Updated: Apr 23, 2019
A Guide to Building an Online Audience
Over the past five years I’ve used and continue to use social media as a tool to build my name within entertainment and media. It has helped me to create so many connections and line up countless opportunities. Hence, I figured I’d drop some insight on the topic of “Social Media Fame”, along with quick pointers regarding how to build an online audience, implementing advice from Industry influencers that I admire.
Time and time again, I see the discussion surface regarding whether a social media following validates your relevance, or if the concept of growing a large social media following for brand image and marketing purposes is something that holds any value. Interestingly, arguments for and against “Social Media Fame” both hold valid points, however ultimately as a brand or public figure, it is safe to say using social media as a tool to gain more of an audience and garner more attention for your brand or cause is imperative.
Almost a decade ago, Jack Dorsey, one of three of Twitter’s creators, sent the first tweet: “just setting up my twttr”, which would mark the beginning of a revolution that only continues to advance as the years progress. This platform allows one to reach the masses via 140 characters and the click of a button. As simple as the concept may be, Twitter dramatically transformed the way in which our society shares and gathers information -- whether it be regarding celebrities, relationships, events, TV shows, or even politics and world news. Twitter has made individuals whom we may have found to be seemingly “untouchable”, into regular people (obviously with a hell of a lot more money and resources) with opinions just like ours. This platform has made it simpler for brands to take on a sense of a personality and connect with current and prospective consumers. Twitter has succeeded in making the world seem much smaller and more connected, while all that one is required to do in order to experience this revolution is login and hit a follow button.
Recently, the question was posed on my twitter feed by Philadelphia Journalist, Bobby Sunshine: “Do you ever notice that we appreciate some opinions and dismiss others? What makes us find credibility in certain people?”
As far as the social media world goes, the first thing many of us seek to determine credibility, is that verified badge. Secondly, we check the follower count. Often times we associate a follower count with relevance and/or credibility, which is not always accurate, however may in fact prove very true. If one has a large following (excluding those we solely follow based off of physical attraction, of course) it is most likely because the individual is well-known for something notable or extremely relatable to a specific audience. Hence, in a sense, those followers, retweets and favorites can absolutely translate to “credibility”. We live in a generation where social media is infamous for influencing opinions and decisions, therefore you cannot disregard the “relevance” of these individuals or “influencers” that possess these immense followings.
Another thing that I often observe many disregarding are analytics that come with social media "fame". With a large following, there is a much higher likeliness for higher percentages of social media impressions and unique visitors to an account, which furthermore results in the excessive amount of retweets, likes, engagement, in lesser words, visibility. These numbers are not guaranteed… for something to go viral it has to reach the right audience at the right time, and even then, those numbers are not a definite. Regardless, that visibility is extremely important to gain when trying to establish a brand.
While many argue that it is more important to build a fanbase/audience in real life, it is just as important within this technological society to connect with an audience online. As previously stated, Twitter has made the world so much smaller, and with that, the opportunity to expand upon your local audience quickly and much more effectively. One retweet from the right person can result in nationwide or even worldwide visibility. How else would some of these talentless acts have become famous had it not been for social media? For the most part, these people aren’t going around doing bullshit all over the country and getting famous for it. They record something, or someone catches it on camera, tosses a video up, the right people retweet and repost, and boom, viral. So why knock a large following? It could only help your brand and/or cause (unless, obviously you use your platform negatively, and that’s on you). Besides that, most of you retweet yourselves 1000 times just to get more retweets, favorites, and followers anyway, hence, doing numbers is always the goal.
So here’s a few pro-tips for building an online audience:
1. “Market yourself as an expert interested in providing information to your customers at no cost, one who is dedicated to maintaining a tight-knit group of like-minded followers.” - Nick Bandy, klickerinc.com
I’d definitely recommend following: @JoeHovasMF, @ErinASimon, and @CrooklynsDodger. These individuals have effectively maintained a group of like-minded followers by consistently dropping entertainment industry gems on the timeline, much of which many within the industry would charge for. Erin Simon recently provided her phone number via twitter for her followers to personally reach out and engage with her regarding brand related topics in which they could use guidance. In doing things like this, these individuals have built solid reputations for themselves and people follow them for their expertise (the credibility I spoke of previously). Similar to the way in which it is imperative for a brand or organization to have a mission statement, it is just as important that you tweet with a sense of purpose or a specific style, so that people know what to expect when following you. You can’t go from NBA Guru for three years as your main topic of discussion to woman basher of the year…that’s extremely confusing, and a sure way to quickly lose followers. Staying true to your brand identity is how you effectively brand your name via social media.
