Where You Build in Public

You've seen the many storytelling types in the last chapter, now let's look at the channels and formats you can share. It is crucial to pick the right place to start.

  • Website: webpage, blog posts
  • Twitter: tweets
  • LinkedIn: posts
  • Youtube: videos
  • Email: newsletter
  • Forums: posts

All these channels have different audiences and behaviors, so to make it easier to understand, I'll split them up into 3 groups sorted by the difficulty to get going.

  1. Channels with existing audience (easiest to get going)
  2. Channels you build your own audience
  3. Channels for search-intent content (hardest to get going)

Get started in this order: 1→2→3

The recommended approach is to start with an existing audience, then curate your own audience, and finally expand to search-intent, organic traffic.

When you understand how one type of channel works, the learnings will help you navigate to another channel. Hence, try not to skip ahead as it will only be too difficult to start.

There will be people out there who seem like they're running all channels at once, don't copy them. An empire takes years to build, and do you know how they build it? One step at a time.

I might be biased but I honestly think Twitter is the best place to build in public and show your work. Why?

Because it is the most conversational platform.

And conversations bring ideas, speed, and exchange between you and others.

No other platforms (even Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, or TikTok) can achieve the same frequency of exchange.

But, of course, if your target audience is active on another platform, you should focus on where they are. It is still possible to Build in Public there.

For example, the jacket brand, Paynter, was building in public on Instagram where they constantly share their manufacturing process and involve their fans.

1. Channels with an existing audience

Referring to: forums, Slack groups, Discord groups, or paid communities

Examples of online communities.

These communities are the easiest places to get started because there are already existing members who visit the site (or group) regularly. For a massive forum like Reddit, you can find a particular subreddit so that the audience is more relevant.

For example, if your niche is around Personal Growth, then focus on the subreddit "PersonalGrowth".

When you first start, pick a community of your target audience that is small and cozy so that you can get into the Building in Public mindset and develop some authentic relationships. How small? Less than 200 people would be ideal.

To start off engaging in a community, the rookie mistake is to jump into posting and leading discussions. Remember, at this point, you're still an unfamiliar face to everyone else. The best way to get started is to immerse yourself in the community and be as helpful as possible. Spend at least 2 weeks reading what the members are discussing, replying to existing discussions, and offering as much value as you can.

When you're ready to share, you should do so in a way that follows the community's guidelines. Your sharing should prompt discussions among other community members.

It is easier than you think to spot who is a genuine member and who is just there to get exposure. You don't want to just share a link to your article, or directly promote your product. These are considered self-promotion, which can harm your reputation on the forum. Think hard (hard but rewarding) how you can translate your sharing into a worthwhile topic ready for a healthy debate.

As you get comfortable about being part of a community and contributing, you can push your own boundaries by repeating the same, but this time, in a bigger community.

The downside of sharing through communities is that you do not own the audience, and that means your future distribution is not going to get easier over time. It is a great place to start, but only for the short-term. Hence, if you want to be sustainable, you have to find ways to move to the channel types [2] and [3].

Below are examples of communities to give you a sense of what’s out there. A lot of the examples are for creators, startup founders, and developers. BUT, the best way for you to start is to find a niche community for your target audience (e.g. for sports fans, meeting facilitators, homeschooling moms and dads, etc.) that is cozy and supportive.

Example of forums and its target audience:

  • Reddit: the ultimate forum with a specific audience in each subreddit
  • Indie Hacker: independent product creators, most with development background
  • Hacker News: run by Y Combinator, heavy on tech and entrepreneurship
  • DEV community: social network for software developers
  • Makerlog: makers & indie hackers, specially designed for building products in public
  • WIP: bootstrapped makers and founders

Example of Slack groups and their target audience:

2. Channels where you build your own audience

Referring to: Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, newsletter

Social media and newsletter platform that are used for Building in Public.

After you successfully gather some people who enjoy your sharing over forums, you can move over to this type of channel to start curating an audience that you own.

It could be Twitter, LinkedIn, or your own mailing list for a newsletter, depending on which channel your target audience is most likely to use.

Even though you have to play by their rules and algorithms on social media sites, you have direct access to your audience, and that's super valuable.

So it is worth spending a few months to curate your first 100 people to stay super close with. These people should be curated carefully based on your goal (back in Chapter 4). Could be your target audience or your support group.

