Earning An Audience: How To Be Irresistible + Grow Your Brand Online
The best way I know how to share what I’m about to share with you about building a business on the interwebs is to start off with a little story-slash-confession. I promise, pinkie-swear, and cross my heart not to be boring.
Before I launched the Olyvia brand, I spent my time reading.
By my estimations, I read about 157 gazillion articles on business marketing strategies on a daily freaking basis in the months leading up to my website going live.
You see, even though I had experience in growing communities online — launching + promoting around a half dozen blogs over the previous 10 years, advising non-profits on social media marketing, informally assisting my friends who owned small businesses, and other rather unremarkable things — the truth is this:
I was certain that anything I knew would prove to be woefully, shamefully inadequate. Oh yeah: and I would fail.
In my mind there simply had to be the Holy Grail of marketing strategies out there that would guarantee my entrance into biz blogging heaven… I just needed to find it behind some internet guru’s squeeze page.
(Don’t even ask how many newsletters I signed up for in my quest for marketing enlightenment. #likewhoa)
sales pitch after sales pitch errr, I mean webinar after webinar, all I found at the end of the rainbow were $2000 courses I couldn’t afford — and didn’t trust enough to buy even if I could.
So, alas, the day came when I finally could do nothing more than push Olyvia.co into being. I hoped (and ohhh it was a desperate hope, I might add) that what I knew from my past online experiences — in point of fact, what I had built my entire brand around — would be enough to get me started.
What was my so-called strategy?
1) To be helpful, and 2) to be kind.
And yes, I know. By now you’re thinking I’m either a little bit off my rocker (totally possible, though that’s what makes the world interesting, yes?) OR that I’m some sort of digital saint (#iwishbutno).
It does not escape me that such a basic concept seems more than a bit redonkulous in our highly evolved age where it’s supposedly true that one minute is better than another to share a tweet, 99.7341 characters is the ideal Facebook status update length, and every Pin should be red or orange if we want to be Master + Commander of the Interwebs.
Scoff if you must, but here’s the deal.
With about 11,000 followers across my top four platforms (that would be Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and email) in just over one year and a wonderfully engaged blog readership that has steadily grown like this…
…the approach, well, it’s not so crazy.
Now, before I give you practical ways to carry this out for your own brand, there is, of course, more to the story of online success. You need to implement the things that gain people’s trust, have a basic understanding of how to set yourself apart from the masses, experiment with clever activities and follow solid blogging practices that help increase your visibility, know your social platforms and how to best take advantage of them (see the Ultimate Pinterest Guide), be an advocate for your reputation, and so on and so forth.
But this is the foundation of allll of that. I’m 500% convinced that if you don’t have this right, attracting an audience and then keeping it is going to be MUCH slower, harder, and overall more painful for you.
It’s awfully difficult to get noticed + be irresistible as a brand owner if people don’t sense you’re a friendly person who consistently cares + wants to help. (< Tweet this)
(On the other hand, sure: you could make a name for yourself as a bombastic and tactless jerk who only “cares” about the subservient people-pleasers who bend over backward to support them. Sometimes that tantalizes a select group of folks…though rarely does it last for long. [Eventually the bad feelings you create will become a permanent anchor on your brand, as you’ll be “leaking” people like crazy.] If that sounds like a good time, good day and good luck. You’re reading the wrong person, friend!)
With that introduction, I’m now going to walk you through the simple but crucial actions you should be doing on behalf of your business in order to earn an audience that adores you + will stick around.
(By the way, this post is the first in the #HeroicBrand series I’m holding on the blog, the mission of which is to help you build a healthy, long-term biz online by being a hero to the people you serve. There will be more to come next week!)
THE ‘HELPFUL + KIND’ STRATEGY THAT WILL GROW YOUR BRAND
PART ONE: The truth about business and community online + 13 tips to begin
In order for brands — in particular, small creative business owners, coaches, consultants, freelancers, solopreneurs, and other business-minded bloggers — to get readers, followers, steady clients, and sufficient customers via the internet, they HAVE to exist in community with others.
It’s the only way.
(I mean, you can’t be helpful and kind without another person around, right?)
Yet, for some reason, it’s also the least-mentioned among marketers and business consultants.
It makes me die a depressing little death inside when I come across other business owners who, by all appearances, should be steadily attracting a decent audience. They’ll have wonderful, marketing-savvy websites, informative blogs, interesting services or products, and perhaps even some significant guest appearances on big platforms…
But they’ll also have little to no engagement and stagnant, small blog + social media followings.
Why is this?
Invariably, the reason is because they’re not out there contributing to relationships with other people.
Sometimes this is due to ignorance and other times it is due to shyness, both of which I have a tremendous amount of sympathy towards. If you’re unfamiliar with the online landscape or you’re a quiet introvert, it’s really hard! You don’t even know what you should be doing, and when you finally do, you’re scared to open your mouth.
