How To Build A Fanbase – Mike Belsito
how to build a fanbase
Knowing the pain points of your audience and experimenting with content are two things that you need to learn in order to build a fanbase.
On this episode, we are here with Mike Belsito. He is an author and a conference producer. He has been featured in Inc. magazine, CNN, PBS, and the New York Times.
He also shares valuable tips on how to build your audience from scratch. You have to serve your following well, even if it’s small, by providing what they need so they could become super fans. When you have super fans, the number of people joining your audience can escalate quickly.
Having a conference is an excellent way to have a front-row seat at some of the best product minds.
A conference is a form of content.
Create blog posts about topics related to your book and share those with newsletters that already have big audiences.
Find other audiences that are larger. If you’re adding value to them, they could start to join your audience.
If your followings are super fans who will spread the things you’re sharing with others, it can escalate quickly.
Research who the influencers are for a specific audience and share valuable content with them.
Understand and talk to your audience more.
Start experimenting with content.
TRANSCRIPTION: HOW TO BUILD A FANBASE – MIKE BELSITO
Hey Thriving Launchers, today, we’re going to talk about building your audience.
Maybe you’ve seen Mike Belsito in Inc. magazine or CNN or PBS or in The New York Times. He is an author and a conference producer.
What’s up Thriving Launchers? Without further ado, let’s get Mike on the show.
Mike, are you ready to launch?
I am ready. Let’s do it!
Learn How To Build A Fanbase From Scratch
All right, Mike. You wanted to talk today about how to build a fanbase from scratch. Tell me a little bit about that.
Right now, I run a company called Product Collective, which we’re a community for product people, but we have this conference that we organize every year called Industry, which is a conference for technology-oriented product managers.
When we first launched Industry back in 2015, we had no audience. It’s not as if we had the community back then. We were just product people, relatively new product people trying to learn from others.
For us, living in Cleveland, Ohio, we thought, “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if we can bring the best product people in the world to us and learn from them directly?” We thought a conference might be an excellent way to have a front-row seat at some of the best product minds.
Everyone Can Learn How To Build A Fanbase From Scratch
But again, without that community, there were no guarantees in the beginning. We had to build that community from scratch, and it’s something I’ve done in the past with a book that I’ve written, which is all about raising startup capital. I guess in going through those situations both with the book and this conference, it just made me realize that even people that don’t have an audience already can build that from scratch. They can create successful businesses that are part of it.
Doing the things that we did, it’s not like other people can’t know how to build a fanbase and build a successful business.
This is what I’ve learned just firsthand going through what we’ve gone through, and yeah, I’m excited to share some of what we’ve learned with everybody else.
What is the number one thing that people need to know about how to start the process of building an audience?
The Backbone On How To Build A Fanbase
I think the first thing to realize if you’re just getting started on how to build a fanbase and you don’t have any audience at all, a lot of it has to do with content. Even our conference, it’s a form of content.
If you can think of pieces of content that you can start to create and share with people that have value, that helps people, I think that’s honestly the backbone on how to build a fanbase.
I think back to my book, for instance, called Startup Seed Funding for the Rest of Us, which was all about raising startup capital outside of Silicon Valley. It’s something I’ve had to do in the past, and I’ve had lots of people ask me about the process, and so, I decided to write a book and sort of put a helpful framework. They’re in the book.
But, in the very beginning, as I was writing this book, I had this sort of “Oh no” type of moment, which is “I can write this book but how are people even going to find out about it? This could be available on Amazon so self-publishing it but what if people don’t even know that it exists?”
How To Build A Fanbase – Create Blog Posts
The very step I took was I created a blog which almost seems a little counter-intuitive because guess what, that blog didn’t have an audience either.
For me, what’s important was being able to share some content, basically share some sort of sample of my writing. With a book, you’re buying thoughts, but in the form of writing, and I just thought, “If people have never read anything from me in the past, how would they even be convinced to buy this book?”
How To Build A Fanbase – Share Posts With Newsletters That Have Big Audiences
So I just thought creating blog posts about topics that were related to the book would give people an idea of what my writing is all about and is an excellent way on how to build a fanbase. I started sharing those posts with newsletters that already had big audiences, but that was serving my audience, which, at that time were start-up entrepreneurs.
Let’s fast forward to if someone already has an audience, and they already have content, but they only have this small group of followers.
What do you recommend that pro-level tip to boost their following?
How To Build A Fanbase – Find Groups That Have Massive Audiences
For me, a tip on how to build a fanbase was finding other groups that had massive audiences that I thought my content could serve better.
In my case, I ended up sharing my posts with these other audiences that were much larger than the ones that I had at that time, which practically is nothing. And they found value in that content, and they shared them with their audiences.
