Do you want to know how all the great marketers reach so many people? (hint hint: earned media)
Is it because they have better content than you?
Is it because they have better pictures and spend more money on marketing?
You could sit behind your computer all day pulling your hair out and wondering what secret talent they have that you don’t.
But it’s not about the individual.
It’s not about their writing talents or their budget.
Their secret weapon is their audience.
Great marketers don’t do it all themselves – they get their audience to promote for them.
But what if you don’t have a huge audience?
What if you don’t have thousands of Facebook followers or a large email list?
It’s not about the numbers and it isn’t just about how big your audience is.
You could have 100,000 newsletter subscribers and fail to get a single one to help promote your content.
Or you could have a mere 1,000 subscribers and get most of them to help spread the word about your content.
So, how do you build an audience that will help promote your content for you? It all starts with these four steps.
The Difference Between Owned, Paid, and Earned Media
Before we dive into how to build an audience that will promote for you, let’s look at why this works.
There are generally three different types of media.
That’s three ways you can get relevant content in front of potential readers’ eyeballs.
- Owned media – this is media you create yourself. It includes blog posts, social media posts, podcasts, etc. This is the type of media you have complete control over because you’re producing it.
- Paid media – content you pay for to reach potential customers such as ads you run on social media sites or sponsored posts on other blogs.
- Earned media – here is where your audience comes into play. They create the content that will help promote you. This includes social shares, reviews on your product, or any other user activity that funnels people back to your original owned media.
Earned media is the most valuable of the three. Why? People trust other people who are like them. Research shows that Millennials trust user-generated content 50% more than any other media.
For example, they’d be more likely to trust a peer’s recommendation for your product or service than they would trust a professional review source.
When making buying decisions, user-generated content is 20% more influential on purchases and 35% more memorable than any other type of media. In other words, earned media takes the cake.
And get this: 81% of online purchase decisions in the U.S. are influenced by friends’ social media posts. That’s compared to 78% that are influenced by the posts of brands people follow on social media.
Earned media is essentially word-of-mouth advertising. It can include:
- Social media posts
- Blog posts
- Customer images
- News articles
Really, it’s any unpaid brand mention or recognition by a third-party, and because people trust this type of media so heavily, it’s incredibly valuable to your content promotion.
The trick is getting people to spread the word via earned media.
Writing great content – including tweetable links and pinnable pictures, and getting a few social shares – is just the start.
To really reach a wide group of people, you have to first build an audience that cares.
Yes, it’s going to take time and, no, you can’t control the message. But, it’s incredibly cost-effective and can have incredible results.
How to Build an Audience That Promotes Your Content
1. Build an Email List
You’ve probably heard it a million times before but it’s true – you need an email list.
This is one of your most valuable tools that will help you connect with your audience.
It will give you a direct line to the people who care most about you and your business.
However, you have to use it the right way.
Your email list isn’t a place to just send notifications about your latest blog posts. It’s not where you dump your weekly sales pitch.
It’s a place where you can proactively connect with people.
Your email subscribers can become your raving fans that produce an earned media snowball effect for your blog.
Segment Your Email List
Start by segmenting your email list.
By segmenting or having multiple lists, you can target your message and increase the chances of your audience taking action.
It’s all about being relevant.
The more relevant your message is to your audience, the more likely they are to share it.
When more people share your message, you naturally get more earned media mentions.
Consider segmenting your audience by demographic (here’s a good introduction to that from HubSpot), interests, or influence.
Offer a Lead Magnet
To get people on the right lists, offer an incentive – or a lead magnet – that will entice your target audience to join your list.
This can include:
- Video courses
- Resource libraries
- Digital templates
The possibilities are endless, but the real key is to develop something your target audience needs.
Copyblogger created a library of their best resources – 15 eBooks and access to a comprehensive marketing course – because the typical Copyblogger reader is seeking information about marketing to help their business.
If you have multiple audiences, develop valuable content and lead magnets for each one.
However, just because you have multiple lead magnets doesn’t mean you have to advertise to each person through your primary email opt-in form.
Another option is to create content upgrades for each of your blog posts.
This is extra content – such as a PDF download or video – that expands on the topic of your post.
People will have to sign up for your mailing list to unlock access to it, but then you can segment those sign-ups into a specific part of your email list.
Write Emails Worth Sharing
Building your email list can be tricky.
Connecting with your subscribers emotionally – enough so that they’ll share your content – can be even harder.
The key is to focus on outreach – connecting and collaborating with other people.
In other words, it’s about, “How may I help you?”
