5 Ways an Introvert Can Build a Thriving Online Audience

Image of a Shy Girl in a Hat

Do you often find yourself intensely focused on the things that interest you? Do you enjoy solitude and quiet?

Do you prefer deep conversations over loud parties? Do crowds drain you? Does alone time energize you?

If so, chances are you’re an introvert.

Either you’re giving a knowing nod or you’re confused because you thought introversion meant you were merely shy.

And maybe you’ve despaired that that introversion and “shyness” have held you back from achieving your business goals online?

Introverts can be shy … but so can extroverts.  

Likewise, introverts can also be confident, social, and inspirational in their own right. Take self-described introverted bloggers like Brian Clark, Chris GarrettChris GuillebeauGuy Kawasaki, and Sonia Simone.

Or to take things to a higher level, revolutionary thinkers like Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, and Rosa Parks.

Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, clarifies that introversion is different from shyness, which is a fear of social judgment. 

Introversion simply means you are more energized and at your best in less stimulating and quieter environments.

So, how can introversion help you achieve world domination, how can you — the introvert — capture the hearts, minds, and trust of an audience?

The myth of the unprofitable introvert

The advice usually revolves around you “putting yourself out there” in some way. But as an introvert, you might be a little wary about how much you expose yourself.

This would be considered problematic in our extrovert-favoring American culture. Your cautiousness gets criticized as being not bold or assertive enough to stand out and command the confidence of an audience.

But it’s not true. We often forget that there is always more than one way to accomplish something. What’s important is knowing what works best for you.

In fact, qualities of your quieter nature give you an advantage in building your trustworthiness and credibility. Let’s look at five of them …

1. Be bookish

Sometimes you find spending a night with a good book more exciting than a night out. And when it comes to a topic that interests you, you could easily spend hours reading more about it.

But you know what the critics say: “You learn by doing, not by sticking your nose in a book.”

Yes, we do learn a lot by doing. But it would be silly not to take advantage of books since one of their greatest purposes is to educate.

The funny thing I notice is that these critics are usually the ones who have no patience for reading in the first place.

Ask any popular content publisher how to become a trusted authority in a niche and they’ll tell you this simple reality:

You need to build expertise.

And that usually involves reading … a lot.

This means reading, researching, and obsessing over everything in your niche. It also helps to diversify your reading to improve your general knowledge and spark new connections.

Trust grows when you support your writing with knowledge and understanding of your audience’s needs.

The more you know, the more you can blog with authority and credibility. So, read on.

2. Be quiet (and listen)

We introverts prefer to listen more than talk. But when we do speak, it’s only when we think we have something useful to say.

And in today’s noisy world of increasingly short attention spans, we need more good listeners.

The problem is that most people never truly listen anymore. Instead, people just wait to talk about themselves.

Same thing online. Many writers online mistakenly focus on themselves instead of on their reader’s needs.

We can’t trust a self-centered writer.

But we can trust a writer who listens first and offers solutions later.

By listening, you understand the minds and needs of your readers. And when you know what’s on their minds, you can craft more focused content to solve their problems.

“Listening” online is just like what you’d do in reality. You observe where the conversations on your topic are happening. This can be in your favorite social media hangout (like Twitter or Google+), your site comments, forums, or (if you’re starting out) your favorite site’s comments.

Listening deeply takes patience and understanding. Do it well and your readers will be sure to lend you their ears (and eyes).

But if you don’t have anything useful to say, don’t say anything at all. The Internet is cluttered enough as it is.

3. Be serious

When we’re focused on something we care about, we introverts can pour some serious time into it. 

Your thrill-seeking friends might even say you’re “too serious.” That you need to have some “real fun” and “go crazy.”

Today, being called “too serious” is like being called a killjoy. But we dumb down the act of being serious when we substitute its meaning with an inability to have fun.

By definition, to be serious means to be earnest, sincere, and characterized by deep thought.

And in the case of the content you’re creating, if you want to win the hearts and trust of readers, you need to be damn serious.

Being serious means having a sincere interest in improving the lives of your readers, being consistent, and getting back up from every fall. 

Being serious sometimes means skipping “fun time” in order to finish your product and deliver on your promises. 

Being serious means really committing to your readers and the life of your ideas.

Trust is a precious thing that isn’t given away freely. You need to work hard to earn it.

And if you want to gain and keep that trust, you need to be someone they can rely on. 

They’re counting on you to be serious.

