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The big brands have it easy. They start a blog and boom: millions of people read their posts and share them with their friends. They instantly have a blog audience.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t come that easy for all of us. Most of us have to build our blog audience from scratch through listening, experimenting, and dedication. And the first couple months of a new blog are usually the hardest. What do you write about when you have no audience? What do they like? How do you reach them?

Here are three tips to starting a blog when you have absolutely no audience:

Listen, Listen, Listen

When you’re just starting out in the blogosphere, the most common question is: what on earth do I write about? While some guessing and testing are required, you can also leverage forums, Q&A sites, and LinkedIn groups where your exact target audience are hanging out. You’ll find dozens of people asking very specific questions. For example, on Quora.com, you can search questions by category or niche, everything ranging from sci-fi movies to branding strategy to jewelry making. Find a handful of questions that relate to your expertise and industry, and answer them in a couple sentences. Then, turn those short answers into more fleshed out blog posts. Now, you have a couple posts that are proven to be something your ideal audience is wondering about.

Always Be Testing

When you’re still growing your blog audience, you need to figure out what readers do and don’t like. Every audience and business is different, so don’t be afraid to try a lot of different kinds of content and promotion strategies. For example, create infographics, videos, how-to guides, lists, e-books, interviews, list posts, or surveys and see which ones get the most traffic and social shares. The same goes for social media: use different hashtags, post on different days and at different times, or post with and without pictures. After 6-12 months, you’ll have quantifiable evidence of what resonates with your audience.

Leverage Influencers to Reach More People

You can only reach so many new readers through your own social media channels. But, if you get your content in front of the right kind of people, they can share it with millions of their followers, exponentially growing your reach. Build relationships with influencers and top bloggers in your industry. Find out what they care about, read their blog, follow them on social media. It’s very important to first understand what motivates these influencers before asking them to share your content (everyone can tell when you send the same cold email to a dozen bloggers). Once you get to know them, reach out to them and see if you can write a guest blog or tweet them a blog post you think they’d find interesting. The goal here is to provide value to these influencers and their followers. They won’t just share your content to do you a favor, it needs to help them in some way, too.

Your Action Item

Spend at least 15 minutes every day monitoring conversations on a forum, Quora, LinkedIn group, or other social media channel. Write down all the questions your target audience is asking. Then, turn those questions into blog posts. For example, if you see a question like, “How do you write a good blog post headline?,” you could turn that into a blog post titled, “5 Ways to Write a Killer Blog Post Headline.” Do these for all the questions you find and you’ll have a list of potential blog posts.

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