With thousands of folks running experiments to reach more students with their courses on Teachable, I’ve had a unique opportunity to see what’s actually working to help people grow their audiences.
As a former growth instructor, every day I still get asked: “What’s the best way to grow?” Unfortunately, there isn’t some one-size-fits-all playbook. The good news is that others have paved the way for you to reach your audience on various channels across the web. All you have to do is tap into them.
To help you grow your audience, here are 15 tested tactics you can try that will take you around 15 minutes each. While not every tactic will work, I’d encourage you not overthink it, and pick a few and try them out. These tactics can help you grow your audience for just about any type of product or service.
The one requirement before you start is to choose a few valuable pieces of content you’ve created—blog posts, ebooks, videos, presentations, or free lectures—and be open to giving them away for free or tailoring the content for specific outlets.
If you have a tactic I haven’t mentioned that’s worked for you, or if try one of these out, I’d encourage you to share your experience in the discussion section below. The more we share, the more we can save each other time and grow our audiences in a smart, authentic way.
Let’s get started!
1. Post to LinkedIn Pulse.
An easy way to reach connections you care about is LinkedIn Pulse. When you publish a post here, Linkedin will send a notification to everyone who’s connected with you.
These posts can help you drive traffic back to your website as your connections share your content with others. If you have something written already, this is a great outlet to repost that content.
2. Contribute to an online community.
Almost every topic you can imagine has communities of like-minded who people ask each questions, post useful information, and network.
If you’re reading this, I’m confident that you have useful information to share in these communities. A few you might consider posting to include:
- Subreddits: There’s one for just about everything these days.
- Linkedin Groups: There’s one for every professional topic you can imagine.
- Facebook Groups: Both for professional and personal topics (consider creating your own).
- Google+ Communities: As with subreddits, you can find one on just about ANY topic.
- Closingcall.co: A sales forum.
- Designer News: A forum for web designers. (Layervault, who runs Designer News, recently shut down, but they plan to keep maintaining the community.)
- Growth Hackers: A forum for growth hacking and marketing.
- Inbound.org: A forum focused on online marketing.
- Hacker News: A forum for tech and entrepreneurship.
- ProductHunt: A forum to post and discuss new products and technology.
When you find your online community, do NOT overtly promote yourself. Instead, think about what content you have that can truly add value to that community and find a classy way of linking back to your site.
Bitfountain, for example, offered a hugely valuable course for free on Reddit which picked up dozens of comments and upvotes.
Make sure tone down the the promotional aspect of your posts. There’s usually a way for the site admin or community to police posts by downvoting it or removing it altogether.
If none of the communities above suit you, keep googling until you find one where your potential audience hangs out, then start engaging and contributing.
3. Post a video on YouTube with a link to your course.
YouTube is the second biggest search engine, so it pays to have some free content available there to pull people in. If you already have recorded content, you can quickly create a channel and upload a video.
Make sure your video title contains a keyword your audience is searching for and link to your product or course in the video description. You should also tag relevant topics that you know your audience cares about.
At Teachable, we know people search for “how to create online course,” so we added a webinar on that topic to our channel. In just a week, we’ve already picked up 31 views:
Sharing a free video is also a great way for you to introduce yourself, show your expertise, and build authority with a new audience.
4. Answer a question on Quora.
Quora is community full of people in need of answers. Choose one question on a topic you know, and provide a helpful answer with a link to your product.
Here’s an example of something Ashley, who works with me at Teachable, posted on Quora last week that’s already picked up 55 views. In this case, the resource linked in the response is a blog post, but you can use the same format for anything you want to promote.
You can also take extra time to create a more in-depth response, which will help you collect upvotes over time.
5. Get plugged in an industry mailing list.
You’re probably already receiving a bunch of industry newsletters from groups and publications you respect in your topic area. Some of these lists have thousands of people who care about the same things you do.
For smaller lists, usually the person running it is accessible, so you can just shoot them an email to see if they’d be willing to add your content or product into an upcoming email.
Here’s how a link to the Startup Sales Bootcamp, a workshop for startup and sales executives, looked like in a mailing list:
6. Create a quick informal Meetup group.
A great way to connect with potential audience is to create an informal Meetup group on your topic.
Meetups have a number of benefits outside of sign ups:
- Free marketing to local members (Meetup will actively promote your first event to their mailing lists).
- An SEO boost from having a group on Meetup’s highly-ranked domain.
- Face time with people who care about your subject to come up with more ideas.
To create a Meetup page, set your location and choose a few topics for your group. Choose a name and description for your group, and then you can create your first event.
Your event description doesn’t have to be fancy—make it descriptive because that’s what your audience is searching for. Also be sure to mention when and where the event will be held—depending on your topic, this could be at a local bar or even a local restaurant.
Here’s an example of an informal happy hour meetup description you can swipe and reuse for our weekly Friday happy hour in in New York City:
Online Education Weekly Happy Hour
Friday, March 27, 2015
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM
>WeWork Fulton Center
222 Broadway, 19th Floor , New York, NY
Come join our tight and welcoming group of fellow teacher entrepreneurs and companies in New York City.
For our weekly Friday happy hours, we keep things super casual and are looking to foster a place where educators and technologists can discuss ways to teach and grow their independent schools. This is a quickly changing space, and only by sharing our insights can we truly keep up the pace of change with online education.
For tonight, you’ll have a premium selection of beer on tap available to facilitate conversation. A few of our team of 9 will hanging out and offering advice to anyone looking to launch a successful course or school online. Today, Teachable instructors work with over 5,000 instructors from around the world.
