What if I told you that you don’t need a ton of followers to be successful online? And what if I told you that you should not even think about having an audience? What if I told you that thinking you need a lot of followers is the wrong way to go to actually gain a lot of followers?
You Don’t Need 10,000 Followers
If you get nothing else from this post, you don’t need 10,000 followers. What you need is 10 engaged followers who will share you stuff to their engaged followers. We talked about reach a few weeks ago in my personal branding post. This is how you gain a larger audience that keeps giving back to you – finding people who have reach that you can make friends with.
Business is all about who you know, not how many people you know. Think about it. Would you rather have 1,000 people in your phone book that wouldn’t help you out, or 10 that you know you could call and they would do whatever is in their power to help you?
If you’re smart, you’ll take the second option.
Identifying These Influencers
So you’re new to your field of work and you’re looking for places to go to find the online influencers. One of the best tools you can use is Topsy’s Experts search. Go to topsy.com/experts and type in your keywords.
Or, go to Topsy and enter a popular blog post or article from your industry. Sort by “Only Shared by Influencers” down at the bottom (pro tip – http://topsy.com/(your domain)/?infonly=1), and you’ll instantly have a list of influential people online who not only are already reading content in your vertical, but who are also sharing it. Follow them on Twitter and engage.
Now you need to become a publisher yourself.
Have a Home
If you don’t have a platform from which to share your thoughts, you’re pretty much doing it wrong. Your platform can be your company’s blog or you own, but you need a place where you can put evergreen and longform thoughts and publish for the world to see.
This is your home. My home is this blog, but I also use periphery “homes” such as Twitter and Google+ to create and curate content. When you curate quality content, you begin to become known as someone who enjoys good content and as someone who is approachable. Plus, you begin to get the attention of those whose content you are sharing.
The point of the periphery “homes” that you use, where your potential audience is as well, is to engage in conversation, yes, but also to drive traffic back to your main Internet home.
Have An Opinion
At a recent Distilled meetup, someone asked Dan Shure how to built thought leadership in a space. I thought his answer was brilliant:
“Have an opinion”
The Internet 2.0 is about conversation and collaboration. Internet 1.0 was about broadcasting your message; Internet 2.0 is about conversation and the free flow of ideas. The “yes” man or woman does not engage in these conversations, or tries to engage but never gets anywhere.
Having an opinion, and then writing about it and encouraging conversation on your Internet home, lets you bring the conversation back to your home base. Now you have conversation going on your site, which brings more traffic when others share about that conversation to their reach.
Seeing a pattern here?
One final point is that you should focus your attention on those who matter and who you enjoy. It’s not helpful to be on the radar of an influencer that you or no one else likes or respects, even if they have a large reach. You won’t end up building an audience and will be wasting your time ultimately.
I have a brief case study about having an audience. Remember at the beginning when I said that you don’t need an audience of 10,000, but rather an audience of 10 who are highly engaged.
Neil Patel, who has over 120,000 followers on Twitter, recently published a great blog post about strategies for optimizing your website from a content perspective. He wrote about many strategies and tactics that I have seen covered in other places, but put them all together in one place that could now become a go-to place when beginners are starting to learn about SEO and website strategy.
Something interesting happened when Neil shared this post. He posted the link on both Twitter and Google+ . I also shared it on Google+. But, even though it’s Neil’s post, I got more social reach on Google+ than he did! And he wrote the post!
See, Neil has built up a sizeable audience online through his popular blogs (QuickSprout is the latest) and companies (KissMetrics, and he gets shares by virtue of being a well known blogger. But I would say that he has an audience of quantity, not an audience of quality per se.
So Neil has a ton more followers than I do on Twitter, yet I have just as much reach in the social sphere because my audience is engaged.
I should also point out that Neil is kind of doing it right too. He has a large quantity of followers, which leads to more followers and lot of people auto-tweeting his posts. Because he has this reach, he gets people who have reach sharing his stuff as well, which amplifies his reach. So he’s not doing it wrong per se, he’s just missing out on an opportunity.
I’m going to flesh these thoughts and more out in my new ebook, Blog Marketing for Winners. I’d love it if you’d sign up to hear when it launches!