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How to build an audience that loves your work

This guide contains everything you need to know about getting your work noticed and building an audience of engaged fans.

Thousands of creators use Podia to run their businesses, and when we talked to the most successful creators, we found that they have a few things in common.

People who grow an audience publish consistently. They usually choose one channel that they focus on before they try to build an audience everywhere. They usually don’t have a specific product to sell or a business strategy in mind when they start building. And, most of the time, the creators who succeed are the ones who make things they actively enjoy making.

This guide is for anyone who wants to build an audience of their own. It’s for you. You’ll learn how to discover what your audience is really looking for. You’ll learn how to make sure there are people who notice when you hit publish. And you’ll learn how to have people waiting and ready to buy once you’ve launched your next product.

It doesn’t matter if you already have a product to sell or if you’ve never pressed publish in your life. If you want your work to get noticed, this guide is for you. 

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This guide is also available as a free online course

This guide is a companion piece to Get Noticed!, a free course with worksheets and additional resources to help you grow your audience.
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4 audience-building myths you should ignore

First, let’s tackle some audience-building myths so that growing your audience isn’t harder than it has to be.

Myth #1: Your audience is everyone on the internet 

When building your audience, shouldn't you start with everyone on the internet? It seems like that's what you're supposed to do, but then why do so many creators end up burning out before they ever really get going?

The chart below represents all of the people you could potentially reach. The people at the top are the easiest to reach, but the pool of potential audience members is the smallest. At the bottom, the pool is huge, but it’s a lot more difficult to get audience members. 

Let’s divide this chart into six segments, starting from the top:

  1. Immediate family and friends: These are people you can call up or text.

  2. Acquaintances: These are people you know, but not that well. Maybe you can email or direct message them.

  3. Warm connectors: This includes people who would recognize your name, but that you don’t know personally. They might respond to a cold email.

  4. Cold connectors: These are people whose names you recognize, but that you don’t know personally.

  5. Unknown connectors: This includes people in your niche you don’t know, and who don’t know you.

  6. Everyone else: This is anyone on the world wide web.

Where on this chart are strangers on the internet? You guessed it, at the bottom.

The strength of our connections can vary with different circles of people you know — which means our approach to interacting with them should also vary. And the weaker the connection, the more time you have to spend to build trust, which is why it can feel so frustrating to start with "everybody" as your audience.

You can grow an audience from any and all of these segments. You can start at the top and work your way down, or you can work on multiple segments at once, but the most important takeaway is that you don’t have to start with strangers on the internet.

Myth #2: Success means millions of followers

When people talk about building an audience, they usually point to some number of subscribers or followers. YouTube sends out its coveted play button awards based on how many subscribers a channel has. Many companies award sponsorship dollars to podcasts based on their number of downloads. 

If you really think about it though, what matters to you probably isn’t how many people you have in your audience, but how much those people care about the things you create. When people care about something, they’re more likely to drop what they’re doing to listen, watch, read, comment, share, or buy. These aren’t just followers, they’re fans.

Would you rather have 50,000 email subscribers who ignore most of your emails, or 500 highly engaged subscribers who drop everything when they see an email from you in their inbox, reply with questions, and buy your products?

Myth #3: Your content should be everywhere

It’s possible to build an audience without being everywhere all the time. In fact, here are a few reasons it might be easier and more effective.

  1. Focusing on one platform lets you be more consistent: Consistency, or showing up regularly for your audience, is really important when it comes to growing an audience. When you focus on one platform, you give yourself more time to show up consistently.

  2. Focusing on one platform lets you become an expert on that platform: Every platform has unique features and algorithms, so by focusing on one platform, you’ll have an easier time learning which strategies are most effective for getting your content in front of people.

  3. Focusing on one platform can keep you from burning out: Trying to be everywhere all the time, especially if you have limited time and energy, can become overwhelming. When you’re overwhelmed, it’s harder to stay motivated to show up, even if it’s something you're passionate about. Focusing on one platform makes it easier to spend your time and energy sustainably.

  4. Focusing on one platform lets you build a deeper relationship with your audience: Focusing on one platform makes it easier to consistently engage with audience members and you’ll more quickly learn what type of content resonates and provides the most value for your audience.

