Being Authentic, Build Your Audience the Right Way

Sal Sbranti, Antioch Citizen of the Year, talking about his community efforts over the past year.

As publisher of, a site that focuses on hyper-local news in the eastern portion of Contra Costa County, I found the best way to grow was to be authentic in what I was doing.


I remember launching in 2012 because I was tired of poor local news coverage about our police and fire services. There was also many misleading stories in the form of “sensationalism” and important facts left out that would change the complexity of a story.  I often wondered if I was at the same crime scene, fire, or city council meeting as other reporters. Soon, it hit me that their love of community was not as great as mine and I did not care much about building my audience, the correct information was more important than “clicks” on a website or social media accounts.


Michael Burkholder

As time passed, the readership grew, advertising revenue started flowing in while I became entrenched in the community. I focused less on what others were doing and more on what I could control–it was about building a community by being authentic, not a news organization. Soon, major media began following and it was being used as a “tip service”.

They wanted eyeballs, I wanted to keep things authentic.


The community that was build soon turned into the largest online news source in the county. The site never had to “buy” likes on social media, nor did we have to “boost” posts. We also never advertised it. It grew because people wanted the information and they wanted it from someone they could trust.


Would it have been easier to purchase an audience? Sure. Could advertising have helped? Of course. But by building an organic audience the right way by being authentic  they will grow with you and support you both through the best and worst of times. They also feel apart of the team.


Too many times people are focused on how big their audience is versus the quality of that audience. For example, what good is 100,000+ followers if none of them will buy your product or services? What if you are a local sandwich shop in San Francisco and 90 percent of your audience is in Europe? The ending is not going to work out well for you in either scenario.


Another no-no, building a list based on giving away a prize–that is cheap and not being authentic. Sometimes the only people who sign up are those who want a prize, only to never engage with you again. What good is an email if they never will take the time to read your message?


Instead, build your audience the right way through being authentic. Show you care. Grow with your audience if you are a startup–its a beautiful thing to document versus telling a story. Create engaging content that will make someone want to react in terms of responding with a comment or share.


I’d also like to add when reading comments on social media, you must put your ego in check as not everyone will agree with you or give you a good review. Remove the ego and instead focus on finding ways to respond that encourages dialogue and discussion–show you respect everyone’s opinion.


Ultimately, growing the right audience first requires you to determine who you want your audience to become. Second, when putting out content you must identify the purpose as well as what reaction you hope to achieve.


Essentially, why should anyone care? If you can’t figure out why anyone should care, you are putting out the wrong message or have no big picture strategy in place. Always remember that slow and steady wins the every race. There are no shortcuts to building an audience and creating a community culture that is authentic.


Authenticity comes with time and so does credibility. You won’t get their without hard work and dedication to your audience. If you need help producing content and finding ways to do so by being authentic, contact us and we will work with you.