Even if you just have 10 or 20 to start with, you can already start sharing valuable content. The key is to be present, be consistent, and be helpful. When you're on Twitter or LinkedIn, it is not just about posting, there is also interacting with people, replying to their posts, and cheering and mentioning each other to make each other successful. You should treat everyone like your friends in real life.

When you do the right things, your audience will grow gradually.

Each social media platform is good for certain things:

  • Twitter is more conversational, creative, with sense of humor
  • LinkedIn is more direct and business-oriented
  • Instagram is more visual, expressive, with the use of audio/video

About 18 months after I first published this guide, I wrote a Twitter book, Find Joy in Chaos, that is exactly the opposite of a lot of the growth hacking tips you can find out there. I shared everything I know about using conversations and connections to build up your Twitter presence and compound your success.

Alternatively, if you prefer a video course, Arvid Kahl’s Find Your Following is likely your best place to start.

All in all, building a mailing list is a lot more difficult than curating a Twitter audience because people have to agree to give over their email address and reading time slots. However, as we know the harder it is, the more rewarding it is. Newsletters via a mailing list are your surest way to reach your audience without distraction, it is the ultimate distribution channel that everyone wants.

Newsletter tools:

Bonus Guide: Grow Your Early Twitter Audience

Kevon formed a strategy to jumpstart my Twitter presence in Nov 2020.

When I started using Twitter in Nov 2020, I had 184 inactive followers from leaving the account idle for 11 years. I didn't know how to Build in Public when I didn't have any followers. I came up with a strategy to use basic human behavior to grow my Twitter following, from having nobody to 423 engaging followers in 8 weeks (Nov to Dec 2020), and then it organically grew to 1,489 in the next 8 weeks without me executing on my strategy. Click here to get my free guide.

3. Channels for search-intent content

Referring to: webpage, blog posts, videos

Search-intent content is the sustainable way to maximize the impact of your Building in Public.

Lastly, when you get to a point where you have curated a sizable audience, you can start sharing via blog posts and videos. Or if you've always enjoyed aiming for the long-term and don’t mind a slow start, you can start these formats at the very beginning.

This type of content is mainly targeted for search intent, meaning when someone searches for keywords on Google Search or Youtube, then they have a chance to see your content.

You'd have to be extremely patient with these channels. And you also need to know how their algorithms work and optimize for them. For example, blog posts are optimized through SEO, and videos are optimized through Youtube's algorithm.

People who are more technical or have a long-term view love search-intent channels because they're sustainable and technical.

It is sustainable as once you create the content, it can be there forever. And if your content is not time-specific and is useful all the time (people call it evergreen content), then the value of the content is extended infinitely.

It is technical because there are a lot of ways you can work on optimizing the content, so it is more predictable (in an unpredictable way. Gosh, I know!).

This channel type takes the longest time to establish and to see results, so it is recommended to only start focusing on these after you have a crystal clear idea of what you want to achieve.

Important things to know

A. Go where your target audience is

A lot of entrepreneurs make the mistake of going to where their support groups are. It feels great because it is easy to get started, your fellows are engaging with you, and you feel instant success.

However, you don't want to mix up the target audience and support groups.

The target audience is people who will find value in what you're building, and they might not be on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Reddit. They are more likely to be active on a forum that you've never heard of. Go there, not Twitter. It is hard to find, but go there.

Only if you say your whole purpose of Building in Public is to form your support groups, then you can stay within your comfort zone and hang with them.

B. Pick one and focus

From reading this chapter, your head must be about to explode because there are so many channels and formats.

You do not have to do all of them. Repeat, you do not have to use all the channels.

Take baby steps in Building in Public and focus on one channel first. When it is making progress, then push yourself to add one more channel.

The last thing you want to do is to overwhelm yourself and give up. And if you do it thoughtfully, even one channel is enough.

3. Later, use them interchangeably

"Only" when you start getting traction for one channel, then it is a good idea to expand to other channels. You don't want to overwhelm yourself in the early days.

If you have multiple channels, you should think about how they work together so you can optimize your effort.

For example, after you write a top-quality blog post, you can break it down into appropriate snippets to share over Twitter and LinkedIn. I use the word "appropriate" because different channels have taste for different approaches to writing, so you need to understand what works for each channel.

With the blog post, you can also share it to your own mailing list as a newsletter.

This is a technique called "Remix, Reuse, Reshare" to maximize your exposure across different channels.

Create one piece of content, then create several more based on it. From: Ross Simmonds
Create one piece of content, then create several more based on it. From: Ross Simmonds

Next: Magic of Storytelling

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