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44 Comments

Why “Build an Audience First” is BRILLIANT Advice

Example : Josh $500k in a week 🚀

@Joshwcomeau pulled in $500,000 in a week for a course he pitched to his 40k followers.

It took him a long time to gain those followers but $500k in a week is serious. What would have happened if he launched to an audience of 50?

Example : Gumroad $5M in a day 🚀

Gumroad raised $5M in equity crowdsourcing in 24 hours.

Despite their own audience their angel investors also have well over 1M social media followers. What would have happened if they launched to an audience of 500?

Audience is King 👑

If you have an audience you can make money.

Yes some non-influencer failed to sell t-shirts, but one misplaced sandwich doesn't spoil a picnic.

Which audience ? 🤔

Do not build an audience for the product you are building.

That may seem like dumb advice but you may well decide to change your product and will by implication lose audience interest.

Build an audience around:

  • You
  • Your brand
  • Your niche

How ? 🤔

I'll let you know when I have one 🤪

Have fun!

Which would you prefer ?
  1. To have a product but no audience.
  2. To have an audience but no product.
Vote
  1. 17

    Giving advice like "build an audience first" will only hold people back. If you can do it or you already have an audience, great! But it for sure is not necessary to build a great product.

    1. 1

      What is the point of building a great product if no one sees it?

      Just start an insta, follow every potential customer (this is the reason you should first have a product for a niche, so you can find the right customers). And go.

      I did it and it’s the reason that I finally started with my first project!

    2. 1

      Holding someone back from building a great product that has no audience sounds like progress.

      @randallkanna grew her twitter following to 35k in 12 months with a 6000 email list then had a 68% open rate on her first SaaS launch email.

      I agree we could drop the "first" but it certainly should not be changed to "last" and since the audience you build should not be about the product you are building (but about you, your brand, or your niche) then building a product is essentially something you do in parallel to building your audience.

      Going "all in" on creating only a great product is not the best approach.

      So yeah, be held back.

      Imo :)

      1. 7

        randallkanna, dvassallo, monicalent, arvidkahl and many others build their audience, yes.

        What do they have in common?

        They all sell how to guides, how to grow on twitter, how to write blogs, how to standout, how to get sold...

        They sold to great minds like you not fools like us (eheh I'm joking). But that's right fools like us are the quite low population so it works, not like this tho. Unless you have a how to guide to sell.

        If that's the case I'd suggest that to strengthen the network first, they achieve it by getting boosted on IH, invited to interviews, podcasts, closed affiliate deals first, pumped each other on every platform ー who knows what other prerequisites. Except offering value in public but the repeated numbers I quit 6 fig job, I did 6 fig pre-sale.

        Like IDK how many people bought the twitter course but only randallkanna turned it into success. What kind of sorcery is that.

        About finding the niche or "customers want" who wouldn't want to grow on twitter or write better, engaging blog posts. But here is the trick everyone may try to sell it but people only buy it if their influencers, their mentors, shepherds tell them to do so, (great minds think alike 🤦‍♂️).

        And I wonder if that's a brilliant advice (not just a rant against another popular post) and since they grow in a pot. Where is your audience? Now please, kindly give me my daily downvotes so I can go back to my work in peace.

        1. 5

          Should I be on that list too?

          1. 6

            FWIW - I love building an audience.

            I speak to real people, about real things. No sales hat.

            I make friends. I find opportunities. Even my new job. ❤️

            I learn. Constantly.

            Every conversation I have helps me become a better human being.

            It's not about building an audience, that's just the consequence of doing things openly, with a focus on becoming the best person I can and in a way that excites me.

            I am my best rosie self by being open.

            1. 1

              It's not about building an audience, that's just the consequence of doing things openly, with a focus on becoming the best person I can and in a way that excites me.

              👍 This is what I mean about finding out what you love to do and then finding people who will pay you for it.

              Yes it's a luxury. People still have to eat while they work it all out but if people can do it early when their committments are low then happiness abounds.

            2. 0

              I'm a bit open as well, apparently not many people likes it. What an awful person I am :'(

          2. 1

            Oh my downvotes has arrived, thanks for notifying. Even the one down below get a downvote lol, such an unpredicted move.

            I wouldn't put you in that list, however it's kinda clear to see you help them all, like I remembered janel for example who would've fit there better.

            Don't get me wrong but these top comments kinda confirms, why I feel that way.
            https://www.indiehackers.com/post/after-2-amazing-years-of-leading-the-indie-hackers-community-i-m-stepping-down-ama-e9974419ae

            1. 5

              I help everyone. Big or small, but usually the smaller accounts. Doesn't make a difference to me.

