Building a following is a long-term game. By why do you need a following at all?
The one thing a business needs to survive is customers. Strangers become customers at the intersection of need, solution, and awareness. Your potential customers have a need. You have a solution which you can provide them. But they need to be aware of your existence and your expertise to become customers.
When we talk about building a following, we’re not talking about building an audience for a hollow ego boost. As business owners, we set about to build audiences because we want to find people with the needs that we can provide solutions to. We are intentionally positioning ourselves as experts in our field by publishing content and media.
Building an audience is all about building awareness of who we are, establishing familiarity and trust, building familiarity, and proving our expertise. If we do things right, we might even bring a bit of happiness to someone’s day whenever we hit the Publish button.
We are living in a time where every business is also a media company.
The cost of entry to being relevant in our society today is content. If you’re not putting out stories, you basically don’t exist.
— Gary Vaynerchuk
Companies that are able to grow from being local entities to regional or even national entities do so because they fully embrace the idea of publishing content across different channels in order to build an audience, bringing value to consumers and awareness to their brand.
Technology has made it easier than ever for people to consume media. When I grew up there was still a dozen channels on TV, only a handful of radio stations, and the only written media were books, newspapers and magazines. Today everyone has a computer in their hand that they carry with them at all times. This computer, which some people call a smart phone, contains instant access to more media than has ever existed in the history of mankind.
Not only are there limitless TV channels thanks to streaming services like Netflix, but there are also millions of channels on a platform called YouTube. The regular people who post consistently and regularly on this platform have anywhere from dozens to hundreds of millions of fans. Over 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute of every day. It is this 100 hours per minute that you are fighting against for time and attention, not just your business competitors in your city.
The World Wide Web didn’t exist when I left high school. If you wanted to publish words for other people to read, you still had to go through gatekeepers. If you wanted to publish a book, you had to pitch it to a publishing house. If you wanted to be in the newspaper and magazine you had to do something newsworthy and get the attention of those particular writers.
Today there are hundreds of millions of blogs published each day. You can put together an e-book and publish it on Amazon yourself. There still some gatekeepers for certain things, but if you want your voice heard — if you want your message to spread — then you have to take action, or someone else will.
I grew up in a small town where there were only a few radio stations, and they all pretty much sucked. Satellite radio was still decades away. But today we have podcasting, and anyone can produce a show themselves. If you need help getting started, I can point you towards some people who can help you get started podcasting. The point is, everyone has the ability to produce their own show, which anyone with a smart phone can listen to anywhere, at any time.
But amidst all this innovation, there is an enormous opportunity that 90% of people with an internet connection are not taking advantage of. Only 10% of people publish anything on the web. And only 10% of those people publish on a regular basis.
Most people try to blog, or make videos, or start a podcast…but they give up after a few times of publishing, because they didn’t get a million people rushing to hear their message after the first week.
I know from previous experience that building an audience is tough. The things that you don’t want to hear are exactly what I’m going to tell you.
It takes a long time to build a following—an audience, a future customer base. So get dug in.
You have to publish consistently for a long time before that snow ball gets rolling on its own. And when it does start rolling, you can’t let up.
Renowned hand-letterer Sean McCabe is in the midst of building his own media empire right now through his blog, YouTube, podcast, and membership site. He recently posted a video that stated “Show up every day for two years and you will build brand awareness.”
This sounds about right. Building a blog, a YouTube channel, or a podcast listener base means you have to embrace the grind. Even building an engaged audience on social media means you have to show up consistently.
There is no auto-pilot setting that will make people notice you or your business.
I know a lot of people want to hear about tactics or shortcuts that will rocket them to the top of their industry. This is a glass of ice water to the face. There are no tactics to building an audience, there is only strategy, dedication, quality and consistency.
Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift no heavy-ass weights.
— Ronnie Coleman
Building an following means showing up to publish, even when you don’t feel like it. It means making time each week to help your future audience by answering questions through a blog post or video. Embracing the grind means going through the monotony of publishing words, even when you don’t think anyone is listening.
Some people choose to look at the age of information overload as a disadvantage. I choose to believe it is my advantage to publish consistently and often — publishing things that will help the people I am trying to reach. If you’re a business owner reading these words, I want you to see this as an opportunity too. I want you to take advantage of the fact that most of your competitors are unwilling to compete in new media (the web). Most of your competitors are still “heads down” in their business. This is a dangerous place to be.
If you’re working dawn to dusk in your business without pause, you can’t see what’s going on around you. You won’t see how your customers are finding and consuming information. If you’re not dedicating time to growing your business, pretty soon, your business will be shrinking.
I want you to build your brand by building your audience. Will it be a lot of work? Hell yes, it will be! You will have to make this business development time a priority in order to succeed.
But if your goal is to raise brand awareness of your company, to make people trust you more than your competitors, and to get your company in the conversation where it belongs — then this is something that is mandatory. It is no longer optional.
Everyone consumes media, everyone consumes information. All day long, every day.
Will it be your media and your information that your potential customers consume?
Will it be your voice be one that they trust? (Or even recognize)?
Or will your business be eclipsed by companies who are dedicated to building an audience and building a following? — establishing their own trust and expertise?
The choice is yours.