And don’t get me wrong, if you’ve got the time and energy or some extra help and a solid plan for posting on multiple platforms, go for it. The takeaway here is that you don’t have to.

Myth #4: If you skip the latest trend you’ll be irrelevant 

It can feel really tempting to hop on the bandwagon and go after that shiny new platform. Maybe everyone’s telling you you should make short videos or launch a podcast or start a blog, and you find yourself asking “What if there’s an audience waiting for me that I’ll miss out on if I don’t jump on the latest trend?”

It’s that question that causes many creators to spend time trying to grow an audience on a platform or with a medium that’s not really a great fit. Check out this story from Podia creator Valeria Hernández :

“Everyone’s on TikTok right now. For awhile, I was like, ‘Oh, I should be on TikTok. I feel like I’m missing out.’ I got on it and it just was not my vibe. I enjoy consuming it, but creating, I just didn’t find a rhythm with it as much. So instead of doing TikTok I’ve been focusing more on emails and newsletters. I’m a very long-winded person. I love to talk. TikTok was just not my jam because I can’t say everything I need to say in 15 to 60 seconds.”

So remember, your audience doesn’t need to be everyone on the internet. Success doesn’t necessarily mean having the most followers. Your content doesn’t have to be everywhere all at once, and you aren’t doomed if you don’t love the latest social media trends. 

Up next, we’ll cover how to find your target audience and make content that they love.

Finding your target audience and conducting audience research

When you talk to successful creators and ask what they wish they’d done sooner, building a strong understanding of their target audience tops the list. 

At the beginning, making content feels like the most important step toward building an audience. But as soon as your work starts getting noticed, you’ll run into other questions. 

  • How do I keep growing? 

  • What products should I sell? 

  • How do I get sponsors?

  • Which sponsors are a good fit for my work? 

You don't have to figure this out overnight, but starting with this makes it easier to understand who you’re creating content for, what content matters to them, and how to listen to your target audience so you know exactly what to say. This approach can ultimately turn your content into a business that brings in more people and more revenue. 

Start with an educated guess then go out into the wild

Where do you start your research? First, you put together your best guess. Right now, who do you think is the best fit for your content? This can be an educated guess based on observations you make about your audience.

Then you go out into the wild and look at what real people have to say so that you can test your ideas and get more information from exactly the people you want to reach. 

If you’ve already started to publish, the easiest way to start doing research is by looking at who gravitates to you. Podia creator Valeria Hernández noticed there was an audience she was naturally attracting.

“I noticed a trend that a lot of my clients were women of color and they were experiencing very similar issues. That’s when I realized that this could be a really cool subset of people that I serve. And me being Latina, I understand what they’re going through and I also can speak to specific things that they would be struggling with that maybe other people wouldn’t.”

Find examples of specific people dealing with the problems you solve

If you want to build an audience — and especially if you want to build a business — you’ll need to hear about your audience’s struggles in their own words.

Casey Richardson learned a ton about her audience through five-minute one-on-one calls:

“I went to all of my social media platforms and I said, ‘Hey, I’m building a course to help Black women understand business management. If I can talk to you for five minutes to ask questions, let me know.’ I figured that anybody that set up a call with me, they were my target audience.

So I had those five-minute calls and asked them things like what keeps them up at night, what are their biggest fears, and where they want to be in one year. And I would just repeat back to them exactly what they said and they felt like I was reading their minds.”

80% of the women Casey spoke to on those initial calls eventually converted to customers. 

When you give people the space to share their struggles in their own words, it becomes possible to make content that leaves people saying “Oh my gosh, you’re reading my mind.”

It can feel intimidating to strike up conversations, especially if they’re with people you don’t know. While you’re working up to that, there is another way you can hear from real people.

Pay attention to what your target customers are already doing online

Your audience is leaving comments, having discussions, writing book reviews, and generally talking to each other online in ways that are easy for you to drop in on. Some of the easiest ways to pull exactly the words your audience uses to describe their problems are:

  • Look for other creators who serve similar audiences and see the types of comments people leave on their work.

  • Visit forums (like Reddit) and online communities to look for questions and people venting.

