The Best Way To Grow An Audience And Build Your Community

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Is it a Facebook page? Is it Twitter? Is it posting a video to YouTube? What about creating a Blog? What is the best way to grow an audience?

As someone who sits in corporate boardrooms or presents in front of large audiences, that has to be the number one question: what should I be doing online that will help me grow an audience and build a community? The truth is that there is not a specific platform or channel that is the right answer. The truth is that you need a strong strategy that defines the types of content you would be best at producing, what the overall business objectives are, and a whole swath of other questions that will lead you to the optimal tactics.

But, there is one thing…

As you build your own spaces and places on the channel and platforms, always remember that the "build it and they will come" model won’t work. The best way to grow an audience and build a community is to make yourself a valuable member of the existing communities. Figure out where the dialog, conversations and feedback around your area of interest is happening and be present and accounted for there. All of the time. As much of the time.

What does that look like?

  • Follow the key people on Twitter. Interact with them. Retweet the good stuff. Become an ally.
  • Leave comments on their Blog. Not platitudes, but real content. Add value. Push the conversation. Get everybody thinking.
  • Like the Facebook pages that are relevant to you. Don’t stop there. Add comments, share content and let people know that you care.
  • Find relevant articles, news items and videos… and share them. Don’t share them on your spaces, offer them as gifts to the existing community members on their pages and platforms.
  • LinkedIn is another great resource to find "similar others". There are some amazing groups there as well as people asking interesting questions. Be helpful on LinkedIn.
  • Use Google Alerts for some of your industry’s main keywords. It’s a fertile ground to discover new places to share how you think about your industry and meet new people who are discussing the same things that interest you.

You get the idea.

Give and give abundantly. We tend to naval-gaze a lot when it comes to Social Media and these digital media channels (for more on that: Confessions Of A Narcissist), the people who are the most successful are not spending their time focused on their own channels and platforms. The people who are the most successful are the ones who are out there, sharing, contributing, collaborating and adding value in other people’s places.

Now it’s your turn: how active are you in other people’s places?


  1. “When you can” – that’s the my add Mitch. Giving is an amazing and fantastic part of life. Personally I try to make it part of each day. With the caveat of “when I can.” For a while I put pressure on myself to share, each day, X number of articles on Twitter. Well, gee golly Jimmy, that’s not very authentic now is it? Nope. So, now I share “when I can” and the sharing is more abundant and more authentic.
    Oh, your copy writing for Twitter – brilliant. The “not what you think” got me to click over. One last read and comment before disengaging for the night.

  2. Been reading Brogan? What you are describing here is exactly what the book Trust agents is about. It’s not an easy read, and it’s taking time to digest, but I suppose that’s just as well. Just as being in a community and being a trust agent takes time, so it also bears that grasping the scope should also take some time.

  3. Very interesting. What struck me was your statement, “The people who are the most successful are the ones who are out there, sharing, contributing, collaborating and adding value in other people’s places.” Because I do do all of the above but mostly on my own spaces. This makes me think very differently. Thank you!
    The other thing I want to point out is that it is easy to build numbers on social media but what is hard is building community. And the difference is evident when people authentically engage versus use automated strategies to appear engaging. I think it is vital to find our own voice and use it to genuinely provide value to people.
    I love your approach and appreciate your sharing.
    Good point Jim about authentic sharing…

  4. well said, jim. tis a savvy audience we’ve got here. they can almost always tell when your giving is disingenuous.
    “not what you think” reached out and snatched my eye, as well.

  5. Actually Mr Joel πŸ™‚ It was what I think. We need to grow our audience one person at a time. We need to connect with people so they understand what it is we do, why we do it and how they can be a part of what it is we do.
    What I love about what I do on a daily basis is to just connect. Meet new moms. Find out about them and see how we can work together. And, come to think of it, not just moms – but clients as well. I meet so many future customers personally, ie through social networks, that we start off our working relationship after we already have connected.
    Not only is it effective – it makes my life much richer.
    Thanks for the post. Reinforces the good fight.

  6. I can’t agree more with what Erica said. It is why she is amazing. I have had the honor to have dinner with her and watch her pay attention to everyone at our table like they were the only person there. I can learn a lot from her as can everyone.
    What happens when people forget that and
    take the ignore route? It is unfortunate. Happened to me professionally. During it the support I got makes me feel great (many from those I only know online.) Taking the time to talk in cyberworld can make all the difference.

