The Top 5 Ways to Build an Audience for Your Content Marketing Channel
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
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Content marketing is great, but many marketers do not understand that content is just one part of the game. Great content is mandatory, yes, but without marketing your content, you'll not be able to get an ROI on your content creation efforts.
There are two major activities involved in content marketing. First, you have to get a new set of audience to your blog who'll discover your content for the first time. Second, you have to convert that new audience into subscribers who will come back to your channel for fresh content.
Gaining subscribers is critical to long term content marketing success because you cannot always spend money to reach an audience who will consume your content. If you have built a sizeable audience base for your content channel then marketing your content to a new audience would no longer be necessary.
Your core audience will spread the word for you via social media & word of mouth. You will gain new audience and subscribers in a perpetual and organic way. Traffic and audience growth will take a snowball effect, and that's how individual influencers and publications have built a following of millions of readers.
Your base audience size for reaching that tipping point would differ based on your niche. For example, I blog about digital marketing and in this niche, reaching an audience base of 100,000 would be more than enough. However, for a market like automobile publishing, you may need 500,000 or more subscribers to start growing perpetually.
In my 8.5 years of blogging experience, I’ve experimented with various methods of growing my subscriber base, and here are the best ones.
1. Email Subscription
Email based subscription remains to be easiest and the most reliable way for people to get updates from the brands and people they follow. Email is personal, effective and doesn’t cost anything for the end users. Though our email inbox is getting cluttered as we spend more of our life online, it is still the primary way of communication for internet users.
Bloggers and content marketers should include email subscription as the primary option to receive updates. Many email marketing tools will help you get the job done. You can convert visitors into subscribers by showing an email opt-in box on the website, showing an intent based exit popup or having a floating lightbox popup that appears after a few seconds of page visit.
There are many third-party tools to help you capture emails and pass the data to your email service provider. Premium email marketing tools also let you set up a drip marketing campaign which you can use to build a relationship with your audience on automation. A free course or a set of free resources can be delivered in a staggered format to keep the audience engaged for a long time.
My primary channel of reaching my audience is email, and I have already grown a subscriber base of 60,000 email subscribers. I use an exit pop-up as the primary email capture tool on my blog. I convert around 5-10% of my visitors into email subscribers. I keep my email subscribers engaged by sending them free digital marketing lessons 2-3 times a week. And whenever I publish a new blog post, I send out a broadcast email to all my subscribers.
2. Browser Based Push Notifications
Push notifications are extremely powerful if you use them in the right way. You can use tools like MoEngage, PushCrew or PushEngage to install push notifications for your blog. Your website visitors will be asked if they want to receive push notifications for your site. They need to opt-in only once when they visit your website for the first time.
Around 5-10% of your website visitors will opt-in and you can send a push notification to them whenever you publish a new blog post. The best time to send push notifications for desktop users would be morning 10-11 am. If you send 3-4 useful notifications a week, you will not have many unsubscribers and you can get a CTR of as high as 10-15%.
If you have 1,000 visitors a day to your blog, within a month, you will have 3,000 subscribers for your push notifications. Push notifications usually get around 10% CTR and you can expect 300 visitors from 3,000 subscribers to your freshly published blog post!
A small percentage of this audience will also share your blog post on social media and other channels that would further bring you new audience to your blog. Depending on how good your content is, you will trigger a snowball of new visitors to your blog!
Push notifications are very distracting, and your subscribers will unsubscribe if they are not relevant. When carefully used, push notifications can be one of the best ways to deliver new content to your subscriber base.
3. Facebook Custom Audiences
Email subscription, though powerful, has its downsides. Less than 10% of your visitors will convert into email subscribers. Most of the bloggers claim to have an opt-in rate of 2-7%.
An internet user who has visited your website may want to receive more updates from you, but they may not have subscribed to email updates. Subscribing via email is not a frictionless process because no one likes filling forms.
In such cases, building a custom audience using the Facebook Pixel is the best way to tag and segment the audience that has visited your blog already. This audience set not just helps you bring back traffic to your content via Facebook ads but also helps you run paid campaigns for your products or services to an extremely targeted set of audience.
Once you have installed the Facebook Pixel on your blog or website, Facebook will track all the Facebook users who visit your pages and also track which pages they visit. For Facebook to tag these users, they should have logged into Facebook using the same browser. In my experience around 70-80% of your visitors can be tagged on Facebook. Only 20-30% users are either not Facebook users, or they haven’t logged in into Facebook using the same browser.
When you publish a new blog post, post it on your Facebook page and boost the post. While boosting the post, do not boost it to people who like your page because that will have some organic reach anyway. Boost it to people who have visited your website in the past 180 days. Or you can boost it to a segmented and relevant audience.
For example, if you are publishing a blog post on ‘Facebook Marketing Techniques,' you can promote the post only to the people who have visited your previous blog posts about Facebook marketing. That way, they will find it extremely relevant, and you will be able to drive traffic to your new blog post at few cents a click! When your ads have high a CTR, you’ll have a high relevance score and Facebook will reward you with a low CPM and CPC.
There are two notable downsides to this method. First, you cannot save the tags for more than 180 days. Only the visitors in the past 180 days are tagged, and beyond that, they disappear. Second, there is no way to reach this audience without paid ads on Facebook. However, you can use paid ads intelligently to boost your Facebook page likes and email subscriber base!
4. Social Media Followers
Gaining social media followers is a great way to drive traffic to your new blog posts. You can get more Facebook likes, Twitter followers, Instagram followers and so on. Since these platforms are mostly free, it gives you a hassle free way to reach your audience.
Facebook and Instagram are excellent for branding and creating awareness. Influencers and Bloggers can have an engaged conversation with their audience on these channels. Personal brands can also share personal stories and photos to connect with their audience on a deeper level.
However, note that your followers are on a platform that is not completely under your control. Around 5-6 years back, people thought that gaining Facebook likes for their page is one of the best ways to build their subscriber base. But later they realized that Facebook could reduce their organic reach.
I still invest money on gaining Facebook likes, and it is a good way to reach your audience, as long as it is not your primary strategy. For me, email always wins over every other form of gathering subscribers.
5. SMS Subscriptions
People will always pay attention to SMS. And since sending SMS costs money, not everyone would use it, and people's message inbox will not get as cluttered as email inboxes anytime soon. Only highly committed people would part with their phone number to receive updates from you.
This is also a lead scoring technique for you to filter out the high-quality subscribers from your audience. Offer SMS subscriptions from a widget on your blog, on your email signatures and on a landing page on your website which you can link to from various places.
SMS services differ from country to country. In India, I use a local SMS gateway in combination with Zapier and Google Sheets to trigger SMS to my subscribers. And just like push notifications.
I hope this post gave you a good idea about the various subscription options you can offer to your website visitors. Growing an audience base is the most important activity in content marketing because acquiring new audience is going to cost more money as we go forward. As the economy grows and as more brands try to reach the same audience, advertising costs will shoot up.
It is wise to build an audience base as soon as possible when the cost is still low. I would advise building an audience in your niche even before you have a product to sell because anyone can create a product overnight but you cannot build a huge following overnight!
In my next article, I will share insights on how to get a new set of audience to discover your blog and other content channels. Because without finding your content first, no one is going to subscribe to hear more from you.