Wondering how to attract and build trust with the people you want to serve as you develop your product and message? Have you considered documenting your journey in public?
In this article, you’ll discover how to build in public by leveraging Twitter.
Why Is Building In Public on Twitter So Valuable?
Building in public is an increasingly popular strategy for new small businesses. You'll see entrepreneurs, investors, and creators talking about it across social media, especially on Twitter.
But what exactly does “building in public” mean? And why is Twitter the preferred social network?
What Is Building In Public?
Building in public isn't such a new idea. Fifteen years ago, people were doing the same thing and calling it “entrepreneur ride along”.
Instead of announcing your business and services when they're ready, you share every step of your story with the audience. From design ideas to funding bids, finding office space, and fixing sudden crises, it all happens in public.
It's a way of intentionally using the journey to help your business. You're going to go through ups and downs anyway, so why not use the story to attract more potential customers? Not only does it tell people about your business, but it also builds trust, reputation, and relatability.
Trust is vital in consumer decision making—and it's extremely hard to build. At the moment, consumers are suspicious of most big businesses. They're worried about privacy. They're worried about inflation. They're worried about artificial intelligence and whether they can trust the text, images, and even people that they see on screen.
By sharing the authentic, vulnerable, transparent story behind your business, you can build trust faster and earlier with your target audience. They'll see that you're 100% real—just a normal, relatable person like them.
Why Do Entrepreneurs Build on Twitter?
Twitter/X is a controversial platform right now. It's often politicized, and the conversation is highly volatile.
But that's exactly why building in public works so well on Twitter—there are no boundaries.
Whatever you post is visible to everybody on the platform. Other social networks are now more limited. For example, Facebook mainly works through private groups these days. But on Twitter, it only takes a couple of retweets for your posts to reach an audience beyond your wildest imagination.
Twitter is what's known as a networked graph. Imagine that each Twitter account is a dot on the page. Whenever people connect on Twitter, you draw a line between their two dots. Now, even if you have relatively few connections yourself, you can connect to other people with thousands of lines connecting them. It only takes a couple steps to reach every single person on the platform.
In other words, it only takes a couple of steps to reach everyone in your potential audience.
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As you share the story of building your business, more and more people will find you. They might not even follow you, but they'll see their friends liking, commenting, or resharing your posts. Your audience just can't help amplifying your message to more people.
#1: What to Share on Twitter
Remember when I said that Twitter has no boundaries?
That's true in terms of audience building. But when it comes to your content strategy, you are going to need a few boundaries.
When you're first starting out, building in public can feel intimidating. It's hard to make choices about what to share: Is this story positive or negative? Could this post damage my business?
If you feel those nerves, then you're on the right track. Building in public is meant to be vulnerable, and vulnerability is scary.
But here's the thing, vulnerability is what makes you grow. It carries a risk of damage, but it also has the potential to gain more reach and make more connections. You have to take the risk in order to get the rewards.
Other founders choose to just talk about the positive side of their business. That's a legitimate strategy. However, it risks feeling inauthentic. People know that your business can't be 100% perfect, 100% of the time. They want to hear about the struggles and how you overcame them.
To get the most value out of building in public, you need to strike a balance: sharing both positives and negatives about your journey, without oversharing.
How Do You Know If You're Oversharing? Here's a quick list of what not to share:
- Don't share stories which will actively damage your reputation.
- Don't share trade secrets that your competitors could exploit.
- Don't share confidential information, such as client data.
But that's pretty much it. If you avoid details which could damage your reputation, USP, or customer base, then you should be good to go.
Here are a few more ideas to get you started:
Share How You Solve Problems
Showing how you solve problems is a big part of building reputation and trust. It's your opportunity to show people your process, style, and values.
Take the example of Pieter Levels. He first came to prominence when he started a mission to create 12 startups in 12 months. He talks about every detail of building a business in public, including successes, failures, and challenges.
These days, he's working with AI image generation software. He often shares snippets of code or tricks that he's worked out, but he never gives the whole story away. He shares just enough to prove that he's doing original and exciting things—and that his audience needs his expertise.
Share Insider Secrets
First things first: insider secrets are not the same as trade secrets!
Trade secrets are what make your product or service totally unique—that one recipe, material, formula, or algorithm which nobody else has.
Insider secrets are knowledge that you have from inside the business, information which is valuable, but not exclusive. For example, if you run an event, you have insider knowledge about how speakers get selected, which you can share judiciously with your audience.
Sharing this kind of information sets you up as an expert within your industry. It shows that you're transparent and want to connect with people.
Share Your Decision-making Processes
When you come across someone building a business in the same space as you, they're not necessarily a threat. In fact, they're helpful!
First of all, their existence proves that your business is on the right track. There's a market here.
And second, you're going to make slightly different decisions from them.