  7. I’m just learning to play in this arena, so your post is very helpful. So far, I’m on track with what you say. Just hoping this comment isn’t platitudinous. I think that is the biggest challenge I have – pushing the conversation. Thanks again.

  8. we had a fascinating discussion in one of my mba classes today that paralleled these same approaches. too bad more of the corporate minds don’t take in thoughts like on this post — there is more to life and business than just our own narcissism or self-agendas.

  9. Mitch and fellow commenters,
    What are your favorite LinkedIn discussion groups? I like the Marketing Over Coffee one, because its strict policing of forum policies weed out the spammers. What’s left is great conversation. Where else do you find a high ratio of signal to noise?

  10. I agree with everything, I also noticed the sort of domino effect that this kind of interaction brings along, getting to know extraordinary individuals will help you get to know even more of them, and so on.
    Sadly in many businesses the idea of “social” is simply using a new channel to mindlessly promote their stuff, I have too often heard the wonderful idea of using Twitter to send a message every time the corporate website has got a new update or news.
    I wonder what is the best way to make people realize it takes more than that? Or maybe social media simply isn’t for everyone?

  11. If you’re making any sort of commitment to Social Media and the caveat of being out there in the community is “when you can,” you should probably anticipate minor results. Being active in the community is one of the only ways to gain trust and credibility (and it takes both time and effort). If you’re doing everything for yourself with a plan and conviction, but your active participation is halfhazard, you will get halfhazard overall results overall.
    My two cent.

  12. Who is this “Brogan” of which you speak? All kidding aside, I have been (and always do) follow Chris’ amazing work. It could well be that he has inspired this thought, but it’s not something new for me to think about (and it is something I’ve Blogged about before and wrote about in my book as well).
    Mentioning Chris completely reinforces this idea. His name sparked in your mind because he not only tells people things like “be ten times more active in other people’s communities than your own,” but he embodies the spirit of the thought as well: he is an active participant everywhere, and his Blog is one of many places you can find him.
    When I think this of this notion, I think of Chris too (now, we have to push him to be more active on the Media Hacks podcast πŸ˜‰

  13. If you don’t start with being open, sincere and authentic, you will grapple and struggle along. You will never get to the level of being credible unless you are actively demonstrating that all of the sharing, contributing and commenting that you are doing isn’t just for your own personal gain/audience growth.
    It’s like saying you want to be an active member of the community you live in, but you never leave your own house.

  14. Do we have any examples of someone (or a brand) who built a significant audience using automated responses, bot and more robots? Now, that would be an interesting case study.
    There’s a reason “Community Manager” is becoming one of the hottest job titles out in the marketplace. Brands know that they’re not going to be able to fake this.

  15. Great addition, Ms. Ehm πŸ˜‰ When people switch to Social Media, they realize it’s going to be a slow run. They realize (as you so wisely stated) that it’s going to happen one person at a time. What they don’t always realize is that it’s not that one person coming to their site at a time, it’s how often the person who is trying to build the community spends “out there” meeting those people one at a time.
    Eventually, you get to the point where all of those individuals do add up, and they start referring people over to your spaces – and that’s where the efficiences of doing all of that outreach come into play. Much like you have done with the Yummy Mummy Club.

  16. Nobody likes feeling ignored. Nobody likes coming to a Blog or Twitter feed and feeling like the person is broadcasting to them (for the most part). We must always be mindful of what we’re publishing, how we’re engaging and where we’re doing it. Like Erica does.

  17. The easiest way to not feel like your giving platitudes is to ask yourself two questions:
    1. Did the person who wrote this post miss something?
    2. If this were my Blog post, what would I say?
    Before commenting, always ask yourself a question. This force you to write an answer πŸ˜‰

  18. The true spark for this Blog post came from multiple meetings in the past little while where brands have asked, “how do we get our consumers to pay attention to everything we would like to tell them?” They saw this as an opportunity to drive traffic vs. my answer: “you need to be very active and authentic in their current communities.”
    That answer didn’t excite anybody all that much.

  19. I am very weak at using LinkedIn for anything. The irony is that it’s one of my most favorite online social networks. I tend to be very reactive with LinkedIn (instead of proactive). My most proactive place to engage is on other people’s Blogs.

