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Five audience growth strategies for creators

Jay Clouse
Jay Clouse
4 min read

Table of Contents

This week I appeared on the Danny Miranda Podcast. On that show, I shared an almost-ready-for-primetime framework that I've designed to help creators design their content strategy.

Listen to the show for a preview, or wait until I share the framework next week!

But one piece of that framework I wanted to share today is your Growth Engine. I use the term "engine" because your growth strategy, when taken together, should always be running. And by running all the time, they power the rest of your business activities.

I've identified five growth strategies for creators:

  1. Sharing & Virality
  2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  3. Earned Media
  4. Collaboration
  5. Paid Acquisition

They aren't mutually exclusive – you can pursue all five strategies at once, pick and choose, or even experiment and change them with the seasons. But let's talk about each one of them.

Sharing & Virality

This is the path early-stage creators focus on most. We hope that our work is so good and so loved that our audience will share it with their audience. Whether it's tweeting your article or talking about it over lunch, word of mouth is still powerful and is never going away.

But the bar for share-worthy work gets higher every day. We get better tools all the time, so creators are able to make better and better things.

And just as social media made us all aware of our "brand" and how we present OURSELVES, we're now becoming increasingly aware of how our reputation is attached to the things we curate and share from OTHERS too.

Sharing will happen. And as your audience grows, the numbers play in your favor – the more people who CAN share it, the more people who will, which gets the flywheel of virality turning.

Because there is no "viral" without sharing. So if you want to grow through virality...you better make something worth sharing. Something MORE worth sharing than the other work your audience is viewing!

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO remains an often-undervalued afterthought. There's a mysticism around SEO...we know that if we had SEO it would be a good thing...so how do we get it?

Who can we hire to get it for us?

Here's the thing – it's hard to take existing stuff and sprinkle some SEO dust on it and have it be a traffic-generating asset. It's possible, but it's unlikely.

Things that do well with SEO and capture some of that sweet, sweet constant organic traffic were DESIGNED for SEO. They were constructed with the goal of SEO in mind.

That starts with keyword research, your property's reputation in the eyes of the search engine, and more.

It's hard to create content that makes both humans AND search robots happy.

But when you're able to do it...it's magic. Your work keeps working for you long after you hit publish.

Earned Media

This is a channel I don't see many creators thinking about – myself included. Earned media is press and media coverage that you don't pay for. It's another blog deciding to highlight your work, a newsletter pointing to your podcast, or a shoutout in another YouTuber's video.

Earned media is often thought of in terms of old-school publications. And I catch myself asking, "Does it really matter if I get mentioned in Forbes?"

But earned media can be any form of media that organically highlights your work. Podcasts, newsletters, blogs, YouTube, etc.

And the key to getting earned media? Making something a.) really good and/or b.) really unique. It's actually similar to sharing & virality, but associated with a platform or publication more than an individual.

The bar is still really high.

What makes your work newsworthy? What makes it so unique that it begs to be shared?

Collaboration

A spin that a lot of creators take on earned media is collaboration. Earned media, by definition, is not paid for. But you can get similar exposure (and results) with intentional collaboration.

There is "payment" involved in terms of both parties entering into the collaboration with an expectation of reciprocal value. But that's not necessarily through actual cash.

Collaborations may look like doing a guest swap with another podcaster. They may look like cross-promoting a newsletter within your own. Or they may be co-creating an entirely unique piece of content!

I'm realizing more and more that collaboration is one of the biggest growth levers you can pull and all it costs you is time and effort to build relationships. And isn't that why we're doing all of this anyway?

Did you gasp and clutch your pearls?

For some reason, creators seem to think that paid acquisition is a bad thing. Or that if you pay for new readers, listeners, or viewers that your work must be bad.

But paid acquisition is just a lever. Paid acquisition is the ability to say, "I know earned media works...but I'm going to take chance out of the equation and pay for that media exposure."

Paid acquisition works and it's how a LOT of companies built their brands.

If you had a machine that turned every dollar you made into two dollars, what would you do?

If it's me, I'm going out and finding as many dollars as I can to dump into that machine.

You should think of your business as a machine. And if you can see how investing in your business turns a profit over time, then investing in your business makes all the sense in the world.

And paid acquisition is a way to do just that.

I've lined up several paid campaigns in the month of May, and I'm sharing my process inside the Creative Companion Club. I'll share the results here as well.

Conclusion

Once you understand these five routes available to you, you can choose which ones make the most sense for your work. And that may change over time! If you don't have the disposable income for paid acquisition right now (I didn't for years) then maybe you should focus on collaboration for this season.

The creators operating at the highest level often have aspects of all of these strategies working simultaneously – whether intentionally or not.

But Rome wasn't built in a day, and your creative platform won't be either.

Start with one, design an experiment, and try it out. Find one that works and build a process around it so you keep that strategy going all the time.

That's how your growth strategy becomes a growth engine.

Audience Building

Jay Clouse Twitter

Writer, podcaster, and community-builder helping people become professional creators. I write this blog and host Creative Elements, a narrative-interview podcast talking with today's top creators.

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