feedback on which aspects of the course they’re finding helpful. Several have gone out of their way to offer me personal encouragement. They’ve also told me they’re recommending the class to other students, which was evident to me when registration for next semester began, the class filled up immediately and they had to create a waiting list for additional students who were interested.
Obviously, this has all been very encouraging to me, and if you break down what happened here, you’ll see several principles at play that contribute to this outcome. They’re principles that will help us develop an online or offline audience.
1. I am genuinely interested in the subject matter and that’s conveyed in the enthusiasm I’m able to show when I teach it.
2. I genuinely care about the success of the students. That can’t be faked. They know I mean it.
3. I show up every week highly prepared. I’m not winging it. In fact, I typically arrive with more content than I can fit into the three-hour time slot.
4. The content I’m teaching is valuable and has real-world application. It isn’t just theoretical. It’s practical and applicational.
But I know if you’re listening to the Platform Launchers podcast, watching us on YouTube, or reading our blog, you’re probably not looking for tips on how to teach a three-hour university class on Fridays. You’re looking for ways to build an online platform that connects with the right audience and helps you earn an income that might be able to replace your traditional sources of income.
I can assure you that the way I’ve gradually built an online audience involves the same principles I’m using to teach that class. It’s the exact same approach being delivered in a digital manner.
I’m enthusiastic about what I teach. I care about other people’s success. I show up prepared, and the content I’m teaching is practical, actionable, and valuable in the marketplace.
You don’t have to sell your soul on social media to build an audience. You don’t have to make a fool of yourself to gain some form of unhealthy attention. You just need to keep showing up and adding value. As you continue to do that, word of what you’re doing will spread. One person that you’ve helped will very likely tell someone else and word will spread. And if you keep showing up, week after week with no loss of enthusiasm, you’ll eventually hit the momentum tipping point.
Where should you show up? Wherever you get an open door.
Show up on your own platform. Show up as a guest on the platforms of others. Show up on podcasts, YouTube, blogs, social media, conferences and webinars. Keep showing up and keep adding value, and watch how your audience begins to expand.
© John Stange, 2023
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