4. Be sensitive

You’re usually considered a sensitive soul if you frequently reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

If you get started on a topic you’re passionate about, you may occasionally surprise yourself and others with your emotional firepower. Or maybe you’re easily moved by sad movies.

Of course, the know-it-alls will say that being emotional makes you too “delicate.” Clearly not the strong figure readers need.

But you know what? Readers don’t trust know-it-all towers of strength. That’s just unrealistic and uninspiring.

Readers trust human beings with heart and emotion. 

They want someone sensitive and empathetic. Someone who “gets” them. Someone who can feel as vulnerable as they probably do.

Readers want someone who can inspire them with so much passion that they’re brought to tears and motivated to get off their asses.

To share great passion, you need to feel great passion. And great passion thrives on intense emotion.

Readers love an open heart, not a hidden one. And having strong feelings about something is better than not feeling enough of anything at all.

5. Be alone

The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching. ~ John Wooden

For you, solitude is a vital source of not only energy, but also the very quality of your work. 

It’s a nice break from the noisy world when you can think clearly, creatively, and deeply. But solitude offers you much more than that.

When you are alone, you are your true self.

In solitude, you don’t have to perform for anyone. Free from the influence and pressure of your peers, your thoughts and opinions are at their most authentic.

And becoming a trustworthy and memorable writer depends on your ability to be authentic to yourself and your audience.

Yes, it’s important to listen to what your readers need (refer to #2). But when you finally sit down to write, you must take a position.

And that means knowing yourself well enough to know what you believe in, to know what you stand for.

In the end, if you ever want to have a trusting relationship with your audience, you need to first know and trust yourself.

Your solitude is key to accessing yourself. Don’t let anybody ever take it away from you.

The world needs quiet

In a gentle way, you can shake the world. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

One of my favorite points on Susan Cain’s Introvert Manifesto is ‘Quiet leadership’ is not an oxymoron.

It’s a useful reminder that there is no single set of standards on what makes a respectable and trustworthy figure.

Fitting in with the status quo to fulfill someone else’s ideal is an injustice to yourself. The world needs the quiet and contemplative, the soft-spoken and gentle, the thinkers and dreamers. Because if we were all the same, then we would have no need for each other. 

Starting out, maybe only a handful of people will appreciate what you have to offer. But continue to build your trustworthiness in the quiet ways that suit you and your followers will grow.

Now, go forth and gently conquer.

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Reader Comments (61)

  1. says

    Hi Mellisa,
    I liked the quality number one; be bookish (Maybe because I am of that nature). You said right, a good book is better than a night out but just reading is not enough.
    I think if we change quality number 5 in ourself and instead of being alone, discuss what we read with like minded friends, we can built more thriving audience online.
    Thanks for the great article…

    • says

      Hi Ali,

      My points are really aimed at highlighting the common misunderstandings of popularly underappreciated qualities. It’s true that there are benefits to discussing our ideas with others. However, solitude is equally important as socializing and is just as vital to growth, understanding, and the creative process.

      Thanks for your thoughts :)

      • says

        I absolutely agree with this as an experienced introvert and one who has studied how to overcome this “deficiency” in my social self. For so many years I tried to be social, work together, feel comfortable in front of people, manage other people, etc. However, you do well in pointing to the strengths of introverts, and there is plenty of research out there now that values the shy and independent. Quiet and solitude are helpful to all in some situations, but for many people they are the right environment most of the time. I read an article recently that pointed to Gandhi, Bill Gates, Al Gore, Warren Buffett, Albert Einstein and many other geniuses who needed solitude and quiet in order to be most productive and creative.

        A great myth of our time is that everyone must be equally social, or even worse, that the highest person within an organization must be the most outgoing, social, and collaborative. We are wise to remember that people are unique and work optimally in different environments. Few things are more painful than a person who feels comfortable working independently but is forced into social environments where she cannot give her best effort. Feelings of guilt and shame combined with anxiety are the result, and this is a recipe for eliciting the worst performance possible. Skillful managers and leaders recognize the qualities of each individual and tries to help them do their best. In blogging, most experience more freedom which is why I feel so comfortable with it. Unfortunately it’s not always profitable, but your tips help point us in the right direction. Thank you for the insightful post. I needed it.

        • says

          It can be difficult to resist the social pressures to conform but all we can do is keep tryin to understand and stay true to ourselves. Thanks for the thoughtful comment. :)

  2. says

    I really enjoyed Susan Cain’s book. My favorite from her Introvert Manifesto is: “Everyone shines, given the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight, for others, a lamplit desk.”

