Writing

This Is What Smart Writers Do to Grow Their Audience

Life of a smart writer

Photo by Silviu Beniamin Tofan on Unsplash

The number one problem writers face is growing their audience.

How do I know? I’ve surveyed my email list of 50,000 people multiple times this year to find out.

I have been lucky enough to learn from great writers about how they build their audiences. I want to share with you their tricks of the trade.

They write about a handful of topics

You grow an audience by being known for a few topics. A limited number of topics allows you to dedicate your time as a writer into going deep into these subjects. Depth creates mastery in a specific topic. You will grow an audience as a writer when you become a master rather than a dabbler.

They use multiple platforms

Each writing platform has its own benefits.

  • A WordPress blog is a platform you have full control over, but it’s hard to attract google search traffic.
  • Facebook is good to reach people who are your parent’s age or older, but the organic reach is dead.
  • LinkedIn is a good platform to write on with plenty of organic reach, but the content can be a little dry if you’re not used to it.
  • Twitter allows you to easily reach an audience outside your own followers, but it isn’t intuitive to master and you’re handcuffed by the number of characters in each tweet (can be a good thing).
  • Instagram’s text section of a photo is an unusual place to write blog posts and it works, but you have to deal with the bikini bum influencer movement and your potential to star on a top model reality tv show — or not, like me.

Smart writers use multiple platforms. They diversify.

They don’t make it all about them

Your audience grows when it’s not all about you and your hashtag awesome life. The smart writers I know all have one personality trait in common: they’re humble AF.

Content written by humble writers goes further. The rest looks like self-promotion which gets zero traction.

They repurpose content

I have acted like a dumb writer for a long time. I only recently started repurposing content. Smart writers optimize rather than work hard.

Some platforms allow you to publish duplicate content like LinkedIn. Do it. Nobody will remember what you wrote six months ago. If it was good six months ago then it can be published again.

Or you can take a popular short post on Twitter and repurpose it into the headline of a long-form blog post.

You can repurpose other people’s content too. Love a viral tweet? Why not use it as your headline and give the original writer credit?

They show personality

Kay Bolden’s writing has heaps of personality. It helps her grow her audience of loyal readers. Her writing is vastly different from anything else I’ve read because it’s loaded with personality.

She writes about conversations she might have with her dog. She isn’t afraid to share the whole story. As a result, the comments section lights up.

People can’t get enough of her writing because it’s impossible to copy her personality. There are no imitators. Only Special K.

They embrace their weird

The next level is Sean Kernan. He grows his audience not by trying hard to be viral, but by being weird. He writes about some of the weirdest topics you have ever heard of. People go wild for his version of weird because it reminds readers of their own weird.

They give, give, give… and occasionally ask

You don’t grow an audience as a writer if all you do is beg your audience for money. Readers need a break from being sold to.

You grow your audience when you give them content without asking for anything in return. I have been experimenting with sending out a lot more “give” emails rather than emails that sell a digital product. Readers have given me overwhelming positive feedback. When I send an ad email, I get a few replies. When I send a value email designed to be helpful my inbox lights up.

Your readers are not your slaves. Treat readers like friends to grow your audience to an astronomical size, by being helpful more times than you ask for their money. Try a 9 gives to 1 ask ratio.

They publish native content instead of external links

Native content means you don’t link out from the platform you’re writing on. Native content looks like it belongs.

You don’t grow your audience using social media by posting external links. Social media platforms don’t want you taking their users off their app — therefore, they show external links to less than 1% of your potential audience size when you break their hidden rule.

Native content is more fun. It forces you to embrace the features and styles that work for the specific platform. A platform’s unique dynamics help shape your content in weird and wonderful ways.

You will rarely see a pro writer dropping external links on social media. Instead, they publish a lot of native content and build an audience.

They write organic content, not content mistaken for ads

It’s easy to accidentally write a piece that looks like an ad.

We’re newsfeed drunk as readers. We’ve got good at spotting ads. The moment an article looks like an ad we keep scrolling. Too many images, exclamation marks, emojis, friend tags, links and hashtags make your content look like an accidental ad.

You build an audience when your work doesn’t look like a giant subliminal ad.

They talk to other writers

Other writers are often better at building an audience than you are. You can make it a habit to reach out to other writers and ask them questions. Tell them how you build your audience in return.

I often joke that there is a 100 person team behind every one of my blog posts. If you could see all the people behind the scenes who help me generate ideas, refine my work, promote my work, and take the time to read my work you would be surprised.

You can’t build an audience all by yourself.

They have a scheduled process

  • They write a lot on the same days every week.
  • They share their content with their email list every week.
  • They publish short content and long content every week.
  • They syndicate their content to other publications who help them grow their audience further and allow them to place a link at the end of their article which leads readers back to their email list.
  • They put in the daily effort and rarely complain.

They are always on the lookout for new ways to write

They look at newer platforms like Substack. They research it. They are curious about what might be possible. They don’t dismiss tools that haven’t worked for them, as never working for them in the future.

Open-mindedness is damn sexy as a writer.

Tim Denning
Tim is a thought leader in the personal development, entrepreneur and startup fields. Outside of blogging, Tim works for a large organisation helping fast moving technology companies come to Australia as well as helping Australian tech companies go to the world.

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