How to Gain an Audience in Your First Six Months of Business

The hardest part of starting a business isn’t figuring out finances.

It isn’t coming up with offerings, finding your niche, or pricing your services.

Because all those items will easily fall into place… as long as you have a loyal, engaged audience.

But how do you grow an audience full of prospective clients and customers who are excited about your business?

It’s the million dollar question (almost literally). 

How to Gain an Audience in Your First Six Months of Business | Elle & Company

If you have a loyal audience, you’ll have an easier time:

  • Selling your products
  • Booking your services
  • Growing your waiting list
  • Increasing your prices
  • Deciding on new offerings
  • Launching new offerings
  • Taking your business full-time

...and more.

Many people try to grow their audience by prettying up their Instagram feed, pinning their work on Pinterest, and searching for a big break.

I was one of those people.

But after 6 months of buying into those popular pitfalls, my business was on the brink of collapse. Elle & Company wasn’t growing, my services weren’t selling, and my finances were plummeting.

So I ditched the status quo.

I decided to implement new strategies to market my business and grow my audience, and they worked.

In 4 months, my website traffic grew exponentially.

How to Gain an Audience in Your First Six Months of Business | Elle & Company

In 6 months, I booked out my design services for the year.

In 12 months, I had grown a waiting list of 250 prospective clients.

And over the last 2 years, I’ve grown my:

  • Mailing list to 20,000 subscribers
  • Adobe Illustrator course enrollment to 550+ students
  • Instagram account to 20,000 followers
  • Pinterest account to 21,000 followers

So what were those new strategies? How did I grow the Elle & Company audience so quickly?

I revealed 3 of my biggest audience-building tips and strategies in this last week’s free Ellechat webinar.

You can watch the replay by registering through the Crowdcast window below, or keep scrolling and take a look at the slides, links, and transcript.


Lauren Hooker: Hello everyone, and welcome to this week's Ellechat on how to gain an audience in your first six months of business, or even after. If those of you who are tuning in are beyond the six month mark, that's great too. I'm glad that you're joining in.       

The reason I wanted to focus on this topic is because I know that when I first started Elle & Company, I really struggled with how to gain an audience. I knew that if I could have loyal engaged followers who were potential clients and customers, that my business would succeed. I would land clients. I would be able to offer things like e-courses and coaching. Having an audience of engaged potential clients and customers allowed me to grow my business.       

Maybe you're just starting your business from scratch, and you have your mom and your friends following along with you right now. That's okay. That's a great place to start. Hopefully, after today's webinar, you'll have some direction on how to start bringing in potential clients and customers. I'm excited to share that with you.     

I'm just going to dive right into the content. How to gain an audience in your first six months of business or after, if you're beyond your first six months too, but I've found that the first six months are the hardest. That's the make or break time for your business. I want to start with a hangup, kind of a misconception about growing your audience, and where a lot of people tend to get hung up. That's in putting too much focus on social media. Social media is a fantastic tool for finding new followers and promoting your business. If you only focus on social media, you're going to get hung up. You'll find that you might have a lot of followers, but when it comes to clients and customers, you might not be getting any.     

That's why social media can be such a hangup. It's more difficult to convert on social media. The reason for that is that it requires extra steps. Convert means to take an interested, a passerby on social media, maybe a follower, getting them back to your website and actually getting them to purchase or book your services. It requires extra steps, especially Instagram. Instagram gives you one link and then you're trying to get people to, as they're scrolling their feed and looking at all kinds of content and beautiful photos, you're trying to get them to stop, go back to your profile, click that link, go back to your website, and then hopefully purchase from there. It's just a lot of steps. It's really hard to convert from social media.     

Same with Facebook. It's a little easier there because the link is right there in the post, so they can click it and go back to your website. Social media is more difficult for conversions. You end up getting a lot of people who just like your pretty photos, or might enjoy following along with you, but when it comes to buy, they don't take action.     

You're also at the mercy of the platform on social media. What would happen if Instagram disappears tomorrow? Would all of your potential clients and customers disappear? Would they know how to find you? Would they remember to come looking for you? You're at the mercy of their platform. If you put all of your time and attention into social media, you might be setting yourself up for, not disaster, that's a little dramatic. You aren't setting yourself up for success if you only focus on one social media platform. Usually for creatives, that is Instagram.       

What do you do instead? I believe that the key to growing an audience, and I've seen it from my experience and from a lot of other people in this industry, is driving traffic to your website. Your website is where all the magic happens. It's where people see your portfolio or see your products, and can actually buy. It's where people get to know you. If they're coming back to your website on a consistent basis, they're loyal, they're engaged, they want to follow along with your business.  

I say that your website is your business's home base, especially if you're an online business, because it's where people purchase. It's where people contact you and inquire about your services, it's where they subscribe to your mailing list. It's where they register for webinars or find your podcast episodes. It's where all the action happens. Social media is great, but you should always be using it as a funnel back to your website where all of the magic happens. It's kind of rearranging your view of social media. It's great for possibly people coming into contact with your business, but your main goal is to drive people back to your website where your home base is. Keep that in mind as we talk about these ways to grow your audience. The hope and the goal is to drive traffic back to your web page. Those are the people who are going to book and to buy.     