              I just need to find them and have a reason to follow, or support them.

              I've done this lots through IH Twitter account too. Raising the voices of people who aren't being seen.

              1. 0

                Wow, I'm flattered. People waiting for me to downvote.

                I wasn't questioning but thanks for the explanation, however since you are open, I'm curious. I've released several products here, get into popular feed few times (especially with the post about ProductHunt bots where I expected IH to help my voice to be heard to inform fellow IHs). Yet, I never seen my name on IH twitter. 🤷‍♂️ I'm not sure where did I fall short to caught your attention.

                https://twitter.com/search?q=(from%3Aindiehackers) (%40janelsgm)&src=typed_query&f=live

                1. 1

                  I think it would be fairer to get a representation of the data rather than focusing in on specific individuals.

                  And mostly we've avoided tweeting about Product Hunt stuff. That's nothing against PH btw. It's more that I find conversations around it not very inspiring.

        2. 1

          Ha ha. This made me laugh out loud @anilkilic.

          Having read enough of your posts on IH I actually guessed this could be you before I read as far as your profile name. 👍

          ### Agree

          Yes there is an info-loop (self-feeding) operating like a pyramid scheme where those at the top boost each other.

          But as you know this happens the world over in all spheres. Especially visible to us in Tech in SV where "gurus" all rub each others backs.

          ### Disagree

          I know you don't buy the build in public nor the build an audience but because there are some bad eggs it doesn't mean the whole basket is rotten.

          And it also doesn't mean there are no benefits in doing these things:

          • Build in Public = Attract fellow makers for support.
          • Build an Audience = Attract potential customers.

          ### Two Seeds

          My (brilliant advice) post was posted in haste without much thought, as an extension to a comment I made in @AdamFrom1989 original post.

          Yes a seed in the same pot.

          Now they have both grown I am conscious I may have pissed @AdamFrom1989 off and am happy to rename my post if he is bothered.

          ### Please Read this

          But and this is really what I've been trying to post about (during this slow day for me) but it has been too subtle for my ham fists to express clearly:

          1. Old Rule = Find out what customers want and sell it to them.
          2. New Rule = Find out what you love doing and find people who will pay for it.

          Read it again 😊

          Today we have more chance than ever of doing #2 simply because there are so many people online (4.6 Billion, 60% of world pop).

          • Is it an absolute rule, no.
          • Is it a different view, maybe.

          So when we build an audience we can do it around something we love doing and it doesn't feel like work it just feels like fun (mostly).

          So one question for you. And I am serious in asking this. Do you know what you love doing?

          1. 0

            Starting from bottom,

            I don't even like what I'm currently doing. Reason I'm doing it, I need to reach a minimum income to do what you've suggested above, "love what you do and attract like-minded people". It's nearly impossible for me to dive into a hobby and expect to make some bucks or risk my time on it. So building an audience is kinda in the same bucket and I don't have the right skills like communication or a fake smile to invest in it.

            I'd love to have an audience, who wouldn't and I'm also okay with a group of like-minded people. I don't necessarily need to sell to them. Having a decent conversation become a luxury. Anyways, about having audience. It's ridiculous for me to know, someone out there tweeting while they are in the toilet and people defend that tweet for their life, more than the author itself. I don't have a word to explain it. That's nonsense. But it happens, it may happen in every aspect of the life but it doesn't change the fact that sucks.

            BTW I'm not saying they are bad eggs, their offering is not a fit for me, that's all. I'm raging about it because I don't follow any of these guys but somehow I know one of them building a house right. Like why, why the f people putting them to my feed. Guy buying a house and 600 people going nuts about it like they will be the guest of honor.

            Building an audience maybe rephrased as communicate with your potential customers. That's what I'd follow, that's what makes sense. Thought leaders of this niche are just annoys me IDK. They keep saying provide value, I don't get that value. All I get is more dreams with populated stripe dashboards, nothing else.

            And I don't know if AdamFrom1989 pissed or not but I doubt.

            Finally taking this as a compliment "Having read enough of your posts on IH I actually guessed this could be you before I read as far as your profile name. 👍" :) also as a reminder to take another break.

      2. 5

        I think if you don’t have an audience that is telling you what they want, you could be building something in a silo that nobody wants. I wrote my first book because my audience wanted it. I’m now creating my SaaS because I heard the same problem over and over again from creators

  2. 9

    It boils down to whether you're selling an Info Product (do) or a SaaS (don't).