If they decided that their business would serve new business owners, but not remote entrepreneurs, then there's a gap in that market for you. Nobody is looking out for the remote workers, so they're available to become your target audience.
Most businesses make these kinds of decisions in secret.
However, when you build in public, you let your audience know that you're looking for them. If you get on Twitter and post, “We've decided to focus on nomadic entrepreneurs!”, then guess what? You'll get a ton of nomadic entrepreneurs in your mentions who are thrilled that someone's building a product just for them.
Sharing your decision-making processes is another way to build trust, relatability, and reputation. People will learn to trust you because they understand your decisions and have the opportunity to give your their feedback.
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Think of public decision making as a way to leave traces of your ambition all over the internet—in the form of social media posts, blogs, podcasts, or whatever else. It's a trail of breadcrumbs for your ideal audience to find you.
#2: How to Grow Faster on Twitter
The hardest part of building in public is that you start at zero. You have to grow your audience from scratch.
The key to growing your audience is to use social media intentionally. You can't just post whenever you feel like it, you have to have a strategy.
Stop Posting (for now)
Are you posting on Twitter already? Is your audience small? Then stop right now!
This might feel weird. But if you post regularly, to a small audience, without getting engagement then you're sending all the wrong signals to the Twitter algorithm.
Let's say that you have 100 followers. Because of the way Twitter's feed works, only 10 of them will get served your post in their feeds. Only 6 of them will actually read it. And maybe 1 of them, if you're lucky, will reply.
Those are pretty terrible odds. So your first step is to get your audience numbers up. Then, once you have a reasonable number of people following you, you can start posting your own content again.
Look For Valuable Conversations
Start by following a significant number of people who are industry experts and have large audiences. You're not trying to contact these people directly, you just want their connections.
Once you've followed someone, their posts and conversations will come up in your feed. Look out for conversations that they start, share, or amplify, and get involved. Talk to the people in the replies, build a rapport, and follow them.
Slowly, you'll start to expand your network and get a reputation as someone who contributes meaningfully to the conversation.
Don't Fall For Bot Schemes
If you follow these steps, you'll need to spend at least fifteen minutes every day on Twitter, maybe more. You may be tempted to farm out the work to bots or automated replies.
Let me break it to you: when you use automated or AI-assisted replies, people on Twitter can tell. And more importantly, they hate it. Artificial replies don't bring anything to the conversation and won't help you build real connections. Steer clear of them!
If you're struggling for things to say, then you may just be looking at the wrong conversations. Click away, find someone new to follow, and try again.
Bring More People In
Next, you can start taking a more active lead in the conversations that you join.
- Ask questions to dig deeper into the conversation.
- Share the conversation and recontextualize it by adding a new perspective or insight.
- Tag other people and ask them to apply their expertise to the conversation.
The final point is the most valuable one: tagging experts brings value to the conversation and shows people that you know what expertise is. It builds your authority and reputation by proxy.
Perfect Your Profile
If you're following these steps, then new followers will come to your profile. What will they find when they get there?
Here are a few tips:
- State your value in your bio. Don't just describe yourself, tell people how you're going to help them.
- Make it clear that you're on a journey and building in public. Give people a reason to stick around and see what happens.
- Use every part of your profile to share information: the banner, bio, and pinned tweet.
Start Posting Again
Over time, you'll gain an audience that allows you to start posting your own content. You can share your journey and start your own conversations, because you'll have enough followers to get attention.
This strategy is highly scalable, and it probably takes less time than you think. You can start with just 15 minutes a day.
If you want to spend longer on the platform each day, then divide up your time so that you don't saturate your followers' feeds. Try doing 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening, or spreading out your time across different time zones. You can also use batch creation and scheduling to post as efficiently as possible.
#3: What Kind of Content Should You Post on Your Twitter Profile?
Twitter has changed a lot in the past few months. Even the algorithm has adjusted to boost different types of content. Here's what we know, based on an analysis by Tibo at Tweet Hunter:
- Video is rising fast. Twitter is competing with YouTube, so sharing YouTube videos on your Twitter feed will damage your reach, but posting original, long-form video will boost it. You can share up to three hours of video with Twitter Blue (now called X Premium).
- Multiple images, online images, and gifs are also privileged in the algorithm. Any visual content will get boosted.
- Long-form content now works on the platform. Short posts won't get much traction, but long posts and threads with lots of media components will get a strong boost from the algorithm.
- Any content which mentions other social networks or shares external links will be deprioritized.
- Use tools like Transistor to add multimedia to your tweets. Transistor automatically adds a playable preview to your tweets whenever you share a podcast, enabling you to share podcast content without getting penalized for external links.
Other Notes From This Episode
- Connect with Michael Stelzner @Stelzner on Instagram and @Mike_Stelzner on Twitter.
- Watch this interview and other exclusive content from Social Media Examiner on YouTube.
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