Should you use ads to grow your audience?

I recently started an answer to this question:

How do you grow an audience when your focus is so specialized and narrow? Facebook ads? Google ads? Manually hunting down topical blog sites and asking for mentions? Instagram hashtags? Pining for Twitter mentions? Etc…

Let’s start to pick this apart a little more.

First off, no, I wouldn’t do any advertising – at least not when you’re starting to build an audience. If you’re just starting (and often even much later on), you don’t know how much one email subscriber is worth, since you don’t know your conversion rate from email list subscriber to paying member (and from there, you probably don’t yet know your cLTV, or customer lifetime value).

And because you don’t know what an email subscriber is worth, you won’t know if you’re wasting money on those ads. So for now, skip the ads.

That doesn’t mean you can’t use social media, but that should always be aimed at getting people to sign up to your email list. So, if your target market is heavily concentrated on Twitter, then sure, put some effort into Twitter. Same goes for Instagram, Facebook, etc. Just make sure you’re incentivizing email signups, rather than simply building a “following” on someone else’s platform that you don’t control. Those platforms are tools to use.

So, if you shouldn’t focus on social networks or advertising, then what?

The single best way to accelerate your audience growth, especially starting out, is by borrowing someone else’s audience.

That’s what we’ll get into in the next post.