  • Look up popular books on your topic and read the reviews on Amazon. You’ll be surprised at how descriptive people are about how the books helped them and what other information they wish the book had included, which is a great source of ideas for new content.

How to say exactly what your audience wants to hear without being a mind-reader

Having a system for organizing what you're hearing from your audience is so important. It tells you which content ideas are worth pursuing and helps you find ways to make your content really resonate.

When you talk to your audience, you’re going to uncover incredible stories, hard challenges, and patterns that they experience in their everyday life. To make sense of it all, keep an eye out for four types of information:

  1. A problem that lots of people in your audience experience: The question to ask here is “Do a lot of people mention this problem?” Seeing the problem talked about specifically or hearing it come up often in conversations can signal that this is a common problem.

  2. How they feel about that problem: As you’re talking with people, take note of any “feeling” words you hear and also pay attention to tone, volume, and body language. People may use the actual word for whatever emotion they’re feeling, or they may describe their feelings in other ways like “I was desperate” or “I feel like I’m drowning.”

  3. What they’ve tried to do to solve that problem in the past (including trying to ignore it): We can really sweeten the deal when we know what solutions folks have already tried and why they fell short. These are often found after desire statements like “I wish” or “I would have loved it if (fill in the blank).” When you identify what people have tried and how that solution fell short, you identify potential opportunities to provide better solutions.

  4. A list of problems that you — with your expertise and approach to content — can solve for people. The problems you are uniquely positioned to solve are great candidates for topics that lead to audience growth.

Categorizing your research like this is useful because it gives you a clear sense of the most valuable things to focus on. Now let’s look at how you can set your work apart. 

The one sentence test to make your content more interesting

You’ve got your target audience and an idea of their pain points and needs, but how do you make your content stand out from the millions of other videos, blog posts, pictures, and reels out there? 

This one-sentence test can be used on any piece of content you make. 

  • Can you sum up, in a sentence or maybe two, the most interesting thing about it? 

  • If you were to share that sentence with someone in your target audience, would they stop to read, watch, or listen to what you’ve created? 

When someone comes across your content, they’re making snap judgments and decisions about whether or not something is interesting enough to merit their time and attention. You have a tiny window to convince them that what you’re offering is worth consuming before they move on.

Earlier, you learned about audience research and how to look for the real words and phrases people use to describe their problems and struggles.

If you use that language as a part of the offer you’re making in your titles, subject lines, thumbnails, and descriptions, and if you’re concise enough to communicate your offer within the small window of time you’re afforded, you’ll have a much easier time earning your audience’s attention.

Let’s check out some real examples of this idea in action.

Em Connors is an online course creator and marketing coach who shares tons of Canva tips through Instagram. We’re going to check out one of her Instagram reels and see if we can spot some of the things she did to make her offer interesting.

First, she uses elements that identify the target audience:

  • The Canva logo, so you know immediately that this has to do with Canva

  • The word “reel” is an Instagram-specific format

If I’m a person who uses Canva and is also trying to make content on Instagram, I know right away this is probably relevant to me.

She also addresses a pain point by saying “transform any graphic into a reel.” A pain point is a specific struggle or problem someone is experiencing. Here, Em is appealing to anyone with the pain point of wanting to make video graphics but not knowing how or not having the time to animate.

During the reel, Em says, “Here's how to turn any social media graphic that you have already made in Canva into a reel in about two seconds.”

Just in the first few seconds, Em has already indicated some kind of value to the viewer. Value could have to do with time, money, or even energy.

So when she says “graphic that you have already made in Canva” you might think ‘Nice! I don’t have to spend the extra time or energy making something from scratch.’ And then she says “in about two seconds.” You’re telling me I can do this in less time than it’s taking for me to ask this question?

Let’s check out another example.

Jay Clouse is a creator educator who runs The Lab, an online community for creators, conducts creator interviews on his Creative Elements podcast, and shares his insights and experience through his Creator Science newsletter.

We’re going to look at two things from Jay, an email subject line , and a companion YouTube video title.

This email subject line comes out of the gate strong with “$200K per month” communicating value to the reader. That’s followed by something surprising… “coloring book empire?”

