We kicked off the evening with one of the hottest topics these days (yes, pun intended): climate change. Dymphna, our organiser, mentioned the young environmental activist, Greta Thunberg, whose name was on everybody’s lips this week and urged us to support her (and our!) fight in any way we can.

That was a great segway to our first speaker, Aleyda Santos from GAIA initiative. Aleyda, like Greta, believes that we don’t have to wait for the institutions to make a change – we can do it now. The GAIA initiative, a social enterprise that promotes the protection of the environment, focuses on waste management.

Did you know that more than half of the plastic bottles in the Netherlands are not being recycled? And that the only reason for that is that no one collects them?

Well, the GAIA initiative’s first project aims to change that through recycling plans, plastic collection services and incentive awards. The Initiative is looking for partnerships, collaborations and funding, so please let Aleyda know if you have any leads! It was a fascinating introduction and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for this initiative.

We then moved onto our guest speaker of the evening, a talk by Mariam Ottimofiore – author, writer, researcher, economist and self-proclaimed nomad. Mariam was on tour to promote her book “This Messy Mobile Life” and explained to us how she turned her blog into a brand and then into a book.

Of course, not all of us want to write a book, but we all wanted to learn how to grow and engage our business and audience.

Mariam believes that an engaged audience is key, and no matter what your business is, the rules to getting an engaged audience are the same. Here are the steps:

Step 1 (AKA the blog phase): connect with your audience

1. Connect – online and offline. Comment and react online, but also make sure to meet, talk and exchange ideas with people offline.
2. Experiment – do you know how people always say “choose a niche and stick to it”? – DON’T. Your business may take you in different directions than you have anticipated and people might surprise you and may not be the target audience you’d imagined (Mariam told us a hilarious story about one of the most engaged readers of her blog about expat life – who did not even own a passport).
3. Invest – in yourself and your skills. You want to do something (like, say, write an entire book)? Find a course, a workshop, a training to help you do that.
4. Tell stories – show the person behind your book/blog/service. Tell them the back story, let people feel like they are part of your journey. Tell your story wholeheartedly and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.

Step 2 (AKA the brand phase): engage with your audience

1. Strategy – be strategic in how and where people see your work and try different ways to reach your target audience (through collaboration, for example).
2. Visibility – build your presence online and offline through online presence, social media, industry groups.
3. Values – connect to your audience not only on the basis of shared interests, but shared values. Say what you (and your business) stand for.
4. Recognition – logo and theme colours might seem insignificant, but they are a way of showing your audience who you are. Mariam often dressed in her theme colours (this evening even her nail polish matched!).

Step 3 (AKA the book phase): growing your audience

1. Manifesto – encapsulate your business and your journey.
2. Scale – expend what you offer your audience (“if you like what I produce, let me give you more!”).
3. Anchor – know what is your most tangible representative product.
4. Endurance – keep reaching people through events, conferences, etc.

And for the most important part of every training: what NOT to do.

Common mistakes in growing an audience –
1. Don’t ask people to subscribe to your mailing list without explaining its values.
2. Don’t ask people to care about you if you are not willing to engage with them.
3. Don’t look for shortcuts, built long-term relationships.
4. Social media is never the goal, it’s a tool.
5. Don’t focus on consumption, focus on the connection.


We were all amazed by Mariam’s journey, especially after hearing she’d only started blogging seriously in 2016! But if there was one thing we could take from her presentation, is was this: growing your audience is a long-term process: it takes time, effort and patience. Don’t stop, because you never know who is reading you.

Author: Moran Greenwald