  20. If you follow some Blogs using a tool like Google Reader (or any news reader), the best thing to do is “star” the content that pops out at you. Then, take 15 minutes during a break in the day (at any point) – every day – to get active (yes, weekends too). It’s a great starting point and it will turn the activity into a habit.

  21. I find that being active in other people’s communities (especially writing comments on someone else’s Blog) really does inspire new ways of thinking – that do wind up being Blog posts here or topics of conversation for the Podcast.
    As for brands using Twitter to broadcast updates, I think that’s fine too. There are no hard and fast rules here. If people like what you’re doing, they’ll connect to it. If they don’t like it, you’ll know in short order. Some people use these platforms for pure broadcasting to great effect.

  22. Agreed. Perhaps a misunderstanding. I’m talking about missing the occasional day here and there for family or work related constraints. But yes, Social like blogging requires consistency and reliability to be truly successful. I agree.

  23. I have found that it is true what you say – contributing is the best policy. I have found this method to be the most satisfying and what, in the end, is an extraordinary promotional opportunity – people getting to know you and you getting to know them before any business is conducted if any – very civilized!
    However, I differ on one point – finding and following the key people on Twitter. It’s not an approach that really worked for me – it may work for some types of businesses and I can see that. Through interaction on multiple sites, though, some incredible people have come into my Twitter world.
    My favorite is LinkedIn – there are real conversations there in groups. Facebook is more direct marketing oriented but not as much as Twitter. Twitter goes so fast and is so limited that unless you’re on Twitter constantly, it’s difficult to connect well. On LinkedIn, I can have notification of the conversations and can join in or not – it’s the beauty of LinkedIn – real connection in real time – not limited to 140 characters

  24. Man, you are sucking me into your blog Mitch, a post at a rime. Solid article.
    As a guy who makes his living online, I agree with you 100% about the need to add value one person at a time, one post/article/email at a time.
    If you love the subject, and care about the people you’re helpin. (like Erica seemed to express she did) then it’s all very natural and even a pleasure, and you’re success will be a bonus for the joy you organically find in the act of connection.
    It works for the slightly more coldhearted like me, too. Even if you aren’t overtly looking for friends, but clients instead, you need to earn their trust one at a time, which almost always requires months or years of “connections”, in many cases across multiple channels.
    Again, solid post, Mitch. Thanks.

  25. Ben Rabner – I hope your kind of thinking catches fire! We may just get some new MBAs out there who can connect with people rather than data and sit in mindless, endless meetings!!!
    Congratulations to you!
    With people like you, we will have better workplaces. Instead of 85% of the workforce hating their jobs, we might get to 85% of the workforce happy to come to work! We’ll have MBAs who actually lead on behalf o the company and on behalf of those they support, their team members, and humanity will return to the workplace as opposed to the Scrooge-like atmosphere that is so prevelant today.
    Amazing, Ben! Hope you put those lessons into practice!

  26. You let family and friends get in the way of Blogging? Clearly you’re not that dedicated πŸ˜‰ LOL. Missing days, moments, etc… is par for the course. If you’re on 24/7 when are you getting the work stuff done as well?

  27. Oh, not for blogging, no. Nothing gets in the way of that – I’m honestly pretty obsessed with that right now. Blogging normally occurs before the sun comes up. For me it’s a linchpin activity that must occur to drive all other success business and personal in my life. What I let slide are Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook when the real work that pays the bills needs to get done on a tight schedule. I’m guessing you are pretty much the same way. There’s no way to churn out the quantity and quality of content you do without blogging being high in the priority list.

  28. Could you please ask Chris twice? MH is such a great podcast and always better with more voices. Although, it may still be my favorite if it were just you and Julien πŸ™‚

  29. Hi Mitch,
    Thanks for putting this down so succinctly. Something I often see, and am probably guilty of myself, is not following the 10-1 rule.
    Also I see a lot of brilliant innovators etc who are still in the “build it and they will come” model. Why do you think its difficult for most people to get beyond that and as a marketing guy how do you convince them to get more involved in ‘others spaces’?
    Thanks..great post.

  30. Hearing what you say over and over and over is the truth. Having faith in the process helps, especially for us newbies. There is no instant gratification for your long term goals. One must recognize the little successes along the way.