What this subject line is really saying is “If this business can earn $200,000 per month, maybe yours can too.”

The video title does something similar, mentioning $200K per month and the surprising “Coloring Book Empire,” but first it identifies the subject as a YouTuber.

If you’re a YouTuber with a type of business you’re pretty sure will never earn $200K per year, let alone per month, this is instantly intriguing.

Jay knows that his audience is full of people who are trying to build a business and make an income from their creative work, and these examples do a fantastic job of appealing to those interests.

These are just two examples of how matching what you offer in your content to what you’ve learned from your audience research can make your content interesting enough to earn your audience’s time and attention. 

If you did this with every piece of content, you’d be head and shoulders above most of what’s out there. 

How to reach more people

After you've made amazing content, how do you make sure people see it? You may think of hitting publish as the last step in your content creation workflow, but you can get a lot more out of your work if you find other ways to distribute it. 

Distribution is an extra step you can take after publishing to get your work in front of more people, and it can help you rise above the sea of noise online. 

Check out these distribution ideas from successful creators.

#1 Reshare your content across multiple platforms

First, don’t be afraid to reshare your content across multiple platforms. I know it sounds simple, but Veronica Green from Cultivating Confidence notes that your followers might only see your work on one channel. It’s worth spending a few extra minutes to promote new content anywhere you have a presence. 

“I just created a YouTube video. I just put a new one up finally. I share stuff on social media about it. I take out clips, I take out quotes, I just post the pictures, I made carousels, and then I emailed my list about it, even though some of them may have seen it. I don’t know who has and who hasn’t and not everybody opens your emails.”

#2 Engage on online forums and communities

Some creators distribute their knowledge–and links–by commenting on forums like Reddit, Facebook groups, and other speciality online communities. 

Veronica used this strategy to give her blog posts an extra boost. When people in Facebook groups ask questions relevant to her work, she provides a valuable and supportive response. If she has a blog post that can help them, she also shares a link to her article. 

Robert Williams from Folyo found some of his earliest customers by brainstorming product ideas with fellow creators in online communities. Many of the community members were also potential customers. He says, “The people who were giving me feedback on my idea and helping me improve it also ended up signing up and paying for it.”

#3 Collaborate with relevant brands in your industry

Other creators extend their reach through collaboration with similar brands in their niche. When you connect with a creator who has a relevant target audience, you get in front of more people who might be interested in your offers. 

Podia creator and Odunife founder Tamkara Adun grew her audience by guest posting and connecting with other creators in her space. While this strategy takes time, Tamkara ultimately built a community based on reciprocity where she would share work that inspired her, and other creators would repost her content in return. 

“I did a couple of guest posts on other really big accounts that were in my niche. When I did the guest posts for them, they exposed me to their audience, and some of their audience would come to my page and see that the content there was also engaging and they would follow me.”

If your target audience doesn't use social media, you can still do outreach by meeting your ideal clients where they are. For Kaye Carroll from Zea Mays Printmaking , this meant reaching out through academic networks.

“Our video tutorials are useful for printmaking students who don’t have access to a press or studio themselves, so we’ve been getting in contact with printmaking professors and offering a special rate for them to subscribe to our videos and share them with their students. This allows us to grow our audience outside of our local sphere and also attract younger subscribers.”

#5 Learn about blog post and YouTube SEO

Finally, if you create long-form content like blog posts or YouTube videos, it may be worth spending some time learning about search engine optimization, or SEO. 

Becky Mollenkamp optimizes her blog posts for search, and now, clicks from search engines are the number one source of traffic to her website. 

And classical piano instructor Joseph D’Amico found that writing SEO articles attracted an entirely new client base for his music business, which he loved.

SEO is an entire course in itself, but we do have some resources linked below to help you get started.

Bottom line, when you publish a blog post, upload a YouTube video, create a social media post, or send a newsletter, don’t stop there! 

Whether you share advice in online forums, collaborate with other brands in your industry, offer related workshops, speak at events, or dive into the world of SEO, it’s worth giving your content many opportunities to shine.

Consistency is hard. This makes it easier

When building an audience, posting great content is just the first step. To continue to reap the benefits of your hard work–and grow your following even bigger–you have to have consistency . 