  3. says

    Here’s the thing: I enjoy people. I like talking to them. Hanging out with them. But on my own time. And in a very limited amount of time. Like 2% of the time. The other 98% devoted to solitude.

    We need people, however, and they need us. And a successful introvert learns how to scale that wall and get in front of people. Build relationships (which are often small in number but insanely deep). Not for himself. But because he cares about other people. Invtroverts can make some of the greatest leaders because they do listen, reflect and research. They are Plato’s Philosopher King.

    True story: the first time my wife met my mom’s side of the family (a very large and loud family) she casually mentioned that I was shy. They absolutely lost it. It just takes me a while to warm up to strangers. :)

    Great article.

    • says

      I’m glad it made you smile. Whatever we are (introvert, extrovert, etc.), we must remember to give ourselves the chance to try (and keep trying) and not let our peers define who we are. Shine on :)

  4. says

    Wonderful and inspiring article as usual. I really have no idea if I’m and introvert or extrovert, but I know the truth of this article speaks to both. Listening, being authentic, and truly caring are necessary to connect with your audience. Thanks for the encouragement!

  5. says

    Thanks for posting this – I loved Susan Cain’s book and recommend it a lot. It helped me recognize aspects of myself that I can now accept and celebrate, rather than chastise myself about!
    It’s also important to remember that introvert doesn’t mean shy – that introverts can be social and be international speakers and network etc, but we need to manage our energy in a way that allows us to do that. I have now learned from experience that to speak for one day, I need to schedule time either side to store energy and then replenish it. And I can’t do 3-4 day conferences fulltime or I die from over-stimulation.
    Energy management is therefore the most critical thing!

    For those who might not know what they are – try the Myers Briggs test :) It helps to understand where you are on the spectrum.

    • says

      Yes, knowing you need that time to yourself is crucial. Everyday, I spend a lot of time speaking to teachers and students at my company. Every now and then I like to hide in the storage room to re-energize 😀

  6. says

    The sign of an excellent article is that you read every word, and go back and reread some of it, and then take the time to thank the writer and the publisher. Thanks for this great article and opportunity to find a good book. Also, thanks for explaining what the word introvert might actually mean. Most think it’s a word for a bad thing. I’ll bet a lot of writers and bloggers are introverts. And that’s certainly not a bad thing.

    Thanks and cheers from Canada. I enjoy following Copyblogger.

  7. Linda Murray says

    In the grocery store I may have a 10 minute chat with someone about salad but most often only say things like “Yes”, “No”, or “Thank you”. In a tennis match I plot with my partner and play to win then chat up our opponents with a smile afterwards. I return home to peace and quiet before my noisy kids are out of school. I love the solitude of fly fishing and having a beer in a pub with happy cheering about football. Introvert or extrovert?

    After reading this post I feel better answering introvert. I guess its like trying to divide the population into 12 personality profiles based on the month you were born in. Humans are too diverse to categorize in a small number of categories. Yet there are many truths to be found and better understand ourselves by acknowledging our commonalities.

    Thank you for the great post.

  8. says


    This is an article I find very helpful! I consider myself an introvert and, having just recently started my own blog (www.startsmallmarketing.com), it’s important to follow the 5 points you discussed. In fact, every post I sit down to write, I try to think about the topic, the side I am on, and how to explain it all. I find being an introvert is great for productivity as I am very efficient during my alone time!

  9. says

    I have been an introvert forever. Introverts, while not necessarily shy, certainly need different platforms to thrive. Thanks for writing this, I know that the internet is 100% the reason I am where I am today.

  10. says

    Melissa, thank you for this very timely reminder! In this day and age of attention always being given to the loudest voice, it is so easy to forget that it is not always necessary to join the fray.
    Although I am a social person and enjoy communicating with others, I am not by nature an extrovert and find it hard to ‘blow my own trumpet’, thank you for reminding me that there are other, sometimes better ways to make a difference.

  11. says

    As an introvert myself, I was very excited to read this. Thank you for sharing such powerful insights. I really enjoyed Susan Cain’s book as well. I strongly agree enough with “Quiet leadership’ is not an oxymoron.” Thank you again for letting the world know that being an introvert is not the same as being shy and that we have value to contribute.

  12. deborah gabriel says

    I wanted to mention the the beautiful, fluid doodles, the quiet motion of the introvert. thank you for sharing those.

  13. says

    Interesting article. There are bloggers who do terrific work as long as they can blog without be seen. So many now are calling for transparency; and those who do not want to be seen will have to make sure their content is bigger than life.

