Followers are passive.
If you have thousands of followers, chances are, a good number of them could be bots, or just people who hit “Like” or “Follow” because that one Thing you posted that one time really tickled their fancy. However, followers don’t seek you out, and therefore, they are not to be counted on for meaningful engagement.
Audience members are fans. They can’t wait for you to drop your next Hot Thing; so much so that they don’t wait around for your next email campaign to find out what’s going on with you – they seek you out. They’re highly engaged. And engagement gets you noticed.
These days, garnering an audience is more desirable than racking up followers. So how do you build this audience? By doubling down on your niche! Somewhere out there, your audience is waiting. They consist of individuals scattered across the globe, feeling alone because they don’t see themselves represented anywhere. They share some or all of your specific set of interests and skills, but they’re not the one who has the balls to put themselves out there for the public to consume. You are. You are their icon, and they are your audience, all because of the niche you occupy.
If you’re not quite sure yet what your particular niche is, here’s a hint: it hasn’t been filled yet, trust me. Just take a second to ask yourself the following, for starters:
- how would I honestly describe my clothing style?
- what three colors do I see represented the most in my wardrobe, decor, and furniture?
- which of my current hobbies really drive me, really make me excited, so much so that I want to master it?
- Which of my existing skills do I love the most, that I’m super passionate about, that I want to show the world because I’m proud of them?
Set aside just fifteen minutes to think about the answers to these questions, and write them in a journal: your brainstorming will lead you to your niche. For example, my niche is, and always has been, “black female gothy disco showgirl mixologist who spins poi and loves metal”. Yet I wasn’t always showing my true self online. I was showing what I assumed casting agents and commercial directors wanted to see. But as soon as I stopped trying to represent myself on social media as lots of acceptable things to most people, and started to highlight my musical tastes, performance practices, random thoughts, and unfiltered unsmiling selfies, the more love I got. Not just in the form of follows and likes, but also comments, conversations, feedback, and fan love. Engagement!
If your honest clothing style is oblivious suburban unironic normcore, own it hard! If the color palette you’re drawn to in life is at the opposite end of millenial pink and Pantone’s color of the year, double down on it! If you’re a grown man who’s a beefed-up personal trainer by profession and your hobby is choral acapella singing, and you’re a soprano, show the world!
Yes, it’s important to use relevant hashtags. Yes, collaborating with designers, photographers, and talent whose visual branding echoes yours is key. Just don’t forget to let quality trump quantity, with radical authenticity as a guiding principle. You’re guaranteed to build an engaged audience that will cheer you along.