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29 Comments

Getting sick of the phrase "build an audience"

The phrase is said with good intention and it means well.

My thing is, an audience is an emergent property, not a prescriptive property.

When you write something, people who like your stuff...read it and you have an audience. If you don't have a following you'll promote your content to get more eyeballs and then maybe the interested people who are left are your audience.

The expectation when someone says "build your audience" is to have people waiting before you speak.

Why would anyone listen to me unless I have something valuable to offer.

Understanding who you want to serve, what their problems are, and how you can reach them before writing code is the main intention.

You can reach out via Email/Twitter DMs/Discord groups/Slack groups and tell them about your app.

But, waiting to build your audience before writing code seems like a pipe dream, and what happens if this audience doesn't have the willingness to pay for what you offer?

This is a vague structure IMO:

  1. Find the audience you want to serve
  2. Understand their problems
  3. Understand their willingness to pay
  4. Solve the problem if they are willing to pay
  5. Reach your audience
  6. Get paid

Sometimes you pick a problem and try to find the audience which is what you want to avoid.

Seems easy in theory, it is incredibly difficult in practice.

  1. 10

    I prefer “build a product that delivers value”

    1. 1

      Make Something People Want.

    2. 1

      That's what I prefer as well.

  2. 6

    I get what you're saying.
    However, in my opinion, I still think the importance of building an audience is underrated.

    First of all, you don't have to build an audience around your product, specifically.
    You can build an audience around you as a founder?
    At least, that's what I did myself.
    Please, let me share this post I did recently, where the importance becomes very clear!

    Secondly, there are still so many ways to build an audience around your business, that doesn't evolve specifically around your product.

    I'm sure your business is based on a vision.
    And I'm sure there's a lot of value to add that aligns with this vision, which is not the main service itself.
    Be creative. Write blog posts, articles, make videos, tutorials, small images with tips, small motivational quotes, etc.
    Adding value doesn't necessarily mean "solving a problem".

    In essence - focus on building an audience around the vision of your business.
    Around the mission that you're on. Not so much the paid service itself.
    And then let conversion be a fortunate side-effect of that 🔥

    I know it gets thrown around a lot. But that's because it's tried and tested.
    No, it's not strictly necessary - but for many, this is a crucially important move.

    1. 1

      Hey Simon,

      Went through your post, website and project.

      The video describing the product is really well done. Jealous of your German accent.

      Your situation is very unique:

      1. Were you intentionally building an audience for your project or did it you realise while writing for this audience that you could solve this problem for them.

      2. If so, what was on your mind while writing. Who were you writing for? Was that intentional or was it a side effect as well.

      3. Or were they both random: "oh I'm writing this and people (I don't know) are liking it, maybe if I built this for them they'll love it"

      I'm sure these questions maybe too difficult to answer, but that's just me being curious.

      1. 2

        Haha, thanks a lot.
        I'm actually from Denmark - I just happen to live in Switzerland now.
        So the accent in Danish 😁

        1. Actually, no. I realized the importance of this after my first attempt at creating and promoting a SaaS product.
          I started building my audience around myself as a personal brand - simply with the intent of throwing good karma out there, and see what would come back.
        2. I was very deliberate in not building an audience around a specific product.
          I wanted an audience that could fit in with any potential future project that I would engage in. That said, I was of course focused on appealing to a group with a general interest in business and entrepreneurship.
        3. No, none of them were random.
          But at the time of starting growing an audience, I didn't know that I would be building FeedHive.
          That part did come quite naturally after I had done social for quite a while.

        I hope this answers your questions 😊

        1. 2

          That makes sense, it was all organic.

          PS: Sorry for the jumble.

  3. 6

    @botvader agree with you on this. A large number of people talk about building audience without realizing it doesn't happen with value-exchanges.

    Also, it's getting harder to get attention of people. So, if founders really want to get more people/customers/traffic, they need to focus more on what value they are contributing and accordingly adjust their strategies.

    I believe that's a much better route than googling "How to get 10k followers on instagram/linkedin/etc."

    1. 1

      Yes!

      Every customer:
      Please build something that solves my problem (that's actually consuming me) I'd be happy to pay you with money and attention.

      1. 2

        Haha I was myself once a part of it, so nothing to hide from it!

        1. 1

          This comment was deleted 2 months ago.

  4. 4

    Lots of people who talk about "building an audience" are writers and content creators. That explains why audiences are so important to them.

    1. 1

      Yeah that makes sense.