A couple other benefits, your website can't be taken from you, unless you don't pay for your website. If Instagram goes down tomorrow but you have traffic coming in to your website, you're in good shape. Site traffic also leads to larger followings. What I see happen at Elle & Company often and I love this is that I can tell someone's been on my website because they've signed up to follow me on Instagram, and Pinterest, and Twitter all in one time. I'll see the same handle. What happens is, if you make your social media accounts and your list and things like webinars and podcasts readily available, it's like a one stop shop for people to follow along with you elsewhere. Your site traffic can lead to larger followings on social media. It can definitely lead to a bigger mailing list, more webinar attendees, more people to listen to your podcast, that sort of thing. Your website is where all the magic happens.  

1| Provide value through useful content

All right. How to gain an audience in your first six months of business. I have three key ways for the sake of time today. The first is to provide value through useful content. A lot of you may have heard of content marketing. Some of you may have not. This has been, time and again, the biggest way that I have been able to grow Elle & Company. In fact, I would definitely say that without content marketing, I would not have a business. I would have failed after my first six months of business.       

What is content marketing? Content marketing, according to the Content Marketing Institute, is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience, and ultimately to drive profitable customer action. I know, a lot of words in there. Content marketing is using content to build trust and relate to your audience, and market your business in a more organic way.       
I like to say that you can shout about your business from the rooftops on social media and try to get people to come in and purchase and buy, and some you might be doing that right now, and that's okay. I started out doing that too. In order to get real followers, you have to give people a reason to follow along with you. There has to be something in it for them. We're all selfish. We always want something. We're going to follow along with people who give us something, whether it's entertainment, education, insight. There has to be something in it for your potential clients and customers in order for them to actively follow along with you.     

Where can you share this content? Blogging is a huge way to share content and utilize content marketing. YouTube, videos are huge now. YouTube is a kind of search engine for videos. I was on it earlier today. It's huge. Video content is where it's at right now. YouTube is great for sharing content. Webinars, I'm sharing content with you right now through this Ellechat and I do weekly. Podcasts are also growing in number. The way that you can really utilize content marketing is to use one of these outlets. You can also use social media, but it's a little, like I said, at the very beginning, social media is a little bit more difficult to convert. Blogging brings people right in to your home base. It brings people right in to your website. They're just a click away from viewing your products and buying them. They are a click away from your contact page. It's where all the magic happens. That is a huge advantage.     

Think about your assignment from me. I'm giving you homework. To take something away from this webinar already, think about where you can be sharing content, either through your blog, YouTube, webinars, or podcasts. A lot of people get hung up with blogging. They don't think they're a good writer. Use videos. Do webinars. Do podcasts. Come up with other ways to share helpful content, because that's where you're going to build trust. That's where people are going to connect with you, relate with you, and if you're giving away free information, you're giving them an awesome reason to want to return time and time again.       

How does content marketing help you grow your audience? Number one is that content can be easily shared. Not just by you on your social media accounts and other ways, but by others as well. What happens is somebody comes to your blog, or someone finds you on YouTube, and they really enjoy your content. They find it super helpful. They want to refer to it later, and so they pin it, or they share it on Facebook because they think, "That was a really funny video or really insightful, and my friends and family, or my audience for my Facebook group, or whoever else, would really benefit from watching this." If you have valuable content and you're providing something that people enjoy, connect to, find helpful, they are going to want to share it.       

It's always funny when people ask me about Pinterest because, I've written a couple posts on this, but if I'm completely honest, I post to Pinterest every so often, but I get the most traffic, not from my own pins, but from people who pin from the Elle & Company blog. I get like 78% of Elle & Company from Pinterest from other people sharing my content. If you're sharing content that's valuable, and relatable, and helpful, it will get shared. You, at the very beginning, need your blog to get found and I'll talk to you about that in just a moment.       

Content keeps people returning to your site regularly. I remember when I was transitioning Elle & Company and transitioning my blog to be more helpful, to be more of a resource to get clients and customers, my husband, Jake, had this analogy. That if I had a storefront, a brick and mortar shop on Main Street for Elle & Company, people probably wouldn't return day after day to my storefront. They might return once a month, maybe. Through blogging, I'm bringing people into my online storefront, my website, day after day after day, especially when I was blogging every weekday. The more they came to my site and returned regularly, the more familiar they became with Elle & Company, the more familiar they became with my offerings, the quicker I began to book my services and sell e-courses, and that sort of thing.       

Content is a great way to get people to start following along with you on a consistent basis and enjoy following along with your business. Especially because you're providing free education, entertainment, insights, and that sort of thing. Always consider, when you're creating content, what's in it for your audience. If there's something in it for them, they are going to return time and time again.       

Content also generates engagement. A lot of times, blogging might feel like a one-way conversation, but ask for comments. You can do this on social media as well, when you're sharing your content on there. You have a blog post shared on social media. Ask a question. Try to generate that engagement. The more people come into contact with your content through even YouTube, webinars, podcasts, blogging, the more brand recognition people are going to have. They're going to easily spot your videos or your pins, and the more loyal they're going to become to your business as well.     

