How to Leverage a Small Following

In case you missed it, I was a guest on the Indie Intellect podcast and talked about why 2016 will be a major year for small YouTubers.

I brought up a study that focused on smaller creators (1,000 – 100,000 followers) on Instagram and how they can be the most effective partners for brands due to high engagement and trust. We expanded on this idea further by talking about Snapchat and how brands are using it to reach out to consumers more effectively.

Go ahead and watch it! I’ll wait.

(Also, side note, can we just say how cool it is that I finally had my first in-person collab!)

Today, I wanted to expand on this conversation even more by talking about the advantages of having a smaller audience. I’m hoping that by doing so, I can keep some smaller creators motivated and give you some ideas to leverage your small audience to further your goals.

How to Leverage a Small Audience :: How small YouTubers and budding bloggers can leverage even the smallest of social media followings to their advantage (and even use it more effectively than an audience of millions!).

Yes, that is my mama.

But first!

I do want to talk about my audience a little bit.

Because of my content and my approach to interaction, my audience is mostly made up of other people who also have small audiences. I’m a creator who’s surrounded by creators. So most of my followers are people who have followers. Most of my content is viewed by people who create.

That’s going to be typical for parts of the internet creator community, but that may not be true for you. Even if it’s not (and your audience is more of a fanbase than a friendbase), you can still benefit from these tips.

And here’s how!


Social media has come a long way over the last couple years. Most networks have switched over to serve content based on an algorithm. All of the content (in theory) should be relevant to users’ interests. For consumers, this means seeing more of what you want and less of what you don’t want (again, in theory). For creators, this means you want people to interact with your content so that they’ll see more of it.

I say “in theory” because the content we interact with isn’t always what we want to see, but rather content that triggers us. That could be joy and brightened days, but sometimes we interact more with things that illicit disgust, shame, or anger. 

An overwhelming majority of small creators have a higher engagement rate than larger creators. There are exceptions, usually in cases where the creator has a “set it and forget it” mentality and failed to interact with anybody else. No, you can’t tweet at the void and end up with a high Klout score, but you can usually comment on a handful of YouTube videos and get a few thumbs ups, comments, or even subscribers.

Brands like engagement. Engagement means people noticed the advertisement and probably checked out the product that’s being offered. Engagement means people are listening to you and hearing what you’re saying. It means that they care enough about what you have to offer that they’re taking time out of their days to comment, like, or even share your content over the other billions of things produced in that particular moment.

If you’re a small creator, use that higher engagement rate as a selling point when you’re approaching brands. Check out a site like Social Bluebook and see what your grade is. Keep track of your audience and what they’re doing. Make notes about any feedback you get. Use that to make decisions on your content and your direction (and you should see your engagement rise even more). It’s a good place to be.

Pro-tip: Make sure you’re encouraging engagement! Ask lots of questions and show appreciation for feedback. How do you encourage engagement with your audience? Let me know in the comments! 

Real interaction

The Grady twins from The Shining. Forever and ever and ever.

BE MY FRIEND. Forever and ever and ever…

Similar to your audience engagement, you’re also at the perfect time to start building your reputation and interacting with fellow creators.

In fact, interacting with others is the best (and often only) way to grow a following on social media. If you’re self-centered, you’re probably not going to see any traction unless your content is that incredible/senseless (we make weird things go viral). If you’re supportive, friendly, and engaging, you’re going to get the same in return.

Collaborating with other creators is the single best way to grow your audience. When you capture someone’s attention, there’s a chance you’ll keep it. When you collaborate with a fellow creator, you’re getting a sizable chunk of attention (often a majority of their audience) along with social proof. If the creator likes you enough to collaborate with you, chances are their audience will like you enough to keep watching.

In the beginning, you’ll want to establish deep and meaningful connections with fellow creators, not only to collaborate, but also to work with, improve with, and grow with. These are going to be your friends, and they’ll probably be the closest friends you keep over the course of your career in social media. It becomes way more difficult to establish deep connections once your notifications start blowing up and your attention is being diverted to an audience of thousands (or millions) along with opportunities from brands and other, larger creators and networks.

Not only do you lack the attention span and the time to create deep connections, but you’ll also be forced to question the authenticity of each person who enters your life. Once you have something to offer, you have to wonder how much they’re going to try to take.

Do you want to face that overwhelming reality alone?

Of course not. You’ll want to text Andrea or Dory or Karen or Donna or Patrick and ask them if they’ve been through the same thing and what their thoughts are. And you’ll want to celebrate your huge wins with people who understand exactly how hard you’ve worked and how many times you’ve failed.

Find the people you want to keep in your life early on. Know who’s going to be at your 1,000,000 subscriber party, popping the first bottle of Dom, before you even hit 1,000.

Risky business

What’s the worst part of being a small creator? Nobody’s paying attention to you. What’s the best part of being a small creator?

Nobody’s paying attention to you.

We spend a lot of time seeking attention for our good things, but when you’re small, it’s really easy to make the bad things go away.

Now, if you’re good at what you’re doing, chances are you will have a handful of people watching you closely. Kind of like the time @xingcat noticed that I published a post and then password-protected (and then privated) it within 5 minutes.

But it’s easy to make it go away. I got called out, but only by one person. Not thousands (or hundreds of thousands, or millions). He promptly forgot. There was no internet shitstorm raining down from the heavens.

Use your time as a small creator to take risks and find out what unique things you can contribute to the internet community. It’s hard to make things that stand out. To be successful in this creative industry, you have to nail down some very strange, different concepts and package them in a way that tugs at the heartstrings, frustrates people into emotional turmoil, and empowers them to the point that they think they can fly – with every single piece of content that you create.

Take risks now. Before you have thousands of xingcats.

2 comments on “How to Leverage a Small Following”

Leave a Reply