  31. Hi Mitch,
    Jon Morrow made the point that you need to do something memorable, eg Leo B not only writes about a minimal life but lives it with 6 kids buzzing around him.
    It’s fine to share & be a driving force on media channels but at some point your identify has to rise to the surface.
    Otherwise your voice is one of many…
    PS it doesn’t hurt to disagree with the great and the good ocassionally. I ‘dissed’ Seth a while back and got savaged but private emails were very encouraging.

  32. Traditionally, I’ve posted to my blog 2-3 times a week.
    Last month I decided by September 1st I would commit to a post every day, increase my comments on other blogs, retweet more followers work and increase my guest posts on industry blogs (mostly photo related).
    In a matter of weeks my traffic and subscriptions are up huge and it has even helped to spike book sales.
    In other words, Mitch, you are 100% right on once again.

  33. I’m with you on Linkedin. Everyone knows it’s a powerful tool. It seems like it is one of the first mentioned and last used.
    I have found getting involved in good Linkedin groups has encouraged me to spend more time there. Especial the Marketing over coffee group. Good conversations happening there.

  34. Thanx for the reminder Mitch! I have been basing my referral system on blogging on other people’s sites… my thought has always been, why create a community of my own on SNs that have hundreds if not thousands of followers already? many people have told me that is a ridiculous way of creatign traffic to my site… I always disagreed but i am glad to hear that I have been doing the right thing all along.
    So, now my question is, should my blogging on other people’s SNs be transparent, showing all my comments as “Ravit”, or, should I comment under “Ravit @Natures Wizard”… I keep hopping around from one to the next because I’m not sure how people will react to comments that come from, what I fear will seem like an unbiased comment. What do you think?
    On a side note, when giving talks or workshops on behalf of another organization, should I always insist that they mention at the event, my site URL or is that being too pushy? Should it be posted somewhere like in the powerpoint presentation or also in the handouts?
    Thanx for all this advice Mitch!

  35. I work for a Federal Department out west and am trying to get them to embrace the use of social media to promote our programs. This has been going on for a few years now and still today nothing. So I decided to start my own firm and have been developing digital media strategies for clients, mostly artists, to fill the void. My ultimate goal is to be able to let go of my “secure” job and become a consultant and develop strategies for local businesses (start small…then conquer the world).
    Your post was one of those “Ah ha” moments as all I’ve been doing is absorbing and applying what I’ve been reading but forgetting the contributing part. I’m still a newbie and feel that I still have a lot to learn before being able to consider myself a digital media strategist but…I’m passionate about it and really believe that we on to something.
    I guess I feel I may not have much to contribute just yet…that and you’ve probably already heard it all anyway. Know what I mean?
    Merci Mitch.

  36. I love this post, thank you Mitch. I think your book did an excellent job of elaborating on this issue. I joined a Forum for like minded web designers and seo specialists and my goal is that for each question I ask I try to post a tip, strategy or piece of information that I think will benefit others in the group. I think of the group as my co-workers and sharing will make our business grow.
    PS Your response to the earlier post, “when I can” was so diplomatic and thoughtful.

  37. Thanks Mitch for the post. A great reminder of what it takes.
    I like what Rosh is saying about setting a goal and sticking to a plan. But I’d also say that there are a number of people who are just good at it naturally – like networking offline, some people are great at it and some are not.
    I guess the people who are not good at it and don’t execute a plan are the ones that end of saying “I don’t have time” when it fails.

  38. When you Blog under your own name, there is usually a place you can post a link back, so people know where to find you. Nothing pushy about that. I tend to focus more on the value and content that I am creating vs. what I might get out of it.
    As for speaking or whatever, it is not uncommon to have a byline that says who you are and how people can connect to you.

  39. It’s normal. Different strokes for different folks. We’re all going to have unique/different experiences. I have learned a ton by following and connecting to marketing and media people on Twitter and have fallen very short on deriving a similar value out of LinkedIn. Then again, it could be how I am using it.

  40. There’s also a very healthy balance that can take place where it’s not just community building, but using more direct response tactics like search engine marketing, email marketing, affiliate marketing, link exchanges and more.
    Whatever works… and as long as it’s legal/ethical/wanted.