Content also allows you to share your expertise. If you're starting out, for example, when I was first starting out with Elle & Company, I had a year experience in the graphic design industry, but my portfolio didn't match the type of clients that I was trying to attract. I began to blog about design, and logos, and websites, and share that I kind of knew what I was talking about, or hopefully people thought I did. It boosted my credibility and it started to increase trust. If you're just starting out, and you feel like your portfolio isn't up to par, or you don't necessarily have the credibility yet, blogging allows you to look more credible. It increases people's trust and starts to develop that bond between you and your audience. The more they trust you, the more they'll be compelled to buy from you and book your services. I believe that a sale depends on trust and whether people trust you or not.     

It also helps you grow through organically promoting your offerings. I do not enjoy selling. I think the word sales, it's not true, but often it can feel salesy from a lot of people, and sleazy, and kind of manipulative. I hate that. Blogging and videos to your YouTube, and just sharing content, content marketing in general, takes the sleaze out of it. It feels more authentic.     

For example, years ago when I first launched the Adobe Illustrator course, I wanted to show people's need for Adobe Illustrator. I shared a post on 40 ways to use Adobe Illustrator for your blog and business. It wasn't directly selling my Illustrator course but it was planting that seed, so that when I launched it, people already saw their need for it and had an interest in it. Consider how your content can help you promote your offerings. Not necessarily, "Buy this," in a YouTube video, but demonstrate people's need for it. It feels a lot less salesy.     

It's also cheaper and more effective than other methods. It does require a lot of time to create content. That's probably people's biggest hangup with it. It doesn't cost you anything. As long as you have a website, or even with YouTube, it doesn't cost you anything to have a YouTube account. Webinars, it might cost you to use a platform. Same thing with podcasts. It's a lot cheaper than a lot of other marketing methods out there and traditional marketing methods. That's especially helpful when you're first starting out and funds are low.     

A great example of really, really good content marketing is Buzzfeed's Tasty. This is their YouTube account. They have videos of how to make recipes and it is so simple. They show it mainly from an aerial point of view and show you how to make, in this case, four finger food recipes. I find myself sitting down to watch one tasty video, and then I watch another, and then I watch another, and then I watch another. Before I know it, an hour has gone by and I know all these new recipes, or else, I think I know how to make them. I enjoy watching them. It's easily consumable. They do a really, really good job of sharing helpful content.     

This should be the case with your content, whether it's video content, blog content. If you are sharing something that is helpful for your audience and easily consumable, like a video, they are going to want to watch video after video, or they're going to want to read post after post. That is how you get someone. That is how you start to gain loyal engaged followers, and eventually, clients and customers. Think about that. Think about the kind of content that you can be sharing with your audience to get them to come back time and time again.     

Check out these stats. I can share the benefits all day long about content marketing and a lot of people get skeptical about it. There's no overlooking the facts. Companies that blog, receive 97% more back links. A back link is someone linking to your website from their website. 97% more back links, because when you have content to share, people are going to link to it. If you don't have any content to share on your website, you're not going to get many links to your website. People won't have anything to share from your website. Chances are, they probably aren't going to share your about page or your home page very often. Back links are extremely helpful.     

America, I saw that you asked me if I share the PDF later, yes. All of these, I meant to mention that at the beginning of the webinar, all of these slides, the replay, and a transcript of this Elle chat will be posted to the blog next week. You'll have access to all of this. You're welcome.     

All right. Companies that blog receive 97% more back links, and I'll share the sources for these stats in that blog post as well. 55% more visitors land on your page or your site, and you get 67% more leads for your company when you focus on content marketing, primarily blogging. 55% more visitors, you're going to keep people continually coming to your site if you have content to share. 67 more leads, that's potential clients an customers. That's huge, getting those people through the door to your online home base.     

72% of marketers worldwide report that content creation is the biggest factor in successful SEO, search engine optimization. When people look for something on Google, they type in something in Google, Google is trying to match them with the best result, the most fitting and helpful content for that search. If you are blogging, you're going to naturally have keywords. You are going to consistently update your site, which helps you rank higher. You're going to have more back links, 97% more back links. All of these factors boost your SEO. It's the most organic way to boost your SEO.     

A prime example of this, and I've shared this many times, but when I first start blogging about Squarespace, it was simply to be helpful. I found the platform to be helpful. I wanted my clients to use Squarespace, so I started blogging about it. I naturally had Squarespace, Squarespace, Squarespace several times in my posts. I had a category for Squarespace. What ended up happening, without me realizing it, is my rank in Google started to increase for Squarespace or blogging with Squarespace. Now I rank, last time I checked, on the first page, not even meaning to. That's how effective blogging is for boosting your SEO. Content is super helpful.     

