We all want to grow our audiences. Before the web, growing an audience was a big concern for startups because of all of the money it would cost. Those startups had to promote their products and services without social media.
The only two possible options were putting in an enormous amount of time to reach some people or spending an enormous amount of money on advertising.
The online web has changed all of that. Now we can grow our audiences without paying a single penny. However, those changes don’t mean anything for you if you are not utilizing them. The only tools and strategies that currently provide you with results are the ones that you use.
There are several ways to grow your audience for free. While each method involves a time commitment on your part, these methods are all great for startups and entrepreneurs with audiences of all sizes.
Even the most successful entrepreneurs continue utilizing these five methods. Even though they are free, the methods are that good. Here they are:
#1: Use Social Media
Social media is the most powerful tool on the web. It allows you to grow your audience in a way like never before.
Why? Since so many people use social media, millions of people are bound to be people who would fit well into your targeted audience.
Not only do so many people use social media, but they use it daily. Millions of people log into their social networks every day.
All you have to do is post valuable content every day. Tweet, pin, schedule on Facebook, and constantly post on your other social media platforms. If you can’t do it, hire someone to schedule your social media posts for you. I’m actually doing that with Pinterest.
The way you use social media for your business depends on what your business is and which social network you use. Each social network presents a different ideal posting frequency.
On Facebook, many experts like myself believe that you shouldn’t send more than four Facebook posts on your page every day. On Twitter, you gotta tweet over 100 times per day (get this automated with HootSuite’s bulk scheduler. Don’t manually schedule that many tweets every day because then it’s not worth it).
To find an ideal posting frequency on a social network, you must constantly experiment with the content you send out. Some of the ways you can experiment are by sending out different content, using different pictures, using different hashtags, and changing your content frequency.
Social media allowed me to get over 60,000 people in my audience free of charge. At that point, I started paying because once you reach 60,000 Twitter followers, you must start paying tools like Tweepi to continue using them (this is because of the way Twitter’s API works).
At that point, I was more than breaking even so a small cost was easily manageable. By paying the same amount of money every year (under $100), I saw my social media audience grow from 60,000 people to over 275,000 people.
All of that for less than $100 per year.
Social media is the best place for getting more people to know about you. It gives you a platform where you can promote stuff. But what are you actually promoting on social media? Your free content!
#2: Start Your Own Blog
While I would recommend that every serious blogger gets his/her own domain and hosting—two very small fees—you can create a free blog using WordPress. Getting your own domain and hosting looks more professional, but all blogs have a special quality about them.
You get to provide free content which allows you to deepen the relationship with you and your audience. As people come to your blog more often—and they appreciate what they see—these people will come to respect you and your content more.
This respect is what results in people following you on social media and sharing your content with others. Some people who visit your blog enough times may decide to buy one of your products.
A blog has two main functions. Strengthen the relationship between you and the people in your audience and grow your email list. Out of all of the resources you can utilize, the email list is by far the most important resource for online success.
Your social networks, blog, and everything else you do should all point back to your email list. Having 100,000 email subscribers is very different and more significant than having 100,000 Twitter followers. However, having the 100,000 Twitter followers does help out with growing an email list.
And having a blog to build the relationship with your audience helps too.
#3: Build An Email List
I mentioned it when I discussed starting your own blog. It would be unfair if I didn’t discuss it in its own section.
The money is in the email list. While having a large social media audience helps you get more subscribers, don’t think that the money is in social media. Social media is a means of indirectly generating revenue by building relationships and getting people to subscribe.
While using WordPress.org opens you up to plugins that help get more subscribers, any blog can get more subscribers with a sidebar opt-in. They don’t convert very well, but it’s a start.
When you build your email list, you must commit to using a paid service like iContact or Aweber. However, many businesses are running on a shoestring budget. They don’t have much money to spend and aren’t sure about paying for an emailing service every month.
If you find yourself on a shoestring budget or are just beginning, use MailChimp. You get to gain up to 2,000 subscribers and send 12,000 emails per month—free of charge. To communicate with more than 2,000 people, it costs $30 per month.
However, once you have 2,000 people on your list, you can easily break even. While you can utilize these tools for free, why not pay for them if you know you can break even and grow your audience at the same time?
If you send out an email blast of a $400/hr consultation session, and one person of your 2,000 pays the $300, then you just made enough money to pay $30/month for more than a year. You can easily make more money from your email list and grow it in a year.
#4: Write Guest Posts
Guest posts present an opportunity to put your content in front of someone else’s audience. Even though some have declared that guest blogging is dead, it is alive and well.
When your content is put in front of someone else’s audience, and that audience is a targeted one, more people will read your content and visit your blog. After I started reposting my past blog posts on Business2Community, this blog got dozens of daily visitors from my reposts alone.
If you have the money to get a landing page, then promote that landing page in your short bio. As you can see for Business2Community, I make it a point to promote my landing page within the short bio. It appears at the bottom of every blog posts.
Writing guest posts also presents an opportunity to strengthen your relationships with other experts in your niche. You get to learn from them because they will share their best practices. They want you to write a superb guest post so their audiences get wowed.
When I wrote a guest post for Jeff Bullas, he gave me several tips that I use to this day. Write short sentences. Include more pictures in your blog posts. I applied those tips to the guest post and now apply those tips to my own blog.
#5: Interview Other Experts
Interviewing other experts lets you build relationships with those experts, boost your credibility, and grow your audience. If you interview a highly regarded expert in your niche, this will be the translation to your audience:
You are good and valuable enough to get this expert to take an interview with you.
There is a difference between interviewing the average person and interviewing Bill Gates. You may not have the power to interview Bill Gates, but you can interview the people who the people in your targeted audience admire.
Some people live by this tip. They interview other experts on podcasts and have become millionaires from their work. Pat Flynn and John Lee Dumas are two examples of people who interview successful experts and make a living out of it.
They make six figures. Every month.
#6: Get Interviewed By Other Experts
The other methods help you gain credibility and an audience. You can leverage your credibility and expertise so other experts start interviewing you. Each time you get an expert to interview you, your credibility grows.
One of the most important lessons for getting interviewed by other experts is to start small. Don’t start by asking the person who has 100,000 email subscribers.
Start by asking the people with smaller audiences. These people are more likely to say yes to you, and you get experience. If I had to redo my first interview and choose where I did that interview, I would never choose a blogger with over 100,000 email subscribers.
Getting interviewed by a blogger with over 100,000 email subscribers ensures that a lot of people will see the interview. Getting this much exposure for your first interview is a curse in disguise because chances are your first interview will show some inexperience.
When I got interviewed the first few times, I was nervous and not sure. I’d rather be nervous and not sure to an audience of 10 people than an audience of 100,000 people.
When I get on the podcast with the person who has over 100,000 email subscribers, I want to sound confident and feel comfortable with the process. After doing interview after interview, I now feel comfortable and confident with the process.
I am ready for the person with 100,000 email subscribers, but it takes time to reach that level of confidence and comfort in the process.
The web has provided us with many tools to grow our audiences. While some of these tools have pay to play systems set up, other tools are free and very helpful. You can easily grow your audience to consist of tens of thousands of people without paying a penny.
You can also use temporarily free services like MailChimp and then promote products and services to those audiences so you can break even when you must pay for these tools.
You can’t grow a meaningful audience by going free forever, but starting off by not paying a single cent is a great way to start and build momentum.
How do you view growing an audience for free? Which methods do you use to grow your audience without paying a penny? Sound off in the comments section now!