Consistency multiplies the effects of your effort. 

So far in this guide, you’ve put in a lot of work. All the things you’ve done already are going to help with audience growth, but if you add consistency to the mix, you’ll take all your hard work to the next level. 

Here are some tips that make it a bit easier to stick with it.

  • Having a consistent posting schedule and cadence builds trust and makes it easier to become part of your audience’s routine

  • Consistency makes you better at doing the things you love, so your quality will naturally improve over time

  • Focus on creating content that feels fun and energizing

  • Simplify your to-do list so you can consistently do the things that matter most in your business

  • Batching content can help you stay on track, even when life gets busy

  • Not enough content to post? Try repurposing the work you’ve already done

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help and bring in outside freelancers or assistants 

  • Reflect on why you’re doing this work in the first place

We recommend picking a cadence and schedule that feels doable for you, and commit to publishing consistently. 

At the end of the time period you set for yourself, reflect on what happened.  

  • Did you gain any new skills? 

  • Did your audience grow?

  • Do you still love the work you’re doing? 

If the answer is no, it could be time to iterate and change things up. If the answer is yes, stick with it! 

Up next, we’ll look at how to solidify your audience for the long haul through your email list. 

Solidifying your audience through email

What if you could always communicate with your audience regardless of which platform you're on? Building an email list is a great way to own your audience and secure your access to them long into the future. 

Most creators grow their audience on social media because it's where the people are. It's also somewhat risky because social media platforms aren't always predictable or reliable. Social media platforms change their terms of service, update their algorithms, evolve to favor certain mediums over others, go offline and, on rare occasions, disappear for good. If you grow your audience in one of these places, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have the same access to them tomorrow as you have today.

Owning your audience means having the ability to reach the audience you’ve built no matter what happens to a given platform and being able to take that audience with you wherever you go. 

An email newsletter is the best way to own your audience.

Starting an email list isn’t just about avoiding some of the negative aspects of social media. Your email newsletter gives you the ability to connect with your audience in ways that social media falls short.

Your audience is more likely to see your email newsletter

First, content shared in an email newsletter reaches a larger percentage of your audience than sharing it on social media. Because email isn’t affected by algorithm changes and doesn’t rank content based on what’s good for the platform, you have the same chance of reaching your audience every time.

Second, people typically hold on to their email addresses for a long time, even as new platforms come and go. Once someone gives you access to their inbox, unless they unsubscribe, they can be with you for the long haul. 

Your audience is also more likely to engage with your emails–and purchase your products

Your newsletter subscribers aren’t only more likely to see your content. According to Emily Mills, they’re also more likely to engage with your content.

“Email is the main way that I communicate with people because that’s where my largest responsive audience is. I have more followers on Instagram, but just because you have a bunch of followers doesn’t mean that they actually engage with you. My email list is highly engaged, and so that’s my number one method of communicating with people.”

Newsletter subscribers can also be more likely than social media followers to purchase from you because email newsletters make it easy for your audience to get to know and trust you.

If you can build an engaged email list, your audience will see more of your content, feel more connected with you, trust you more, enthusiastically share you with others, and ultimately buy more of your products. The best news of all is that you can start building your email list today.

If you’re a Podia user, you already have access to a free and easy email tool . You can find the email feature in the email tab of your Podia dashboard. If you don’t have a Podia account yet, you can sign up for free.

How to get the right people to join your email list

Now you know why an email newsletter is the best way to connect with and own your audience, what’s next? Do you simply drop a signup form on your website and hope for the best?

It’s not quite that simple. Unlike that epic neighborhood lemonade stand you started when you were eight, email newsletters aren’t an “if you build it, they will come” situation.

Here are some things you can do to attract subscribers.  

  • Think of your email list as a product. Put yourself in a potential subscriber’s shoes and think about what you can offer to make them feel like giving your space in their inbox and their attention is a no-brainer. 

  • Make it easy for your audience to sign up by linking to your newsletter where they engage with your content. People can’t join your newsletter if they don’t know it exists. Make sure you’re pointing people to your email newsletter signup form on your main website pages, in your social media bio link , and within your content. 

