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How To Cultivate An Online Community

Wandering Aimfully Through Building An Audience

How To Cultivate An Online Community

These are the 3 M's to building an online audience and an engaged community.
Caroline ZookCaroline Zook Caroline ZookCaroline Zook

Written by

Caroline Zook

The first step to building a successful business is finding “your people.”

These are the people that resonate with your authentic self and the impact you want to make in the world. They can be your cheerleaders, your besties, your dream clients – whatever you want them to be. But if you want to attract them, you have to be intentional about how you go about it.

I started Made Vibrant and my first email newsletter, Self-Made Society, because I was interested in connecting with other creatives who had an interest in teaching themselves new things and getting better as people.

In a little over a year, I grew that list from 0 to 2,200 subscribers. I welcomed over 1,000 students into my first online course, Better Lettering Course, in four and a half months, and I cultivated an engaged audience on Instagram, growing my account by 50% in just one month!

Was my community growing? Yes! BUT those numbers meant nothing to me without the accompanying comments and emails saying, “I look forward to your emails and posts. They add so much positive energy to my life.” or “I just devoured your blog posts. I feel like you just get me!” Those messages told me that I was building the RIGHT community. One that understood what I was trying to create and one that appreciated it.


It’s not the size of your community that counts; it’s how much your community believes in your mission.

“It’s not the size of your community that counts; it’s how much your community believes in your mission.”

Think of it like an archery target. It doesn’t matter how big that target is and how many circles are added to the outside—it could be 10ft across—but the name of the game is hitting the bullseye.

Similarly, it doesn’t matter how many people you add to grow your community; if they don’t hit that bullseye in terms of aligning with your mission, they aren’t going to truly appreciate the value you deliver or want to enlist your services/buy your products/consume your content.

In the welcome email to my Made Vibrant email list, I asked subscribers to reply back with their biggest creative struggle. I received so many messages saying that the biggest problem my readers were facing was not knowing what direction to go or what they wanted their creative business to look like. All they knew was they wanted to love what they do and make money doing it.

Here’s the great news about building a community. Even if you don’t know WHAT your business will look like, you can still start cultivating your community TODAY.

Why? Because if you build a community that aligns with your values, oftentimes they will end up telling you what they want from you. And if you listen to them, that’s how you’ll be able to develop content/products/services that bring them value. (And delivering value to an engaged audience is how you make that MONEY!)

So, let’s get to the meat of it then, shall we?

How exactly do you cultivate a community?

Here are my three steps. (Obviously, they’re all “M” words because you KNOW I get down on some alliteration.)

Step 1:

Your Message

This is your WHY. It’s the thing you stand for. It’s the thing you believe in and what you want to share with the world. Developing clarity around your message can be tough to nail down at first, but to get started, try asking yourself these questions:

What do I wish there was more of in the world? 

What have I learned from my own experiences that I want to share with others?

What lights me up and WHY does it light me up?

For Made Vibrant, I realized early on that when I’m creating things I love and working hard to improve myself, I feel like my soul is being fully expressed. Like my true colors are at their very brightest. And I wanted that feeling for other people. I wanted to help people evolve toward their brightest selves whether that’s in life, in business, or in their creative spirits. THIS is the message I want to share, and the community I want to attract is full of people that want that too (hopefully that means you!)

Please don’t forget, this message might evolve over time! But the more conviction you can bring to it when you’re starting out, the easier it will be for the right people to resonate with it and join your growing tribe.

Step 2:

Your Medium

This is the HOW. It’s your instrument—the method through which you share your music (your message) with the world. If you love to write, words are your medium. If you love to tell stories through film, making movies is your medium. It could be music, or watercolor, or hand-lettering, or photography, or design. And, the cool part is, you don’t have to choose just one.

I share my message through words and art (even better if I can marry the two like with hand-lettering!) I find that my sweet spot is in the intersection of art and insight — creativity and connection. Once I identified that it became easy to continually ask myself, “How do I use art and insight to share my message today?”

Step 3:

Your Microphone

This is the WHERE. It’s those specific places you can go where your message can be amplified enough that your target community can hear you. And you want the platforms you use as your microphone to marry well with your medium. If your medium is photography, maybe it’s an Instagram hashtag you use to attract people who adore simple, yet beautiful photos. If you’re a writer, maybe your microphone is a guest post on a blog that you know has an existing community that aligns with yours.

For me, I’ve discovered that Instagram is a fantastic place to marry my love of art and insight because it’s a very visual platform where I can also share little “microblogs” in my captions.

However, don’t be fooled by the word “microphone.” This doesn’t mean shout at people or push your message all day and all night. Instead, invite others into the conversation and make sure your community knows that you want to connect with them, not talk at that. I try to respond to as many Instagram comments as I can and reply to as many email replies as I possibly can because I want you all to know that my #1 goal is to connect.

Now, once you have these three pieces of your foundation, it’s your job to deliver CONSISTENT VALUE to the people that do raise their hands to be a part of your community. Try to climb inside the head of the person you want to bring into your tribe, and ask yourself, What can I do that would add value to their lives? 

How can you share your message through a specific medium in a place that gives you a microphone where those people will hear you.

That’s the name of the game, folks.

This week your challenge is to determine your message, your medium, and your microphone.

If you already have a solid community that’s growing, awesome! How can you brainstorm ways to bring them more value in the future?

I truly hope that these steps will help some of you out there starting out on your creative business journey!


How To Cultivate An Online Community

(Big Fat Takeaway)

To start building an engaged community TODAY, figure out your message (the thing you want to say); your medium (how you want to say it); and your microphone (how you plan to amplify that.)


This article written by

Caroline Zook

She/Her | Artist, designer + writer passionate about helping soulful creatives grow into their brightest selves. Lover of bright colors + even brighter people! One half of the crazy duo running these parts!

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