Myth #1: Your audience is everyone on the internet
In Chapter 1, you'll learn about all of the places you might find your audience (including easier-to-reach ones many creators miss) and what you can do to start growing right away.
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?
Where does your audience come from?
Podia Creator Khe Hy started a newsletter in January 2015 which has grown to around 38,000 subscribers. Here’s how he got started:
“373 weeks ago–I know that because that’s how long I have been sending it for–I was on vacation. I was still working on Wall Street, but I had a bunch of free time.
I read a few articles and I sent an email to 36 people saying, ‘Hey, here are five articles that I found interesting,’ with two sentences why.
That’s it. I didn’t think I would do it again because I was on vacation, and people kept writing back and saying, ‘This was great. When will you do it again? When can we get the next one?’”
A quick Google search for how to build an audience points mostly to things like creating digital content or posting on social media. For a lot of creators, this feels like throwing out a message in a bottle from a desert island, hoping the ocean current will somehow deliver it to the right person while you spend hours making a fishing spear from bamboo and trying to build a fire.
Building an audience on the internet could eventually mean reaching strangers who have no idea you exist, but that doesn’t mean you have to start there. And actually, there are a lot of places you can find an audience before you resort to putting a message in a bottle.
For Khe, that meant reaching out to a bunch of friends with an email. Let’s look at some other possibilities.
Your audience growth map
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:
Immediate family and friends: These are people you can call up or text.
Acquaintances: These are people you know, but not that well. Maybe you can email or direct message them.
Warm connectors: This includes people who would recognize your name, but that you don’t know personally. They might respond to a cold email.
Cold connectors: These are people whose names you recognize, but that you don’t know personally.
Unknown connectors: This includes people in your niche you don’t know, and who don’t know you.
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.
But this is where a lot of creators start when trying to build an audience. Spending all that effort trying to reach people you have no connection to can leave you feeling frustrated and burned out.
This chart shows us how 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.
According to Podia creator Valeria Hernández ,
“I thought that by being on Instagram, I would be serving all these people that were my internet people. You know how you have your real life people and your internet people? I was really scared to expose myself to real life people, but those became my first couple of clients because they actually personally knew me. And then through getting testimonials from them, I was able to build that trust with people who may not know me from real life.”
Valeria discovered she could build an audience from people who already knew her personally, and those early connections made it easier for her to build trust with people who didn’t know her yet.
Each of the different segments on this chart calls for a unique approach, so let’s talk a bit about the specific actions you might take in each one to grow your audience.
Immediate family and friends
People in the first segment, immediate family and friends, are people you may communicate with or see regularly. You could pick up your phone and reach out to these people right now. Growing your audience can look like grabbing coffee, sending a text, or striking up a non-political conversation at the next family get-together.
In the next segment, acquaintances are folks you know but aren’t as close with. These could be co-workers, fellow gym members, or other creators you’ve met at a conference or event. If you send these people an email or direct message, you’re likely to get a quick response.
Growing your audience in this segment could also include some kind of in-person meetup, but more than likely, your best chance at connecting is through email or direct message.
The next segment is people who would recognize your name, but you don't know them personally. They might be a friend of a friend, someone who has seen you speak, or has taken a workshop from you and provided their email address. These people may respond to a cold email, or better yet, a warm email connection from a mutual friend.
Going down further, there are people whose names you recognize, but that you don't know personally. This could be someone you recognize on the internet or a local business in your industry. This is usually someone who has access to an audience that is similar to the one you'd like to reach.
These folks can be difficult to make a connection with because you usually have to provide some kind of up-front value for them or their audience and build a relationship and rapport over time.
Unknown connectors are basically cold connectors you haven’t discovered yet. You find these folks by researching or by talking to people in your network and asking them who they know.
Finally, there's everyone else, the masses. To reach the masses, you need to go where they are or get the people already in your audience to convince them to follow you.
As you can see, there are a number of different ways to approach growing your audience that don’t involve starting at the bottom of the audience growth map. You can work on any segment of this chart at any time in your audience growing journey. One of our creators, Becky Mollenkamp , has been growing her audience for years. Here’s what she has to say:
"In the beginning, I was in a bunch of Facebook groups. I started to have Zoom chats with people and do coffee meetings, and my network grew that way.
They weren’t so much friends and family, but I think if your business appeals to friends and family, that’s great too. But they were people I had met in real life or on Zoom that I had some relationship with. What happens when you start to deliver for those people? They start to recommend to people that they know.
Now you’re out one degree. You may not actually know those people but they know somebody who knows you and can vouch for you. And then that continues until you start to have people you don’t know–you’re not even sure how they found you anymore–coming into your world.
It’s really that old-fashioned “who do you know” networking. As much as I like online marketing, the old stuff works because humans trust humans.
The people that are going to be the most perfect for you are the ones that are coming because somebody else told them they’re perfect for you. They have the built-in trust already. That’s huge.”
I hope this chapter has sparked some ideas for how you might connect with people who aren’t just strangers on the internet and that you feel excited about the possibilities this opens up for growing your audience.
Make a list of 20 people within the top three segments you could reach out to tomorrow to discuss your business, product, or service. Get creative! This could be friends, family members, former coworkers, internet friends, or people from an online community.
You can download the worksheet that corresponds with this chapter in Module 1 of Podia’s free Get Noticed! course. Register here.
In this chapter, we've covered where an audience comes from. Next, we're going to talk about what an audience is and how the way you define an audience can make a huge difference in how you measure and achieve success.