Something else that I need to mention here, video is huge, and highly shareable, and has a lot of great engagement. The one area where it fails, and blogging kind of trumps it, is when words are involved. If you have written content and you have it typed out in a blog post, Google can search that content for keywords. If you have a video, they can't search the video for keywords. If you do share video, share it in a blog post and put a transcript underneath, or at least put the biggest takeaways underneath so you're still getting that SEO, or you're still increasing your chances that you'll rank higher in Google when people search for whatever topic it is you're sharing about.   

80% of all internet traffic will be devoted to video by 2019. In two years, 80% of all internet traffic. If you aren't convinced that you need to be at least considering video and sharing content through video, there you have it. 80% of all internet traffic. That's the direction we're headed. If you can start sharing content through video, you will be good to go. Consider content marketing.  

Here's the thing. A lot of you who may even be watching this right now are skeptical. You don't want to go this route. You don't want to blog. You don't want to be sharing content because it takes a lot of time. You might not have much time. You might be working a full-time job and doing your business on the side. It takes a lot of work. I spent many late nights writing blog posts. Jake and I were just talking about that yesterday, a lot of 2:00 AM blog post writing weeks, and months, and maybe even years. It takes a lot of creativity. It takes a lot of innovation. It takes time to see results.     

I usually say that it takes three to five months to start seeing good results from blogging, because it is hard to get those first people in the door to come and see your blog posts. Once people start finding it, and if it's super helpful valuable content that people can relate to, or it's humorous, or there's something in it for someone, they're going to start returning and they're going to start sharing it. When it does start to take off, it will be exponential. You have to think of content marketing as doing it for the long haul.     

When I first started, I said I was going to commit to doing it for, I think at the time I said six months, and then I started doing it every single weekday for six months. I know not all of you will be able to do that and that's okay. I'll share about that in a second. I knew that if I did it now, I would build up on content and I'd be able to back off later. If you can put in the time now to content marketing, you can reap the benefits later.     

The keys to success with content marketing, first is consistency. Deliver relevant content on a regular basis. If you can only post once every two weeks, that's fine. Just be consistent. Choose Mondays, or chose Tuesdays. Usually, and this might be different for your audience, but studies have show that, and just from my own experience, Monday through Thursday is usually the best time. Fridays are a little slower. Not as many people are online on the weekend. Depending on your audience, it might be different. If you're only going to post once a week, you might want to do it on a day that's Monday through Thursday. You might also want to test it out and see what works best for you and your audience. The more the better. The more you can post, the better. That might look different for all of you. You might not be able to post every weekday and that's okay. It might just be every Monday, and that's okay, but the more, the better.     

Two, promotion. Use social media. This is where social media can be really helpful. Once you have the content on your blog, YouTube, whatever it is, webinars, podcasts, then use social media to promote it and drive people back to your website. This is where Facebook Live can be super helpful now. Again, that video, that live component allows your audience to connect with you. Facebook Live is, I haven't used it yet. Jake has been trying to get me to use it. I need to do it. This is my accountability. Instagram stories, share about your content through Instagram stories. I like to create graphics. I did this for the brand challenge. Share kind of maybe your first helpful tip in your blog post or something there, and then drive traffic back to your website. Use your mailing list to promote your content. Use feed readers like Bloglovin' if you're using the blog. This is how you promote it. Again, trying to drive traffic back to your home base.     

Number three, make it easy for others to share your content. Like I said, sometimes other people sharing your content, you'll get better results and more traffic, and more of a following from other people sharing your content than even you sharing your content. That's usually how it works. Make it easy for others to share it. Use Pinterest hover buttons. Make sure that people, when they hover over your blog post image, that they can pin it right away. Have social media share buttons on your blog posts. Make sure whatever webinar platform you use easily allows people to share. Highlight your archives. Have categories in your blog sidebar. Use categories and point people back to old posts. The hope is that, when people find one of your blog posts, they want to read five more of your blog posts.     

Make your archives readily available and utilize related posts at the end of your blog posts. If someone is reading one of your articles on a certain topic and they make it all the way down to the bottom of your post, that means they probably really enjoyed it. Link to that other category, whether you use WordPress, there are plugins for this, or Squarespace, you can use a summary block. Go ahead and have a related posts section there so that they can continue cycling through your site, get to know your business a little bit better, and hopefully return.   

Repurpose content. I repurpose content all the time. Just because you use it once doesn't mean that it should disappear forever. I go back through blog posts and repurpose the content for webinars. Go back and create a video for old content. Use it for content upgrades. I do this all the time for workbooks and that sort of thing. I go back to old blog posts. Presentations, think about ways that you can repurpose your content. I even do this for these Elle chats. I have the video here and then I make it into a blog post, and I share it on YouTube. Think about ways that you can repurpose that content.     

Long form content does best. I have a whole post on this. I need to share it in here. I'll definitely share it in the blog post. The average word count of Google's top ranking content is between 1,140 words and 1,285 words. I always say to shoot for 1,200 words in a blog post. That might seem really long. You might think, "People don't have time to read 1,200 words." The thing is that people are going to skim your content anyway. If you have headers and things like that, you're making it easy to skim. For the people who want more details, those details will be there. You don't want it to be click bait. You don't want people to come to your post and then be disappointed. You want to follow through on what you're promising on that blog post header or the title of your YouTube video. Be sure that you're following through on that.     
Also, for those of you on the comments, Yari, I think you said this. You don't like having your face on ... You don't like being in front of the camera. I can totally relate to that. The thing is that people are going to feel more personally connected to you if your face is seen. When they can hear your voice, that's huge too. They feel like they know you better. I know. I get it. If you can have that personal touch in there, it can really go a long way.     