2. “Be on time. Timing is essential and important for content development, and what you must keep in mind when developing your pieces.”
- Erin Ashley Simon, REVOLT
When building an audience, it is extremely important that you are mindful of timing (and I mean that in two ways). First, your content should be up to date. No one wants to read about last month’s celebrity break-up that was already covered by every major outlet, a month later. Be sure that you stay in tune with what is occurring on a daily basis and make sure that your content is appealing, fresh and presented in a way or perspective that it has not already been presented.
For example, when reviewing new music… instead of embedding a link to a new song with a quick blurb, listen to the music, deconstruct it, and write a piece that thoroughly reflects your thoughts on the track. It will draw in more readers, and loyal subscribers expecting to see more of these insightful posts.
Secondly, be mindful of your analytics. Go on youtube if you do not know how analytics work. Learn how to understand social media analytics, and post accordingly during the times that your analytics show are the best times for your content to be seen and engaged with by the highest amount of followers. Why post something at 4 in the morning when no one will see it? Post smart.
3. Make sure to always include some sort of visual content with your promotion of anything via social media.
Links look like spam.
We are a very visual society; most people need to be lured into clicking links by seeing a photo or video that is aesthetically pleasing. Make a quick graphic to go along with your article. If you are bad with graphic design, invest in yourself, pay to get them made. (Or you could simply post a GIF or image from google that correlates with your content.)
If you are dropping a music video, post the link with a 30 second to one-minute long promotional video, which could simply be the first minute of the actual video being released. You do not necessarily have to get a whole new promotional video created if that is out of your reach.
If you are dropping a song, ALWAYS post album artwork with the link. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS. Also, aim for a set format for the way in which you post your content. For example, with Dinner Land network audio posts, I always hashtag “#PressPlay” before the rest of the tweet so that our audience knows that the link contains either a song, playlist, or podcast episode. You can never go wrong with uniformity. Messy accounts are never a good look, it displays disorganization and a lack of strategy.
Also note, hashtags are very crucial. Do not be that person that includes 20 hashtags every tweet or instagram post because it looks sloppy. However, include hashtags that appeal to large audiences so that your content pops up when a specific topic is searched. For example, if you post a soundcloud link, hashtag “#soundcloud” and “#stream”.
William Toms, Co-Founder of RECphilly, discusses key points in audience building.
4. “It’s one thing to tweet or talk about it, it’s another thing to actually see tangible results.”
- Preezy, XXL Magazine
Of course your thousands of retweets and daily gems on the timeline look great to the simple minded, but are you actually working? It is so easy to get caught up in the matrix that is social media, but you cannot allow yourself to fall victim to your own hype. That is the quickest way to fall behind and lose out here. I’ve gotten caught up in my own hype in the past, and one day I realized… “damn… it’s definitely been a minute since I produced any work to show for all of these social media numbers I'm acquiring from solely tweeting.” I really had to buckle down, and get my shit together. I was associating myself with the right brands and people, and doing everything for everyone BUT myself. You must stay mindful of the work you are ACTUALLY doing, or the lack of. While twitter may land you opportunities and help you network and build solid connections, Twitter is not real life. Which leads me to my last tip…
5. Be yourself.
The REAL golden rule. We all know those people who are completely different online than in person, and that is no bueno. The most successful people are those who are genuine. Something as simple as retweeting a post that people know does not truly fit the brand identity or your personality (if your name is your brand), will have your followers questioning you and what you say that you stand for. God forbid these people meet you in real life and you are the complete opposite of the way in which you portray yourself via social media. People will instantly label you a fraud or a weirdo. The moment people question you, is the moment you lose credibility. The less credibility you possess, the less relevant you become. Your audience supports you much more when they believe that you are genuine, and the genuine love you show, is always returned tenfold. “No one is you, and that is your power,” so use that and capitalize off of it.