For Any New Startup, 2017 Is the Year of Audience

April 27, 2017

4:30 pm

Audience has always been important to a new startup. After all, a product or service can be amazing, but it’s useless with an audience to beta-test it and get the word out. Pivoting is great, but you need an audience in order to do it. And you’ll never land your first seed round without a little data proving you can get traction.

But in 2017, that audience is even more important. That’s partially because a startup audience is harder to get than it had been in the past, and it’s partially because it’s more important to get.

Why Audience-Building Is Tougher Than Ever

Sites with causal audiences are feeling the squeeze, as their social network engagement numbers took a dip across the last few months. The amount of information online is massive, which means that platforms are redirecting their efforts.

The biggest search engines and social networks have huge audience bases that they need to keep happy — Facebook and Google together sucked up 89 percent of 2016’s ad revenue growth — and that means only surfacing the best of the best. Audiences for every other publication out there are dwindling, making the audience for your new startup project tougher to find, but more engaged when you actually land them.

VCs Need to See Growth, but the Numbers Are Flexible

If you want to draw investors, a good rule of thumb is ten percent growth week over week. Your saving grace is that you don’t need to start with a massive audience as long as you have a stable one. Avni Patel Thompson, CEO and founder of caregiver-hiring app Poppy, summed up the concept at a bootstrapping panel at last year’s Seattle Startup Week:

“Honestly, in the second week, that doesn’t sound like a lot. You’re adding one more person, one more booking. But that really does add up, and it looks nice and focused. So in probably about twelve or fifteen weeks, I had enough to go back to my angel connections here in the city and say, hey, I’m on to something here.”

Audience Comes First

Product Hunt founder Ryan Hoover recently affirmed this concept in a blog post covering the way he ramped up attention in the years prior to his website’s launch:

“A few years before Product Hunt started, I wrote a lot. I blogged about product design, marketing, and startups in general, inspired by observations and conversations while working in tech. I wrote 150 essays in 2013, guest authoring on Fast Company, Pando, The Next Web, and other tech publications. I also hosted small brunches with founders and started an email newsletter with Nathan Bashaw called Startup Edition.”

It’s also called the concept of “1,000 true fans.” If you can round up a solid base of truly engaged people, you have the platform that can serve as the foundation for any viable startup you can dream of.

Read more about building an audience here at Tech.Co.

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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