All right. That was number one. Share valuable content. I know I spent a lot of time there, but I would highly encourage you to consider content marketing and choose the blog, YouTube videos, some sort of content that you're going to be sharing often and commit to it.

2 | Differentiate your business 

Number two is to differentiate your business. People get bored with the same old thing. I've seen a million calligraphers who do the same thing time after time, and they do beautiful work but it all starts to run together because I've seen it before. I get excited and I remember businesses that do something new and different, when they break the mold. That's when I get excited to follow along with them. That's when I want to purchase their products, when I want to share about it with my friends and family, is when somebody has a new idea, when they're doing something different or they're doing something really, really well.     

How is your business different? Why should people be excited about your business over others in your industry? That sounds easy, I know. It's a lot easier said than done. Really great example of this, a few days ago we were visiting family back in Roanoke and my mother-in-law was telling me about Bombas, which is the, I hope I'm saying it right, the sock company. Now, you think, "Man, they're just socks." I'm sure some of you have heard of Bombas before too. Socks, how do you differentiate socks? How do you make a sock business different? The reason my mother-in-law was telling me about this business was because this company found out that socks are more requested than anything else in homeless shelters. They kind of had the Tom's model, where when you buy a pair of socks, a pair of socks goes to someone in a homeless shelter.     

They didn't stop there with that really great mission that made them ... Yeah, I think they were on Shark Tanks, Sophia. Thank you for reminding me of that. They didn't stop there. They also thought about people's biggest hangups with socks. They knew that the stitching on the toe, people get irritated with that. Or that socks always fall down and your shoe eats your sock, so they put a little lip, I guess is the best word for it, at the top of the sock, so that your shoe can't eat it. Things like that.     

All of that combined had my mother-in-law really excited to tell me about this company. It made me want to take another look at it, and actually, I realized that I spoke at a conference and they gave me a pair of these socks in my speaker bag. I already had a pair and I love them. My mother-in-law told me about it. It helped me remember them and now I'm telling you about it. If you have a really neat idea that's really easy to get behind, it makes you memorable. People get excited to share about your business. That's when it will grow really quickly.     

Ideas for differentiation, how can you differentiate your business? The first way is talent. Be really, really good at what you do. Always continue to learn. Always be thinking of ways that you can improve your skills. Always try to be on top of the curve. Talent is a really fantastic way to stand out. I think about this with Molly Jacques. She was one of the first calligraphers and hand letterers I started following along with. She continues to be one of my favorites because she has such a different style and she is so good at what she does. I'm talking a lot about calligraphy in this one. Sorry, guys. Keeps coming up.     

Offerings, come up with a product or service that hasn't been seen before. Or, you don't have to reinvent the wheel, you can just mix it up a little bit and do something different from what's already being done out there. I think this is often one of the biggest ways that, as a business, we think about differentiating ourselves. You don't have to do all these options. I'm just throwing these out there. Be thinking of how you can mix it up from what's being done already.     
Another way is through marketing. Try a new approach from what's being done in your industry. I say content marketing is a great way to do that. When I was shifting my blog focus, I didn't see many graphic designers posting about design, or sharing transparently about how they design through their blog. It was a great opportunity for me to come in and, just through a different marketing style, differentiate Elle & Company. Think about how you are marketing your business. Are people using Facebook Live in your industry? Or use it differently from how it's being used. Same thing with Instagram. Whatever that looks like, think about how your marketing approach could differentiate you from others in your industry.     

Process, do you have a better way of doing things? Break out of the industry standard and do it your own way. My two week design class was very different and it was a little scary to change things up. A lot of people started following along with Elle & Company just because of that two-week process. Or it got people talking about it. Think about how your process could even differentiate your business.     

Branding. Branding is huge when you're first starting out. I know I'm a brand designer, but I can't emphasize the importance enough. You want to make sure that when people do come to your blog after seeing one of your posts on Facebook, or do come across your YouTube channel, or your webinars, that that first impression is positive, that they take you seriously, that you look professional, that you are different from other people out there doing the same thing. You can do that through your brand. You can do that through your visuals. You can do that through your tone of voice, the words you use. All of that goes into branding.     

Through the months of February, last month, I did a brand challenge. For four weeks, I walked you through action steps, daily action steps, for how to create your brand from start to finish. If you missed out on that, I'll be linking to that. If someone wants to link to one of those blog posts in the comments for me, that would be awesome. Think about how your brand can differentiate yourself. Sophia says she found the post on my two week design process. Thank you for sharing that too. Consider how your brand can differentiate you.     

