Why You’re Merely ‘Renting’ Your Audience and How to Fix It

Gianna Callioni
. 26 Aug 2022 . 5 min read

Building a strong and engaged following on social media is a great way to increase your brand’s reach and start conversations with your audience. But, it should always be considered as just one piece of the marketing puzzle and there’s a very important reason why. Social media audiences are essentially ‘rented audiences’.

What do we mean by the phrase ‘rented audience’?

It’s really just like it sounds. As with renting a house, renting an audience means that you may not always have access to that audience. Social media giants like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and LinkedIn all have one thing in common – they’re free to access for consumers but they’re still businesses that need to make money. They make that money from brands who pay to access and advertise to their databases of engaged members. While you can have a thriving organic presence (meaning you’re not paying to reach your followers), changes to the algorithm may affect your ability to keep such a great presence.

Think back to pre-2018 – businesses on Facebook were able to reach 12% of their page’s followers (which is not a lot to begin with). Then Facebook changed the algorithm. Today, this average reach is down to 5%, which means those followings that had been built are now no longer accessible without paying for it.

To be clear, we’re not suggesting you stop working on your social media presence! We just want you to know that it should be thought of as a pay-to-play space that’s great for reaching certain goals but should be supported with other efforts.

How can you turn your rented audience into an owned audience?

Starting to turn your rented audience into an owned audience could be one of the most valuable moves you make this year.

Owned audiences are contacts that you have some control over, in terms of how and when you reach them. For example, email newsletter subscribers or purchaser databases. They’re people who’ve agreed to you contacting them through a platform you own because they’re interested in what you do.

No matter what sort of business you’re in, there’s value you can bring to your customers and potential customers that will help you build an owned audience. It starts with asking, who is your target market – what are they looking for from your brand and what are their day-to-day struggles and desires?

Think about what value you can provide to your audience and how they will be able to access that value. For instance, if you’re a skincare brand that offers a variety of products for various skin types, you may like to provide a ‘quiz’ to help people determine which products are right for them and get their email address in exchange for the results. Or, if you’re a B2B organisation, is there a particular topic that you know a lot about that you could create a gated downloadable ebook about? Just like our Guide to Influencer Marketing.

What are the additional benefits of an owned audience?

There are numerous benefits of having a well-kept customer database.

One of the biggest benefits is that you’re able to segment your audience while keeping their data in one place. With a segmented audience you can make sure you’re getting the right message to the right people, which is important for customer relationship management. Sharing the wrong message with the wrong people will at best make them bored or indifferent, and at worst can cause you to lose their business entirely.

Another big benefit is that the idea of gathering people to a place you have ownership and control over also coincides with building a community around your brand. This is something we’ve written about recently and that our CEO, Sahlia, has spoken about to Queensland Leaders.

“The only difference between an audience and a community is the direction the chairs are facing.” — Chris Brogan

You can make the most of your owned audience and turn one-way communications into conversations.

The responsibilities of having an owned audience

It’s important to remember that building an owned audience comes with its own responsibilities – you’re responsible for protecting your audience’s data and respecting their privacy rights. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Ensure your contacts are able to remove themselves from your database in a straightforward way.
  • Provide options for your audience to choose how frequently they’re contacted, in what way, and with what information.
  • If you want to ask your customers for permission to send other marketing material to them while they’re making a purchase, be sure to make it an opt-in button instead of opt-out.

Building an owned audience comes with its own responsibilities and time investments, however, it can be incredibly valuable for sustained and secure business growth.

Interested in building an owned audience?

Our growth specialists can help.

Contact Us