How to engage with your audience
January 14, 2021
This is what people keep asking me recently: Matthias, you have shown us how to find an audience for a product or service. You even founded a startup for a tool to understand audiences. You’ve shown us how to select the people you want to work with. But what if I find that audience, how do I talk to them?
This problem is fairly old. Honestly, I had it myself when I created my new Twitter account GetTheAudience, with zero followers, zero following, and nobody knowing it.
I found Daniel Vassallo. He created an ebook on Gumroad called “Everybody can build a Twitter audience”. He got a recommendation for behaviour. He said: “When you are trying to build a new Twitter account then give, give, give, before you ask anything.” That means: Give value to your audience, join the conversation of existing accounts because if you tweet, nobody will listen if you have zero followers! So give, give, give, and then ask for something.
I went to ask other people about this, and recently KP posted something:
This has happened to me many times— KP (@thisiskp_) January 10, 2021
Roughly 10% of your entire audience across Twitter, newsletter or podcasts become your customers
That’s why building an audience is super important especially for a B2C founder
Building in public is a great way to building an audience
And Janel responded (Janel, the NewsletterOS lady). She said:
It’s all about building that trust with your audience!— Janel (@JanelSGM) January 10, 2021
And that struck me. I asked her:
What do you think are the most relevant factors that build the trust?— Matthias from Get The Audience (@GetTheAudience) January 10, 2021
The common cause, the value, the consistency of conversation, feeling at home and understood, what else could it be?
And she answered with great things like
- being genuine
- being kind and helpful
- giving before taking
The same thing that Daniel said, right? So I think there must be something behind all this!
And I reached out more into the past. I found the classic book by Dale Carnegie: “How to win friends and influence people.” I was really amazed that this book is so old – it’s already from 1936! He had a great quote in it. He said:
To be interesting, be interested.
If you want to be interesting for other people be interested in them first. The first step, if you want to grow a Twitter audience for your product or service, be interested in the existing people, the existing content on Twitter.
Go in there, join the conversation, build a relationship with them. What did Janel say? Authenticity, being genuine, being kind and helpful. So be kind and helpful to other people when you want to build an audience.
There is a great summary about this book by Dale Carnegie, how to win friends and influence people. The book has great sections, like
- Fundamental techniques in handling people
- Six ways to make people like you
- 12 ways to win people to your way of thinking
- Be a leader: How to change people without giving offense or arousing resentment
(My thesis is that you can’t change people. People can only change themselves, but, but I would read that chapter anyway.)
So, 1936 … I think people really don’t change over the centuries. Only the world as a whole changes but the human being, itself, doesn’t change very much. I think the things in this old book are still valid because that’s the human nature.
How to get in contact to people? Give, give, give. Go to other Twitter accounts and give value! How can you do that? Two great examples:
One that I’ve frequently seen on Twitter is: summarize! You go to an existing account that already gives value, and you summarize something that they said in a great and concise way.
Recently a totally new Twitter account, pohjie, did a great job, summarizing Janel’s journey from zero to her NewsletterOS success! He summarized this journey in a a Twitter thread:
After hearing about @JanelSGM from @csallen, I spent the past few hours digging into her Twitter feed to see how she has been building Newsletter OS in public, from ideation to launch.— pohjie (@pohjie_pj) January 11, 2021
Here are some highlights in chronological order and what you can learn from the process:
He tagged her, she got the attention and retweeted this good summary thread. He got real good engagement on that thread. This is a good example for contacting someone, even if you have zero followers!
The another more simple example is “retweet”, or better: “quote tweet”, a bigger account’s tweet, simply pointing to good value that other people have already given. Add your own point of view. In the quote tweet, you put your own point of view above and then point to the other tweet that really gives the value. So you add value to existing value.
You can start to reply. You can start to join the conversations and really build a good contact, good rapport, with your audience.
Then people will start to follow you. You will gather your own followers, you can open your own conversations. You can engage with your audience, for example, by posting interesting statistics about how you build your product or service, or you can post new milestones, e.g. when you have added a new feature to your product, or when your product can be used in a new way.
To go and understand what really makes your audience tick, the best thing is move off-Twitter, for example, to a video conferencing tool like Zoom or Jitsi meet because a face-to-face conversation is so much richer, it can be so much more valuable than a Twitter thread.
A Twitter thread is a low-bandwidth thing: You have to concentrate and put your thoughts into these short tweets, and a lot of things are lost in translation, right? A face-to-face conversation can be so much more dynamic!
