Just because you have attention, doesn’t mean you have an audience.
An audience isn’t the number of people who know your name. It’s the number of people you can contact at any time. Building one begins with attracting people on public platforms such as Twitter and YouTube. They act like public squares, where people can find you serendipitously. But what they give you in free reach, they take away in the lack of a connection to your audience. The public platforms own your data and they reserve the right to kick you off the platform at their discretion. It’s like building a castle out of sand.
Don’t let a public platform control your entire audience. A video streaming platform called Meerkat learned this lesson the hard way. In its early days, it integrated with Twitter so all a user’s followers received a notification whenever they went live. But one day, after Twitter launched a competing app called Periscope, they revoked access to their graph and effectively put the company out of business.
If public platforms are so risky, why do you use them?
Public platforms give you reach. Sharing ideas there is the fastest way to grow your audience, so long as they eventually sign up for your private channels. Instagram grew quickly by helping users post photos on Facebook and Twitter, which eventually drew them to its own app which people now visit directly. Likewise, Youtube grew on the back of MySpace by making it easy for people to embed videos on the platform, and over time, people visited YouTube directly. In the writing sphere, James Clear grew his audience on the back of Google search’s public platform but converted 900,000 of those readers into email subscribers who he can now contact directly. Fueled by those direct relationships, his book Atomic Habits climbed to the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestseller List.
Instagram, YouTube, and James Clear all succeeded by riding the wave of an open platform. It’s like crossing a bridge. Users find you on public platforms and become a part of your audience once they cross the bridge and land on your private communication channels. Personally, the majority of my audience growth happens on Twitter’s public platform where I make it easy for people to cross the Public to Private Bridge by linking to my email list. Making it hard for people to sign up is the equivalent of putting tolls on your bridge, which stops people from crossing it.
Putting it all together, start by attracting attention on public platforms such as Twitter and YouTube. Then, help your audience cross the bridge onto your private platforms so you can store value in a list of contacts nobody can take away from you. Only then do you have an audience.
Sign up for my free writing course if you want to learn more.
You’ll learn about Personal Monopolies, the Netflix Principle, and how to build your email list.