How to Build an Owned Audience in 2023

How to Build an Owned Audience in 2023

JK Sparks 5 min

Is it better to own or rent? It’s not a real estate question. In the media world, you either own your own audience or depend on another platform to access customers. And if you “rent” your platform, it means you’re at the whim of platform algorithm changes, limited analytics, or worse yet—a platform that may be about to go dry.

What is an owned audience?

An owned audience is a segment of customers available to your brand on platforms you control. Examples of owned media include newsletters, blog communities, web communities and forums, and SMS marketing lists.

Owning your audience platform means control. You get to pick the content. Any and all data the customers choose to share with you remains proprietary. Rather than depending upon the kindness of strange platforms, you can attract and build an audience with the wiring and infrastructure that only leads back to you.

While owning sounds possessive, building an owned audience is about relationships. You own when, how, and what your audience is seeing or hearing from your brand. Giving you the ability to cultivate a meaningful relationship between your audience and your brand.

Table of Contents:

  • Owning vs Renting Your Audience (and Why Owning is Essential)

  • The Benefits of Owning Your Audience

  • How to Start Building an Owned Audience

  • How Technology Can Help Businesses Build an Audience They Own


Owning vs Renting Your Audience (and Why Owning is Essential)

Simply put, ownership gives you more power. The power to market to your audience, the power to use proprietary first party customer data, and the power to decide when and how you publish your content marketing assets. Renting is great—after all, there’s a reason Twitter and Facebook have billions of users—but primarily as a tool for amplifying your brand messaging.

But the winds have shifted, and your marketing strategy needs to change, too. Now every company is becoming a media company. And it’s long overdue. Owned media also helps you avoid common social media problems:

  • Competition. Paid ads are great. They let you dial into your exact audience to a level we hadn’t seen before the digital era. But at $3.33 per click in 2022, competition is heating up. Owning your own audience means advertising to a crowd without the expensive barrier to entry.

  • Deplatforming. Renting your audience on another platform means you’re at the mercy of that platform’s rules. Facebook even has an entire section for this confusion, titled “Why was my account disabled?” Even if your brand gets restored, an unexpected suspension can disrupt an active campaign.

  • Algorithm changes. “Everyone reporting massive drops all of a sudden,” said one tweet in January—a tweet with over five million views. Simply put, an algorithm change to a platform like Google or Twitter can completely cut off an otherwise-reliable source of traffic.

But switching to owned media creates a business impact beyond making your own rules. Imagine being a blog that didn’t just publish on WordPress, but owned its own WordPress.

Publishing your own content in the digital world is so easy that many of today’s top companies are upstart media companies themselves. It’s never been easier to connect with an audience on a platform you own. And with that ability comes the responsibility to make it happen for your brand.


The Benefits of Owning Your Audience

In the past, digital marketing didn’t require owning your own audience. You could simply use social media to drive traffic to your landing pages. You’d do just fine. But finding an organic reach in today’s digital environment requires going a step further. And when you do, you’ll find that there are all sorts of benefits to having an owned audience, such as:

  • Lower costs to reach the market. Yes, it takes some energy and effort to build your audience from scratch. But the long-term tradeoff is lower costs every time you need to communicate with that audience. Zap out an email, post a new blog, blast an SMS—sometimes for no more than the cost of the electricity to charge your phone.

  • Owning your data. First-party data is going to be at a premium. Owning your audience data gives you proprietary data that no competitor holds. From this data, you can create unique customer segments unique to your brand. It will make other strategies—like organic growth via SEO or identifying the key demographic for your audience—a breeze.

  • More control. When you attract an audience on a platform like Facebook or Instagram, you’re at the mercy of the platform’s rules. Stories, pictures, videos, status updates—they’re great, but they’re also limiting. Owning your audience means you can build a platform to your specifications. More importantly, you can build it to suit what your customers prefer.


How to Start Building an Owned Audience

Ask most people how to build an audience these days, and they’ll likely answer with: “social media.” Everyone wants to be an influencer, after all! And social media is a great tool—for amplification, but not for ownership. Building an owned audience without social media requires a different approach:

  • Content. Take the example of ProfitWell, which started building a content strategy with just one weekly post. They built on that success by turning it into a full-blown media strategy, complete with their own audience media network with inbound strategies like podcasts and video series.

  • Events. Events offer an opportunity to build a reputation for thought leadership. They’re even a sneaky way to “borrow” the expertise of your guest speakers. After COVID-19, you don’t have to host in-person events, either. You can simply build a digital strategy complete with webinars and online conferences.

  • Community building. One common strategy is to start with amplification on social media, then shift attention to a core offering like a podcast or a book. Then you can watch who comes to consume that media. These fans will be your target audience. From there, you can build subscription-based communities around your market segment.


How Technology Can Help Businesses Build an Audience They Own

You don’t have to do all of it yourself. Technology is at a point where you can outsource some of your audience-building to the digital tools you have at your disposal. And we’re talking about doing more than building an email list with newsletter software—great as it may be.

Take AudiencePlus as an example. It’s a platform built exclusively for building an audience that you own, taking the guesswork out of audience building without demanding that you adhere to the rules of a social media platform.

Other platforms, like Marketo Engage, implement more than just newsletters. They build automated pipelines that let you turn content into inbound marketing. This amplifies the potency of all your content and uses it to drive engagement beyond a “like” or a “retweet.” It turns your fans into more than fans—it turns them into community members.

Building an audience is about more than finding views. It’s about capturing views and making true fans out of your potential customers. Don’t just ask for a follow or a newsletter subscription. Ask people to join your entire brand with platforms like AudiencePlus.

You can request a demo of AudiencePlus here. 



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 5 min

How to Build an Owned Audience in 2023

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