    It also matters how you define building an audience. I think it has a specific meaning, aka the @dvassallo approach: "to gain social followers".

    1. It takes time to build an audience. It takes time to do any marketing. You've got to prioritise the greatest ROI for your limited time.
    2. It's really hard to build an audience before you've got anything to show. They don't know or trust you - you need to demonstrate some proof of work to break through their filters.
    3. The exception to that is Info Products, because the tweet itself - the one you post to build an audience - is the value to a stranger. It is the proof of work. (#BuildInPublic fits into this, because makers love to learn by reading about other makers).

    It naturally follows that if you then launch an Info Product, that audience (who followed you for info) will buy more info from you.

    Whereas if you sell a SaaS product, that audience might buy, or they might not. There's much less overlap. They didn't originally follow you to buy a product. It's just not as efficient as say, advertising, or affiliates with others who built an audience.

    1. 2

      Thanks. These are all great points. The world "first" should probably be dropped from the "advice" to be less contentious, but then again that may push it back into the shadows. I hear the Info v Saas and Audience v Affiliates points you make (and have taken note) but why the recommendation against Saas? ROI? Too complicated?

      I'm increasingly thinking for online products the old adage "find out what customers want and give it to them" is being challenged by "find out what you love doing and find people who want it", simply because everyone's potential reach is global and there are just so many people (consumers) online now. If you accept that then building an audience is not product focused but is you, your brand, or your niche, focused. Just some early thoughts, but making sense for the moment.

      1. 3

        You're right about the wonders of being connected to the whole world!

        But whether you're building what customers want, or building for yourself to find people like you, it reduces to exactly the same question: how to efficiently reach them?

        The key difference between SaaS and Info Product, I think, is:

        • a SaaS product solves a very precise problem. You either have that problem or you don't.
        • an Info Product has a much broader appeal. It might help me solve a specific problem, or it might be fun to read, or it might be aspirational ("I'll learn to be a great entrepreneur! That's gotta be useful someday!").

        So an audience built on sharing info on Twitter will have 100% interest in your Info Product, but realistically, only substantially <100% interest in the one problem your SaaS solves.

        Whereas you might find ads, or laser targeted partnerships/affiliates, have a 100% overlap between the targeted audience and people having the problem your product solves.

        I'm not against building an audience, I just think for SaaS you really have to question the efficiency.

        Audience building is just one channel to choose amongst many.

  3. 5

    Audience building is a business expense that builds an intangible asset that accountants call goodwill. When your resources are limited you can't spend them on building this asset and it's also a pointless effort if you fail to deliver anything valuable.

    Fair enough, you can sell anything once you have 50 000 followers but how long will it take before they find out you have nothing of value to offer?

    Your priority should be the mission of your business: to deliver the best product or service to a particular demographic.

    Businesses build their goodwill over many years of providing value to customers and it has worked well so far.

    You should invest in building your audience as you make money and build the business.

    1. 2

      This is a great reply. Very clear and makes perfect sense.

      Agree that ultimately it is about building audience + product (/service) hand-in-hand but it's also interesting to note that audience before product can work well.

      We all know about influencers (though maybe that has waned now) but I'm increasingly thinking that for those starting online businesses it can really be about finding out what you love to do as a first step - because the online consumer pool is now so large that customers are out there (somewhere).

      Fair enough, you can sell anything once you have 50 000 followers but how long will it take before they find out you have nothing of value to offer?

      I guess I sell something for someone else.

      Boostlane looks great btw. How long has it been going?

      1. 1

        Thanks for the compliments.

        Boostlane was built in the last 12 months. I think I have finally got all the features I wanted, although I have been saying that for a couple of months...

        Boostlane has various widgets for curating and listing content from Amazon, Instagram, Unsplash, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube etc.

        Tomorrow should hopefully be the first day when I can focus on curating and publishing original content instead of building tools for publishing content.

  4. 4

    0.1% : To have a product but no audience, but sold out.

    I hate social status, where you value people on how much followers and subscribers you have on social media.

    There is 1000s ways to sell your products:
    SEO, Marketplace, Partnership, Affiliate, Ads etc.

    How much time + money to build???
    a. 1 Product + SEO or Cold Email
    b. zero to 10k Audiences

    The first thing to define is not the product or audience,
    It is THE TARGET MARKET.
    Where they are, who are they, how to reach them, are they have that money???

    1. 1

      Agree there many ways through the forest. I know what you mean about social status. How about if the target market was simply the people who want what you love doing. So put cart before horse and discover what you love doing then find the customers. It's still tricky. No magic solution. But worth considering (imo). For your time comparison (10k v Product/SEO) it's not always a & not always b.

