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The 3 Things You Need to Build an Audience on Any Platform

Confession time: I think we make audience building more confusing than it really is.

Don’t get me wrong – despite what some corners of the internet will tell you, it’s not easy to build an audience online (at least any sort of meaningful audience). Most often, it takes a good bit of effort and time to make people aware of what you’re doing, and it takes even more time and effort to make them care about it.

It’s not easy.

But it’s also not that complicated.

At a root level, I’m convinced that there are only three things you need to grow a following online. Forget about all of the platform-specific tricks, the hashtags and the growth hacks – that kind of flashy stuff has an impact, but it’s the 20% of audience building, not the 80%, and all of it’s worthless if it’s not built on the foundation.

The foundation is a drop-dead simple, three-part framework.

To grow an audience on any platform:

  1. You need to be consistent.
  2. You need to be competent.
  3. You need to build connections.

Everything else you do to grow your audience – every single thing – rests on these three core concepts.

I’m kind of tempted to stop there and pat myself on the back for making this nice graphic on Canva, but it’s probably better if I unpack each factor in a bit more detail.

1. Consistency

This is the most important factor in audience building. It’s the engine of everything.

The only way to build an audience on any online platform is to create content consistently.

Practically, what “consistency” looks like will vary a little bit depending on the platform you choose – Twitter requires more frequency than a long-form newsletter, for example. But a bottom-line guideline is that, if you’re not creating content on a weekly basis, you’re likely being inconsistent.

If you are inconsistent, you may be able to grow an audience in the long run, but it’ll be a stop-and-start process, and the best-case scenario is that your audience growth will take much longer than it probably should. The worst-case (and more likely) scenario is that you’ll quit before you have any meaningful success.

On the other hand, if you can manage to be consistent, there is literally no way you can fail to build an audience.

You can certainly fail with a single piece of content, and you can definitely run into walls or make dumb decisions that slow down your growth. Consistency isn’t a shortcut. But as long as you’re playing the game, you can’t lose.

Post every week for a year and prove me wrong.

2. Competency

The second piece of audience growth is competency. This is probably the least-clear term in the framework, so here’s a quick definition:

Competency is how good you are at your thing and your platform.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re trying to build an audience around bass fishing and you’re using YouTube to do it. If you know nothing about bass fishing, you’ll have a tough time building the audience around it. Similarly, if you’re awful at speaking to a camera, not many people will want to watch your videos.

On the other hand, the better you are at your thing (bass fishing) and your platform (YouTube) – i.e., the more competent you are – the faster you’ll build an audience.

It’s worth noting that your thing includes both your skill related to your topic and your perspective on that topic. This is good news, because it means that you don’t have to be the best in the world at something to grow an audience around it. It’s debatable, but some would argue that I’m not the best music marketer in the world – yet I’ve grown a successful audience around that topic anyway. I think this is mostly because people find my perspective on music marketing to be honest and (very occasionally) funny.

But here’s the thing about competency that I’d really like to drill home: Competency is built primarily through consistency.

Or, put another way, consistency leads to competency.

That’s why that graphic above includes an arrow leading from consistency to competency; the more YouTube videos you make about bass fishing, the better you’ll get at making YouTube videos about bass fishing.

This principle holds true on any platform, and it’s part of the reason that audience growth tends to accelerate over time.

3. Connection

The third and final part of the 3C audience-building framework is connection, by which I mean relationships with other people that facilitate audience growth.

There are two forms of these relationships:

  1. Connections with other creators
  2. Connections with your own audience

Time to get a little nerdy: These two forms of relationship function similarly to the variables in the formula for momentum (mass and velocity).

Connections with other creators increase the velocity of your audience growth. Let’s go back to the bass fishing YouTube channel example. Say you connect with a fishing video creator who has an audience of 1M subscribers and get featured on their channel; this functions like one of those glowing arrows in Mario Kart. It flings an influx of new followers toward you and shoots your growth forward at a faster rate than you’d experience if you were going alone.

Exactly how you collaborate with other creators will depend on the the platform you’re on – TikTok duets, for example, are a different mode of collaboration than LinkedIn tags – but again, the principle holds true no matter where you’re growing your audience. The fastest way to grow your audience is to get in front of one that already exists.

Connections with your own audience increase the mass of your audience growth. By this, I mean that the relationship you have with your audience takes on a greater weight; the more you engage and connect with your audience, the more they’ll care about what you’re doing.

The buzzword version of this idea is that connecting with your own audience creates “raving fans” – and audiences made up of raving fans have more momentum than audiences made up of passive followers.

This post isn’t the place to dive into the tactics for connection, but I do want to note one more thing:

In general, the more consistent and competent you are, the more opportunities you’ll have to connect with other creators and with your audience.

Consistency leads to competence. The two together lead to connections. And connections, in turn, incentivize consistency. That virtuous cycle is the underpinning for any meaningful audience.

Final thoughts on this framework

There are a ton of tactical outflows from these three core factors, but again, I think if you have consistency, competency, and connection, you’ll inevitably grow your audience, regardless of the nuances of the specific tactics you use.

And, one last time: It all starts with consistency.

Look, if these three factors are the 80% of audience building, then consistency is the 80% of the 80%. It’s the groundwork for everything else.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start creating.

You’ve got this.

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