      We too have an audience to serve. Our medium to express is code.

  5. 4

    How about building something to scratch your own itch? That's how I tend to operate, and I'm not saying it's better or even good. But the way I see it is, if I need a certain tool or one that works in a very specific way, there must be others with similar needs.

    1. 1

      You can risk being the only one who has that problem.

      1. 3

        Perhaps. Maybe I just like building stuff so much, but I don't consider that a loss. Worst case, I end up with better tooling for myself, and I learned a ton of new things in the process. But then again, I work full time, so I'm not worried about failing.

        1. 2

          Thank you for commenting this. I agree with this mindset as well. I think it's a brilliant idea to build tools that make your life easier during development. Theres a high chance that someone else has the same issue and may be willing to pay. Worst case scenario which isn't really that bad is that you have a easier life with your tool.

          1. 2

            Building a product in your free time is a double-edged sword.

            On the one hand you have nothing to lose if it doesn't work out. In fact you'll absolutely level up your skills.

            On the other hand you have much less time compared to a full time maker. Maybe this isn't too bad either - it can force you to prioritize and boil it down to the essentials.

  6. 3

    Most people who prescribe building an audience are the ones whose business model benefits from thought leadership to people in the same business or in need of that thought leadership to expand their business or practice. That thought leadership is consumed by people, which can then be parlayed into a CRM for a product or productized service.

    SEO is a perfect example. If you are really really good at SEO, you create blog posts and give seminars and that has a natural audience component built in which you can then leverage if you want to sell a new product or service. Great. This works. People need to learn SEO to grow their business. They listen to you to grow their own business and you can convert them into customers of your SEO product. A master carpenter could build his audience by sharing his knowledge to apprentice carpenters with a channel on YouTube and then drop a promo video for a revolutionary smart saw once he has 1000 followers.

    That formula works when you are selling to other entrepreneurs selling the same product/service or selling to those who get value from BOTH your knowledge and product/service.

    But there is the opposite side of this spectrum where this doesn't work as effectively. It may work but it is simply not as effective. Let's take someone who wants to sell candles direct to consumers on Shopify. Totally reasonable business model. But building an audience in this context is more akin to building a brand around your product. No one is creating material, content, and writing thought leadership pieces on enjoying candles. You build a brand sure, but not an audience as described above. If you instead pivoted to selling candle wax to other candle makers, you could probably create content about making candles and starting a candle business.

    Ultimately, certain business models and the 'exhaust' that comes off of these models can be used as a flywheel to grow your business. SEO, Email Marketing, and all of the tools and more importantly knowledge that entrepreneurs use to grow their businesses are perfect for what people mean when they say 'build an audience'.

    That is not to say that you can't build an audience from selling candles, it is just that the typical tactics using content marketing and twitter threads isn't as potent for a candle maker as it is for someone selling hustle tools to other hustlers.

    1. 1

      Yes, for some...having an audience is a backup strategy and for others it's their only strategy. Depends on the product, your strengths etc.,

  7. 2

    No doubt- this short piece of content is great advice.
    The problem people fall in is competition- unless you have created something so unique no one ever developed yet and there is an audience waiting for that problem to be solved.
    I'd say, in this scenario, it's like you have invented the wheel. Even then, there are loads of smart people and they will definitely copy your product/service with their own twist and something additional you don't have.
    Some not-so-good products get more profit than better ones, just because they know how to market.

    1. 2

      Analysing your competition is important, forgot to add that part. I've fallen into building the same thing instead of understanding unique value proposition.

      It's extremely important I can't say that enough times.

  8. 2

    Very nicely writter!

  9. 2

    Yes, that phrase turns off many people (especially developers/builders). I've evolved to think of it as "build trust". Lack of audience is not usually the problem, it's obscurity. So doing consistent work to allow people to know you, and what they can expect from you. If that translates to trust then you have chance. As trust is required to make a sell.

    All of this is easier said then done in some ways, but logically makes sense. (Funnily I wrote about similar things for The Leaf Node last week).

    1. 1

      Could you give the link?

      1. 1

        Sure, here's one about choosing your audience -- customers/users/readers, etc.

        1. 1

          Definitely something I hear very often.

          It is correct that you get to choose your audience.

          I think there is so much weight on building your audience for, distribution purpose. Once you know who you are building for, how do you reach them...it makes sense to share content and have a list of people who are interested in the same thing as you are.

          Audience = People who you are interested to serve.

          For e.g., music composers on Soundcloud,options traders in USA.

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