  5. 3

    Thank you 🙏
    I couldn't agree more with these points, and I know how impactful this is, firsthand.

    May 2020:
    I launched Sigmetic, and I got nothing.
    I had around 800 followers on Twitter at this time.

    February 2021:
    I launched FeedHive. I already have +100 paying subscribers and a lot of support and backup on Twitter. (Just try searching for FeedHive and see what people are saying).

    I started taking Twitter seriously in June 2020.
    I grew my audience from 800 followers to almost 40K followers today (and still growing).
    That's only on Twitter.

    It made every difference in the world!
    And I did exactly as you proposed here - I build an audience around me. As a software engineer and SaaS founder 😁

    If you're curious, I talk more about this in detail in this YouTube video and this article here on IH, but I can safely say that I agree 100% with you!

    1. 2

      Thanks for this. Good to see another successful example in the wild. 👍

  6. 2

    Real questions: why when somebody says "build an audience" everybody speaks about Twitter?

    To me there are many creators on Twitter and IH that's true but... does everybody try to sell to them? Or it's only for the support?

    Additionally I don't think Twitter has a big conversion rate, or am I totally wrong?

    1. 1

      Just my bad really (and everyone else's bad).

      You are right and it was lazy of me to think only of Twitter. Both support and customers are possible on social media of course but they are such noisy channels it's difficult to cut through.

      @bwb made this point:

      Social media is not an audience in most cases. It is a bunch of followers who don't get your updates. A blog or a newsletter is a real audience, one where you control it and own the medium.

      So yeah, you're right (or not totally wrong as it's shades of grey here).

      1. 1

        No need to put the fault on you like that :D it's normal you think about Twitter, it's the last trend around here so everybody speak about it. Curious how long it will last.

  7. 2

    It is good advice, but there are a lot of caveats here.

    Social media is not an audience in most cases. It is a bunch of followers who don't get your updates. A blog or a newsletter is a real audience, one where you control it and own the medium.

    1. 2

      That's a good point. One possibly only experience uncovers. Thanks

  8. 2

    Nothing against either of these opinions, but,

    You can find whatever you're looking for on the internet.

  9. 2

    I gave this a thumbs up without reading it.

    I think there should be a new rule that when someone posts

    "Why you SHOULD do this"

    Someone should always counter with the opposing view.

    1. 0

      Because there is no such a thing as comment, and it's nearly impossible to comment with an opposing thought :)

      IH as its finest, today.

  10. 1

    I did this! I explained it in my post “how I finally started”.

    Building an audience first is just brilliant, it’s the reason why I finally started and why I actually published it aswell, it pushes you!

    1. 1

      That's a great story in your post. You got lucky yes but it shows it worked as a tactic. Key point for me is you connected with people first around an interest not a product. Hope the app is going well for you!

      1. 2

        🙌🙌
        It is going insanely good! I just launched my first version, didn’t really market it yet, only made a story on my insta, got 50 people who registered for an account on the app! Knowing that this is only the IOS version (and 50% has android, already asked that in my story too) I will probably get 100 accounts registered. From there on I can work on making to apps good and then I will start marketing.

  11. 1

    Hey guys,

    Happy to read interesting observations from all of you. Whatever business you are building, you need people — your chances of success multiply based on your circle of audience.

    It’s people who help you understand your assets, aspirations, and market realities.

    Recently I was reading the below mini-course on creator economy — More than 50 million people around the world consider themselves creators, despite the creator economy only being born a decade ago. It’s become the fastest-growing type of small business, and a survey found that more American kids want to be a YouTube star (29%) than an astronaut (11%) when they grow up.

    https://signalfire.com/blog/creator-economy/

    1. 1

      All bar 1 in that photo look desperate. Article too focused on influencer as creator imo.

  12. 1

    Good products are always more valuable than a good audience. In other words, you will pay much more for developing/buying a good product than for creating/buying a targeted/good audience.

    1. 1

      Isn't that conflating value with cost.

      1. 1

        Could you elaborate your question?

        1. 1

          Well the word good here can be interpreted in different ways to support either side of the debate but concretely cost of development does not guarantee value and neither does cost of audience acquisition. Product-market fit, ROI and all that goodness.

          1. 1

            The important thing is that we have to compare things that are of the same quality. Don't be so philosophic. I agree with you that the cost of development does not guarantee value and neither does the cost of audience acquisition. But it is not relevant to the topic I'm talking about: It is better to just have a good product or a good audience? I prefer a good product because a good audience is always cheaper.

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