Reservations: We’re looking to keep the group tight, so please keep your RSVPs up to date. If you’re on the waiting list, Meetup will let you know when there’s an opening.
Sponsor: Teachable will be providing space and sponsoring beer. If you have any ideas or thoughts, feel free to shoot me a note.
You can spread the word about your Meetup via email, social media, and other forums that you’re using already. You could also ask to have your event included in local newsletters like Startup Digest or Garysguide if you’re audience is startups.
7. Schedule social media posts.
People follow you on social media for a reason: They want to hear what you have to say.
In your posts, include a strong call to action (in this example, sign up for your course). It doesn’t matter if your course is available on a rolling basis—people won’t sign up immediately unless you ask them to.
8. Add a link to your email signature.
How many emails do you send or have forwarded each week? If you’re like me, probably hundreds.
A super easy way to get people interested without coming off as sales-y is to simply add a link in your signature so every person who gets an email from you knows about your content, course or product.
If they’re interested, they can click the link and find out more:
9. Send an email to everyone you mention.
Do you have a course that includes quotes from industry experts or links to articles by key influencers? Try this.
Find the email address of the influencers you’ve mentioned and send a quick note letting them know your course is live and tell them why (and how) you’ve featured them. If done in a classy way, you can include a code to your product or course and have them sign up for free.
Sharing your content with an influencer can be a great opportunity for you to (a) thank them for their valuable work, (b) get them to buy into your course and want to share it with their own networks, and © create a valuable relationship.
If your content does get shared, it can help you gain new class signups from a much wider audience of qualified prospects than you could reach on your own.
10. Invite others to sign up for free.
This idea won’t make you any money—at first. But it can benefit you in the long run to let a few students try out your product for free.
Why? This approach allows you to “beta test” your content with a small group of people before launching to your broader audience. With the feedback you get from these first few people, you can refine your content, fix any bugs, and get a feel for what the support commitment will be like on your end.
These refinements will set you up for success as more people start to sign up, and help you get more users over time.
If your initial testers share positive comments with you, you can also use these as quotes (with permission) on your product page or in future marketing materials.
11. Send an email to your own subscribers.
Do you have an email list of people you’ve worked with who could benefit from your insight?
Send a targeted email to those people promoting your new offering. They already know how valuable your content is—and people are more likely to pay for something if they know that the product is high quality.
If you’re creating courses, check out the email feature on Teachable and set your send an email only to students who haven’t paid for any content to send a tailored email just to them:
12. Submit to a deals website.
There are a number of deals websites that you might already be familiar with. To make the best use of these sites, it’s ideal to bundle a few items together and sell them for a discounted rate. By providing a discount, you encourage larger purchases and also are able to tap into large audiences that would be otherwise unreachable.
You can create a trackable discount code for deals sites by setting up a custom coupon code, like this one I created for StackSocial:
This particular promotion took a little more about an hour to set up, but it drove 1743 signups with this code—not bad. Places like SlickDeals, Ozbargain and Bitsdujour are much easier.
Here are a few of the top deals sites you could consider posting your course to, with relevant links or contacts for each one:
- Slickdeals.com: This forum has the most traffic, but is also one of the hardest to post to if you don’t already have an account in good standing.
- Ozbargain.com.au: This is an Australian deal forum. If your deal gets featured, you could receive as many as a few thousands clicks in a day!
13. Post in a directory.
There are a variety of directories you can post to to get your course listed where people are looking for content like yours.
Here’s a short list of directories you can try that focus on courses:
- Open Education Database
- Class Central
- MOOC List
- MOOCs Directory
If you’re not promoting a course, you can easily search for directories in your topic area.
14. Upload a presentation on SlideShare.
If you’ve given a presentation, an easy next step is to upload it to SlideShare with a link and call to action back to your site.
You don’t have to put an entire presentation up—you just want to post a few high-quality slides that hold together on their own and get people interested.
As time goes on, you can keep updating the deck and pick up more views. I’ve done this with a deck on User Onboarding and Activation, which over the 18 months old. Without any active promotion, it’s picked up over 57,000 views.
Many readers have also shared, embedded, liked, commented, and downloaded the presentation, and reached out to me to learn more about the topic.
15. Email your personal network.
Many folks overlook their own personal network of friends, colleagues and family members when it comes to promoting.
This is one of the best places to start—after all, these are the people who care about your success. One way to quickly get in touch is to pull a list people you’ve emailed in your email client.
With Google, that’s Google Contacts. To do it, select the contacts you want to add to your list and click the New Group link on the left nav bar. From there, you can export to CSV to get a long list of people to reach out to.
If you have a long list, try using YAMM (Yet Another Mail Merge) a Google App add-on that lets you send a personalized email to everyone on your list in just a few minutes and avoid using something like MailChimp or Aweber.
Once you’ve installed YAMM, here’s how to send a mass email:
- Within Gmail, compose a new email to your mailing list. Blind copy yourself by adding your email address to the BCC field, then save and close the draft.
- Next, create a copy of this spreadsheet, clearing any formatting as you copy and paste.
- From the spreadsheet tab, select Add-ons > Yet Another Mail Merge > Start Mail Merge.
- If you have additional drafts already saved in your Gmail inbox, click the Draft dropdown and select the one you just created. Additionally, make sure to type in your sender name.
- Click the Send Emails button, and you should receive a confirmation like this:
This isn’t some kind of absolute list to promoting your course, just things I’ve seen recently that work.
Is there something easy you’ve done to grow your audience? Share it below—we’d love to hear it.