The Startup
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The Startup

How to start building an audience when you don’t have any audience yet

We started Hacking UI with zero followers, zero readers, zero people who knew what Hacking UI was, zero people who cared, zero people on our mailing list. Fast forward 3 years later…

Yeah, that’s me, on stage, after being invited to talk in front of hundreds of people in a conference abroad.

“Obscurity is your Enemy” — Grant Cardone

But then, a scary thought arises

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“Who am I really writing for? I have no audience yet. Who will see my articles, even if I do write them? How can I build an audience if I don’t have none yet to begin with?”.

Usually this is where most people give up and don’t start writing at all. But that’s a shame. You should definitely not stop here, and in this article I will completely break down why.

  • Sharpen that definition even more for us aspiring content creators
  • Term drop & explain ‘The Honeymoon Period’ and why it’s important
  • Term drop & explain ‘The Circles Method’ for gaining audience
  • Go into the actual actionable items you can do RIGHT NOW to start building your audience
  • Explain how to build and maintain a weekly newsletter
  • Discuss writing online, and how you can make it work out even if you are busy like a bee
  • And we’ll finish off with some inspiration and food for thought

🚦Methodological stop:

Now, I know most people read until they see a squirrel, so…
I would like to ask you for 2 things right now that will help you out even AFTER you finish reading this article and will make sure we stay in touch:

From the Hacking UI ‘Scaling a Design Team’ event in San Francisco, Nov 2015 (more pictures from the event are here, audio recording here)

Let’s define ‘audience’

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  • Actively seek to consume new content from you
  • Usually sign up to get content from you in any ‘push’ mechanism (i.e. They sign up to your mailing list where YOU can control when to send them your content)

Let’s get even deeper with what ‘Audience’ should mean to you

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  • You are at the mercy of the time of day your audience visits their feed. As you know, any item in a feed has a super short lifespan on social networks (unless you pay to boost them).
  • You are competing with that person’s friends for his/her attention.
  • You have no control over who leaves you or joins you. These people can like your FB page one day, and then Unlike you the next day without you being able to ask them ‘Hey, where are you going? Why are you leaving?’
  • You have (almost) full control over the unsubscribe funnel
  • Plus, people that give you their emails show a higher level of trust in you (unless you tricked them into giving you their emails which is a wrong way to go)

People see your content → You offer them value by downloading something → they sign up, but don’t give a shit about you

But I want you to do it differently:

People see your content→ You give them so much value, and only then you tell them they can sign up→ They sign up and can’t wait to consume more of what you have to offer.

The interesting thing in this second option is that once people sign up to your list like that, they start what’s called “The Honeymoon period” with your emails. They will wait anxiously for your next email, they will share your content, and they will keep this relationship alive as long as you keep providing them value.

“Ok Sagi, I agree with you on the mailing list part, and I now know what ‘audience’ should mean for me. But how do I start building it?”

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The Circles Method Recipe for gaining audience

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Ingredients:

  • Your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and any social account you are already on
  • Your friends and family
  • Willpower
  • A sprinkle of patience

Method:

  1. Sign up, and open a mailing list on Mailchimp (10 mins). Can be on any other email marketing platform as well, but I use Mailchimp and it’s free up to 2000 subscribers.
  2. Get a link to refer people to sign up for your list (Mailchimp provides you with a sign-up page to share). Here’s the article that would teach you how to do that.
  3. Ask your family & friends to sign up to your mailing list. Call your mom/dad, your brother/sister. Have them sign up. Same with your friends. Talk about your newsletter on every occasion. Have your friends sign up when you meet them for drinks (Mailchimp has a mobile app for adding people to your list on the go, and I bet any other email provider has as well).
  4. Reach out to ALL your friends on social media:
    a) Post publicly on facebook about it:
    “Hey all, I have a new newsletter I’m starting, and would love any of you to sign up! This will keep you updated on what I’m up to in my career. Would love your support! And more so, if you can share this post it would be awesome and will help me maybe reach some of your Facebook friends that might find my content relevant to them.[LINK TO SIGN UP]”
    b)
    Send private messages to all your close friends.
    c) Send DMs and stories on Instagram & Snapchat to friends to sign up
    d) Send DMs on Twitter to friends and acquaintances, and tweet out publicly about it.
  5. Post the sign-up link on your social media profiles: Be it Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin, Dribbble, and any other relevant platform.

What will happen next:

Your first inner circle will now start liking and sharing your content.

Activated your first circle? Great! Now it’s time to start developing the relationship with your audience

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Started sending that weekly roundup? Great, now it’s time to start writing?

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  • Post each article to other networks that you are less active on as well. maybe Linkedin, maybe some Slack channels in your field, share it on Reddit (find relevant subreddits by googling ‘best subreddits for [TOPIC OF YOUR ARTICLE]’).
  • Use Instagram! Post a picture of your article, and update the link to it as your main Instagram profile link. In Instagram you can’t link from image descriptions, you have only one call to action, and that’s from your main profile bio. In your picture’s description, explain what the article is about and ends with writing “link in bio”. Then add a second comment on your own picture with relevant hashtags. This site is amazing for hashtags.
  • Post on relevant upvoting platforms such as DN or HN or GH, and ask your friends to give you the first few upvotes so that it picks up (nobody will tell you to do that, by the way, but everybody does that). Don’t send them a direct link to your post on these platforms, but do tell them to go to the homepage of the platform, find your post there, and upvote it.

We all start with nothing

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Throw that bottle in the ocean

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🚦You’re welcome to:

📧 subscribe to the weekly Creativepreneur newsletter

Resources from this article:

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Sagi Shrieber

Sagi Shrieber

5.4K Followers

Designer, Entrepreneur & Tribe Builder. CEO at Contrast UX Design Agency. Founder of Commit First Podcast & Youtube Channel.