On the other hand, you could go the needy route and say, “Hey, I really need some shares on this post. Can you Tweet it?”
Unfortunately, that’s a much less effective avenue for attracting earned media mentions.
What’s in it for my audience?
What am I bringing to the table?
And then focus on them in your emails.
This could include:
- Exclusive tips your audience can’t find elsewhere
- Free resources that are relevant to them
- Discounts or offers they’re likely to take advantage of
You see, you can still benefit from all of this, but at the same time, your followers are getting something out of it as well.
For example, Mark Monciardini of Covervault sends out frequent emails with a link to his latest Photoshop mockups.
The content is completely free, but subscribers can’t download the designs on any other site.
Because the free content is so valuable, subscribers share the content.
This isn’t just about sharing links to the download pages; it’s also about sharing the final images users create with the mockups.
In return, Mark gets free exposure for Covervault.
The more exposure he gets, the more clients he can book for his custom design services.
Now that you’ve offered something of value, build a relationship with your subscribers.
After all, who wants to promote a stranger’s content?
The following steps will help you build up meaningful relationships with your followers and leverage the power of earned media.
2. Get Customers Involved in Content Creation
If you want your audience to feel especially compelled to share your content, make them part of the process. This has several benefits.
First of all, it builds hype about your upcoming content.
If you’re writing an eBook or launching a course, your audience will know it’s coming because you’ve been working with them throughout the creation process.
Second, it connects your audience to your content on a deeply emotional level.
This is different from producing content that’s relevant and speaks to them.
It’s about them being a part of it.
They helped create it, and they’re going to be proud of that and help you promote your content because of it.
Now this doesn’t mean that your customers have to write your content. Here are some alternative ideas:
- Poll your readers about their industry questions, and then write a blog post about it
- Ask for subscriber feedback on an upcoming post’s headline
- Put together a team of beta readers for your next eBook, and get their feedback on it before you publish
- Host a Q&A video, and have subscribers send in their questions
- Include readers’ quotes in your content if they’re relevant and insightful
The ideas don’t end there.
It’s okay to leverage user-generated content as well – although remember that’s not always the objective.
For example, instead of asking someone to write a guest post for your blog, put together an expert roundup where multiple people contribute to the content.
There’s typically a spike in share numbers with these types of posts because:
- They’re insanely useful
- The participants share the post across their networks, furthering your reach
Other ways customers can get involved in content creation include leaving testimonials, sharing photos of your product, and leaving reviews.
Tip: If the user has not already made the content public, then it’s a good idea to get permission from them to reshare it.
For example, if they tweet a photo of themselves reading your eBook, go ahead and retweet it.
But if they email you the photo, make sure it’s okay with them for you to share.
3. Create a Community
To get people to spread the word, you need brand evangelists.
These are satisfied customers who are enthusiastic about your brand and will help with word-of-mouth advertising.
They’re different from your newsletter subscribers.
Although your brand evangelists may subscribe to your email list, this is a smaller portion of people who are dedicated to your content.
How do you get them so dedicated and willing to share? By creating a community.
Find a Platform
First, you need a platform that will allow you to easily communicate with your audience.
This could be a Facebook group or forum section on your website.
You can make this a public group or a private group, whichever you prefer.
Facebook groups are especially beneficial because:
- They’re free
- Facebook will market your group to members of similar groups
- It’s easy to connect with people, especially if they have group notifications turned on
- They’re appealing to users since they won’t have to create a new account or share extra details. They’re most likely already on Facebook.
Keep in mind that with a public group, anyone can see what discussions are going on.
If you want to entice more people to join, then that’s perfectly fine.
However, if you’re sharing exclusive content, then it’s best to leave the group closed and on an invite-only basis.
Set Up Boundaries
Ideally, your community should not be a place for self-promotion.
Instead, it should be a platform for industry discussion and helping your audience.
In other words, if you only interact with your community by sharing a link every time a blog post goes live, you’re doing it wrong.
Instead, focus on the discussion.
Ask your audience questions and respond to their posts.
Post any rules in a pinned post at the top of the page, and then be active and engage with them.
As your group begins to grow, it may be a good idea to add an admin or two who can say hello to new members and reply to new topics.
It’s also a good thing to let your community know of this change.
For example, Melyssa Griffin introduced an admin support person to her private Facebook community recently.
And don’t forget that you can set up notifications so you know when people have posted!
Pre-Promote to This Group
Although your group isn’t about self-promotion, that’s not to say that all forms of self-promotion are off the table.
Use this group as a platform to pre-promote content by framing it in a way that benefits them.
