About an hour ago I made a post on another thread about how to generate an audience. It was not a particularly polished post, but I have started receiving requests to put this as a separate thread. I also made an Internet marketing post I want to keep for easy reference, so I included it at the end.
Over time, you will find more Internet marketing information here, stuff that I think your will find valuable.
As the saying goes, use and profit. Your success brings me great pleasure.
> Learning how to obtain an audience is a skill just like any other form of work...They are not that hard to learn, either. Say the word and I can point you in some very good directions.
I'm ready to hear them. I'm sure others would be interested as well in any insights you have. Please share.
This will be a longish post, but I am writing off the top of my head and I do not have time to go in depth into any of the things I mention below. It will be good food for thought, the appetizer. For the actual meal I will be presenting a lot of this stuff (and much more than how to generate audiences) in my long-delayed course.
In your case, I want to start with something pronounced in many Objectivists: attitude. Nobody is going to generate an audience if they do not have an attitude receptive to this. They can leech off the audience of others or be the topic of another person who has an audience, but I am discussing how to generate your own.
1. Desire. To start with, you have to want to know how to generate an audience. This means you accept this as a skill you wish to acquire. You need to (1) learn it, (2) practice certain parts until you can do them well, and (3) apply this skill to your interest, which means devoting time and energy to it with the same seriousness as you devote to the interest you are working on.
Objectivists tend to think that concern with generating an audience will turn them into a Peter Keating. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's apples and oranges. Keating had those skills, but went after the unearned in his interest to present to his audience as if he had come up with it. Those who use audience-generating skills to present work of true value earn their audience twice over.
Look at it this way. If you do not generate your own audience, someone else will have to for you. Who do you trust to do that? If you accept the mistaken premise that only a Peter Keating knows how to manipulate audiences, you will have to have a Peter Keating working for you. How's them apples?
So there is no magic pill you can swallow, no magic bullet to shoot, no magic wand you can wave that will bring you an audience. It's going to take work. And it is noble work just like any honest work is. You have to accept this vision and reality and fold it into the general Objectivist attitude of being a genius loner. Otherwise you run a great risk of failing and becoming one of those folks who complain that the world does not understand them, that they did not get the breaks, etc., etc., etc.
2. Positive attitude. Another component of attitude that many Objectivists need to change for generating audiences is negativity. In the Internet marketing world there is an emphasis on the Law of Attraction. As a metaphysical law, I am not so sure, but as a social law, it works perfectly. You attract people according to the vibes you put off. If you are not seriously life-affirming in your communication (and I would even venture to say in your heart), you will not attract people who are seriously life-affirming. With too much negativity, you attract snarky little nobodies who are just as frustrated as you are. Do you know of any large audiences of snarky little nobodies? I don't.
So it makes sense to be positive. How to be positive? Let's simplify. This means telling people good stuff. Tell them good stuff about you. Tell them good stuff about them. Do you know who you attract like that? It's a no-brainer. You attract people who tell you good stuff about themselves and good stuff about you.
The whole Internet concept of social networking (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) runs on the power of positive attitude.
3. Bashing. You can bash once in a while (and even should if you despise something) since train wrecks tend to attract an audience. But this kind of audience is short lived. The problem with too much bashing is that it gets old after a while. If people start perceiving that you have little value to offer other than a wish to take someone down, they go away. The only people you will see remain interested for any length of time will be an audience typical of professional wrestling, but without the benevolence. (Especially in the Objectivist subcommunity.) Interested parties and suck-ups stay on, too, but that is not much of an audience to speak of.
4. Learning. Since you are about my age, you are probably encountering a problem I face: great irritation about constantly changing technology. It seems like once you learn something, especially on the Internet, it changes and you have to learn something else just to keep doing what you want to keep doing. These advances and constant changes intrude.
Outside of the audience things I have learned in a career largely devoted to performing arts and entertainment, I had to change this attitude when I started running my own Internet forum. I was a walking sourpuss for a while and really ticked about the unfairness of it all. But I decided (for my own reasons) to change this and three thoughts helped me.
The first is that it is proven that if you use your mind to learn a variety of new things on a daily basis, your risk of dementia in old age is greatly diminished. So even though it is a pain in the ass to force yourself to do this at first, it is healthy. Really healthy. And as you learn new stuff, your self-esteem improves as an added bonus. Keeping up with new technological resources gives you plenty of new stuff to learn all the time.
I admit that information overload is daunting, but dwelling on that is a negative thing. I'll take information overload over dementia any day.
The second is geography. The miracle of the Internet means that you can communicate with others and you do not have to go where they are at (or have them come to you). If learning knew stuff to generate an audience is a pain, what about doing it without the Internet?
That's the only alternative. I don't know about you, but I have plastered posters on street walls, placed classified ads, made cold calls on the telephone, begged for air time on TV and radio, tried to find honest publicity agents, etc.
Now that's a pain. And to add insult to injury, others control your message. Learning new Internet stuff that I control is a cup of tea by comparison.
Third. If I don't do it, someone else will. Back during the pre-Internet age, if you found a good agent, you could be the genius loner and be successful. And if you did not find a good agent, you had a wonderful excuse to be a martyr for your vision. Remember Henry Cameron's agent in The Fountainhead and how his work went away when the agent did? (btw - That's closer to reality than doing both the work and the publicity as Howard Roark did.)
Well, today, the reality is that you do not need an agent to run around. Your fingers can run across a keyboard. That does not leave you with much excuse. But if you use the Internet at all, you can't help but notice that if you don't want to learn new stuff and generate an audience, other people do. Many other people. Many other people with much less talent and much less substance than you.
In the old days, they were suck-ups since audience generation was controlled by powerful people. What about now, when there is no one to suck up to? So there's the reality. If I don't learn new stuff because the world ain't fair, how come people who are not as good as I am at my interests learn it and get huge audiences? I find that unacceptable as an excuse to myself. So I have to learn.
A really cool little present reality gives you after a while is that not only does your self-esteem improve by learning new stuff all the time, some of it actually starts getting fun in a "crossword-puzzle" kind of way.
5. Stand for something. There is much more attitude-wise, but I will end the attitude part with standing for something. The audience you generate will depend on what you stand for. If you care deeply about an interest, try to pinpoint something fundamental about it and make that very clear. You will automatically become controversial.
It's easy to say you don't have the time, etc., and from the sheer amount of boneheads on the Internet, it can get quite discouraging. But you have to pump yourself up with the thought that if your interest is really important, why isn't it important when you get in public?
People love—and hate—people who stand for stuff. But here's the thing. They always show up.
Here is an example with me here on OL. I got "thinking for yourself" as one of the main messages from my immersion in Rand's works. This is a part I dearly love. Other people get a message from her writing that flies in the face of this. So they give lip service to independent thinking, but bury it in practice under a bunch of tribal preaching and social pressure, and even outright repression. I decided to stand for "thinking for yourself." Better to think for yourself out loud and be wrong than let the crowd cower you into silence. If that means criticizing Rand, questioning a long-held premise, etc., so be it. If I detect that a person is thinking for himself or herself, I encourage it.
I usually piss off people who preach, too. This is not my goal, but it is the result. People who preach that Rand will save the world from an orgy of this or that get pissed, and people who preach that Rand was one twisted soul and rotten thinker get pissed. It has gradually dawned on me that rigidly intolerant people usually stopped thinking for themselves, and when they encounter one who does, it is like a slap in the face. That stings.
This is not the only thing I stand for, but it serves as an illustration.
Profiling an audience
You wrote:No, that will not tell you. That will only be a start.
I agree that before you are well along in your writing on a particular topic, you have to project your audience, their needs and level of knowledge.
But at an early stage, I am focused primarily on my subject, something that excites me and I have a lot to say on and think is important. And once I have developed the subject on the level where I have the most to say now , -that- will tell me who my audience will be now for that topic.
But before we get to that, let's discuss why you should profile. It's obvious, but not to many Objectivists. If you profile your audience, you are not being Peter Keating. You are simply locating people who have interests similar to you own. That way, when you expose your stuff to them, the likelihood of them becoming your audience is far greater than with general traffic.
Here is the exact procedure for you to get a good handle on your audience.
1. Search on Google for stuff that is related to your interest. Only look at sites that occur on the first page of results for the keywords you use, but try out different keywords and keyword phrases that are typical to your interest.
2. Once you find a site that looks successful, copy the url and plug it into Quantcast (do not include the "http://" or "www" parts). If the site is big enough, you will get all kinds of demographic information. If it is too small, you will not, so you will have to find another.
After you do about 10-20 sites like that, if you take notes, you should get a good feel about people who are interested enough in this subject to search for it and go to sites that promote it. You will also discover what other sites they are interested in and oodles of information.
(As an aside, do this with the ARI site. Strangely enough, the greatest number of visitors is teenage girls, mostly Asian. Strange, but true. )
Once you know where these people hang out on the Internet and more or less what they like and dislike, you are in a position to go after them.
And this leads to one of the most powerful means of generating a new audience. You use other people's audience to expose your stuff to and invite them (usually indirectly for good Web etiquette) to go there.
Here is a good example with you and OL. Should you take Barbara's advice and make a blog (which I think is very good advice), when you post on OL, you could include a link to that blog in your signature. If the people on OL are interested in what you have to say, they will go to your blog to read more.
You can do this at other forums and at blogs. Demographic information helps you select the proper ones.
I need to say something about paid advertising, also. So here is just as good a place as any. A person who spends money on something like Adwords is nuts if he does not do demographic research. That's like going to a casino. But with demographic information, you know what messages to write and how to approach certain topics.
I think you should only use paid advertising after you are skilled in generating audiences from unpaid sources. You will certainly save a lot of money that way.
At any rate, here is the main point of targeting a specific public to generate an audience. You need to discover what these folks have as problems and/or what they are extremely passionate about. Then you give them solutions and/or you give them some of the stuff they love and/or you give them a place to talk about it and show their stuff.
If you have that, it's a piece of cake to go around where these folks hang out and say, "I've got this stuff over on my site."
Here are some initial technical things you need to learn and/or prepare. Ignore this at your own risk if audience is your interest.
1. Learn about what kind of sites exist. This does not mean you need to dominate them, but you need to know what they are. Basically you can have sites at places you own or rent (like a server), or you can have accounts and sites at places other folks own. It is good to have both.
For your main site, I suggest you bite the bullet and do Wordpress or get a site template, buy a domain name, get a hosting account and spend some quality time learning this stuff. You will own it.
On the web, you can have accounts at other places and some of them even look like your own site, but they are actually your site on their property. This includes blogs like Blogger, Wordpress (this comes as open source software like above and as a hosted blog like here), etc., authority page sites like Squidoo, Knoll, Hubpages, etc., and even full websites like Weebly, Wetpaint, etc.
Learn about Wikis (Wikispaces.com), forums (OL), social networking (Facebook), microblogs (Twitter), social bookmarking (Delicious, Stumbleupon), rated articles (Digg), Q&A (Yahoo! Answers), Images (Flickr), Video (YouTube), and so on. This is going to take time, so take it slow. When you see a site that interests you, fiddle with it some.
This leads me to something absolutely critical. You need to organize all these accounts. I use Roboform (it's about 30 bucks), but there is a free Firefox and IE plugin that does just about the same thing: LastPass.
If you want a real audience, of all the things you do at the beginning, learning this program (Roboform or LastPass) will be the most important thing you do.
Then you need to make a list of all the stuff they ask you when you sign up for new accounts and have it handy. Some of it you can plug into Roboform or Lastpass, and some of it, like a 250 word description of you and a photo/avatar, you need to have in a place easy to get to. You have no idea how much time you will save doing this stuff, and how much you can waste if you do not.
As one last point, you need to learn how to put content up, not just on your own site, but also at other places like "comments" on blogs and forums. Spend time learning this. The html code for inserting links is <a href="THE URL">KEYWORD</a> and some places require this. Learn it. Commenting at places and giving a link to your own site is too important not to. Google search results are hugely impacted by backlinks and the Google search results page is a major source of traffic.
If you want an audience, you should produce two kinds of content: publicity and your interest. But it is a mistake to think of these as kind instead of degree. It is better to think as follows:
Advertising------------Publicity------------Teaser content------------Serious work
or something along these lines with all kinds of varying degrees in between.
Advertising you pay for.
Publicity is press releases and when other folks write about you.
Teaser content is a small work giving valuable content and an enticement for more.
Serious work is your interest and passion.
Imagine you are in a crowded open-air farmer's market with everyone hawking their produce and people jostling this way and that. (The Internet is like this.) Now suppose you want to sell your own. How are you going to be noticed?
Many people set up a tomato stand right beside big tomato stands, do nothing else and wonder why they do not attract anyone.
You need to attract attention to yourself in the middle of all that yelling. There are two concepts you need to learn:
USP = Unique Selling Proposition
Don't let the word "selling" fool you. Just to get an audience to spend time with you, you have to sell yourself. So you have to take your profiled/targeted audience, tell them that you have what they want (which you know from research), and that your thing is so much better because it is unique. They can't get it anywhere else.
The next concept is:
AIDA = Attention, Interest, Desire, Action
Wikipedia does a fairly good job of explaining it: AIDAOnce again, don't let the "selling" stuff throw you. Your audience generating message basically goes as follows:
AIDA is an acronym used in marketing that describes a common list of events that are very often undergone when a person is selling a product or service:
* A - Attention (Awareness): attract the attention of the customer.
* I - Interest: raise customer interest by focusing on and demonstrating advantages and benefits (instead of focusing on features, as in traditional advertising).
* D - Desire: convince customers that they want and desire the product or service and that it will satisfy their needs.
* A - Action: lead customers towards taking action and/or purchasing.
Nowadays some have added another letter to form AIDA(S):
* S - Satisfaction - satisfy the customer so they become a repeat customer and give referrals to a product.
Marketing today allows a diversty of products. Using a system like this, allows a general understanding of how to target a market effectively. A.I.D.A however is a acronym that is necessary to learn in marketing.
Hey you! I got something you want!
Do you ever wonder about xxxxxxxxxx? What if you found a solution no one else has? (yada yada yada)
I did. It really did the trick for me, too. I have a bunch of stuff about this.
Go to my site (link). That's where you get it.
It's hard to think like this at first, but over time you learn it.
One other important part is to keep the focus on the other person. Incredible as it may seem, people are generally selfish. They want to know what is in their interest, not what is in your interest. For attracting them, you have to focus on them. For your own serious content, however, you no longer need this.
Now here is a bit about psychological triggers. You need to read a book called Influence: Science and Practice by Robert Cialdini to really get your feet wet with this. I am running out of time, so here is a quote from the Wikipedia article on Cialdini:There are techniques you can learn to put these psychological triggers (and others) in your writing. Obviously, this is best suited to your advertising, publicity and teaser content than to your serious content.
Six “Weapons of Influence"
Cialdini defines six “weapons of influence”:
* Reciprocation - People tend to return a favor. Thus, the pervasiveness of free samples in marketing. In his conferences, he often uses the example of Ethiopia providing thousands of dollars in humanitarian aid to Mexico just after the 1985 earthquake, despite Ethiopia suffering from a crippling famine and civil war at the time. Ethiopia had been reciprocating for the diplomatic support Mexico provided when Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1937.
* Commitment and Consistency - If people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment. Even if the original incentive or motivation is removed after they have already agreed, they will continue to honor the agreement. For example, in car sales, suddenly raising the price at the last moment works because the buyer has already decided to buy. See cognitive dissonance.
* Social Proof - People will do things that they see other people are doing. For example, in one experiment, one or more confederates would look up into the sky; bystanders would then look up into the sky to see what they were seeing. At one point this experiment aborted, as so many people were looking up that they stopped traffic. See conformity, and the Asch conformity experiments.
* Authority - People will tend to obey authority figures, even if they are asked to perform objectionable acts. Cialdini cites incidents, such as the Milgram experiments in the early 1960s and the My Lai massacre.
* Liking - People are easily persuaded by other people that they like. Cialdini cites the marketing of Tupperware in what might now be called viral marketing. People were more likely to buy if they liked the person selling it to them. Some of the many biases favoring more attractive people are discussed. See physical attractiveness stereotype.
* Scarcity - Perceived scarcity will generate demand. For example, saying offers are available for a "limited time only" encourages sales.
You can also keep your audience going by using these triggers in the lighter content on your site.
I have not really done a lot of this stuff consciously here on OL because I have not wanted a huge audience without having a way to properly monetize this. Lots of people is a very time-consuming undertaking. But I have done some without realizing it, and I get kind of tickled at myself when I "discover" what I did and see how it worked.
You can do a lot of this stuff dishonestly, but that does not mean you cannot do it honestly. You can. In fact, you should if you want to be competent and you are providing real value to the audience.
I have only scratched the surface, but this should start you off in some interesting directions. There is a wealth of information I will be providing in my course later.
Here are a few ideas outside the box. If you are a single developer without funding, it might be worthwhile to think outside (i.e., according to Information Age—instead of the Industrial Age—market models).
1. Do not think of an OCR only program. There are oodles of them on the market and you would be simply one more. Think of OCR as a feature of another program or bundled in another package. That way you can limit the language easily and go higher-end.
Just as a throw-away idea to give you an example, Internet marketers go ape over public domain works. They repackage these in a number of way and often they make entirely new products out of them under other author names. The idea of scanning entire old books, magazines, periodicals, etc., that have not made the way to Gutenberg.org yet is too daunting for many. However, using a digital camera or a 50 bucks Flip video camera on that stuff is not. If you could get a hook-up with an OCR thing, I believe you would be able to charge a good amount of money for a bundled product package, with training videos and the works. (I.e., The product could be something like: 1. How to see what is available at the library, 2. How to research niches with this knowledge, 3. How to idealize a product, 4. Check out the public domain works, scan and OCR them, 5. How to make the products, 6. How to set up a site and sales structure and promote it. This package could consist of videos, pdf files, software, mindmaps, etc.)
Obviously you would need to work with other developers for some of these ideas, and that leads to my second point.
2. There are sites like www.rentacoder.com where you can find them. (Elance and Guru also run a lot of coding and software development work, but there are many others out there.) You would have to bop around these sites to see what you can find, but since there are buyers looking for stuff to be developed, you could also make custom OCR solutions for hire. You can even advertise that you do this and go the freelancer route.
3. Probably the most profitable idea is to set up a site selling something far more lucrative (say, in the dating, weight-loss, dog training, golf, etc., niches), and use a freeware OCR program to promote it. You can use it as a bonus for opt-in autoresponder list marketing, for example.
Or here is another rather sneaky idea (and I think a far better one). If you know how to do your keyword research correctly, you know that getting quality backlinks is the heart of site promotion in search engine rankings. If you make an OCR freeware with a correctly formatted PAD file (which will contain a link to your money site), you can distribute it to gazillions of freeware sites in a short amount of time. Google considers these sites to be very high quality, not spam. So Google will reward you with high ranking. Thus you could get a ton of free traffic from major keyword searches because you will be on the first page of search results.
Your OCR program could literally sell dog food advice for big bucks. Don't laugh. TV shows do this all the time through commercials. This way merely inverts the direction.
If people actually use your program, that's even better. You can make up some kind of promotion where they put your link on their sites, say if they want support.
I could probably think of more stuff, but that's enough right now.
btw - I think what you do is cool.