Building an audience

By Marc Littlemore
7 min read

Building an online audience is a great way to build your career.

The more people who see your writing or videos, the more your network can expand. This can help you to connect with more people and create more opportunities for your career.

This video by the writer and entrepreneur Nate Eliason shows us how he builds an audience for his top-selling online course - Effortless Output in Roam.

Here are my notes from watching it and learning from an online expert.

Most people start posting their messages on social media. A new tweet, an Instagram photo, a post on Facebook, or a YouTube video only gets you so far. Twitter, Facebook, or Google own their platforms and they control how many of your followers see your content. They decide what the people see. And they decide if you're allowed on the platform.

By building an email list, you control the distribution of your content and message. It's not uncommon to see 30 to 50% open rates of emails if the audience is engaged and wants to hear from you. With an email service provider, you control the emails in your list. You have permission from the users to email them. You can export the email addresses to a spreadsheet and take them to another email provider with ease.

Nates likes ConvertKit and I've had a good experience with Mailchimp.

But making an email list isn't enough...

How to get people to join your list

There are a lot of emails lists and people aren't going to sign up to yours without a compelling reason to do so. Just asking people to sign up to your newsletter isn't enough. You have to create a "super freebie".

A "super freebie" is something so good that they don't even think twice about signing up to your email list. For example, Nate and his friend Justin Mares created a 7 day series of free lesons for their technical marketing course. Every lesson was at least 1500 to 2000 words long with screenshots, videos, and free code examples. They made sure that each daily lesson had a really high value. The subscribers were so blown away by the free content, that they were asking for the paid course before finishing all of the lessons!

Some other examples of a high value "super freebie" are:

  • A valuable digital download
  • A video course
  • Free templates for a design tool
  • Free code snippets

It has to be so good that people don't hesitate to share their email address to get it.

The easiest way to start collecting email addresses, and starting to build your audience, is to set up a landing page. On the page you should explain to them what they're getting when they sign up. On all of your future videos, articles, or social media posts, you can send users to this landing page. It will have a clear call to action and it'll be understood what they'll receive when they join your mailing list.

But how do you get people to show up on the landing page in the first place?

When you're first starting out, you probably don't have much of an audience. While you wait to build up your own followers, you can leverage other people's credibility by involving them in what you're doing.

Interview a dozen experts in the field of what you're trying to build a product around. Share those interviews on your blog, in videos, or on a podcast. Point the audience at the "super freebie" that they should look at if they found the interview useful or interesting. If you do a good job with the interviews, and all of your guests feel appreciated, then they'll be happy to share the article with their audience. This will help to build your credibility and drive traffic to your landing page.

This isn't just about you though.

It should be a win-win deal where you're helping them. If you give them more value than they're giving you, then they'll be happy to help you boost what you're doing. People know when you're being selfish and just out for yourself.

People can tell if you're just wanting to promote your own work. If you're reaching out to people to help them, don't ask them to write anything. Writing is an intensive and time consuming process. Asking for a guest post takes a lot more energy than asking for an interview. It's much easier to show up and talk about their life for 30 minutes than it is to write 1000 words. If you do want an article, ask them for some old content. This could be something that they'd previously shared with their own audience.

Once you've created your content, offer it out to them and their audience to share as part of their products too. Give them full permission to use it as their own. This makes it really easy to build a mutually advantageous relationship which helps you both.

The more you help others, the easier it is to promote your "super freebie".

Once you have an email list and an audience, this will be the main way you promote your work. However, this is the chicken-and-egg situation. You need an audience to build an audience. This is where online communities can help.

Look for Reddit subreddits or Facebook groups that focus around the subject you want to build your product around. You should be able to find some of these communities online which care about your product. Actively participate in the conversations in these groups and bring value to them. Over time you'll be able to introduce your "super freebie" or product that you're working on. Don't you try and sell to them immediately or it becomes annoying. It's all about building relationships with like-minded people so you can kickstart your own audience.

Using SEO for passively growing the list

For long-term audience growth you should be considering SEO for your video or blog content as you create it. For Nate, he put up the technical marketer lessons on the blog and over time they started ranking for keywords like "automate your twitter activity" and "automatically reply to tweets". People would find the content, read it, and sign up to the email list to get all of the other lessons in the course. This drove between 10 and 30 people per day onto the email list without them intending for this to happen.

With Nate's Roam Research blog post, he managed to get the article on the first page of Google for the keywords "Roam research". Once someone has found the article and read it, there's a call to action at the bottom to sign up for the email list to learn more about how to use Roam. This is another great way to build up the audience over time.

Morning Brew is a huge email newsletter that has recently been acquired by Business Insider. They grew successfully by encouraging people to invite their friends to join up in exchange for Morning Brew products. This baked virality into their newsletter so that every sign up brought in more people until they had millions of subscribers. But you don't have to use any fancy referral software to do this.

When someone signs up to your newsletter, send them an email asking them to share it on Twitter. In your email you can include some simple share links for Twitter or Facebook or wherever you want them to share it. You can then use your email tool, like ConvertKit to track anyone who clicks on one of the share links and send the orginator another email with a link to an additional freebie. This gives them another great reason to share our content.

For example, Nate and Justin had an additional PDF for their technical marketer course which shared some common automation tasks with Zapier that people would get if they shared the course with their friends. They found that 20-30% of the people would share the course on Twitter to get the new valuable freebie. This brought in a few thousand subscribes.

Finally, you should always share the content and link to your freebies on your blog. Starting a blog is a great way to start building that audience.

Hopefully you enjoyed these notes on Nate's video and found them useful.

Marc Littlemore avatar

I'm Marc Littlemore.

I’m a Senior Software Engineering Manager who works with high performing development teams and loves to help to grow other software leaders and engineers.


Want to read more?