Building an engaged audience through personal stories

Insights from a digital marketer who gained 40,000 followers while losing 80 pounds

Welcome back to The Weekly “WOW”. Today, we examine another critical ingredient of any successful digital marketing effort: learning how to communicate your personal story. By effectively sharing your experiences, struggles, and triumphs, you can captivate and engage people, ultimately inspiring them to care about what you have to say.

When I first embarked on my Twitter journey over a decade ago, I faced the common challenge of growing an audience from scratch. I quickly realized that without a compelling narrative, my tweets would go unnoticed. Through years of experimentation, learning, and drawing inspiration from successful peers, I transformed my initial struggles into an engaged and enriching community of over 40,000 Twitter followers.

So, how can you effectively inspire others to care about what you’re saying on social media? Let’s explore some key strategies using real-life examples from my own journey:

Let’s start with WHY: Simon Sinek’s famous quote, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it,” applies to social media as well. Clearly communicating the motivations behind your journey allows people to understand your purpose and passion, inspiring them to care about your story. 

Along my journey, there have been several reasons why building an engaged audience has been important to me.

  1. Knowledge: By developing a trusted presence on Twitter that others cared about, I gained access to true experts in the fields of nutrition, metabolic health, resistance training, endurance sports, and personal development. I have dozens of examples of information I’ve learned from this invaluable resource of top professionals in various fields.  Just by reaching out, asking questions, and paying attention to the answers, I have been able to gain insightful and actionable knowledge on a long list of subjects, including:
    • Sustainable weight loss – My sustained 80-pound weight loss journey started in January 2018 when I reached out to a doctor via Twitter, and he recommended Gary Taubes’s book “Why We Get Fat”. I’ve been learning about nutrition and metabolic health through my growing community ever since.
    • Resistance training coaching – I shared my goals of regaining strength through resistance training, and many experts reached out with valuable guidance, including one expert coach who helped me get my bench press max over 300 pounds in my late 50s.
    • Endurance running – Sharing my plans to run a 5K race led to exchanges with former 100-mile world record holder Zach Bitter and former Division 1 track athlete Brady Holmer who is pursuing a Ph.D. in Applied Physiology. I later appeared on podcasts hosted by Zach and Brady, respectively, and my interactions with them played an important role in my decision to run my first half marathon and, about five months later, my first marathon.
  2. Paying it forward: I have been helped immensely by a long list of individuals, and early on, I resolved to use my presence to share information that could benefit others on their own journeys. By providing value and helping others, I built a community that also cared about my story. As my Twitter community grew, I was able to build an even more engaged following of more than 1,300 subscribers with my weekly Biggest Comeback email.
  3. Building friendships: Sharing my personal story allowed me to connect with like-minded individuals who share common interests and goals. Through my social media engagements, I have established friendships with hundreds of people, including dozens whom I subsequently met in real life. I’ve gone on trail runs with some, attended conferences with others, and attended films, and met for meals and events with others.
  4. Advancing my business: As a skilled digital marketer, building an engaged audience on Twitter has opened doors to many successful business collaborations and opportunities that advanced my professional endeavors. My work as a writer and digital marketer has grown as my online community has grown.

Though each of our reasons may vary, it is essential to have a clear understanding of why you are pursuing social media in the first place. Once you have established your why, you can shift your focus to the how

Be authentic and genuine: Authenticity is the cornerstone of building a loyal audience. By sharing my personal experiences, struggles, and triumphs, I started creating a genuine connection with my followers as I openly shared my weight loss journey and the challenges I faced along the way. This authenticity resonated with others who were on a similar path, inspiring them to care about my story and engage with my content.

Show vulnerability: Sharing vulnerable moments can be incredibly powerful in capturing the attention and empathy of your audience. As I chronicled my weight loss journey on Twitter, I didn’t shy away from sharing the setbacks and difficulties, along with the successes, I encountered. By openly discussing my challenges, I fostered relatability and authenticity, provoking people to care about my progress and offer their support. Over time, I discovered people were just as interested in how I dealt with adversity as they were in my victories. I’ve shared many experiences where I’ve struggled with my diet, failed on a bench press attempt, or been unable to complete a run.

Provide value through knowledge and insights: Sharing valuable information and insights related to your personal journey can attract and engage an audience. In my case, I used Twitter to share practical tips, resources, and lessons I learned during my weight loss journey. By providing actionable advice and relevant content, I positioned myself as a trusted source of information, leading people to care about what I had to say and follow my journey. One of my most popular resources, which continues to drive extremely high levels of engagement, are my nutrition and exercise “rules”. People love actionable tips, so don’t be afraid to share them.

Engage and listen to your audience: Building a community requires active engagement and genuine listening. I made it a priority to respond to comments, interact with my followers, and show a genuine interest in their stories and perspectives. By creating a sense of community and making my audience feel heard, I fostered a deeper connection that made them care about my content and actively participate in the conversation. A response to someone else’s post or tweet rarely generates as much engagement as a good original post, but it can be an incredibly valuable way to strengthen and build relationships.

Use multimedia effectively: Incorporating multimedia elements into your storytelling can significantly enhance its impact. I leveraged images and videos to document my progress, shared before-and-after transformations, and provided visual representations of my journey. This visual content not only made my story more captivating but also made it shareable, expanding its reach and causing more people to care about my message.

Remember, building an engaged audience on social media is not solely about the number of followers you accumulate. It’s about creating meaningful connections with individuals in your target audience who genuinely care about you and the messages you convey. The true value lies in building relationships, amplifying important messages, and participating in significant conversations. 

By authentically sharing your personal story, showing vulnerability, providing engaging value with your audience, and using multimedia effectively, you can foster a loyal and engaged community. 

All of this said, building an audience doesn’t require you to lose 80 pounds or run a marathon. It’s about finding ways to share stories that your audience cares about. And that requires time, consistency, and a genuine connection. Embrace the power of your personal story, implement these strategies, and cultivate an audience that passionately supports your message.

If you’ve enjoyed this installment and want to explore further, don’t miss out on our upcoming articles. Subscribe now to have future editions of this series delivered straight to your inbox, ensuring you never miss an insight.

Chris S Cornell