Consider how giving back can differentiate your business, or the mission of your business. Is that something that people can rally behind, easily rally behind, like Bombas or Toms? That will really help you gain interest in a following, if something that you're rallying around or something that your business is focused on is something that people can rally around as well. Ditch what's already being done, look outside of your industry. Look and see what marketing techniques or what's going on outside of your industry that you might be able to implement in your industry and do something different there. Take a risk and you will be a lot more fun to follow along with and cheer for in the long run. Think about the businesses that you follow along with and enjoy telling others about. They're usually different. They usually mix it up a little bit. That's my challenge to you.     

The first challenge, with number one, was to choose a content stream, so blogging, webinars, podcasts, YouTube. Now, I want you to think about one way that you can differentiate your business and make it fun to follow along with and cheer for.

3 | Network and collaborate

All right, number three, and then I'll start answering some of these questions, is networking and collaborating. The most successful business owners know that they can't go it alone in order to be successful. It's important to surround yourself with good people, and you can do that through networking and collaborating. Ways to network, I'm only going to go through a couple, but there are a ton. I have a blog post on this that I'd be happy to share with you all as well.     

Ways to network, number one, social media. This is where social media can really come in handy. I said interact with sister businesses. Those are just businesses who may share a similar audience to you. They might not do exactly what you do, but they may serve the same people. You might start following along with them and just interacting with them on social media. Respond to their posts. Try to develop conversation. You can do this on Instagram, Facebook. You can do this through Facebook groups even, start interacting with people on there. Interact with sister businesses who share a similar audience. Start responding to your followers too, the followers that are on there and are taking the time to interact with you, go back and at least follow up with them in the comments section. Then go back to their account and maybe comment on a few of their posts. Just start that engagement, because the people who are taking the time to reach out to you and interact might turn out to be a potential client and customer, and be one of your most loyal followers. Social media is a fantastic way to network.     
Another, and this is probably my most favorite, even though I am an introvert. In person events are a fantastic way to network. There is something for ... I don't know if any of you are from the Charlotte area or around the Charlotte area. If you are, say hello in the comments. There is something in Charlotte and now in Raleigh called Skill Pop. It's a really fantastic business idea. They want to make in person learning fun. They have all kinds of classes throughout the area taught by different instructors who will teach on things like cookie decorating and photography. They even have language classes now, so intermediate Spanish and things like that. It's really fun. I teach a couple classes for it too on Squarespace and blogging in this area.     
I always walk away meeting new people and walk away with a couple new prospective clients and customers. Skill Pop is fantastic. Natalie is actually tuning in today, that's awesome, who discovered me in a Skill Pop class. That's awesome. There might be something like that in your area. I'd encourage you to at least attend and maybe even see if you can start teaching on that topic in your area. That is usually a great way to demonstrate your expertise, share content, generate interest in your business.     

Tuesdays Together, I think it's nationwide now in the states. I don't know if it's in other countries, but I bet it is by now. The Rising Tide Society does it and it's just monthly meetups in different cities where you can go and meet up with other creatives. That's a great way to network, not only for potential clients and customers, but also maybe for collaborations with other business owners. If you're in the wedding industry for styled shoots, maybe you join together to host a conference or a workshop, whatever that could look like. It's just a great way to network with other people. If they know you, they might start telling other people about you and telling your audience about you as well.     

Conferences are a great place to meet people, workshops. Just start getting out in front of people. For those of you who are introverts, I know that this is a challenge. I don't naturally gravitate toward things like this, but the more I do them, the more excited I get about them. It's great to be able to interact online like this, even this webinar, but it's not the same as meeting each one of you in person. I love these in person events for networking.     

Facebook groups are great ways to interact with people now. There are a ton of really helpful Facebook groups out there. I recently started one for Elle & Company. I need to go and grab that link actually. I might do that really quickly. Or if somebody wants to go ... Actually, I'll just do it while I'm thinking about it. I've asked you all to hunt down a lot of links while I've been in here. All right, hold on just a second guys.     

I started a Facebook group as a community because, while the blog is great and you all can interact with your comments, the hard thing is that you can't interact with each other unless you're here in the webinar. Oh, thank you, Rachel, for sharing it. Yes. That's the link to the Facebook group. It is closed, so I'll go in and add you if you request, but Facebook groups are a fantastic way to network with other people. These webinars are a great way to network with other people. Just be sure that you're getting your name out there. When you do reach out to other people to collaborate, or maybe you want to ask them to share about your business, or whatever that looks like, go for it and be bold. A lot of times, this is going to be the one that's the most out of your comfort zone. You never know unless you ask.     

When I first started out and I was actually selling planners, I would offer a free planner to bloggers and people who had an audience, and say, I invited them to share it. I didn't require them to share about it. It was a more organic way to get my products in front of people. You never know unless you ask. Be bold. See if people will collaborate with you, share about your products or services, but be sure to be networking and putting yourself out there, putting your name out there. People can really ... You might be surprised by how many big names are willing to share a post that you share on a blog or a video or something. Be sure to not rule that out.     
All right. Oh, good. I have 15 minutes left to answer your questions, because I know that there are a lot on here. Let me minimize this and X out. I'm going to start answering some of these question.     

