June 01, 2024

From discovery to relationships: Using social platforms to build an audience on your terms

Attention is the currency of the internet—and it's never been in higher demand. However, as the scramble for followers, likes, retweets, and [insert your favorite vanity metric here] reaches a fever pitch, many creators and entrepreneurs are beginning to question the actual value of these numbers.

They're realizing that reaching a large audience doesn't necessarily equate to reaching the right audience.

This shift in mindset marks a significant change in how creators, entrepreneurs, and business owners approach audience building. More people are jumping off the social media/content hamster wheel and reverting to the principles outlined in Kevin Kelly's now-iconic essay, "1,000 True Fans."

In this article, I'll dive into how this evolving mindset is helping people grow their businesses with fewer resources, attract the right audience for their products, and leverage social media and other discovery platforms to build relationships on their own terms.

The pitfalls of vanity metrics

Vanity metrics are seductive because they provide instant gratification. At first glance, a high follower count might imply importance, and hundreds of likes could imply validation.

But that's not always the case.

These numbers can be misleading, giving the illusion of success and significance without delivering any meaningful engagement. A post with thousands of likes might not generate a single sale, while a smaller, more engaged audience can drive significant revenue.

The true power lies in the phrase meaningful engagement. It doesn't matter how many people see or like your content—it matters how many people actually care about it. A smaller, engaged, dedicated audience will usually be far more valuable than a large, stagnant, indifferent one.

That's why modern entrepreneurs should focus way less on vanity metrics (including those found in newsletter reporting, mind you) and foster more authentic relationships with their audiences.

This is where the philosophy of "1,000 True Fans" comes into play. Instead of chasing large numbers, aim to attract a core group of followers who are truly invested in your work. These people will support you, buy your products, and advocate for your brand.

Modernizing the "1,000 True Fans" concept with discovery platforms

Here's a modernized version of Kelly's message that uses discovery platforms to attract superfans and then, eventually, offload them to your relationship platform (aka your email list):

  • Know your audience: Understand who your true fans are. Analyze your existing audience to identify the most engaged and supportive individuals. Look for patterns in their behavior, preferences, and feedback. Check out The Audience Magnet worksheet if you want to skip the line and find your true fans fast.
  • Create high-quality content: Consistently deliver content that resonates with your true fans. Focus on quality over quantity, ensuring that your content provides real value and aligns with your audience's interests and needs.
  • Engage authentically: Foster genuine relationships with your fans. Respond to comments, messages, and feedback personally. Show appreciation for their support and make them feel valued.
  • Offer exclusive benefits: Reward your true fans with exclusive content, early access to new products, or special discounts. This not only shows your appreciation but also strengthens their loyalty.
  • Build a community: Create spaces where your true fans can connect with you and each other. This could be through social media groups, forums, or live events. A strong community enhances the sense of belonging and encourages continued support.
  • Ask for support: Don't be afraid to ask your true fans for support, whether through purchases, sharing your content, or providing feedback. True fans are often eager to help you succeed.

Remember, discovery platforms are great for initial engagement. However, the real value is generated when you transition your audience to your relationship platforms and turn them into superfans.

So, how do you make the transition? That's what the next section's all about.

Transitioning to relationship platforms

Once you've attracted your fans to your discovery platform, you need to work on transitioning them as soon as possible. Here are a few things you can do on your discovery platforms to entice people to join your relationship platform:

Make the move appealing

This one's the easiest: offer them something they can't resist. It could be exclusive content, early product access, or special discounts—make it something valuable and only available to email subscribers.

Use clear and strategic CTAs

On your discovery platforms, be strategic with your calls to action. Use direct and clear language in your bios, post captions, and video descriptions, guiding your fans to sign up for your email list. Incorporate links in your social media profiles, stories, reels, and posts to make it easy for them to subscribe.

Engage through storytelling

People connect deeply with stories. Share personal anecdotes, success stories from your community, and insights into your creative process. Storytelling in your emails can create an emotional bond with your subscribers.

Leverage lead magnets

Offer lead magnets related to your posts or videos. For example, if you have a popular blog post or video, provide an additional downloadable resource or guide that's available only through an email subscription. This adds value and gives fans a reason to join your list.

There are more strategies, but these four should get your wheels turning. Remember: The main objective during the transition from discovery to relationship platforms is to provide value along the way. If you make joining your relationship platform a no-brainer, you'll reach 1,000 true fans in no time.

Measuring success beyond vanity metrics

Now that you've transitioned your superfans to your relationship platform, measuring the success of these efforts using meaningful metrics is essential. Traditional vanity metrics like open and click-through rates (CTR) are becoming less relevant.

Instead, focus on metrics reflecting engagement and conversions, providing a clearer picture of your platform's effectiveness.

Engagement Rates

Engagement rates are crucial for understanding how your audience interacts with your content. This includes metrics such as:

  • Reply rate: The number of replies or responses to your emails. High reply rates indicate active participation and interest from your subscribers.
  • Time spent on content: Track how long subscribers read or consume your emails. This shows how engaging and valuable your content is.
  • Social shares and forwards: Measure how often your emails are shared or forwarded. This indicates that your content is resonating enough for subscribers to share it with others.

Conversion Rates

Conversions are the ultimate goal. Here are some key conversion metrics to track:

  • Purchase rate: The percentage of subscribers who make a purchase after receiving your emails. This directly measures the effectiveness of your email marketing in driving sales.
  • Sign-up rate for events or training: Track the number of subscribers who sign up for your events, training, or special promotions. High sign-up rates reflect strong interest and engagement.
  • Upgrade rate: If you offer tiered memberships or premium content, measure how many subscribers upgrade to higher tiers. This indicates a high level of trust and perceived value.

Customer Loyalty

Building a loyal fanbase is critical. Monitor these metrics to gauge loyalty:

  • Retention rate: The percentage of subscribers who remain on your list over time. High retention rates indicate that your content continues to provide value.
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): Measure the total revenue a subscriber generates over their entire relationship with you. A higher CLV indicates strong loyalty and repeated purchases.
  • Referral rate: Track the number of new subscribers who join your list through referrals from existing subscribers. This shows your community's strength and willingness to advocate for your brand.

These are some of the new metrics that indicate success. No room for vanity here.

Wrapping up

The future of audience building in the creator economy is an inch wide and 100 feet deep. Huge audiences are great, but I'd take a smaller, more engaged audience any day.

If you prioritize quality over quantity, nurture your true fans, and create a supportive community that values and supports your work, you might just find yourself financially supported and emotionally rewarded by your 1,000 true fans.