Audience Building 101: The 3 Types of Audiences (And How to Grow Them From Scratch)

Ship 30 for 30 Team

Every online writer has 3 types of audiences:

• Rented
• Owned
• Monetized

The fastest way to grow at first is to focus on your rented audience.

And then leverage that to grow on the owned and monetized fronts.

Here's the playbook:

The 3 Types of Audiences

First things first.

Before we dive into the tactics, you need to understand the differences between each type of audience.

Here's a quick breakdown:

1. Rented

You don't own the relationships with your audience but have access to massive distribution.

Think social networks & search engines.

2. Owned

You own the relationship with your audience but there's low shareability and discoverability.

Think free podcasts & newsletters


3. Monetized

This is when you turn folks from either your rented or owned audience into customers for your business.

You can do this via memberships, subscriptions, commerce, etc.

Now that you understand these differences, let's dive into the actionable stuff


Tactic #1: Optimize for reach

To grow fast, you need to avoid niching down too much, too early.

Pick a specific but broad subject/industry.

Then, explore different ideas within it without specializing.

Two great examples:


While optimizing for reach, keep this in mind:

Every time you tweet, only a fraction of your entire following will see it (because of the algorithm).

Leverage that to build mini-niches within your total addressable audience.


Tactic #2: Borrow other people's rented audiences

Find some of the biggest and medium-size players in your space.

Then, find ways to curate, remix & build upon their work.

If they like your work, they could retweet and share it with their audience which = potential new followers.


Tactic #3: Idea Arbitrage

Stop staring at a blank page trying to reinvent the wheel.

See something working on LinkedIn?

Steal it & post it on Twitter.

See something working on Reddit?

Same thing.

Two great examples:


Tactic #4: Test, test, test

Leverage the fast & cheap feedback loops of social platforms to validate ideas.

Then, use the data to inform your content strategy.

Before an essay, write a thread. Before the thread, a tweet.

Don't waste time working on untested ideas.


Tactic #5: Engagement Jacking

Another benefit of rented audiences: public data.

You can see what everyone's doing and how it performs.

This way, you can have other creators validate ideas and find opportunities for you.

Use other people's engagement to inform your strategy.


Tactic #6: Look for small ways to differentiate

Minor details can make a major difference.

Especially when everyone's using the same tactics.

Take some time to actually think about this & start experimenting.

If you're doing threads, how can you make them unique & different?


Tactic #7: Promote your stuff

This is kind of obvious.

Yet, most people don't do it (or they do it wrong).

If you're putting out lots of valuable content, ask people to subscribe to your newsletter or buy your product.

After all you've shared, they'll be happy to!


Two reminders before we wrap up:

Social platforms like Twitter are ruled by power laws.

3-5 posts will drive 80-90% of your growth. The rest will perform "meh".

But, for that same reason, you gotta swing a lot.


Don't think of your rented, owned & monetized audiences as independent silos.

They're connected.

And each one should inform your content & growth strategy.


That's it!

If you enjoyed this post, I highly recommend you watch the video below.

Here, Dickie, Cole and the co-founder of the Morning Brew, Alex Lieberman, covered all these points in much more detail:

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