Jessica asks in the comments too. Hi, Jess. Glad you're joining in. If anyone in London wants to start a group. I think that's a great idea too if you're tuning in from London. Okay. I'm going to answer some of these questions.     

Alyssa says, "If you had to pick one to two strategies to focus on to gain an audience, what would they be?" First one, in case you haven't noticed, content. How are you going to share content? Again, it doesn't have to be blogging, but think about some outlet, webinars, podcasts, blogging, YouTube, where you can share content. If you do YouTube and you go that route, go ahead and have a blog and just share the videos on your blog too. I would say the first strategy is content marketing. The second strategy would be social media. That's where you're going to be able to share your content with other people. That's what I would say. One content outlet and social media. Social media is how you're going to drive traffic back to your site. Content marketing is where you're going to build trust and actually see sales. All right, great question.     

Sonya asks, "I'm convinced that blogging is a great way to build your business, but how do you go from brand new blog to a blog that people are actually reading? What strategies did you use in the beginning to start getting traffic to your blog slash website? Promoting posts through my own social media platforms and email list isn't super helpful yet since those platforms are new as well with a ton of followers. Help! How do I get the traffic snowball rolling?" First key to getting people to read your blog is the content that you're actually sharing. Make sure that your content is top-notch. Are you just echoing what other people are saying or are you kind of finding your own tone of voice and sharing something a little bit different that people can connect with? That's a huge challenge, but that's what it's going to boil down to. That's going to make people who do land on your site want to return and want to share that content with other people.     

Pay attention to the titles. If somebody isn't interested in your title when you do share it on social media, you aren't going to see many click throughs. Really focus on beefing up the titles of what you're naming things. When you do post, share it up and down. Don't just share it once on social media. Share it several times on social media. Share it on every platform that you use. You don't have to use Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Pinterest, but figure out where your audience is spending their time and share it. Share your post there.     

Ask other people to share it too. Like I said, make it easy for other people to share it once they do get back to your blog. Use a feed reader like Bloglovin' and invite people to follow along there. That's another great place where, when I was first starting out, I underestimated how helpful that would be. The other day, I went back to Bloglovin', I don't have to do anything. Every time I post, it shares on Bloglovin'. I saw that my newest post had like 52 saves or something after the first hour. I was like, "Oh my goodness, people still follow along here." Bloglovin' can be super helpful. Get active in those Facebook groups and network. Maybe partner up with even some people on here or in the Elle & Company Facebook group, and offer to share each other's posts, or like them every time that you share it on social media so that it ranks a little higher and gets in front of more people. The more engagement it gets, the more people see it.     

Where you're really going to have to be consistent is doing this over and over again. Like I said, it takes three to five months to start building momentum. Just get through it and continue with it, knowing it might take a little while. When it starts to take off, it'll grow exponentially. I hope that was helpful, but great question, Sonya.     

Taylor says, "Do you have a good daily, weekly, or monthly checklist for your marketing?" I don't, but that would be a really good addition to the Elle & Company library. I'm going to write that one down and add it to my list. I use use Meet Edgar and I used to use Buffer for social media marketing. Then I have my own content calendar for blogging, which is helpful. I also us a sauna for keeping up with all of my content, whether it's through webinars like this one, or blog posts and that sort of thing, but I do need to come up with a checklist. That's a really great idea. Thank you, Taylor, for that. I'll keep you posted.     

Mel asks, "How do you gain social media momentum, views, and followers that lead to purchases?" It's hard, especially nowadays when everyone has beautiful photos. I think focusing a lot, not only on your photos and making all that look professional, but being relatable and focusing on your captions as well. Don't be afraid to highlight when you have a new blog post on there. I used to be afraid that I'd be messing up my feed by sharing about a webinar or a blog post. It's so silly. Be sure that the content you're sharing is pointing people back to your website, because that's where they are going to make purchases. That's where the loyalty is really going to come in. That's how I suggest. Momentum, honestly, I equate Instagram following, all of my Instagram followers, I credit most of the momentum for that to the blog. I find that people go to the blog and then start following along with me on social media.     

A lot of people swear by hashtags. I don't use hashtags all that often. I just use the ones for Elle & Company. People find that helpful as well. I think sharing helpful content, even on social media, is a great way to gain momentum as well.     

Giselle asked, related to that question, "Do you purchase ad campaigns on Facebook and/or Instagram? If so, which campaigns do you recommend?" I don't. I haven't used campaigns. I used it one time with an old course and didn't have that much success doing it. I found that people who end up purchasing my courses and booking my services found me through the blog, signed up for my mailing list, and regularly get content from me, and come back to my website. I've found that that's where all the sales are made. I hardly promoted my latest course and my freelance academy course on social media. Most of the sales came through the blog and through my mailing list. Not that you can't do it, but I think that if people are going to buy from you, they have to trust you and they have to know you. Usually, that doesn't come from seeing you one time in a Facebook ad, and then coming back and purchasing, unless you are selling something at a very low price point. Great question.     

