Audience Building Part 2 – Start from Scratch

This post was originally published in Ms in the Biz on September 26, 2014.

Cindy Marie JenkinsThis is the second in a series of Audience Building articles, where I go into depth on the sticking points, the places where I see people take short cuts but are actually quite vital.

These are all methods on how to find and build new audiences, not just promoting without annoying your family and friends. Everyone has to actively attract and sustain new people in order to grow their audience, whether for your personal career, web series, feature film, blog, play, book, business, jewelry store…..you get the idea.

Typical Question from Client: “When should I start promoting?”

My Answer: “When did you get the idea?”

Although a tad hyperbolic, I do mean it, just not in the typical sense. Throw most of what you’ve heard about “promoting” or “marketing” out the window. Start from scratch, because we all know when we’re being sold something, and most of us have miles to go before we’re Amanda Palmer.

What I mean is that the more time you have before an actual product “launches,” or whatever your industry equivalent is, the better. Start your research into your audience. Start your conversations within fan groups similar to your work (note that I said conversations, not promotions). Get inside your audience’s heads, become a key player inside their world and find others to become your ambassadors.

First, have you plotted your Audience Targets as described in my first blog here? Go and do that. I’ll wait.

You’re back? Great, now we’re ready to begin.

STEP 0.5 : Understand how to organize yourself to avoid overwhelm. Are you a spreadsheet kind of person? Do you prefer a messy worksheet document that is organized later? Or would you rather pin all your research to a private Pinterest board before figuring out how to organize it? Because I now work babe-in-arms or babe-on-floor, large Post-it notes are sometimes my best way. [photo 1]

Whatever works for you. Just pick one way and stick to it, or change midstream to a method of organization that makes sense to you. Keep your research moving.

STEP 1 : Choose one of the Audience groups from your target exercise and start your research. Let’s use “people interested in re-tellings of fairy tales” as an example. Whatever target group you’re researching, the core questions remain the same:

  • What do they read (blogs, books, etc)?
  • Who do they follow/Who are their Influencers?
  • Where do they hang (on and offline)?
  • What do they watch?
  • What twitter chats do they frequent?
  • What social platforms do they use and how?
  • When can you pursue, and when might you consider finding an ambassador? (For instance, most parent groups won’t allow you into them if you aren’t a parent.)

STEP 2 : Fall into the rabbit hole of research. Sometimes all you need is one good lead to set you off on an adventure. While researching fairy tales via genre-related twitter chats, I found@inkgypsy and her website Once Upon a Blog.

(I’ll just give you a few hours to read all her research, thoughtful reviews and commentary. I ended up on her site for thirty minutes after visiting there just to get the link.)

So, how does @inkgypsy help you find the answers to our seven audience questions? Start with her own research. Use those questions as mere guideposts for what you can learn about your audience. She is a great example because she is equal parts a fan, expert and potential ambassador. Some examples:

STEP 3 : Track and Connect with all relevant Leads. Here are a few fun ways to track Audience Leads (choose based on your comfort level as described in STEP 0.5):

  • Follow and/or add Leads to a Twitter List (private one if your own feed doesn’t yet reflect the topic of fairy tales, public if it’s obvious why you follow them.)
  • Create a tracking spreadsheet and add as many places where these Leads live online as you can find, including but not limited to: website, email, twitter, facebook (page or profile, but always add to an Interest List so you can easily find them later), Pinterest, You Tube or vimeo, etc. If you notice there is a social platform that many of your Leads frequent but you are not on that platform, consider building a profile there. For now, just note it.
  • Pin all their websites and blogs to a Pinterest Board (As with twitter, private one if your own feed doesn’t yet reflect the topic of fairy tales, public if it’s obvious why you follow them.)
  • Just toss their website links into a document to parse out later (using the above).

STEP 4 : Set reasonable goals for yourself. I always like to offer the Rule of Five. If you can devote five days out of seven to research at least five potential members of an audience group, then not only will you find more inspiration for your project but you will begin to understand how your potential audience makes decisions.

STEP 5: DON’T SELL YOURSELF. Don’t pitch, don’t promote, or anything close to that. (If someone asks directly, that is a different story.) You are starting the process of building relationships so your potential audience trusts you enough to believe that your work is worth their time. Finding Your Audience is only the beginning. In future articles, I’ll show how to develop and nurture these potential audience groups to the point at which you can start inviting them into your work.

Have questions? Leave them in the comments or tweet me @cindymarie and I’ll answer.

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