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Audience Building: Part Four – Social Media Timeline


Cindy Marie JenkinsThis is the fourth in a series of Audience Building articles, where I go into depth on the sticking points, the places where I see people take short cuts but are quite vital.

This is how to find and build new audiences, not just promoting without annoying your family and friends.

Before we move on to Part 4 (of at least 15 parts) I’d like to step back and give an idea of timeline. I often am asked to help people who need an audience in less than six weeks. That is not enough time to both find and nurture a meaningful amount of people✦. As I said last week, it takes an investment in time. A lot of it. It takes more than a “social media presence” to do this work as well, as you saw in Part 2.

Ideal Timeline:

Part 1: Know Thyself / Know Thy Audience

Before you begin anything.

Part 2: Starting From Scratch

Two weeks after you have tweeted thoughts, links, shares on topics related to your project/audience.

You can begin research earlier, you just want to build followers organically at first (Hint: after you tweet a few times, use the “Find people in my address book” feature). If a member of your target audience sees that you just started tweeting (and so have very few tweets or followers), there is less of a chance they will follow you back✢. It’s not impossible to win them later, but that very first chance may be your only. However, this does not mean that you must have 1,000s of followers for anyone to consider you, not in the slightest. You just need to have some sort of history on the platform or you’ll find it harder to gain their trust, if you get another chance at all.

Part 3: Find & Build New Audience (Conversation, not Promotion)

Conversation can start concurrently with Part 2, but not before you have something of value to say to people.

This may require research on your targets to learn more about what interests them. Never forget that behind every account is a person. Treat them as such.

Depending on how much time you devote to the research, these steps could take months. Real audience loyalty takes years. Remember that you are building trust in your audience, you are having conversations, and you are intriguing them to read your work by simply being interesting, consistent and on-topic*. The more time you invest, the more results you’ll eventually see.

In the meantime, make your engagement more effective by finding key factors to reach people and make it easy for your audience targets to find you. Finding & following, engaging with them are good first steps but not successful in isolation.

Avoid overwhelm and choose an audience demographic to target each week (or audience building session). Here are some questions to ask as you read their timeline and find them on other platforms.

  • Who are their influencers (people they retweet, journalists they read, etc)?
  • Where are they online? For example, I find a lot of people interested in fairy tales use Pinterest and Goodreads. If your target audience is there, then go study their patterns and see how you can use it too.
  • How can you get their attention and get them to follow you? When I needed to learn how educators use Twitter, I found a twitter chat✧ where a group of teachers were sharing ideas, and just followed their chats for hours, taking notes. Then I went to their individual twitter feeds and took notes there.
  • What websites or blogs do they read? Collect the sites and writers’ emails in a document with notes on what they write. Use a spreadsheet if you want to get fancy, but if you’re more of a scratch paper person, do that. Find them on twitter and put them into a list.
  • Are there events you can create around your project to attract these people? Existing events you can also attend?
  • What social media story-lines (a topic we’ll attack later in the series) would attract these groups?
  • Is there a pattern to when they post online? For instance, Saturday morning is golden time on Pinterest for Mothers. Another example is that 2amtheatre & #2amt are named for the fact that most theatre artists are awake after evening rehearsal and their minds are buzzing with ideas.
  • Are there private Facebook groups you can join? Remind yourself that Part 3 (Conversation, not Promotion) applies nearly everywhere.
  • Are there Meet-Ups we can join or events to attend with that audience? If nothing else, just to find people in groups and where they are online elsewhere. I don’t find MeetUps to be incredibly helpful unless you are the leader or already part of that community. (I’ve had many people suggest that as a cure-all for getting groups of audience to live theatre. That’s not helpful for so many reasons.)
  • What are related but off-topic interests they also have? Can those be integrated into events?
  • Are there other groups who already have this audience and can we find a way to collaborate or cross-promote? You Tubers really turned this concept of helping others online into an art form.
  • Is there other art related to piece with whom you can collaborate? Books, visual art?
  • What do they tend to share? photos, instagram posts, quotes, videos, essays? This knowledge can help you better strategize what you post.

Really let your imagination go free. As much as you need some hard data, this is also a creative process. Your posts should reflect the experience your audience will have with your project. Embody the feel of your story. Let them into it.

Have fun. Take your time.

I seriously want to know how I can help you. Comment here with your questions, requests for topics to cover, or tweet @CindyMarieJ.

✦It is possible to paper the house (give away tickets, sometimes strategically) but if you’re looking for paying customers, your audience building journey begins much sooner.

✢I really hope I don’t actually have to say this part, but tweeting to strangers (or friends) for the sole purpose of asking them to follow you back is just plain sad. That’s sight-unseen-blocking-territory.

*A bit of a distinction must be made between accounts geared toward a specific project versus personal accounts. @CindyMarieJ , I tweet about Outreach and theatre, fairy tales, and other art I consume. If it is art and entertainment-related, but also personal, I think it’s fair game for my own account.

For project or brand accounts, you want to stay closer to topic. @24thST I tweet their news, daily happenings, and retweet or share items which relate to our brand: arts education, sophisticated family-friendly theatre, community outreach and educator professional development. Rarely do we go off those topics unless it’s an endorsement for a like-minded event.

✧Twitter chats are wondrous things. Get lost in here a while.


About Cindy Marie Jenkins

Cindy Marie Jenkins is a Writer from Los Angeles who currently lives in Orlando for [NDA Redacted]. She’s an Arts Communicator specializing in gender parity and community outreach. She can be found @cindymariej on twitter and instagram.