How To Build An Audience From Scratch
This year I started my first garden - it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. I was excited! I went to the nursery to pick out flowers, vegetable plants, herbs, soil and anything else I thought I might need. When I got home, I dug on in and started planting.
Well, come to find out I should have done a little more research. Little did I know there was a lot of prep work that I overlooked because I wanted to get those plants growing. How hard can it be? You did a hole, plant it and you’er done, right?
Sadly, I found out I was wrong - very wrong. There was a process, a timeframe that worked best for each plant, locations that needed to be taken into consideration and much more. What could have been an amazing garden turned out to be a bit of a mess.
The same can be said about building an audience. So many times we jump in without laying the groundwork or making sure that we have all of our ducks in a row.
If you need to build an audience from scratch, or if you need to breathe new life into you current audience, here’s the process that you should follow. I’ve broken them down into three sections: Prep, Plan, and Build.
Let’s dig in (see what I did there? ;) )…
It’s tempting to bypass this very important step because - let’s face it - we just want to get things rolling, right? But there are some key details that you need to nail down to make sure you start off on the right foot and see results quickly.
Identify Your Ideal Audience
You need to remember that there are at least 3 billion people online at any time throughout the day. You aren’t going to appeal to everyone. Get very specific in regards to who you want to connect with. This is key - this is your ideal audience.
When you’re just starting out or if your book isn’t even written yet, you might think this step isn’t possible for you. It actually is! Think about the ideal person you would love to connect with - that person who is in the back of your mind as you dream up your book or as you’re writing. That’s your ideal audience. You might be making him or her up, and that’s totally cool. It’s a starting point and will get you going in the right direction.
If you’re trying to connect with everyone, you will actually connect with no one.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Are they male/female?
- How old are they?
- Where do they live?
- What are their interests?
- What are their hobbies?
When you know details about the people you want to connect with you can get specific with your posts, the blog content you create, the websites you want to reach out to, and more. The more specific you are, the better.
Always keep this in mind: If you’re trying to connect with everyone, you will actually connect with no one.
Create Touch Points
If you only talk to your audience about your latest book or things related to your writing, it’s going to get boring. It will feel more like marketing rather than making a genuine connection with others.
Take a minute to write down five topics that you feel like you share with your ideal readers. For example, one of our clients is passionate about fitness, movies, diversity, and traveling.
These topics have nothing to do with his books, but they a) are important to him, b) his audience shares these interests, and c) it gives him multiple layers and ways to connect with them AND reach new people he might not otherwise connect with online.
You are so much more than your book - find other touch points that you can use to keep your content interesting, engaging, and personable.
Who Are They Already Connected To?
Make a list of 5-10 authors who fit within your genre that you feel share a similar audience as you do. Thinking this through and doing some research ahead of time will help you in the next section as we make connections with readers.
If you aren’t sure where to start, go to Amazon and search authors within your genre and sub-genre.
Pick Three Social Media Outlets
This is where knowing who your ideal audience is will come in very handy. I do suggest that you educate yourself in what each social media outlet offers, you do not have to be on every social media platform. The majority of your ideal audience are only on a few.
And here’s the key: it’s not about where you like to be online, it’s about where your audience likes to hangout. If you want to connect with your ideal audience, you have to meet them where they are already at.
Pick one main outlet that you will visit every day and two additional outlets that you will check into two - three times a week. This will insure that you are establishing a strong community, that you won’t be spread too thin, and that you aren’t wasting your time.
Make sure that you educate yourself on the best practices of each outlet. There are resources like Social Media Examiner that have step-by-step instructions on how to best use each social media outlet and to make sure that each profile is set up correctly.
Ask Yourself: Where does my audience hang out online?
Now that you know what social media outlets your audience is on, think about other blogs, websites, newsletters, events, conferences, organizations, etc., that your ideal audience takes part in.
Start off by doing a brain dump of all the different ideas you come up with - this might take a little research if you aren’t familiar. See where other authors who share your genre have taken part in. See what blogs they’ve written for, conference they speak at, etc., to give you ideas.
Once you’ve done the brain dump, pick three to focus on. If one of them doesn’t show results, cross it off and add another from your brain dump to your list of three.
The key is to create focus so you a) don't become overwhelmed, b) you can give your best to those outlets and c) you can invest your time in making the most of those opportunities.