Laura asks, "Outside of social media, what are other ways to grow your know, like, and trust with an audience?" Content. I think you asked this before the webinar. I would suggest content, especially if you're trying to build trust with your audience. Show that you're credible. Show that you know what you're talking about. Share your portfolio and your process step by step in blog posts. Yeah, content, blog posts, YouTube, I know I keep saying it over and over again, webinar, podcast. Yes.     

"How do you define good content? Minnie asks. Good content, high quality content is valuable to your audience. Usually, it's something actionable, something that they can take away. Whether it's a laugh and it's humorous, usually educational, high quality content is something that is valuable to your audience. Every time that you share content or you're creating content, think about what your audience is going to take away from it. How does it help them? Always think, why should they care? Why should they care about some stranger on the internet posting this? It's usually because there's something in it for them. That's what makes high quality content. It's actionable. People can take action on it. It's relatable. It's appropriate for that audience. Usually, it's consistent.     

You're not going to find much success with content if your topics and categories are all over the place. If you're posting about everything under the sun, personal posts, business posts, portfolio posts, recipes, fashion. Narrow it down. That's how you're really going to connect with people. Chances are, if you're sharing everything under the sun, you're going to lose people. If you stick to one sort of topic and niche, that's when people are going to want to come back and read every single post. I hope that's helpful, Minnie. Okay, good. You're welcome.     

Tracey says, "When the service you're going to offer isn't ready to deliver, should you begin building the list or followers ahead of that launch of your service? If yes, how to begin getting them to subscribe, or join, or follow even before you've actually launched?" Yes! Yes. I'm so glad you asked this. A lot of people have a service or a product but no audience. When they go to launch, they're very disappointed and frustrated when they can't find people who are going to purchase. They can't find clients and customers. It is so much easier to grow an audience and then find a service or a product that would help that audience, that they would be interested in, instead of having a service or a product and then trying to find customers for it. Yes, it is really, really helpful to go ahead and build followers, build your list, build your blog following ahead of time through content marketing before you launch your service or your business, if you can. If you've already launched, that's okay. It's not too late. You'll have an easier time if you focus on growing your audience.     

How do you get them to subscribe or follow along with you? Have something in it for them. Provide value to them. Provide content. Do a really awesome job at what you do. Differentiate yourself. That's how you're going to get them to want to follow along. In terms of getting them to subscribe to your list, offer something for free, some sort of content upgrade. That's how you're going to get people following along with you. Follow all steps that I shared previously in this Elle chat. That's how you get loyal engaged potential clients and customers. Yes, definitely. Focus on growing your audience before you launch something.     

Honestly, your audience, once you develop an audience and you start to grow your following, they will tell you what they want. I never thought about offering a course on Adobe Illustrator until Elle & Company blog readers were asking me how I created by graphics, or asked me if I had any resources on how to learn how to use Adobe Illustrator. Hello, that's a great opportunity for me to teach them about Adobe Illustrator. They were the ones who gave me that idea and that's how I launched that. It makes it so much easier if you have your followers first. Long answer, but I hope that was helpful for you, Tracey.     

All right, a few more questions. Courtney says, "How can I help people find my blog? SEO, social media, tactics, et cetera." Your SEO will naturally increase if you're focusing on long form, high quality content. Continue to share long form content and focus on topics. Stick to the same topics. Those keywords are naturally going to pop up. Get on feed readers like Bloglovin'. I keep going back to that one but I feel like that's one of the more popular ones. Share it all over social media. Start connecting with people in Facebook groups so that you can share maybe each other's posts. Just start sharing it everywhere. It might only be your friends and family at first, but they'll tell other people, and tell other people, and tell other people. Pinterest is huge, so be sure to pin every single one of your blog posts. Yes, Suzanne, anyone can sign up for Bloglovin'. There's actually a link to it in the Elle & Company sidebar. You can find it there. Great question.     

I'm going to do one more. Dione, I think, is the way I say it. She asks, "I know that blogging allows you to capture you're audience, but what if you're not that great with writing. Is there any other way to connect with your audience?" Yes, videos like this one are a great way to connect with your audience, podcasts. You might have a ghost writer, which is a little bit more expensive and I think that can get tricky. If you're not great with writing, I actually have a blog post on that and I think I shared it in the latest Elle & Company blog post on blogging. I'm going to go hunt it down for you. You don't have to have written content. Some of you might not feel good about your writing abilities, and honestly, I didn't either when I first started out. I promise that it gets easier and easier to blog the more and more you do it. You can do other forms of content too. Podcasts, webinars, that sort of thing, are fantastic ways to share content.     

"Clever solutions to four of your biggest blogging hangups," is the name of the post. I'm going to share it with you real quick in the comments section. All right, biggest blogging hangups, you can find it in the comments section. I hope you find that helpful.     

All right. I'm sorry I didn't get to all the questions. They were great questions and I'm going to be sharing this replay and all of the links and resources that I talked about in next week's blog post, so stay tuned for that. Thank you all for taking the time to join in today. I'm really glad that you took time out of your work day to tune in.     

The next Ellechat webinar will be next Thursday, so stay tuned for that. I hope to see you in another Elle chat soon. See you guys.