Building an audience: Your first 90 days
The first time I tried to create content, I failed to launch. And then I failed upwards. Here is how you should think about growing on a new platform in the first 90 days.
Threads has dominated headlines after growing to 10 million users in under 24 hours.
If you’re like me, you’ve always wished you were early to the party when a popular social platform was created.
Now you are.
So it’s only natural to kick off this issue of The Solo Build by talking about audience-building.
This is specifically for people who:
Are thinking about or struggling to build an audience
Are not sure where to start
Are afraid of putting themselves out there
I faced the same challenges. But eventually, I grew to 700,000 followers.
This is how you should approach growing an audience on ANY platform.
Your audience is your most important asset
2000: “Get yourself a technical co-founder, they’ll build the software.”
2010: “Get yourself a design co-founder, they’ll improve customer experience".
2020: “Get yourself a creator co-founder, they’ll have built-in distribution.”
Building an audience means creating your own distribution network.
Not sure what to build? Just ask your audience.
And every time you create a new product or service, you have built-in customers on launch day.
No agencies. No paid ads. No marketing or sales co-founders.
Just you, your product, and your distribution network.
It has never been this accessible for you to create a solo business from your bedroom.
But that doesn’t make audience-building any less scary.
I should know.
I quit before I published my first video.
In 2019, I spent my nights and weekends filming my first YouTube video.
After 4 weeks, I created a 60 second intro. For the first time ever, I’m going to publish that intro. Because until now, it was never released.
I was being a perfectionist. I was afraid it sucked. And finally, I quit before I even published. I went back to my day job and back to my familiar life.
Along came TikTok.
In 2021, TikTok was dominating the headlines (sound familiar?).
People were publishing unedited video right from their phones and going viral.
I was sitting in my room one day, and decided to try it out.
I paused for a second. I was insecure. I had been growing my hair out through the pandemic, and it was not a good look.
But I wasn’t going to get in my own way again.
So I published my first TikTok video that day on February 3, 2021.
And then I went viral. Again. And again.
It took time to build an audience, get comfortable posting my thoughts online, and learn what I wanted to talk about.
But each time I pressed publish, I had a little more clarity. I had a few more viewers. I learned a little more knowledge.
So I kept pressing publish.
My first viral video on TikTok was on May 3, 2021, just 3 months later.
My first 24 weeks on Instagram
This pattern continued:
No matter how anxious or discouraged I was, I pressed publish.
And eventually, everything changed.
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I started to recognize why this was working.
I hit a lot of roadblocks along the way to 700,000:
I was erroneously banned from TikTok for a week
I had to deal with creator burnout
I was having a hard time balancing my regular job
I was dealing with a lot of online negativity
So I took breaks. I started organizing my content. First in Airtable, and then in Notion. I started getting deliberate about my goals.
But most importantly, I started reflecting on what had been working for me each time I created on new platform.
Your most important mindset shift.
There is no magic hack to building your audience.
If you want to build an audience as an asset, stay away from:
Hype groups that “follow for a follow”
Shortcuts like when to post and optimal hashtags
Excuses like “I’m shadowbanned”
The only way to build a long-term audience is to take extreme accountability for your content and get comfortable with accepting the idea:
“My content just probably sucks.”
It’s not a comfortable idea. But it’s often truer than we are willing to admit and one of the few things we have control over.
Once you learn to live in that uncomfortable truth, the meaningful work begins.
The 3 core principles of your first 90 days
When I start on a new platform, I make a 90 day commitment before I come to any conclusions.
I follow three simple principles:
Treat every piece of content like an experiment
Loosely measure weekly performance
Focus on one new platform at a time
1. Treat every piece of content like an experiment
When you publish something, it’s hard not to attach your self-worth to its performance. But that’s a dangerous game (and it’s also not true: you are NOT your content).
Start thinking about each piece of content like an experiment.
It might fail. It might succeed. But either way, it’s just a little experiment meant to teach you something.
Each piece of content tests two things:
An idea: Does this topic resonate with people on this platform?
Execution: Does the style or format of this idea work on this platform?
Sometimes an idea works but the execution falters. Sometimes vice versa.
Sometimes you’re not totally sure, so you try to talk about the same idea with a different execution just to be sure.
2. Loosely measure weekly performance
Every Sunday night, spend 30-60 minutes capturing the total analytics of your performance on the platform. You can use the free Weekly Analytics templates I’ve provided you on Notion and Airtable to do this.
This is important for 2 reasons:
It allows you to correlate activity with progress
It can motivate you to see your progress over time rather than getting discouraged by a few days or weeks of performance (slumps happen)
3. Focus on one new platform at a time
Eventually, you’ll find yourself managing multiple platforms at a time.
I do this now. But I only introduce one NEW platform at any given time. And I don’t move on until I’ve either made progress or have decided I don’t like it.
Focusing on one new platform at a time:
Allows you to become an active user of that platform (this is important for understanding the nuances of each platform’s culture)
Allows you to get more deliberate in your experimentation
Another way to think about this is: “consume to create”.
Don’t just spend time creating, but consume on these platforms so that you can get more ideas for new experiments.
Next week, we’ll talk a little more about building products for your audience, and I’ll share some of the lessons I learned taking on my first infoproduct.
This week’s Solo Build Support Q&A
Each week, I answer questions from our subscribers in a recorded video.
Reply to this e-mail with your question to be featured in an upcoming Solo Build Support Q&A video.
See you in next week’s issue
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I send weekly e-mails sharing my tips and strategies for building products and audiences. For full time solo builders and side-hustle dreamers.
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