No matter what camp you fall into, here are some ideas — ranging from easy to you-gotta-be-kidding risky, har har har 😉 — to start getting comfortable in community. Choose at least four. Do five or more if you’re able:
1. Respond to (many or most) comments on your blog *
2. Respond to questions on your social media posts *
3. Comment on other’s blog posts
4. Comment on other’s social media posts
5. Join (+ participate in!) a Facebook group in your niche
6. Check out a Twitter chat or two (aim for 1-8 chats/month)
7. Contribute to a website forum in your niche
8. Join a Mastermind (or similar accountability group)
9. Start a Facebook group
10. Start a Twitter chat
11. Start a Mastermind
12. Hop on Periscope
13. Hold a G+ Hangout
* = required; if you rarely or never do these, start today
PART TWO: Practice kinder, more helpful, + more advanced relationship-building
Once you commit to being active in various online spaces, the real kindness + helpfulness can begin.
Remember this: the more you seek to serve others around you, the greater it will pay off for your brand.
1. GO ABOVE + BEYOND IN YOUR BLOG COMBOX
It’s one thing to say “thanks!” for a blog comment. It’s another to choose to really engage and provide some service to somebody, even if their comment was relatively short.
If you want to be memorable, always always always do the latter.
Some questions to help you guide your responses are:
1. How can I express my gratitude in a more authentic/sincere way?
2. How can I demonstrate interest in this person?
3. How can I make this person feel uniquely special?
4. How can I add information to my response that would be helpful to them?
5. How can I show a willingness to serve them/continue to maintain a relationship?
Susannah of Garnishing Co. is such a beautiful example of a dedicated, other-focused blogger:
As is my favorite infopreneur alive, Regina of byRegina.com:
2. TAKE THE TIME TO GIVE PEOPLE YOUR TIME
When you’re busy juggling work, marketing, friend/family life, and #canijustgetsomealonetimeplease, it may seem like a huuuuge hassle to stop and respond to people’s comments or casual inquires on social media or email.
As a single mom of three young munchkins with five loads of clean laundry perpetually awaiting their return to dresser drawers, I get it. It’s tough. It would be easier just to ignore the masses and only focus on the “really pressing” matters.
But if you want to draw more people to you, give them a reason to be passionate about you, and influence them to shout your praises in pixels to the world, you can’t ignore them.
You have to give of your time in both the large and the small matters.
Ask yourself two things:
1. When can you commit 5-20 minutes of your day to check on your social networks + email and respond to people?
2. How can you make your responses more than the bare minimum?
Figure it out, write it down if you must, and then do it.
(Pssst. Even if you have do it imperfectly and can only respond to two out of the five emails you receive, those two you send are better than zero. Don’t let the best be the enemy of the good.)
Melyssa of The Nectar Collective (a busy woman if there ever was one!) illustrates this perfectly on her Facebook page:
Maya of MayaElious.com is another incredibly classy woman who is happy to help out anyone who interacts with her:
Then there’s Regina again, who always kills it with her epic customer service:
And Pat Flynn, who is the the coolest man on the web IMNSHO:
I’m really bad (like, seriously — if you’ve emailed me and I haven’t responded, I am SO sorry) at managing my inbox, but this is one of my better examples that I can show you for email:
3. PRACTICE THE PROMOTION OF OTHERS
Where marketing is concerned, we don’t think twice about sharing our own stuff. And most of us find it pretty easy to thank people who help us promote it, too. (Though if you don’t, you’ll want to be sure to read Point #4…)
But you know what’s difficult…and thus 10x more powerful?
Spending your time spreading the good news about all of your fellow bloggers + biz owners.
It’s one of the most significant, generous things you can do for others online.
And believe me: people notice.
Personally speaking, the people I’ve ended up following the most + supporting with my own sharing are those who first came on my radar when they shared my content.
To make this habit an easy one, I suggest:
1. Creating a list (a private one on Twitter, in your browser bookmarks, etc.) of the people whose content you love and want to support
2. Spending 1x/week filling up your Buffer/Hootsuite schedule with their content (remember to tag them!)
Megan of MeganMinns.com is someone I highly respect for her willingness to support others:
Kristie, the super smart blogger behind Blog Ambitions, is always doing it:
Jamie of the (gorgeous!) Spruce Rd. gets it, too:
4. EXPRESS GRATITUDE WHEN OTHERS DO SOMETHING NICE FOR YOU
You know that warm, fuzzy, “this person is terrific” feeling you get when someone thanks you for sharing about them in a blog post/linking to their content on Facebook/etc?
You know how you remember them + want to keep on promoting them because you know they’re a nice person who appreciates you?
This is what builds brand advocates + word of mouth referrals, friends.
It’s as simple as that.
To nurture your community growth by being a grateful human being, all you have to do is check your social media mentions when you’re doing Point #2 above and tell people you appreciate them.
I mean, guys…surely if Chris Ducker can do it, we can, too! #justsayin
Let me know below if I spurred any new ideas or behaviors for you, plus feel free to ask me any ?s you have about growing a #HeroicBrand online. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
The other posts in the #HeroicBrand series are here: