When you’re building an audience, people will resonate with your content differently over time. In the beginning, when you don’t have too many followers, your reputation within the community may not yet be established enough to get away with controversial manifests and content that claims to be the end-all of knowledge on any particular topic.
To be honest, you’ll never get to that point. The more renowned you are, the more scrutiny your content will be under.
But you’ll find more eager listeners once you have climbed the ranks of your community and find yourself to be an expert that people seek out to help them advance their own lives.
The tone of the content you put out there plays a significant role in how it is received. After all, we all claim to be calculated and intellectually rigorous but often act like irrational and overly emotional beings on social media all the time.
But beneath it all, we are looking for connection and relationships. We don’t just want facts and figures; we want the content we consume to be relatable. It should fit into our worldview or at least connect with it often enough to make sense to us. It usually requires us to suspend some of our disbelief. How much of that we allow depends on the reputation and the intensity of our connection to the person saying it.
Let’s look at two stages of audience-building and what approaches will allow you to create relatable content.
Early-Stage Audience: Find Common Themes, Add Opinions
When you’re new to the scene, your lack of a public brand means that you’re one of many. That’s actually a great start because if you want to be an Embedded Entrepreneur, you want to be part of the crowd.
With that in mind, it becomes almost effortless to understand what you should be creating: look around you and see what others are doing. If you’re part of the Indie Founder community on Twitter, for example, you’ll see people sharing their entrepreneurial journey by building in public. Do that. Share your own adventurous path into building your business.
The trick to standing out is to flavor your content with your unique personality. Do you sketch? Instead of just writing tweets, throw in a rough sketch of a cool concept you just learned. Are you running a business in a super-niche industry? Share unbelievable anecdotes that “could only happen there.”
You will find your uniqueness at the intersection of the skills that this particular community values and your overall life experiences. Founders are resourceful and consistent. Sure. You are, of course, but so are thousands of others. But if you look at people who are resourceful, consistent, and have run a successful Christmas ornament business on Etsy for ten years, you’re all of a sudden quite remarkable.
The balance between remarkable and relatable is hard to get right — and it’s different for all communities. It’s generally a safe bet to add more “personality spice” over time. It’s just like with cooking: it’s easy to over-salt a dish but incredibly hard to get it back to normal salt levels.
When you’re just getting started, I recommend looking for common conversation themes in your community and joining in. This engagement is easily done, as the conversations are already happening, and you’ll have a variety of people exchanging their opinions. Just add your own. Consider this a value-add to the ongoing bigger scheme of things. If you resonate with people, they’ll start listening — and following — you. If not, you’ll likely just be ignored, and you can try again.
Use your inside position: use the words, terms, and metaphors that your audience is already using in their communities. You don’t have to imitate their slang to perfection, but using the right abbreviations and pronouns will make all the difference if you talk about commonly-used concepts.
It’s always appreciated for you to state your “why” clearly. Particularly when you’re starting out, people need to know more about you to trust your opinions. Make sure to add this information to your content from the start. Give people a chance to see who you are as a person, not just a voice among many in the community.
A way to make this very clear is by using images in your content, mainly when they are memes. And I’m not just talking about funny memes here. Anything that has a memetic quality will do. Memes are — by definition — interpersonal vehicles of meaning and relatability. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a visually easy-to-represent meme, and so is the bell in Pawlow’s experiments. Invoke those visual concepts, and you can be sure that there are anchor points for your audience members to connect with your content.
The way you use images is uniquely yours and can be used to great effect. Particularly when you’re good at illustrating concepts, this will make your content approachable. And even if you’re not a good visual artist, you can tap into existing sources. Have you seen a great visual for the thing you’re talking about? Refer to it, link to it, and show it in the context of your content. Curating things is content-creation too, and your choices of what to combine will be uniquely yours.
The great thing with this approach is that people will expect more of your uniqueness to shine through over time, as long as you remain relatable. That is, in essence, the origin of personal reputation. A reputable voice can be colorful and maybe even contrarian from time to time.
Don’t try to set topics too much while your own audience is small and fresh. In this beginning stage, you’re a peer among peers. Gathering renown takes time, and more importantly, trust. That trust is established through engagement, interaction, and empowerment. It’s not something that can be quickly built by “just posting amazing content.” People are smarter than that.
Later-stage Audience: Find Opinions, Add Common Themes
But there is a time for setting the topics of discussion. Once you have gathered a sizable audience — and that number can be anything between a few hundred to many thousands of eyeballs looking at you — you can start introducing things you want to talk about outside of the ongoing conversations.
It’s the natural consequence of growing expertise: you’ll be more acutely aware of “how things work” and how they are connected. You’ll see what people struggle with, what they misunderstand, and how they could bridge knowledge gaps.
You now have the chance — and I’d argue even an obligation — to point these things out. Your perspective will shift from doing what others are already doing towards guiding your audience members through their journeys with your unique insights.
People will welcome listening to your well-reasoned perspective on their opinions. They might actively seek you out and ask for your help.
It is here that “relatable content” turns from “things that your audience already consumes” into “things that your audience would like to consume from you.” The relatable part shifts away from similarities towards expectations of you as a domain expert that will dazzle them with unique and strongly applicable insights.
Seek conversations where people are exchanging their opinions and use those themes to create content that can stand alone. Observe your community chat about a problem and write a compelling blog post about how to best approach solving that issue. Respond to an open-ended question with a video explaining a complicated situation with a few mental models that you have thoroughly understood yourself.
Add your unique expertise to the concerns of others.
Relatable Content is Always Engagement-Based
Notice how even though we’re talking about later-stage audiences, I am still making this all about engagement. I want you to always talk with your audience, never talk at your audience.
Once you stop being on the conversational level of your audience, all relatability will evaporate. If you stop engaging and only blast content into your audience’s feeds, they will stop considering you one of them. And just like movie stars are unrelatable to most movie-watchers, you’ll find yourself straying further from the communities that you were once an active part of.
Trust is relational. If relationships are one-sided, trust levels drop. Something else falls into their place, and it can range from blind adoration to disgust and disillusionment. Neither of these options is particularly enjoyable.
Stay engaged. Help, support, and empower people. That way, you’ll get the best of both worlds: you’ll be relatable, and you can bring new items to the agenda.