For example, it’s the perfect place to run polls and find beta readers.
You can also offer early samples of your content and exclusive sneak peeks so your community has something to get excited about.
4. Engage With Your Audience
No matter what other routes you take with your marketing efforts, the most important one to remember when trying to build an audience that will promote for you is that you engage with them.
People will care about you if you care about them.
Yes, it will take time, but putting in the effort here will help you reach a wide audience that you wouldn’t even touch otherwise.
Your existing audience will promote to their network, and your audience will only grow exponentially.
Here are just a few tips to effectively engage with your audience.
Reply to Blog Post Comments
Anyone who comments on your blog posts is already a part of your audience.
Make sure they know you appreciate their time by leaving them a reply in your comment section.
Not only does this appeal to your existing audience, but it shows newcomers how much you value your community.
Marketer Neil Patel is the perfect example of someone doing this right.
On his blog at QuickSprout he leaves a reply to every blog post comment.
Patel says that replying to comments is one of the reasons he averages 176 comments per post.
That’s not just because his comments count.
It’s effective because:
- It makes people feel like they’ve been heard
- It makes people feel like you care
- It creates a conversation
If this doesn’t convince you, remember that more comments mean more unique content on the page, which can help with search engine rankings and boost your traffic.
Share Other People’s Content
Sharing other people’s content goes along the same principle: if you show you care about them, they’ll care about you.
Take a look at your social profiles.
Ideally, 80% of your posts should be non-self-promotional while you can save the other 20% for sharing your own content.
However, where is that other 80% coming from?
Are you only sharing from big-name news sites and blogs?
Are you only focusing on the influencers?
Don’t forget about the little guys, too.
Reciprocity through earned media is just as important as generating it.
If your followers are also creating content, dedicate a portion of your time to sharing their blog posts, videos, or whatever else they’re creating.
The majority of these posts should be relevant to your other followers, but every so often, feel free to throw in a spotlight on a follower’s accomplishments.
This is especially useful if you’ve helped them achieve something amazing such as starting up a successful business after taking your online course.
That way, you’re highlighting their success as well as promoting your own content in a way that doesn’t come across as spam.
How do you find content to share?
You might start by visiting followers’ websites if they leave a link after commenting on your blog.
You can also follow back on social media to keep an eye on what your community is up to.
Don’t forget to mention the content creator in your post so they can see that you’ve shared their content with your audience.
Reply on Social Media
Just like you would reply to blog posts on your own site, don’t forget to show people you care on social media.
Even a quick, “Thanks for sharing!” can make a huge difference compared to ignoring social media posts.
This particularly applies if your followers are asking questions or complaining about your site or product.
In fact, 42% of people complaining on social media expect a response within an hour!
When leaving social media comments, be kind and gracious, but also choose your battles.
If someone is only trying to tear down your brand, it may be best to avoid responding to him or her.
Earned media has it’s obvious pluses and minuses.
Remember: you still control the content on your profiles, and maintaining a positive brand image will increase the likelihood of people sharing your content.
Feature Your Followers
If you get a chance to feature your followers, do it!
For example, you might have a “fan of the week” and share a blurb about them with links to their projects on your Facebook page.
Let’s take the example of SciShow – a YouTube channel that focuses on answering follower’s science questions.
They also have a Patreon (a crowdfunding site) account.
Patreons who pledge $500 or more per month earn the title of “President of Space,” which means they get a shout out at the end of SciShow’s videos once a month (it’s a different person for each video).
That’s not to mention the other cool gifts their Patreons get, such as blooper reels and Google Hangouts with the team.
Featuring your followers is a great way to keep them around, especially if they want that coveted “featured” opportunity.
Tip: If you want to feature fans on your Facebook page, consider installing the “Fan of the Week” Facebook app.
This app will see who’s participating most and then automatically post the most engaged fan once a week.
There will also be a tab on your page in case anyone misses the post.
It can help you get more likes, comments, and engagement on your page as followers work toward that “fan of the week” spot.
Make sure to install the app at the time of week you want it to post.
Wrapping It Up
Building an audience that will promote for you takes time; it isn’t going to happen overnight.
Earned media is a long-term strategy that takes years to really benefit from.
However, if you put in the work of building your email list, engaging with your audience, and involving them in your content creation process, you will see the many long-term benefits from it.
You can stick with producing owned media and paying to get it out to the masses, or you can strive toward earning media to effectively reach more people on a small budget.
The choice is yours.
Over to you – what step will you first take to build an audience that promotes for you?
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