  • Let your audience know what they can expect. Explain to people who your newsletter is for, what happens when they sign up, what content they’ll get, and how often they’ll get it. 

  • Offer something in exchange for signing up. Your followers have approximately nine-hundred-thirty-eight-thousand-two-hundred-seventy-six newsletters they can sign up for on a given day. To make yours stand out, offer something of value in exchange for their email address. Some creators offer special deals on their products or early access to new content. Other creators use lead magnets like free checklists, digital downloads, ebooks, or mini-courses to grow their lists. 

  • Don’t forget about 1:1 connections. Finally, you can also grow your email list through 1:1 connections, both online and in person.

Whether you’re offering exclusive content or deals, creating a valuable free lead magnet, or simply reaching out to audience members one by one, the important thing is to start building your email list today. You’ll never regret having direct access to more people, so choose a tactic that makes sense for your business, and start getting the word out. 

I have followers on my email list, now what?

Once you have people on your email list, you want to continue growing your trust and relationship with them — which means they need a reason to keep opening the messages you send over time.

Let’s check out some other strategies for keeping your list engaged.

Keep your list engaged with a value-packed onboarding sequence

Becky Mollenkamp’s email open rate is around 50% which is nearly double what’s considered to be a high open rate. One of the strategies she attributes her success to is using an onboarding or opening sequence to make sure her new subscribers are getting a ton of value right away.

Periodically remove uninterested followers from your list

Becky also points to her practice of regularly cleaning or culling her email list. This means if someone on her list hasn’t opened, clicked, or replied for a period of time, she removes them. Removing people from your list seems counterintuitive, but Becky explains why it makes a lot of sense.

 “I don’t have a giant list…I do a lot of scrubbing of cold subscribers and try to keep only the people who actually engage with my list, which is why my open rates are at almost 50%, which is high. And that’s because I make sure that I have people on my list that actually want to be there.”

Be human, and be helpful

Em Connors points to authenticity and providing a lot of value as key strategies for driving higher engagement.

"I just try to be human, I don’t want to be a robot. I use extra words that make it sound like I’m talking to someone. When I pretend I’m texting my best friend, or I’m emailing my best friend, or talking to a friend, it just takes a weight off my shoulders that was making me think I had to be something other than myself.” 

Use news stories or trending topics to connect with subscribers

You don’t necessarily have to get personal to find those connection points. Khe Hy sometimes ties in popular culture or events to find common ground with his subscribers.

“I try to understand what other content my readers are consuming. Are they listening to this specific podcast or reading this new book? That gives me an entry point into another thing to write about. If all of my readers are following a specific TV show, is there a way to weave that into my storytelling, into my links, into my blog post?”

These are just a handful of ideas you can start using right now to keep your email list more engaged which hopefully leads to more opens, more clicks, and more sales. It’s okay to take your time with these and not rush right into making sales. 

Spend time connecting, not just selling

Becky Mollenkamp stresses that allowing your audience to get to know who you are is what ultimately turns subscribers into customers.

“Don’t forget, it’s ‘Know, like, trust, and then buy.’ A mistake I see people making is thinking, 'I got them, I better hurry up and sell them something.’ I think my open rates are high because I take that time to make sure that they get to know who I am. I show up authentically and I speak conversationally so they feel like, ‘That’s an email I want to read’ and ‘I don’t think she’s going to hit me with a bunch of sales pitches every two minutes.’ And I think that helps.”

When you show up authentically–creating things you enjoy, being yourself, connecting your experiences and expertise to real problems–you make it easier for your audience to connect and engage with you. You don’t just attract followers, but you build an audience of fans.

I hope you’ve come away from this guide with ideas and inspiration for your creator business, and that you feel excited and confident about growing your audience.

This is the end of the guide, but not the end of your journey. If you haven’t already checked out our online course, Get Noticed! , you can head there to find worksheets and additional resources that will help you put this information into practice. 

And if you need a place to build your business and audience, you can do it on Podia for free

About the author

Nicola is a content marketer for Podia, an all-in-one platform where online courses, digital downloads, and communities scale with their creators. She lives for lizards, loves to travel, and can often be found cooking up new recipes in the kitchen.