Article by ThinkTraffic contributor Gregory Ciotti of SparringMind.com.
We both know that it takes more than quips and quotables to build a thriving audience online.
The thing is, we as marketers understand this so well that sometimes we forget that a lot of truth can be said in very few words.
Maxims, insights, “sound bites“: concise content has a way of sticking with you.
That’s why today I’d like to present my 10 favorite quotes on building a thriving audience online.
From providing value, to distinguishing yourself in a crowded niche, to the kinds of company you keep, I’ve looked for a breadth of tidbits from some very smart audience builders to help you stay on the right track.
I’ve also included elaborations on each quote with my thoughts included below.
But first, here’s some visual candy to get you started: all 10 quotes in slideshow format!
Let’s move on to the main course.
1.) On Choosing A Content Platform
The secret is to spend most of your time and creative energy building assets that you control.
– Sonia Simone, CMO of Copyblogger Media
The context of this quote comes from when Sonia was highlighting the dangers that can arise from digital sharecropping, or having your audience based business being entirely dependent on someone else’s platform.
It’s nice to have a Facebook page, but should you really be doing all of that cultivating on someone else’s “land”, without a place of your own?
If Tumblr decides to go down for half a day (and even longer!), it’s your problem.
If Blogger decides they don’t want to host your content and then decide to delete your entire blog, it’s your problem.
I’m not saying that self-hosted platforms don’t come with their fair share of headaches, or that you have complete control over your hosting provider, but at least you have the security that none of these self-hosted bloggers have: you are behind the wheel.
Did you decide to start your blog on Posterous?
That’s too bad, because now that they’ve been acquired by Twitter, even the most adamant users are now in an outrage and scrambling to transfer their blog content to another platform (because it’s obvious from the press release that Posterous is soon to be closed off… for good).
I’ll take any ol’ hosting headaches over that.
2.) On Standing Out
Dig down deep and provide something really different and exciting to get the community to notice. Fight “sameness” with your every breath.
– Mark Schaefer, founder of Business Grow
I once heard a great piece of advice on Shadow Testing a new business from a professor that I had as an undergrad.
He advised anyone looking to start an entrepreneurial endeavor (referring to offline specifically) to go onto Yelp and research the absolute worst ratings that competitors in your market had received.
“Write those down, and then build your value proposition on providing the exact opposite.”
For instance, he used a lawn service business as an example: if the top 3 complaints were about lackluster cleanup, damage to property, and not showing up on time, you should establish your new lawn business as providing those exact benefits.
Wow people, astonish them with the epic shit that you write, and actively seek pain points that those other guys just aren’t getting right.
3.) On Finding Your USP
You don’t need unique ingredients.
You need a unique recipe.
– Derek Halpern, founder of SocialTriggers
Derek, with this single quote, breaks down the illusion that most people have about “being different” in their positioning.
When deciding on your unique selling proposition, you don’t need to worry yourself to death over being entirely original, you just need a unique twist to an already popular topic.
The myth of the “untapped niche” has to be one of the biggest in blogging; competition is a good thing!
How can that be?
With competition present, you eliminate your biggest risk: of building the best “asparagus restaurant” that has a market of too few people to ever be successful.
So don’t worry about being “new”, focus on being “new-ish“, and being the best at that.
4.) On Laying the Foundation
You can only build something massive by starting with something small to effectively close the distance.
– Danny Iny, founder of Firepole Marketing
What is it with the online marketing world that makes it just ooze with this “massive growth on a foundation of feathers” mantra?
In a nutshell: Sleezy marketers advocate explosive growth without building on the lower, foundational layers.
In short form, they advocate MIRACLES.
Avoid this snake-oil dream, and avoid the perils of perfectionism; start today, and start with the essentials.
This includes creating pieces of pillar content, establishing an email list from day 1, and positioning your blog to be different enough to succeed in a crowded market (discussed above).
Success can be aided by the things you do in the early stages, but it’s the continual progression (those additional layers) that launches you into the stratosphere, nobody gets there on a weak foundation.
5.) On Gaining Trust
When you dole out information (free of charge), it helps establish you as a credible source. More importantly, it creates a trust factor (between buyer and seller).
– Brian Gardner, founder of StudioPress
Are you afraid of hard-selling to your customers?
Get over it.
Luckily for you, it won’t be as hard as you think, because gaining the imporant aspects of “know, like, and trust“, is about 80% of the battle.
How can you do that?
If you are looking to start a successful blog for your business, you’ve already begun.
Free content does a whole lot of the work for you: everybody becomes more eager to buy from someone they know, like, and trust, who’s been providing them with quality (even life-changing) content for a very long time.
Create content that informs, stirs up strong emotions, and most importantly, establishes a connection with your audience.
Remember, you’ve got to sell something (of your own or otherwise) at some point or another, so why not let valuable content do most of the heavy lifting for you?
6.) On the Company You Keep
One of the bad things that can happen to open minded people is getting mixed up with the wrong crowd.
