How to Build An Audience for Your Business (Without Social Media)

How to Build An Audience for Your Business (Without Social Media)

JK Sparks 7 min

Building an audience is one of the oldest practices in business.

You generate awareness and demand around a problem to a specific group of people.
You create a way for this group of people to engage with your business.
You then offer a solution to the audience you’ve created.

However, things are rapidly changing. Old methods aren’t as effective as they once were - but there is a new way to fully harness the power of an audience again.

What you’re going to get out of this article

  • Why you should care about (and focus) on building an owned audience.

  • Examples of successful B2B companies that have built an owned audience.

  • Proven tips and tactics you can begin using today in your business.

There’s a lot of talk about B2B companies thinking more like a media company.

With traditional growth marketing strategies becoming less effective, changes in data privacy laws, and added pressure on content teams to keep up with new trends and formats, B2B brands have to find a way to stay relevant with their audience.

So what does this mean when it comes to building an audience for your brand?

Most B2B companies turn to social media, which has traditionally been one of the easiest ways to build a following. It’s free, easily accessible, and mostly effective when it comes to getting your message in front of your audience.

But there’s one really important thing you don’t have with this strategy: Control.

Similar to someone renting vs. owning a home, companies don’t make the rules on social media. Instead, they’re beholden to the platform’s rules. Brands find themselves having less control, more competition, and higher costs to get noticed on social platforms. And frankly, brands are tired of being handcuffed.

This has led to many companies starting to separate from social media, in what’s known as “The Great De-Platforming” - the idea of moving away from “rented” land on social media to build your audience, to an “owned media” strategy.

Owned media means creating and distributing content through channels and mediums your brand has control over. Think about your brand’s blog, resource centers, email newsletters, podcasts, events, etc.

And much like consumer media brands of today, owning your media opens the door to building an “owned audience.”


The Benefits of Building an Audience You Own

Building an audience you own has nothing to do with “having control” of your audience in any way. It’s about owning the relationship between your content and your audience — as opposed to leaving it up to other platforms to decide.

Here are some of the benefits of owning your audience:

Control over distribution

When you distribute your own content through channels you have control over, you don’t have to wonder if your audience received the message, or if it got stuck in a black box because of a social media algorithm. It’s your brand, speaking with the audience that wants to hear from you, in the channels they expect.

Control over data

With changes in third-party data privacy laws, having an owned audience is as important as ever. This gives brands the ability to choose their own first-party data collection strategy to drive engagement with the people who matter most.

An engaged community

While social media engagement is steadily declining, owned channels like email continue to be the #1 drivers for content engagement. Which would you rather have: A larger social audience with low engagement and lower conversion, or a healthy group of like-minded people that consume your content on a regular basis?

Make no mistake - Social media isn’t going away. There’s still a role for B2B brands to publish relevant content, amplify its reach, and engage with millions of people in your target audience.

But as a long-term audience building strategy, brands shouldn’t put all their eggs in the social media basket.


Examples of B2B Businesses that Built Audiences like Media Companies

It’s one thing to create content like a media company. But it’s a whole other thing to build your audience around an owned media strategy.

Here are 3 examples of B2B business that have seen success with building their audience the way a media company does:


ProfitWell (recently acquired by Paddle) is a subscription management software that helps subscription products and companies achieve faster recurring revenue growth. ProfitWell went from being completely bootstrapped to being acquired by Paddle for $200M. And believe it or not, they did so as one of the first B2B companies to adopt this “media company” movement inside the SaaS industry.

Led by CSO Patrick Campbell, the ProfitWell team attributes much of their marketing success by focusing on marketing like a media company and monetizing like a software company.

What started as 1 blog post per week turned into a full blown owned media strategy. Patrick has since built a media network called Recur, which largely contributed to their acquisition.

In this episode of Media House, Patrick talks about the differences between Inbound marketing and Inbound media. Inbound marketing is a lot about performance marketing (SEO to ebook to nurture loop). Whereas Inbound Media is about building an audience (podcast, video series, etc.) where they consume your media on a regular basis.

Refine Labs

If you’re a marketer or sales professional who’s ever been on LinkedIn, you’ve probably seen Chris Walker - CEO of Refine Labs.

One of the first things you’ll hear from Chris on episode three of Media House is that “B2B marketing is stuck.” Which is why Chris created Refine Labs - a progressive media agency to help B2B companies accelerate demand outside of the old school performance marketing tactics that might have worked years ago.

