In the beginning, there was no audience.
Yet the overlords demanded that one be created.
The wizard came forth and cast great spells and the audience was conjured out of thin air, and the content marketing campaign was begun.
If only that was all there was to it!
Unfortunately, we have no wizard to conjure an audience for you, the kind of audience that can give you an unfair business advantage. So you must build one for yourself.
How do you do that?
That’s also simple in concept …
Publish fantastic content in front of Other People’s Audiences (“OPA”).
What do I mean by OPA?
When you first arrive online, you basically are an unknown. If you are trying to market yourself, you have to become known.
This may be true for you personally, or for your business, but either way this can be a difficult process.
I remember when I started posting on the Stone Temple Consulting blog back in August of 2006. It was like I was talking to myself!
To change that, I had to do something to build an audience for myself, and for Stone Temple Consulting.
I caught my first break when Google’s Shashi Seth agreed to an interview (he is now President of Tribune Digital Ventures). Interviewing highly interesting people is one great way to get in front of OPA because people are likely to want to share that interview, and the person you interview is likely to share it as well.
The next big break came with a major industry event: when Danny Sullivan announced he was leaving Search Engine Watch (SEW).
I began a campaign to see if I could get SEW to agree to have me write for them. I succeeded in getting them to say yes and wrote my first post for SEW in February 2007. The great thing about this opportunity was that I now had exposure to the Search Engine Watch audience.
That’s the basic idea: Get in front of OPA, and then publish fantastic content so you can earn that audience’s respect and trust.
If you can do that, you can start to build your own audience.
Where do you find more OPA opportunities?
We have mentioned two already: interviewing interesting people and guest posts.
Here are some more sources of OPA:
This is a fantastic source of OPA.
Interacting with others, sharing the content of others, and participating in communities are all great ways to generate attention and build an audience.
Speaking at conferences
This requires that you succeed in getting a conference to accept you into a speaking role, but this is a good source of exposure as well.
Not only do you get in front of the people in the audience, you can also start letting people know that you have speaking experience, which is a great credibility builder.
Interviewing people is great, but so is getting interviewed.
Even if you may not have much reputation yet, you probably have some unique perspectives related to your business. Show a willingness to share that information with people can be quite effective.
If you are a small business, try offering to make yourself available to a local newspaper or blog.
Media or blogger outreach
Have a great story to share? Reach out to media that would be interested in that story. If you can get them to write about it — that’s awesome.
This one depends on having some major story that will be of interest.
This is actually a form of media outreach.
Take care with this one, because you should only do this when sharing something truly newsworthy. But, if you do, then this can get you in front of major media people.
This is a very straightforward way to accelerate your exposure efforts.
For example, promoted posts on Facebook, promoted Tweets, and Google’s +Post ads, are all great ways to promote content and get in front of others. This can bring you rapid exposure and help shortcut the overall process.
That’s eight different ways to get in front of OPA. (Have other ideas? Be sure to join the Google-Plus discussion after you’re done reading.)
Criteria for an OPA strategy
Chances are that you are not going to pursue all eight different strategies at once, so you have to make some choices.
Here are seven criteria:
This is the first thing that everyone thinks about.
And of course, getting in front of a large audience is, in general, a good idea. But only if you satisfy the other criteria below.
It’s critical that you build an audience that is relevant to what you do, so the OPA you seek out should be interested in the types of topics that are relevant to your business.
Say you are doing a guest post. In the ideal world, the site you are posting on is focused on the same general market as you (as in my Search Engine Watch example above).
If you get attribution links as a result of the guest post, then the site and page giving you the link will be closely matched to your site and the specific page receiving the link. That’s a good thing!
3. Ease of getting started (for you)
This one is actually one of the most important.
You can’t do everything at once, and there are probably some activities that will be easier for you than others. Pick one or more ideas and generate some personal momentum.
4. Quality of content already there
The company you keep defines you.
If the articles on a site are crap, you don’t want yours there either.
Or, if the quality of the contributions to a given social media community are all self-promotional, there is no value in being there.
If you have an opportunity, the authority of the venue makes a difference.
- Speaking at the most important conference in your industry is a great thing.
- In a social media environment, interactions with people already recognized as experts is a great thing.
- Writing a guest post for the top news site that covers your space is also awesome.
Some of that authority transfers to you by association. You’ll probably need to work your way up to these over time, but it’s smart to be conscious of this as you go along.
6. Quality of content you can produce
Whether we are talking about presenting, writing, or promoting, it is only worthwhile if you are able to deliver good content to that audience.
You are not a fit for every audience. Don’t worry about it. Pass on opportunities where you can’t bring the good stuff, and focus your energies in the places where you can.
Just get out there. That’s what is most important.
Be a part of the community in your industry. This sets you up to recognize big opportunities when they come.
Being ready to take advantage of opportunities is a big deal, because leveraging opportunities is a big time accelerator. This is exactly what I did with Search Engine Watch.
Start using OPA today to build your audience
Your business needs to have a strategy for building your own audience.
Exposure to OPA is ultimately the only way to do this because conjuring an audience does not work. You need to map out a smart strategy and pursue this in a purposeful manner.
You may need to do some experimentation to find what works for you, but there is no time like the present.
Get out there and make it happen!
Now over to you …
What other methods have you used to leverage other people’s audiences for the goal of building your own?
Which of the seven criteria above are most important to you?
Join the discussion over at Google-Plus.
Flickr Creative Commons Image via J J.
About the Author: Eric Enge is CEO of Stone Temple Consulting, a digital marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) firm. He is also a speaker at industry conferences about SEO, Content Marketing, and Social Media. Get more from Eric on the Digital Marketing Excellence blog, Twitter, or Google+.