I recently had good conversations with existing members of my audience. We had so many more new ideas when talking to people, It’s amazing! It really makes your brain tick. The ideas spark quicker than when you try to find them all alone. We humans are social beings and I’m getting to ideas is much easier in a group of people.
Finally, you would want to ask them how they work or what their problems are, what their needs are, in order to support them with a product or service. How do you do this, how do you ask them about what they do?
The best thing is: Take a real-world example. Ask about a real-world, recent example where the other person did the job that you’re interested in. Then simply ask them: How do they do what they do?
This week, Michael Fecher on my Twitter stream, made me aware of the “home builders” audience, i.e. people who build a new house or a new home for themselves and their family. I thought about this audience: What would I ask them if I wanted to support home builders with, let’s say, a new piece of software?
When I got them on zoom, I would say: “Oh, I heard you’re building a home for your family! How did you approach that? How did this all get started?”
They will tell me: “Yeah, we didn’t have enough space. We decided we need a new house.”
I would listen to all this, and then I would ask further questions, like “How did you find the place to put your house?”, for example, or: “Which criteria were important when you selected the location that seemed perfect to you?” They would go on about the location, how they decided about the village or city where they move.
I could ask them: “What happened then when you made the decision ‘Yeah, let’s go for it’”, and they would tell me “We talked about financing that thing, planning that thing, really building it, and we thought about moving out of the old home and moving into the new home.”
Moving is a problem in itself, right? I could ask for more details like: “Do you have an architect or project manager who coordinates everything for you, or who does the planning and tracking in your case?”
I would probe with additional questions and then I would try to find out where the real pain is. What’s the pain in finance? What’s the pain in planning, in building, in moving in and out? Where was it? What was the most painful thing they had?
And what would be a problem that would look like it’s repeatable? Could there be any problems that every home builder would have? This would, of course, require talking to multiple home builders, one after the other, to find out if they have common problems.
Basically, this is a technique that was introduced by Ash Maurya. He called it the “problem interview”. Really finding out about existing problems in your audience.
There are more techniques, e.g. one from the soft skill courses that I used to give for my students in software architecture and engineering. One technique for talking to your customers is “active listening”:
- When you are in a conversation, you listen for what the audience has to say.
- Then you repeat it in your own words, you paraphrase it.
- You ask your audience if it’s correct.
Building a home for yourself, important steps seem to be financing, planning, building, and moving out and in. Is that correct?
Then they can comment on it, e.g. “No, there are some steps missing” or “The sequence of steps is not correct” or “The steps have no real sequence”. They can correct your understanding.
Active listening consists of listening itself, then repeating it in your own words, and then asking the other person, if this is correct.
This is a real good technique to get a good and precise understanding. It’s also a good technique to interrupt someone who will otherwise be talking for two hours, to keep them focused on the important points in the conversation.
When you have such a problem interview. It’s mostly about a certain job to be done. The person you’re speaking with tries to get some jobs done, e.g. “create their new home for their family”.
When you have a conversation about such a job to be done, it’s always a good idea to make sure you also get the adjacent tasks for the current job! So not only the job itself, but “what does the person need to prepare for that job, so that the job can be done at all?“. Or “if the job is done, what does the person need to clean everything up?”
Imagine they have their new home. They moved from the old house into the new house. What does the person need to do then to clean everything up and to get up and running again?
So, maybe a new piece of software couldn’t help so much with creating the house but with moving into it, or with restarting their household after the move.
So make sure that you also ask for adjacent tasks, processes, or jobs to be done, adjacent to the job at hand.
Okay, so the conversation will go on, let’s say, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or 60 minutes, depending on how good the contact to the other person is. Then, the question is: how do you end such a conversation?
You could end the conversation by doing two things that were recommended by Steve Blank, the great startup guy. He said:
At the end of the conversation, ask two questions. First of all: “What should I have asked you but didn’t?”
The other person can start to think about “okay, what was the conversation about, and what were we missing all the time?” They could respond with things like “yeah, we were talking about all this house stuff, but what about my cat? When I move into a new house, what about my cat?”
The totally new subject I didn’t ask you about, this could be something very valuable” The next half hour can pass to explore adjacent subjects.
And Steve Blank also recommended to ask: “Whom else should I ask about this?”, to get a referral from this person to their fr friends, their colleagues, to explore more about this problem. An introduction to other people can give you a long way that you would otherwise have to make yourself. So asking for introductions, asking for referrals is a good thing at the end of such a conversation in a problem interview.
