Jessie van Breugel x Pragya from Shield
You overcame your fear and you published your piece of content. After spending hours on a great piece, to only see it get 3 likes. You end up frustrated and already want to quit because you think this game isn’t for you.
Does that sound relatable?
To comfort you here: all creators have been there before they discovered the “secret” of audience-building. But, first, let’s break down what happened. Did your content suck? Probably not. The real reason why your content fell flat is that you were speaking in an empty room.
So, what do you do?
Do you change the content or do you change rooms? You want to go to the room where people talk “your talk”. The key word here is engagement.
In this article, you learn everything about engagement, why it matters so much, and how to leverage it for the better. Including 5 real-life examples of how you initiate a conversation with basically anyone online.
Are you ready?
Part 1: The importance of being connected to the right people
You can have the best content in the world, but without a network, it’s hard to get seen.
If you think that your content will magically arrive on the feed of like-minded creators, we’ve to break your bubble: it won’t.
Why does it matter so much who you’re connected to on social media?
Because these platforms are extremely busy.
Every day, 800 million tweets on Twitter and 2 million posts, articles, and videos are published on LinkedIn.
If you think that you can build an engaged audience by publishing content alone, you're a bit off. The key to audience building is you want to make yourself visible to the right people first. It’s your responsibility to find and connect with the right people. You want to tap into their audiences. That’s when you can start publishing content that makes a difference, content that will build your audience and grow your brand.
Part 2: What’s engagement: a brief explanation
Engagement is a word that’s thrown around online as if it’s free. The good news here: it’s actually “free”.
Free in terms of money spent, but not free in terms of energy and effort. As with everything related to audience-building, it takes effort and time. The art of engagement is both the hardest and most rewarding element of building an audience.
Engagement is the act of interacting and connecting with the right people.
Let’s say that engagement works two ways:
The accounts you engage with (external engagement)
The accounts that engage with your content (internal engagement)
With that being said, let’s look at engagement in a more practical way in Part 3.
Part 3: Be strategic about your audience
The beauty of social media is that you can shape your own audience.
Restrictions due to locations or time zones don’t exist, so you can connect with basically anyone who has access to social media platforms. As a creator, this is extremely valuable to grow an engaged audience. You can put yourself on the radar of the creators you want to be affiliated with.
It’s obvious that you can decide who you follow yourself, but by inserting yourself into the right, relevant conversations you can “control” which type of people follow you.
The more you interact with accounts that write about the creator economy, the more people interested in that topic, will find your profile and potentially follow you.
You might ask:
“How do I find relevant and interesting people to follow and connect with?”
How do you search for something you want to know more about? You Google it, right?
I’m sure you know, but LinkedIn has a search bar, too. So, type in the topic you want to learn more about or find people that are related to this topic. Apply this tactic long enough till you have an engaged and relevant audience.
Besides this conventional approach, there are three other great ways to find relevant accounts to connect with.
Tactic #1: Follow the breadcrumbs
Once you find interesting people to follow and connect with, you can follow the breadcrumbs by browsing through the suggestions on LinkedIn, under the tab “People also viewed”.
Tactic #2: Go through the comment section
Once you have a couple of interesting accounts you follow and interact with, you can take the next step:
Go through the comment sections of those initial connections. The comment section on LinkedIn is often where the real conversation happens. Engage with other people their comments, and browse through their profiles to find more people like that.
If you’re in for a good challenge:
Set a timer for 30 minutes and hop from profile to profile. Lose yourself in the vastness of LinkedIn. When the timer rings, you’ve engaged with dozens of people and planted many seeds for new connections.
Technique 3: Hashtags
(Yes, they are still a thing)
Search for topics you like, or hashtags you want to be affiliated with. When you browse for this content, you see (based on your timeline settings) the best-performing or most recent content.
This helps you with a couple of things:
You know what’s performing well in your industry
You see which type of content does well
You see which creators/accounts write about this type of content
Part 4: More time engaging than creating
Engagement and interaction are elements of building an audience that requires you to do things that don’t scale. Especially in the beginning, you have to engage more than you create.
"A recommended rule of thumb here: spend 90% engaging and 10% creating."
When you interact with other accounts by commenting on their tweets or sharing their posts, you bring additional attention to your account.
(Btw, do you see why it’s important to optimize your headline?)
It’s one of the best ways to drive traffic to your profile and show the world what you and your brand are about. This is shared in this article before.
Three simple ways to add value to a post:
Write a firm phrase to reinforce the author’s main point
Add another number to their listicle
Add a challenging point of view (great for opening the conversation)
Part 5: Three-step daily process to grow an engaged audience
By now, you should have a great understanding of creating your own content, interacting with other creators, and engaging with their content and audience.
This part covers a 3-step process that can be done throughout your day.
It’s a simple set of actions that - once implemented in your daily routine - can mean the difference between merely having a following and an engaged audience that works for you.
Step 1: Engage with the content of your favorite creators or connections
Ask questions or add your own perspective to initiate a conversation. Victor did a great job on this.
Step 2: Respond to their comments
An example of how the first comment of Victor Oyovota resulted in a conversation between 4 different creators:
Pro tip: if possible, it’s great to “invite” other people into the conversation happening in the comments to make it even more engaging. Just make sure you steer clear of tagging people to get visibility, no one likes being dragged into a conversation that is not of interest to them.
Step 3: Interacting with others through DMs
When you just had an interaction with another creator on the public feed, this offers a great opportunity to make the connection to the next level.
Send that person a personalized connection request and open the conversation. This way, you build engaged and real relationships, one step at a time.
Part 6: 5 Real-life example to initiate private conversations
At this stage, you must think:
“Cool, I know how to engage and interact with others on the timeline, but heck, what can I say to initiate conversations with strangers, especially through private conversations?”
Well, if that’s you, this section is the perfect fit for you.
Let’s share 5 tactics that work to initiate a conversation with basically anyone on LinkedIn.
Scenario 1: A mutual connection
If you use the Breadcrumb technique, this scenario would be most occurring for you: you want to connect with another creator after you found their profile through a mutual connection:
Scenario 2: Recent engagement with your content
The more you engage and interact with others’ content, the more likely others will repay this favor. This offers a great opportunity to start the conversation.
Scenario 3: A shared interest
Through the content of others, you’re able to “get to know” them better. If there’s a shared interest, it’s one of the best ways to initiate the connection and open the conversation.
Scenario 4: Right after connecting
It’s always a great idea to initiate a conversation with new connections, straight after accepting their request. This way, you’re still top of mind and you prevent your audience from filling up with “empty connections.”
Remember, that’s how you grow an engaged audience, right?
Scenario 5: A new follower
This one might be a bit harder for some of you as it’s a ‘colder’ approach.
LinkedIn gives you insights into your new followers, and when you see followers that you’d like to be connected with, you can be proactive and send them a request. Namely, there’s a reason why they started to follow you in the first place, right?
Part 7: The secret of an engaged audience
Finally, you would understand that building an engaging audience comes from creating content, interacting and engaging with others’ content, and taking conversations to the next level.
All in all, these things don’t scale - at least not at the beginning.
But, you’re here for the long run, right?
Keep in mind that it’s called social media for a reason:
You have to be social if you want to grow something authentic and engaging. The real value of social media is found in private conversations. That’s where the most valuable connections are built.
You create connections that help you, your brand, and your business forward, while having much more fun and ease in this creative process. That’s how you grow an engaged audience that works for you.
Tell us, how are you currently engaging with your audience?
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