How To Build An Authentic Connection With Your Audience, According To Poet Jacqueline Whitney
'Connection happens the moment you relate to someone else in a way that’s deeper than what’s on the surface.'
Welcome to the Collective World Careers Newsletter. Collective World is a one-of-a-kind creative network powered by the minds and voices behind The Thought & Expression Company. We’re so glad you’re here.
Today, we’re sitting down with poet Jacqueline Whitney, author of ‘Beyond Worthy’ and ‘All That You Deserve’, to discuss vulnerability, authenticity, and connecting with your audience as a writer.
While it’s one thing to know what a reader is interested in, it’s another to understand how to solidify trust with that reader. With that said, how do you foster that genuine connection with your audience?
It starts with being genuine with yourself first. When I first started sharing my writing online I wasn’t looking to necessarily build an audience, it was an outlet for me. I was hoping by sharing personal thoughts at least one person would see it and feel less alone. Ever since then, I always keep that intention in mind before sharing anything. It’s been several years now and the community that I have is a reflection of this. It’s a really special community of humans going through human experiences just looking to support one another.
What is your best advice for writers who are hoping to connect with their audience off the page?
Don’t be afraid to ask your audience questions. It means a lot to them when you ask what they want to see from you. Creating products for my audience has been a special way for them to connect with my words in a different way offline. Find out where in the world they are if a goal of yours is to host in-person events. Some of the most special poetry readings I’ve done were with a small group of people. My best advice is to just be patient with yourself through it all. Have goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if they don’t come to life overnight. You will get to where you want to be.
As a writer, what is the best way to approach vulnerable subjects? How do you protect yourself when telling vulnerable stories?
It’s really important to only share what feels “right” deep within you to share. I don’t share anything that feels too personal or anything that might be too triggering for a reader. Although, if I feel called to share something that might be triggering, I’ll include “trigger warning” in the beginning. If I’m ever doubting myself, wondering if I should share something that feels really personal and vulnerable, I go back to my intention and ask myself if it might help one person. If the answer is yes, I usually decide to share. I want people to come to my writing and feel like someone finally understands them in a way they haven’t felt before.
What is your definition of “connection”?
Connection happens the moment you relate to someone else in a way that’s deeper than what’s on the surface. Connection happens when one person shares something that makes another feel less alone. Connection is what keeps us going daily. It’s the seed of any relationship, it’s the energy that gives us purpose in life. For example, I wouldn’t write and share what I do if I didn’t feel a connection with my audience. Connection to me is someone saying, “I feel this, too.” It reminds me that no matter how different I feel from people around me, at the end of the day, we’re all the same, really. We’re all going through something, all the time. We’re all doing the best we can. We’re all living through this human experience, in different ways, but at the same time. We all thrive on connection and purpose.
What is your advice to writers who are struggling to connect emotionally with their audience?
Readers are looking to connect with writers to feel something. They’re looking to feel less alone. If you’re struggling to connect emotionally with your audience, try sharing something you haven’t before. Maybe something that is personal. My most popular posts are the ones that felt deeply emotional to write.
What inspired you to write and share such vulnerable pieces for such a public audience?
Honestly, my own pain and most difficult struggles led me to share in this way. I was desperately looking for someone going through something similar to me. I was desperately looking to not feel so alone. No one in my personal life really understood what I was going through because they hadn’t gone through anything similar, really. The moment I saw other people were struggling in similar ways, I haven’t stopped sharing since.
Was there ever a time where you worried you shared too much? If so, how did you handle the situation?
Yes, definitely. There have been times I’ve deleted posts. There have been times I’ve had to reflect on my intentions behind sharing something that was maybe too much. But honestly, most of the time something that feels too much might actually not be too much. So many people online hold back what they share because they’re afraid of what other people might think of them. The people I look up to the most are the ones who share in a way that’s deep and personal to their experiences. I think I could actually share more openly than I do, actually. But I always remind myself, it’s important to not share parts of your story until you’ve healed from them, or at least aren’t triggered by them like before. You’ll know when it’s time to share, if it ever is. Trust your story.
Throughout the years, you’ve managed to gain hundreds of thousands of social media followers and publish several books. What is your advice for others who are just starting out and hoping to grow their audience?
Be consistent. Share as often as you can in the beginning because the more you share, the more you’ll learn and grow your audience. It’s normal to focus on numbers and followers, but the more you disconnect from this being the goal, the more you’ll actually see your numbers grow. The more authentic you are, the more you will grow your audience.
How do you manage to stay in touch with your audience, even when life is particularly crazy?
I have to remind myself that it’s okay to post less when life is chaotic. It’s okay and important to take social media breaks. It’s okay to reshare a post that performed well in the past when creating new content feels too overwhelming in certain seasons. Maybe growth is slower in these seasons or some people unfollow you, but that’s okay. Because there are always the seasons around the corner where you see your audience build. The people who support your art will always support you needing to take care of yourself.
Do you have any last comments or advice you’d like to share?
Please remember not to be too hard on yourself when it comes to how many people are reading your words or how well your posts are performing. There is so much pressure and comparison in social media. It’s easy to lose sight of why you started writing in the first place when social media has become what it has. I’m so proud of anyone who decides to share their writing openly and continues to, no matter how big their audience is. It’s really vulnerable to share. Your words are needed and appreciated.
For more from Jacqueline, find her on Shop Catalog and Instagram.
If you’re interested in purchasing Jacqueline’s beautiful books, don’t miss Shop Catalog’s Black Friday sale! Use code BF2021 to get 15% off any order over $20, including sale items. Collective World members will receive a specialized code with a bigger discount when they email firstname.lastname@example.org and include a link to their author profile.