This is the recipe for engaging with your audience, once you find them:
- Get in contact, for example, using summarizing or pointing to interesting threads that happened in your Twitter audience.
- After you get some tweets into some conversation on Twitter, then move off-Twitter to more face-to-face conversations, on video calls, for example.
- During those calls, you can ask about real world recent examples for certain jobs that your audience needs to be doing. For example, like building a new home for the family.
- Techniques for that could be a problem interview or active listening.
- During that problem interview, make sure to ask also for adjacent tasks, processes, or jobs for the current job-to-be-done.
- End the conversation by asking for unexplored topics and for referrals to find other people to interview.
Next, we should talk about the progress with GetTheAudience, my startup that creates a tool that helps you understand your own audience for whom you want to build your product or service.
Since the last podcast episode, I did a lot of little things:
On the blog, I added the possibility to comment. I use the commento engine that puts a comment field below every post so that you can add your comments now on my blog. I publish the transcripts of the podcast episodes also in my blog so that you can also comment about them.
A day later, something weird occurred: Some users were onboarding and GetTheAudience sends an onboarding email message to each new user. One lady got this email into her Google mail account, and Google inbox pushed that email into the “promotions” folder.
Hmm. That way, this onboarding email was hidden from her view and she didn’t really know how to sign up and make the most out of GetTheAudience, which was a pity!
The lady said to me: “This is friction in the signup process. Can you reduce that?”
I thought about that: Where does the problem come from? You purchase this subscription on Paddle. Paddle tells GetTheAudience: “hey, somebody new has subscribed!” This takes it a little while until GetTheAudience knows that, then it creates a license code and sends it to the user, and the user signs up. This is sign up friction.
What I did was, I wrote a new API so that the user interface can ask the backend “Have you already got a license code for this user who just signed up?” When the backend says “yes”, the user interface can directly display a “Login here” link to the user that already contains the license code, so that everything is ready and set up, good to go for the user!
Now, the user doesn’t need this email message to know how to log in. She clicks the link and everything’s done. That was good.
Then there was a feature that another user requested: Harish from India, hello! You said: Can I have the possibility for audience exploration to remove the voice of the one who talks the most?” E.g. if you explore your own audience, you will be the one who talks the most, but maybe you want to explore the behaviour of the others! So is there any possibility to remove yourself from the data?
I added a new feature. You can now, instead of adding all the tweets from a certain Twitter account, you can say “I want only the tweets from the account, the tweets to the account, or the tweets that mentioned the account.
That way you can explore audiences where one person is very active or one account is very active and the others are only responding, and maybe you are much more interested in their responses than in the original tweets because this tells you more about the behaviour of the audience.
The next day, I had a nice Zoom call with a trialing customer. We talked about what he’s doing and he really came to an a-ha moment that gave him new ideas how to explore his audience.
And I thought: “Hmm… when this conversation led to the a-ha moment, how can I (sort of) replicate this conversation for every new user?”
Of course, that doesn’t scale if I do that in person, so I have to think about new ways to onboard people such that they get this ah-ha moment faster.
I thought about what did onboarding look like when I recently signed up, for example, for Hypefury, a tweet scheduling tool? They always put the most interesting features on top of the screen, as a kind of checklist. This is a good reminder for me as a user: “Did I use all the interesting features?”
For example, if there are five or six features that I need to use to make the most of Hypefury, it would list them and place a checkmark next to each one of them:
So I thought, why not create a “getting started” page in GetTheAudience that tells the user:
Hey, these are two interesting use cases for which you can use GetTheAudience, e.g. exploring your own audience, or exploring your competitor’s. And these are the three or five features that you can use: Adding tweets, finding out the keywords, filtering by keywords, etc., all these interesting features that GetYourAudience has.
This was a good idea that I had about onboarding without sending too many emails to new users, i.e. better have that in-app!
Good. This was what I did last week. Now let’s have a look at the stats, at the metrics:
During last week, since January 7th, I’ve got
- one new user
- three retained users
- 12 new audiences
- 9,116 newly imported tweets
- from 6,390 Twitter users
So, the stats for last week are not so bad. Three retained users, and one new! Okay, let’s see how that develops!
That was it for this week! Thanks for listening. Keep engaged with your audience, now that you know how to do it. And most importantly: Have fun with your audience, and have much success with your product or service.
Thanks for listening to The Audience Explorer podcast, today.
You can find me on Twitter at @GetTheAudience and you can checkout the blog at gettheaudience.com
If you have any questions about this episode, reach out on Twitter or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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