– Kristi Hines, freelance writer & founder of Kikolani
This is a great point that I fear far too few people are willing to address.
Everybody will encourage you to start a mastermind group, but who ever talks about whether or not your group is really providing you any benefit?
In the context of this quote, Kristi is referring to those people who may take you under their wing, but then constantly bash other bloggers in your niche just for attention (you may not have come across this yet, but trust me, you will).
Do you really want to tie your name to these sort of folks?
How about people who conduct shady business practices or aren’t putting out the best possible content and products?
Do you want to associate yourself with anything that you truly believe to be sub-par?
Don’t give in to the satisfaction of being accepted: make sure the company you keep speaks to your own standards.
7.) On Storytelling
The first thing to do when you’re telling a story is to not address a mass of “readers”, but rather treat your reader as an individual.
– Sean Platt, founder of The Digital Writer
You like it when people talk to you directly, don’t you?
See what I did there? (okay, that was Sean’s next line! But let’s pretend it was me ;))
Storytelling can offer so much value in creating amazing content.
Yet many would-be audience builders out there speak like they are addressing a stadium of people, and that personal connection is lost.
When you are writing a new piece, weaving visuals and creating a truly enchanting tale about whatever it is your discussing, remember that content can also be a conversation.
And like a conversation, you shouldn’t be afraid to make it personal.
Make sure that you tell me what you think about this in the comments!
8.) On Criticism
Eventually you’ll learn that if you try to please everyone, your content won’t be worth reading.
– Corbett Barr, founder of Insanely Useful Media & ThinkTraffic
If you don’t have a few trolls after building a thriving audience, you are probably doing things wrong.
I won’t say it’s a must, but I’ve yet to see a blog where it hasn’t occurred.
Heck, even over on Sophistefunk (a dang music blog!), I had this one guy complaining that I wasn’t posting enough “dubstep” for his taste.
Nevermind the fact that I already have a dubstep centric blog specifically for this reason, or that Sophistefunk’s unique selling proposition is entirely based around more “mellow” electronica, this guy still had the nerve to complain about content he was getting for free!
At the cost of many hours spent by myself, I might add.
Point is, you’ll never make everybody happen, and you shouldn’t try to.
Find your target audience, wow their socks off, and let the trolls keep trollin’.
Take good criticism and make improvements, take pointless hate and put it where it belongs: out of your mind.
9.) On Community Endorsement
When you give people an opportunity to be part of something, they’re going to be proud of (and eager to share) something that they’ve helped create.
– Steve Kamb, founder of NerdFitness
I love this insight from Steve Kamb, and I agree with it 100%.
People love sharing something that they’ve help to build, even if they aren’t the “creator” or the founder of whatever it is.
Just check out how crazy the Minecraft addicts go on places like Reddit’s r/MineCraft.
People spend days creating submissions to be judged by the community at large, while Notch (the creator) may not be involved at all.
Content is a different, yet very similar way to do the same thing.
The thing you need to inspire out of your audience is a similar “goal”, whether that goal is improvement in a certain area (like Steve’s site aim on fitness for average Joe’s) or just entertainment.
I once got an email about Sophistefunk that read: “I’m glad our electro community is growing so fast, happy to see our music of choice is finally catching on!”
Our community, our music… the implication is clear, the site that YOU create can “outgrow” you; you’ll simply become a cog in a community powered machine.
And that’s perfectly fine.
10.) On Content Creation
Make sure your content or product is helping people become happier, or don’t even bother.
– Ramsay, aka The Blog Tyrant
Who’d have thought that a man that could invent the Sterling engine, the insulin pimp, and several water purification devices would ever find himself dealing with a colossal failure (no, Ramsay is not the guy who invented the insulin pump, although he is pretty smart ;)).
The guy who I’m referring to is named Dean Kamen, and as such a renowned and prolific inventor, it be hard to imagine him coming up with a “dud”…
That’s until he poured over $100 million into developing the Segway PT.
The thing is, the Segway is a highly advanced and incredibly sophisticated piece of equipment; I can tell you from riding one myself that’s it’s unmatched in terms of what it does.
The problem is, few people cared enough about it’s benefits to spend $5,000 clams on what was essentially a goofier looking alternative to running or bicycling to where you wanted to go.
Your offering’s success is completely dependent on people actually wanting what you have to offer.
Don’t dictate to people what they want.
Find what they could use to make them happier, and provide it with unrelenting enthusiasm.
What you want to provide will never dictate the needs of the market at large, so always keep your ear to the ground before becoming a crusader for an offering that has no audience.
Over To You…
What do you think about concise bits of information? Any great quotes that you think deserve mentioning in the comments?
I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Here’s what you can do:
- Tell me one quote that you apply to your audience building efforts on a regular basis.
- Let me know which one of the 10 above was your favorite.
- Since you made it all the way to the bottom, download my free e-Book on ‘Conversion Psychology’ right now, no charge!
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the comments!