Everyone wants an audience.
Everyone wants to be appreciated and loved by the multitudes. Most of all, entrepreneurs.
It’s not because we’re selfish, but because we’re ambitious. We believe we have something to offer the world. We believe that if we don’t grow and improve and become the next viral sensation, we’ve failed.
And for that reason, we try and try and try again — with the renewed passion of a lovestruck relationship addict.
It’s all horribly romanticized.
The reality, though, is much less interesting.
Building a following, an audience, an empire, or whatever the hell you want to call it is a simple matter of commitment. It’s a matter of discovering who you are, what you like to discuss, and telling others about it… consistently.
And since modern-day entrepreneurship is more based around building an audience than a product, I thought it’d be appropriate to walk you through Joe Pulizzi’s book, Content Inc, where he discusses exactly what it takes to build a following.
Here’s 8 steps taken from the master of content production.
1. Focus On Audience (Not Product).
An entrepreneur was once the person with the best idea for a product and the discipline to create it, market it, and sell it.
But today, the product is secondary to something significantly more powerful.
When you start with audience instead of product, you start with the people who trust you, who care about what you have to say, and — dare I say? — love you. Once you’ve built a number of dedicated evangelists, only then should you create a product.
The advantage to this method is obvious, isn’t it?
Rather than creating a product and hoping that people want to buy it, you build an audience and create a product that you know they want. In other words, you only create, market and sell a product after you know people are willing to buy it.
When audience comes first — like really comes first; no bullshit offers — products and success follow, simply because you’re doing it for the right reasons and your audience can tell.
In our world of shoddy ethics and obvious marketing, your authenticity will stand out.
Before you build a product, build a following.
“When you’re creating content and you’re getting feedback from the audience it allows you to hone your vision, as well as embed your vision ultimately with whatever it is that you’re creating.”
2. Find And Fill A Gap (Don’t Do The Same Old Thing).
But how do you build a following?
Easier said than done… I know.
The first step is to find a gap in the world of content. What questions do you have that no one is answering online? What niché do you specialize in that you could create content around in a way that no one has done ever before?
There’s probably already content around the topic that you want to tackle, but can you find a new angle? Joe Pulizzi discusses a man who creates content around the flavor of peppers instead of the heat. My goal with Booktrep is to create rundowns that leave you feeling like you don’t need to read the book after visiting my site — whereas most similar blogs are just pithy reviews and cliff notes.
What gap can you fill? And if you can’t think of an original idea, try to think of a new angle on an old idea.
“Let’s say someone rounded up all your content and placed it in a box, like it never existed. Would anyone miss it? Would you leave a gap in the marketplace?”
3. Tell People Who You Are And What You Like (Don’t Try To Match Every Person’s Interests).
Okay, to be honest, this wasn’t in the book.
But it’s bloody brilliant and totally relevant.
I got this piece of advice from a friend of mine, Leonard Kim — a renowned social media influencer.
“To distinguish yourself from everyone else, you have to add your personality… But how do you sell yourself? In person, you’re like, ‘Hi. Do you like to go fishing?’ You start asking questions. But you can’t do that on the internet. So how do you do it? You go out there and you tell people what you like. If they like the same thing, you’ve built a connection.”
I love this.
Sometimes, we entrepreneurs try to spend all of our time figuring out what other people like, but the better way to spend our time is by telling people what we like.
This can be a daunting task. What if people don’t accept you? What if everyone thinks you’re weird? What if you’re too vulgar, different, or irreverent?
Well, that’s kind of the point.
Since you’re not as unique as you might think you are, other people will be similar to you. Since they’re similar to you, they’ll be interested in your content.
Start by telling people what you like and give them an easy way to follow, subscribe, and engage with you and before you know it, your followers will start to feel more like friends and less like an audience.
4. Start With One Type Of Content (No More).
This is dead simple, but worth mentioning.
As entrepreneurs, we sometimes try to fry too many fish at once. Rather than stick to one thing and make that one thing absolutely incredible, we create 10 things that are mediocre.
But quality is far more powerful than quantity. Especially since everyone and their ferret has a blog, Youtube channel, vlog, email list, and infographic.
To rise above that plethora of middle-class content, you need to focus on one thing and f*cking crush the competition.
The best way to do that is to choose one type of content as your foundation — your starting point.
For Booktrep, this blog is obviously the heart. For an entrepreneur friend of mine, Tricia Oliffe-Lake, who — I swear to god — is on her way to being the next make-up tutorial video queen, Youtube videos are her starting place.
For others, it might be a podcast, a Linkedin blog, or even a book. Whatever the case, dedicate yourself to that content first and expand from there.
5. Be Platform-Sensitive (Don’t Copy And Paste — Like Me).
I’m terrible at content promotion.
I love to create content. I love writing a blog post, recording a video, or pitching success.com or entrepreneur.com an article I’d like to publish.
But when that wonderfully put together piece finally gets published, I suck. My current method is to post something on Facebook, copy what I posted, paste the same thing on Linkedin, and then shorten the same text for Twitter.
Sadly, content marketing’s success depends upon killer content and appropriate promotion.
What do I mean by “appropriate?”
I mean that every social media channel is different. Linkedin is more formal than Facebook. Twitter is more brain-dumpy — I can’t think of a different word — than Facebook or Linkedin. And Facebook is more personal than any of them.
The point is that if your content is really deserving of views, comments, and shares, than it’s deserving of carefully thought out promotion.
Take time to craft platform-specific content announcements for each piece you create and you’ll be far more likely to attract an audience from each channel.
“The easiest way to turn off your community members is to broadcast the same message across multiple channels. Instead, determine the kind of content that interests the members of your community in a way that is useful to them.”
6. Repurpose Your Content (Instead Of Letting It Die After One Go).
If you’re a content marketer, you know what repurposing is.
But luckily for the world, not everyone is as obsessed about content marketing as I am.
Unluckily, that means you probably don’t know what it means to repurpose content. But you probably have a guess based just off the name. And your guess is probably spot on (we content marketers aren’t nearly as crafty as we think we are).
Repurposing content is when you take a piece (video, blog post, podcast episode) that you’ve already created and recreate it — usually changing the type of content.
I might, for example, write a piece for Booktrep that myself and all of you absolutely love. If I notice it’s popularity, I could then release a video a week or two later discussing the same topic, and then a podcast, and then an infographic, and then a Q&A on Facebook.
You get the idea. Take your successful content and reuse it like crazy. It feels less monotonous to your audience than you think it does.
7. Be Consistent (Don’t Quit).
I know, I know… you’ve heard this a thousand times.
So let me make this short.
Be consistent with your content. Don’t give up. Produce every week, month, quarter, or whatever the hell you committed to. Most endeavors fail because the person gave up too damn quick.
Don’t be like most.
8. Be Patient (Seriously. Don’t Quit).
Again, you’ve heard this one.
But damn it. I don’t want you to give up.
This stuff takes time. Seriously. Entrepreneurship, audience building, success — haven’t you ever wondered why everyone doesn’t do it?
Why doesn’t everyone just build an audience and eventually make millions of dollars?
Because it’s f*cking hard to commit to. It takes time, and that time is the biggest challenge that you and I face. If we can be patient with the process and with ourselves, we’ll have a chance at living the life we’ve always dreamed of.
If we can’t, we’ll be the same as most people who tried to create a successful business and ended back at their day job, eventually on their deathbed with a multitude of regrets.
This quote isn’t from the book but it’s appropriate.
“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”
And as is appropriate, here’s a closing quote from the master we all have to tip our hats to — Joe Pulizzi:
“The Content Inc. model only works if you can build a loyal audience of subscribers over time. Period.”