Lately, I’ve become aware that the audience I most easily attract isn’t necessarily the audience I’m writing for.

Not that I don’t appreciate every blog reader or Twitter follower who considers me worthy of their time.

But what I want and what I’m attracting may be different things.

In my case, I’m an armchair sociologist who just happens to make a living producing digital media. This means the conversations I’m most interested in having are ones that deal with sociology, psychology, philosophy, and creativity… and yet my audience is mostly marketers who want business tips.

Granted, I’m grateful to anyone who finds value in what I write. But I also know that the feedback and discussions I need most in order to improve at what I love to do are not the types of conversations I can have with just anyone.

If you’ve ever tried to pivot your business or enter a new market, you’ve had this same challenge. You’re doing well over here… but now you need to find a way to get over there, too.

So, how can we adjust our audience as we grow?

What Your Audience Says About You

Life moves fast. Online? Even faster.

Being interesting or relevant is how you break through all the white noise separating you from the people you wish would pay attention to you. If what you say isn’t registering with the folks who hear it, you’ll be talking to yourself forever. That’s sad, lonely, and unprofitable — both financially and emotionally.

So, let’s look at five questions that will help you build the audience you want — or, help you learn to love the audience you have.

1.  What Is Your Idea of “Success”?

Some people just want a following.

The specifics of who’s listening to them are less important than the fact that anyone is listening at all.  Plenty of careers have been launched by shouting into the void and seeing who shouts back (and then selling them something).  For these people, the nuances of conversation are just distractions; what they want are numbers — the more people they can get listening, the merrier.

Others have a specific passion or two, and they want to be known as experts in their desired field. (Or, they at least want to be able to have mindblowing conversations about their favorite topics with like-minded obsessives.) For them, it’s imperative to get involved in the “right” conversations, rather than getting involved in MANY or LARGE conversations.

Neither approach is right or wrong. You just need to know which goal is yours before you can understand how to build YOUR kind of audience.

You also need to know who’s already listening, so you can gauge where you are in relation to where you want to be.

2.  Who Is Your Current Audience?

Unless you’ve been scribbling manifestos in a notebook, odds are, you’ve already shared your ideas with someone, and some of them have given you a response. So examine the state of your current following, regardless of its size, and focus on the hot spots. Which of your current conversations get the most traction among your existing audience? Which blog posts do they comment on? Which links do they retweet? What does your current audience care about?

For example, I may have several thousand followers on Twitter, but that’s just a starting point.

The truth is, unless what I say gets retweeted, the organic reach of my average tweet is around 1%. But with a RT, my reach and engagement rates on that particular tweet can jump to 5% or above — and if there’s an image on that tweet, that number can jump to 15% or higher.

But not everything I tweet gets that RT boost.

So, shouldn’t I be posting things I know my audience is likely to retweet?

Maybe… and maybe not.

If you get traction in a certain topic, this could mean your audience trusts you as a voice in that particular area. It could also mean this topic is your path of least resistance toward a larger or more meaningful discussion.

But whether you WANT to be known as an authority on that topic or not is another issue.

3.  Who Are Your Conversational Allies?

No one wakes up with a massive following overnight. You build your following organically, often with the help of benefactors who appreciate what you have to say (and voluntarily share your wit and wisdom with their own audience).

But no one appeals to everyone, so don’t fall into the trap of trying to “get noticed” by every tastemaker in your vicinity.

For example, if you want to get traction in the social marketing field, you don’t need to be loved by Chris Brogan, Seth Godin, AND Gary Vaynerchuck. (In fact, some people spend years trying to piss them off.) But it can help to get noticed by at least one of them, because one tweet from any of them can funnel more traffic to your ideas than you can generate all day on your own.

Being taken seriously by people who are already taken seriously by others is invaluable.  However…

4.  Are You Being Noticed by the People You WANT to Notice You?

If you went to a bar hoping to meet a brunette, but you came home with phone numbers from a dozen redheads instead, you’d realize that who you INTEND to appeal to is not the same as who actually finds you interesting.  But you’re still appealing to someone — and quite naturally, too — so isn’t that a positive?

That depends on your end goal.

If your conversational allies are sending you waves of traffic, but none of it provides you with actionable value, then you have to make a choice:  do you adjust your message (so it attracts a different audience), or do you adjust your expectations (so you’re happy with the audience you’re attracting)?

If your idea of success is to develop influence in a specific topic or niche, then you need to find a way to make your ideas appealing to those people who aren’t currently seeing (or finding value in) them as you’re stating them today.

But if you’re attracting an audience other than the one you were aiming for, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it could be a sign that you can be useful to someone right now, rather than waiting to be validated by someone else.

And if what you want is to be “a” success rather than “a specific kind” of success, then maybe it’s time to give one of those redheads a call.


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