If you’re a writer, you want readers. And thanks to the internet era, you can choose from dozens of methods to build an audience.
But too many options can be a snare for those of us who fall for The Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS). Like me, you may be distracted by the latest audience-building goodness, like new apps and courses and shortcuts. Each promises to be the magic bullet for building an audience.
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m all about using different methods to reach more readers and build an audience. But I’m a solopreneur. Marketing my writing is necessary, but I need to find a balance between finding readers and providing them with quality content. Many of you, I’m sure, feel the same.
Fortunately, there’s good news for those of us who want to build a writing audience. The process can be simple. And you can do it just one step at a time. In fact, the “tortoise” approach to building an audience is the best way to go. And best of all, you needn’t spend a fortune to help readers to find you and your content. You can do it for very little cash outlay.
Let me state two caveats. First, when I say you can build an audience, I speak of online traffic. I assume you have a central hub that you call your online home — whether it’s a website, a blog, a social media site, a YouTube channel. And I also assume you’ve got a system in place to track numbers. You’ve adopted a way to record traffic metrics (such as Google Analytics) from one day or week or month to the next.
Second, when I say you can build an audience for your content for next to nothing, I mean so in terms of financial outlay. You can gain readers for very little monetary cost.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that building an audience costs nothing. You’ll invest plenty of sweat equity. At the keyboard, that is.
The principle is simple.
You do that in three ways.
You can build an audience when you create a quality piece of content that your target reader needs or wants. Optimize it for search engines. Readers find you organically or through referral traffic. When you build content, you create an asset — one that readers want. That content can take a nearly limitless number of forms, such as:
Write content using low-supply, high-demand keywords, and your project will gain traction with the search engines. Even if you tap into AI to create an outline, when you offer unique, benefit-laden content then readers find value and will find you. Plus, online content lives on the web until you remove it. Update it at regular intervals and the content will stay on Google’s radar, continuing to pull in readers.
Creating your own original content takes time, but it’s a proven long-term strategy to use to build an audience.
Other writers have audiences that follow them. You don’t need to steal their readers. Quite frankly, you want their audience to keep following them to stoke momentum and interest in your niche.
What benefits you, however, is access to that audience. When you pop up in another provider’s universe, then her niche readers are exposed to you and what you offer. If you provide them with useful information or valuable insight, then they will become one of your fans. You build readership.
There are plenty of methods you can use to “borrow” another platform, including …
What does borrowing cost? You need time to find like-minded audiences and readerships. You need to invest time in finding appropriate questions to answer and threads on which to post. And you need to have intelligent, valuable content at your home hub that you can link to.
You can buy traffic for cheap. My first Facebook ads cost just $5 a pop, but those ads drove hundreds of new readers to my site with an offer for a free download. Subsequently, those readers gave me their email addresses in exchange for my freebie.
Then, they began receiving my weekly newsletter. I make sure to offer helpful information in each email newsletter I send to retain those readers. Over the years, they have remained loyal subscribers. Many have purchased my books and products and courses and services. So while I spent “next to nothing” for my initial ads — the equivalent of an overpriced cup of coffee — that investment yielded results.
It’s a rare writer that gains instant traction on the internet. Instead, you build an audience over time. Greek storyteller Aesop (620 BC-564 BC) illustrated that truth in his ancient fable, The Hare and The Tortoise. Perseverance beats speed.
Perseverance beats shiny objects, too — and it’s cheaper on the wallet. You don’t need a massive marketing budget to reach readers. Instead, you need a plan to build traffic … and persistence to carry it out.
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Award-winning content writer and author Kathy Widenhouse specializes in writing for nonprofits and faith-based organizations.
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