Chris knew early on the importance of having a “media-first” approach - not as a marketing strategy. But as a business strategy. As a brand built specifically for marketing and sales teams, they are able to showcase results from campaigns they have executed for themselves to prove out the effectiveness of their owned media channels, like consistent organic presence, podcasts, dark social, and other untrackable channels.

You don’t have to look very hard to see the impact that building and audience through owned media has had on Refine Labs.

Click here to see the full 35-minute discussion between Anthony Kennada and Chris Walker.


First Round Capital is a venture capital and private equities firm that helps founders build companies from scratch. Whether it’s pre-seed, seed or Series A, First Round has become the go-to resource for entrepreneurs to find information and, of course, funding.

So why did former Head of Marketing Camille Ricketts decide to start a media brand - First Round Review - to build their owned audience?

It’s pretty simple: to be the first company founders and innovators think of when they have an idea and are looking for funding.

By building a massive community of like-minded individuals through a podcast, newsletter, resource center, books, and other owned media, First Round has helped more than 300 brands start up, including Blue Apron, Uber, Notion, and Square.

Here’s the full episode.


3 Tips and Strategies for Building an “Owned Audience”

We just went over 3 examples of companies that have built their brand up with an owned media strategy. But there are thousands of companies out there that fail to build an audience that they own.

So how can you start building an “owned audience” of your own that sticks?

  1. Start small.
    If you’re starting from scratch, try not to get overwhelmed thinking you have to write a bi-weekly newsletter, produce a weekly podcast, and host an in-person event all at once to start building your owned audience.

    First, look at what has resonated with your audience so far. From there, you can expand that content into one owned channel (like a simple monthly email) and focus on delivering consistent value to your audience.

  2. Don’t give up too soon.
    Here’s what happens all too often. The marketing department decides to start a podcast. They create engaging episodes with stories catered to their audience…but it doesn’t create revenue right away. Leadership gets impatient, and the podcast gets canned.

    When building your owned content strategy, try not to use traditional marketing KPIs to measure its effectiveness. Building an owned audience takes time, but if you stick to it and continue to deliver value, you’ll find your owned audience is the most likely to convert down the road and be more loyal to your brand.

    One of my favorite examples of a brand persevering is Moz’s Whiteboard Friday (WBF). Rand Fishkin (the founder of Moz) pushed through two years of low performance, with the average blog post outperforming his video series. Rand didn’t give up and after over 104 episodes Moz saw the flip happen, WBF became a massive “overnight” success.

  3. Make it easy to subscribe.
    The email inbox is still one of the most effective forms of customer communication. In fact, email ROI has an impressive $36 for every $1 spent. So once your audience experiences a piece of content they enjoy or found helpful, give them a chance to get more content like that more regularly. And continue to share similar content with your owned audience that got them interested in the first place.

  4. Cross-promote your media channels.
    Each member of your audience might have a different preferred medium to consume your content. You may find that some people prefer a weekly newsletter, while others listen to a podcast in the car. As you develop more owned content, use each one to cross-promote the others.

  5. Continue to harness the power of social media.
    As we mentioned before, social media isn’t going anywhere. A large social media following is still a powerful megaphone for promoting your content. Just remember… your social media following is not your owned audience. Use your borrowed and paid media as a way to drive traffic to the property you do own.


Owned Audiences are Why Every Company is Becoming a Media Company

In our first post ever, Anthony Kennada explained why every company is becoming a media company.

For years, the traditional marketing strategies worked for B2B SaaS companies.

But the world is changing, and companies don’t want to get left behind.

Which is why more and more brands are adopting this mindset of building an owned audience.

They want to be able to directly engage with their loyal followers on their terms.

So where do you go from here?

Lean into an owned media strategy, and start building an owned audience for a better long term content strategy. At AudiencePlus, we champion the return of owned media by creating content and community that helps marketers become their own channels for content distribution.


JK Sparks | About the Author

Head of Marketing, AudiencePlus

JK is allergic to the words “guru, ninja, and hack” when used to describe anything marketing related. Instead of chasing the latest “growth hack,” he’s focused on building sustainable and predictable levers that fuel long term success. By implementing this approach over the last decade, JK has helped organizations in both bootstrapped and well-funded environments scale from <$100K to more than $100M in revenue. You can follow him here.

JK Sparks 7 min

How to Build An Audience for Your Business (Without Social Media)

Learn how to build an owned audience for your business without relying on social media and see why every company is becoming a media company.

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