We live in a time that allows us unparalleled access. Every day, billions of people log onto the Internet and social media. Never has there been a time that allows entrepreneurs to connect with, and market to, such a large audience in one place. Starting a business online and growing it to sustainable income is a real possibility if you build it with the right focus.
A lot of entrepreneurs that build an online business experience frustration. While the opportunity is great, there is a lot of competition. There are also many screaming voices that convince you to use strategies that may not be best for your business. There aren’t any definitive statistics, but there are a lot of entrepreneurs who quit within a year of starting their websites. The reason they quit is common and can be avoided.
You can learn about how to build a beautiful website that has all the functionality it needs. You can build a brand that stands out and is engaging to your potential customer. You can do the 101 things you need for a thriving online business, but if you don’t have an audience, none of it matters.
If you don’t have any traffic to your website or subscribers to your email list, all of your efforts won’t get you the results you’re striving for. I know what some reading this may say, “But I have a big social-media presence.” Great, but a big social-media presence is not enough to build a thriving online business. For one thing, the organic reach of social media is small and getting smaller unless you’re willing to spend money to reach the audience you already have.
Email marketing is still the best form of marketing and offers you the best chance to convert leads into customers. Social-media marketing should only be one strategy in your marketing arsenal, but it shouldn’t be your primary strategy. The thing that separates successful online businesses from the others is the size and engagement of their audiences. If you have a larger (at least 1,000 true fans) and engaged audience, you can build and scale a sustainable online business.
When you're starting out or haven’t made the kind of progress you’ve wanted to make online, focus on strategies and tactics that build your audience. You may not need “1,000” true fans, but 100 isn’t enough to generate sustainable income. The reach of social media isn’t enough to give you consistent and scalable income. You need more.
The question then becomes, how do you build an engaged audience? This question is easier to answer thanks to the opportunities that are available to us today. There are some things every entrepreneur can do today to build and grow their audience.
1. Start a Facebook group.
The one area of reach that Facebook hasn’t limited is Facebook groups. Members of a Facebook group can see your updates. Not all of them will have notifications turned on, but the reach isn’t limited.
Abbie Unger provides a great example of this. Unger helps people become flight attendants. She started a Facebook group that has grown to more than 17,000 members. The group is so active that Facebooksent a camera crew to Unger’s house to talk about the group. She has also been featured in BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post, Yahoo Travel,Mashable and many other media outlets. Her business has skyrocketed because of her Facebook group.
A Facebook group can be a great place to connect with your audience and convert them to customers.
2. Get interviewed on podcasts.
It’s no secret that podcasting has exploded in the last few years. This year, I got to attend Podcast Movement and meet celebrity podcasters such as Marc Maron, who interviewed President Barack Obama. Today, podcasts get more listens than radio shows, and you can access them anytime. If you’re not sure how to get interviewed on a podcast, resources such as Radio Guest List and HARO can help.
3. Write for authoritative publications.
This is one of the best and most underutilized ways to build an audience online. Writing for publications such as Entrepreneur, the Huffington Post, Business Insider, Fox News, Mind Body Green and more has grown my business by 94 percent. The exposure from these publications has led to opportunities that have grown my business more this year than all the other years I’ve been in business, combined.
The one mistake entrepreneur’s make too often is that they focus on the “busy work” instead of building their audiences. The busy work is when you constantly work on your website, your social-media profiles or 100 other things that don’t build your audience. Focus on building your audience and then worry about the busy work.
With an audience, you have an opportunity. Without one, all you have is a pretty website.