What happened is I started getting people coming to my blog and signing up to be an early reader for the book.
There are two things.
You can find other audiences that are larger, and if you’re adding value to them, they could start to join your audience as well.
How To Build A Fanbase – Turn Your Followings into Superfans
Even if you have a small following, serve that following as well as you possibly can. Even if you only have ten fans, that’s fine. If they could be super fans, and they could start spreading the word, and the things that you’re sharing, and they could share it with other people, it can escalate pretty quickly.
Even if it’s a small number, I would then put your heart and soul into those ten fans, and try to learn from them. What are the things they need? What are the things they’re looking for?
How To Build A Fanbase – Provide Your Following What They Need
If you could provide that, they would be delighted with you and start to bring other people into the audience as well.
How do you share with other audiences?
How To Build A Fanbase – Seek Out Influencers For Your Audience
In my case, very specifically, I sought out who are the influencers for my specific audience.
Again, using the example of the book I wrote in the past, my audience was startup entrepreneurs that were raising startup capital outside of Silicon Valley, and at the seed stage.
How To Build A Fanbase – Start With A Very Specific Persona
First, start off with a particular persona. The more specific persona you could get, the better. But then, try to think about “Who are the influencers for that specific persona?” For me, it was other newsletters and blogs that are serving those specific entrepreneurs.
Some might consider famous, and I put that in air quotes that you can’t see, but famous entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. It’s because my specific audiences are following Brad Feld and David Cohen on Twitter. Those are the founders of TechStars. They’re reading blog posts from Jason Fried of Basecamp.
How To Build A Fanbase – Reach Out To Influencers Personally
In identifying those influencers, I then merely started to reach out personally one on one to those folks. I remember very early on sharing with Brad Feld, “Hey, I’m working on this book. It’s for startup entrepreneurs. I’m going to be coming back to you in three months when I have a first draft of the book. I just wanted to let you know about this, and to give you a heads up on that.”
Three months later, I came back, and said, ” I’m about to launch. I would love if you can share a tweet with your followers.” It does two things.
How To Build A Fanbase – Do Things You Say You’re Going To Do
First of all, me seeding it three months beforehand, and then coming back and saying ” I did it!” it just shows that I can do the things I say I’m going to do.
For somebody like Brad, maybe they see it, and I’m sure they get contented all the time by people that say they’re going to do things, and then they don’t do those things.
The second was when Brad was gracious enough to share it on Twitter, he has a big audience, and those folks started to share it as well.
It’s just identifying the influencers whether it’d be folks that are tweeting, whether it’d be this newsletter, and sharing content that they happen to think is valuable and worthy of sharing.
Get The Ball Rolling At First On How To Build A Fanbase
The thing is doing those sorts of things is a manual process, and takes time. It requires the legwork to go in and research who those influencers are, but it was the number one thing that helped me get the ball rolling at first.
What is the last big takeaway, the thing that the Thriving Launchers could go out and start applying today to grow their audience?
How To Build A Fanbase – Start Scheduling Time With People Who Fit Into Your Personas
I think the number one thing you can start doing today on how to build a fanbase is schedule time with the people that would fit into your personas.
Let’s just say some of these Thriving Launchers are trying to serve various audiences, spread along all sorts of different personas. Each one should pick one. Whether that is startup entrepreneurs or whether it’s owners of Pomeranians, it doesn’t matter. Start to schedule time learning from those people. Try to get an idea of what the pain points these folks are facing and the challenges they’re running up against.
How To Build A Fanbase – Understand Your Audiences
Even if you don’t have an idea for what that big thing is that you might promote or create later on to serve that audience, the more you can talk to and understand who these audiences are, the better off you’ll be able to help them. That is something you could start doing today.
The more you can talk to and understand who your audiences are, they better off you’ll be able to serve them.
How To Build A Fanbase – Start Experimenting With Content
The other thing you could start doing today is to start experimenting with content. That might be writing blog posts, start a podcast or at least starting to look into what it would take to start a podcast.
Start experimenting with what your form of content might be when you start to create. I think if you could do these two things right away, which there’s nothing stopping anybody from doing these two things right away, you will be in a better place to start to build that audience once you’ve identified how you want to build that audience.
There you have it, Thriving Launchers.
How To Build A Fanbase – Reach Out To Somebody
You can learn how to build a fanbase and an audience too, and you don’t have to be someone of massive influence to reach out to somebody. Just like we do here at Thriving Launch, don’t hesitate to reach out to somebody and ask for some support, and show you’re the person that will do what they say they’re going to do.
Thriving Launchers, we’ll see you in the next episode and keep thriving.