  14. says

    Thanks for an excellent article. Forgive me for being a pedant but shouldn’t it be ‘online audience’ rather than ‘audience online’?
    Sally (a bookish introvert).

    • says

      Depends on what you see “Online” as modifying. As it is now, it modifies build, but if it was “Audience online” it would modify audience. Two slightly different meanings, either works.

  15. says

    Melissa – you naile dit!

    I can relate to all of those traits and so often feel that I’m not the “type” to make significant progress bu then “still waters run deep.”.

    I particullary like this line – “Introversion simply means you are more energized and at your best in less stimulating and quieter environments.”

    Thanks for a really good post.

  16. says

    Very insightful post! I learned that I’m an introvert. Never knew that. 😀 Never really tried to understand the definition of it of course, but still. Thanks!

    • says

      We’re all learning things everyday. I highly recommend Susan Cain’s book if you want to find out more about introversion. It’s a great place to start :)

  17. says

    Thanks for this, Melissa. It’s good for me to be reminded of these things regularly. A great goal in life is to “be the best me I can be” – the way I was made, not the way I think everyone wants me to be. I love that I’m able to see growth in confidence in who I am over the last several years. Working online is a great place for an introvert to shine!

  18. Pawel Piejko says

    Well, I think writers who don’t like being alone and quiet, don’t like reading and listening… do not exist. But most of copyblogger readers are writers AND introverts, so nicely done Melisa, at least at the know-and-satisfy-your audience part :)

    • says

      Perhaps. But there are some writers who enjoy doing work in busy cafes. I even have a friend who can only write with music or TV running in the background. I personally enjoy writing with a single track on repeat 😉 We humans are a diverse bunch with diverse needs.

  19. Angie says

    Thank you for lightening my load. I oftentimes find myself among people who take my introvertedness for inability, which I find thoroughly irritating! Yes, I am a quite leader; bookish, serious and passionate (especially when I am absolutely certain of my convictions.) This article was refreshing and encouraging!

  20. says

    Thanks for publishing this blog. i am really enjoying the views and thoughts and comments. My daughetr, who has recently started university introduced ME to Susan Cains work..Like most new students, my daughter was feeling swamped and overwhelmed by the whole process of “typical student life” so it was a god send to her to come across Susan’s work and regain her confidence nad self belief that “quiet and being myself is great!” and as chance would have it, today I read this post! Thank you. keep spreading the word.

    • says

      It’s wonderful to know your daughter is able to find herself in the midst of the pressures of university life. Thank you for sharing such a sweet story.

  21. says

    Thanks so much for this great post. I love solitude and find the hours whisk away far more quickly than I’d like when I permit myself to dive deeply into whatever I am reading or writing. You’ve described me to a “T” and inspired me to purchase Susan Cain’s book. I’d heard it mentioned on NPR, I believe, and only heard the last bits. I’m thinking, now, that I should follow up on it.

  22. says

    Wonderful post Melissa.
    An as introvert myself, I’ve often wondered about how being an extrovert or an introvert impacts on building a successful business. Very insightful post. Thanks!

  23. says

    Wonderful article! As an introvert, I found myself agreeing with all of it, as well as everyone’s comments. Thanks for all the great insights. Always be true to who you are.

  24. says

    Hi Melissa,

    Great post, thanks for sharing! I am an extreme introvert myself, and it has taken me quite a while to totally accept and embrace it, and see it as a quality and a gift instead of a burden I had to learn to live with.

    And finding a way to successfully build my business and fulfilling my mission while being a hermit has presented me with an interesting challenge over the past couple of years (to put it mildly 😉

    Your post shows that, yes, all of us CAN thrive in our own unique way, whether we’re introverts or not. Everyone has unique qualities and gifts to share.

    Thanks Melissa!

    (P.S.: I recently wrote an article about my own journey and challenge; you can read it here if you’re interested:

    http://www.brigittevantuijl.com/breakthrough/message-from-the-cave/ )

  25. says

    Thanks you so much for writing this article. It’s taken me years to realize I’m an introvert and what that means. I can’t wait to look up some of the books you mentioned. Thanks, again.

  26. Lauren says

    I really found this article to be helpful, and relieving- thanks. I’m an introvert myself and I’ve been considering starting a blog for months now but am unsure if I have the personality type suited to it. I like to help other people create better lives but often feel that I wouldn’t have the desire to do social networking or be comfortable “putting myself out there” for the world to see. I’m hoping I’ll have what it takes to have my own blog eventually!

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