Create A Schedule
When creating a schedule, ask yourself this question: what can I give my audience? This is where a little planning comes in very handy. Think about how often you’re going to post social media, how often you will blog, when you will send out newsletters, how often you can contribute a guest blog, etc.
Knowing how much time you have per week to grow your audience is key to helping you create consistency (which is vital to growing an audience) and to create the content that is needed to keep them engaged.
Now, we know that the most important factor is to work on your book, so start there and think about how much time per day you need to write. Put that into your schedule and then look at where you can set aside 30 minutes each day to building your audience.
That will include setting aside time to write blogs or guest blogs, schedule social media posts, to work on your social media schedule, etc. Look at the three choices you made for where your audience hangs out online - incorporate time to work on those within your schedule as well.
Now that you have all the elements in place, it’s time to put this into action and grow your audience.
This is the best way to get your audience rolling. Social media isn’t a “build it and they will come” situation - you have to take the first step.
So how do you do that? Take the list of authors that share a similar ideal reader with you and start following their followers on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. For example, let’s say I write crime novels and I know that Patricia Cornwell has a similar audience. I will start following those active readers who are following her. Because we know that they like Ms. Cornwell’s books, they might enjoy mine as well.
This actually grows your audience very quickly. But be mindful of each platform's rules for the number of follows you can make every day. Start off slowly by following 20 people per day and grow from there.
Here's a blog post that walks you through how to use this approach on Twitter. It can be adapted for Instagram and Pinterest as well.
We also have an ebook on how to grow your Twitter following.
Hashtags are keywords used to sort information online. But it is also a great way to find new people to connect with. By doing hashtag searches for certain keywords that fit your ideal reader's interests, you will be able to find and follow people who are actively discussing those topics.
Join Facebook Groups
Facebook Groups are an excellent way to connect with your ideal reader. Do a general search on Facebook for groups that fit keyword descriptions for your ideal reader. Let’s say you write romance novels, so see if there are book clubs that have a group page that read romance. Some of them are closed or private groups, but many of them are open and you just need to request an invite.
Set Up Your Amazon Author Page
Once your book is set up on Amazon, make sure that you create an Author Profile which you can set that up through Author Central. One of the biggest missed opportunities is not having some way to direct potential fans to more information about you and your books. Upload a good photo of yourself and fill out the Biography section, including your website at the end of your bio. And make sure to add your blog's RSS feed URL, which will automatically add clickable "read more" links for your most recent blog posts, driving Amazon shoppers to your website.
Connect With Other Authors
Having a small group of other authors who you can tap into for help, advice and support is essential for all authors. Not only can they give you much needed advice, but they can help you promote your book, build a following, and share content. And you can also support your fellow authors as well. It’s a win/win!
When you tag people, blogs, and organizations in social media posts, you’re getting your name in front of a new audience. Be sure to have all of their social media handles available so you can include them.
Buy Facebook Ads
You can’t get around it - Facebook ads are probably the best and fastest way to grow your audience. This is where knowing exactly who you want to reach (your ideal audience) will come in handy. You can create highly targeted ads that will enable you to reach exactly who you want to connect with for just a few dollars a day.
The 90/10 Rule
You might not think this will help grow your audience, but it will! When you share other people’s blog posts, tweets, pins, leave comments on Instagram posts, etc., you are actually making connections. The 90/10 rule means engaging/connecting 90% of the time and promoting only 10% of the time. Don’t just post your content on social media, share your fellow author’s posts, leave a review of a great book you just read. Get creative! You’ll be surprised at how much this helps you grow your own audience as well.
Don’t just focus on the numbers - focus on the quality of the connections your making.
The most important tip I can leave with you is this: don’t just focus on the numbers - focus on the quality of the connections your making. Just focusing on increasing your social media numbers won’t impact or improve your book sales. It’s much easier to increase sales when you connect with people who are already interested in what you write about. It’s very difficult to sell to people who aren’t interested.
Even if you have a small but engaged audience, they can be incredibly powerful! Fifty people who love your writing can make a massive impact. It’s not about how quickly your audience grows - it's about how strong the connection is with your followers.
Remember, building an audience takes time. Don't wait until your book is done - start as soon as possible. Just like any friendship, it takes time to establish the "know, like, and trust" factor that you need to build a solid and thriving online following.