Followers. click-throughs. Ad revenue. Views. Subscribers. We are constantly bombarded with terms that associate with how many people view our content. As content creators, we too are subject to seeing how many likes, retweets or views a piece of content receives. But the worse thing you can do is attribute that piece of contents value based on how many people, or how little of them, liked it or valued it. The worth of the piece is not in how many people liked it. The value is in what people did with the content after viewing it. If your content was educational, did it change them in some way? Maybe how they though of a certain subject? Or how they used to act in someway will now be changed because of your content. If your content was a piece of entertainment, did someone enjoy it, did it make them laugh, cry etc.? All it takes is 1 person to enjoy it in order for it to be valuable to someone.
It’s the classic conundrum – If you created a piece of content that no one consumed, is it valuable?
Why would you want to build an audience in the first place? The main reason why creators, artists, entrepreneurs want to create an audience – To be heard. No one wants what they perceive as valuable, useful and informative/entertaining content, to fall on deaf ears. To have your views, values, work respected and regarded by other people is highly sought, and something that takes a number of factors to achieve. Most creatives aspire to having an audience of a decent proportion, a few hundred to a few thousand perhaps. But what you have to think about is;
How do you think an audience would benefit you? And how do you benefit an audience?
Think about the why of your actions. Thinking about why you want an audience before starting something long-term will benefit you in terms of knowing what direction you want to go. Say, you’re a movie-maker and you make films as a hobby or passion. You want to get into full-time movie making as an independent creator. Knowing that you want to build an audience will help shape the direction of your passion. Do you want to help other aspiring movie makers? Do you want to write about the problems through a blog, provide video tutorials on equipment, sell your movies on your site, or create a brand from your passion and sell merchandise of your movies? These are the things that an audience will shape.
The one thing you should never do is let an audience dictate the direction of your work. To a point where you don’t like the work you do, or don’t want to pursue it anymore. Always stay true to what you love to do.
Other reasons to build an audience is to make money from it, and only have monetary gain from the outset. The more people you have the more people will click your content, visit your site, increase your ad revenue. While there is nothing wrong with that, it’s not tactful to solely want and audience so you can make money from them. Money can be made as a result of having an audience, yes. In ways such as valuable content like courses, products, workshops, merchandise. Things that you have to sell. Not things that other people are selling on your platform [Ads]. If you’re selling only ads, you have no business plan.
To build an audience, you need a combination of factors that you need to abide by in order to slowly accumulate people who are interested in your content and receive value from it.
You need to curate and focus solely on one thing that you can build an audience from. One passion. One hobby. Whatever that may be. You need to selectively project a single focus of work. This is adapted from the ‘Dunbar’s Number‘ principle, whereby humans are cognitively limited to 150 close relationships. This means that people are going to have a hard time processing you as a person if you share a lot of different content at the same time. It states that people will be unable to process your vast complexities if you are outside of their relationship vicinity, ie. You are a stranger to them. Which, in an online world, you are. Unless it’s a close friends.
Think of the strangers you follow on social media. Why do you follow/connect with them? More than likely you know them from 1 sole medium in which you discovered them by. Are they a lettering logo designer, a floral-pattern dress-maker, a cat jeweller? At one point, you got value from their work and this is why you followed them. Likewise, at one stage, they curated a single focus which allowed you to simplify their complexity. So now you know them as ‘The Cat Jeweller’. Project a single focus to allow people to put you in a box, categorise you in their mind, and process you and your work.
This is how often you publish work. If you want to build an audience you will need at least some form of routine to your work. It can’t be once whenever you feel like it, “maybe this week I will post on a Tuesday. I’m not really bothered doing one this weeks, maybe I will do another at the end of the month on Sunday when I’m free”. It has to be a cyclical routine that allows people to come on board and register an expectation of when they will see your work.
People live their lives in weekly routines. They know when to tune into their favourite TV or radio show, what days they are off work etc. Ultimately, posting daily is essential to amass a large audience. But in the beginning, posting weekly is crucial to allow people to build an expectation. It requires sacrifice. Do you really love what you do enough to sacrifice something for it. You have to care enough to show up. And if you don’t. Then why pursue it? You haven’t found your passion yet.
Quality in both the production of the work, care about the smaller details, details that others who are doing similar are missing, capitalise on that. But not just production quality, you also need to focus on the value quality of the content. How it will resonate with people, how people internalise it and what they do with/or get from it, whether it be
Care about the production, but remember that value is the most important form of quality. This is what will set your content apart from the other similar content out there. I follow several of niche interests where the production value is not as high quality as it could be, where more care put be put into the quality of the video, the setup, the lighting, and the studio environment of this content. These are all things that I myself would love to improve upon if I was in that position. But it doesn’t matter, because the content is top quality, valuable in both education and entertainment. Which shows that ultimately, the production quality doesn’t matter as much as the value that the audience gets from the piece. Production quality is merely a multiplier of the value of a piece of content.
Time is equally as important as the other factors. It takes time for the word to spread. There is no such thing as an overnight success, every piece of work you create is not going to go viral. If you want a piece of work to go viral, show up and make something everyday for 2 years.
People can be impatient They want fame in an instance. With a passion project, you have to give it time to mature into what you want it to become. Good things take time.
Don’t aim to make things go viral. Aim to make great things with a lot of value. Know the ‘why’ of what you are doing. Why do you want an audience? Do you want an audience just to be famous? What are you going to do with that ‘fame’? Why do you want to be famous? These are the important questions you need to ask yourself so you can build your future work from your past self.
We are in a golden age of content creation. There is so much good work in the world right now, but there is so much room for other great content too. Don’t be afraid to niche down and be selective. There are others out there that have an interest with what you do. The world is a big place with many people with varying interests, the internet turns into a small town, just waiting to discover your little stall.
Disclaimer: This post was inspired by the seanwes podcast and the views of Sean McCabe.