  41. I fall very short of the old 10-1 rule as well.
    I think most brands don’t understand this because it’s how to show/demonstrate when it comes to traditional metrics. When done right, it also creates a halo effect for the brand (also not perfectly easy to see).

  42. Take your time. Be true to yourself. Say “please” and “thank you”. The rules of Social Media are not that different than the ones our parents and grand parents have passed down to us about how to succeed in life.

  43. Agreed… pushing content to the edge because you know who you are and have a very strong will is not just a tactic, but a great way to be. There is nothing wrong with using your innate “self” as a way to truly demonstrate who you are and what you are about.

  44. There’s always different perspectives and angles. Always ask lots of questions and feel free to answer them in the public spaces. This is new to most of us, so the only way we learn is by sharing and asking questions.

  45. Instead of heading into that “I don’t have time” phase, Rosh hit on something critical: build a plan. When you have a plan (and stick to it) you’ll be much more adept at seeing/feeling (after really going at it) whether you were right or not.

  46. You got it Mitch. (It was time to do if for myself)
    When we work with clients we insist on creating a social media calendar. Just like the editorial calendars we created for the newspapers and magazines.
    This helps to keep people accountable, focused and prevents clients from getting stuck and trying to reinvent the wheel each month. It saves lots of time too.
    It’s also a good sales tool. Once clients see the results they become dependent on our expertise without our team having to do the social media activities for them. We only help seed social media platforms in the beginning, but we don’t want clients to be dependent on us for content.
    A plan is a powerful tool.

  47. Coming from a background of magazine publishing and journalism, I took for granted how innate a schedule is to content and publishing online. I was doing it because it was the only way I knew how to do things, until I realized that most people don’t understand the value and skill it takes to pull together a good editorial calendar, and how it can help provide context.

  48. Yup. Which is why you have to love what you do and those you do it with. Cuz it’s a long slow process that you need to maintain while cultivating the relationships you start.

  49. Great post Mitch
    I agree that the strategy and plan are more important than the platforms, however I have entered the unique situation, I have inherited a medium size community (40,000) which grew organically, any advice on how to steer a ship that has never had a captain?

  50. Much like any ship:
    – Listen to what those who are onboard have to stay.
    – Understand why they are there.
    – Give them a ton of value.
    – Encourage them to connect more to one another.
    – Have fun.

  51. Hey Mitch,
    All home truths mentioned, but the next key ingredient is compelling content (I’m sure I’m preaching to the converted here). Getting traffic, subscribers/followers/fans/likers is one thing. Inspiring them, connecting them, engaging them and making sure they come back again and again are other milestones that really should be key part of true community building.
    THE hardest thing, is ‘going the distance’. We all have neglected blogs that we’ll get back to ‘one day’. Today it is so easy to start something…. keeping it going is where the champions take the lead… Yes, you and the Media Hacker’s are a living testament to this…
    The other powerful medium I’ve found, is the power of face to face. A meetup is surprisingly very easy to organise, and these meetups could grow to be fully fledged commercial events (I’m sure there are many examples of these floating around).
    It’s been a while since I’ve been here! and good to see your community ever so vibrant!
    PS. Joe Millward (Or should I call you Gloria… lol). Fancy seeing you here!!! (Or was it me that sent you here…?). Lets try and catch up on Skype soon eh?

  52. Agreed on both points. Great content is key (and not something that is easy to do) and actively connecting with people (in their protein forms) is also a huge component of it. In my book, I have a whole chapter called, The Real World, about taking everything that happens here and making it happen “out there” as well.

  53. Thanks for the points, I am slowly working out the flow of the community ( It had been neglected and dormant for 2 years). Any key pointers for identifying engaging with superfans/ brand champions? I would like some momentum driven from within rather than the broadcast approach so often adopted by large brands.
    P.S Jomar! great to see your still in the mix, definitely be good to catch up on Skype, I added you to my new ID, been a fan of Mitch for a while… great to see we identify with similar mentors πŸ™‚

  54. Thanks Mitch, great fan of Mr Brogan, I will chase up… The community has now grown to nearly 50,000 (amazing how well some traditional marketing techniques work if your fans are keen to engage with the brand). Your podcast is a great constructive way to spend my 50 minute commute, cheers again, hope to see you in Australia some day.

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