How to Build an Audience with Authenticity and Happiness

Vanessa Van Edwards shares the best way to attract people to your brand.

How to Build an Audience with Authenticity and Happiness

In today's business world, authenticity is key to building meaningful relationships with your customers. Whether you're selling physical products, services, digital goods, or something entirely different, consumers are going to have very high expectations for what you're providing them with.

If you're not providing your customers with genuine value and doing so with the utmost transparency, they're going to very quickly see through the smoke and mirrors.

With my own online course business, I've dedicated myself to creating a high volume of extremely valuable blog content - for free - to show my potential customers that I'm going to deliver an immense amount of value to them, after they make their first purchase. Having your own voice, a unique brand, and position in the marketplace are essential to becoming memorable in your space. Plus, it helps if you have the people skills to connect with your audience.

If you can delight your potential customers with showing them your authentic self, and deliver on the value you're promising, you'll be much more likely to experience success with your business.

Here to help show you how to uncover your unique authenticity is Vanessa Van Edwards, a behavioral researcher, entrepreneur, and writer at Science of People. For years, Vanessa has been teaching online courses and writing detailed studies, sharing what she's learned about how we interact with each other.

Here's my interview with Vanessa. 

Ryan: What's the #1 piece of advice you'd give to someone just starting out with trying to build an audience with their blog?

Vanessa: "I admired so many people when I first got started. I would read their books and blogs avidly and then try to match their voice and format.

I didn’t realize that what they had going for them was their OWN voice and magic."

"If I tried to sound like someone else, I ended up bland and boring because I couldn’t really sound like them and I definitely wasn’t sounding anything like myself. I also would write topics I hoped people would like. Instead of thinking about topics I wanted to research or I thought were interesting I wrote with the end in mind."

"This destroys the creative process and leads your writing to be uninspired because you are writing for a checklist. My #1 piece of advice is to write as you and to write for you."

Ryan: What did you do before starting your own business and becoming an online educator?

Vanessa: "I have always been fascinating with giving people aha moments. I started writing my first book by accident when I was 16—it was a view into the teen world for parents." 

"That turned out to be my first business. I self-published it with my allowance in college and started a blog. It ended up taking off and I never had to get a ‘real’ job. Thank goodness too, because I do my best work in my pajamas!"

Ryan: How long have you been writing, researching, and building your audience with Science of People?

Vanessa: "I have been researching people since writing that first book at 16, but didn’t officially dive into the Science of People until 2012.

In my lab, I get to ask people deep, personal questions and talk to some of the most interesting people from around the world."

"After thousands of interviews, I have found that we are all incredibly similar in very different ways. In other words, there are these basic universals that drive all human behavior, and once you understand them, it becomes very easy to understand everyone you meet. However, we all act out those universals in different ways."

"For example, we all have these ‘crucibles’ in our life—moments where our paths fundamentally shifted, or our mindset changed. Some people grow and excel from these, while other’s become debilitated by them.

It’s one constant for humans, but manifests in different ways."

Ryan: What types of things are you doing to monetize your website, and at what point do you recommend adding in monetization?

Vanessa: "I think it is important to think about monetization from day one."

"This is because the old adage, ‘build it and they will come’ simply doesn’t work. My fear with early business owners is that they build something amazing, but then no one comes."

"It is incredibly important to think about your path to making money from the start—you don’t have to start making money, but you should know how that will happen. We have a few income streams. Specifically, online courses, book sales, corporate speaking and a certification program."

There's even an online course that'll teach you how to develop your profitable online course idea, and give you a detailed plan of action to creating the content, hosting it on your website, and marketing it to your target audience.

Ryan: Tell me about School of Happiness, and what inspired you to create this course.

Vanessa: "I have always been interested in the mystery of ‘happiness.’ We all talk about it and think about it and wish for it, but very few people understand how their happiness works."

"I wanted to study happiness from a mechanical perspective to see if it could be engineered, tinkered with and constructed from different ideas and emotions. Turns out you can! Happiness is quite formulaic—if you know the right inputs for yourself."

"For example, there are many overlooked emotional states for happiness. Capability, awe, anticipation—these are all ‘levers’ of happiness if you can push them in the right way at the right time. I love watching people go through the happiness course right now."

"It is a 10 week program and everyone is having these tremendous happy aha moments where they realized something they have been doing their whole life can be looked at from a new angle. I think the biggest change is that our happiness students feel liberated. Mental freedom, creative freedom, freedom from dread and anxiety—those are all the lovely side-effects from engineering your happiness. I am so excited to see what happens in the next few weeks and months for them."

Vanessa brings up some incredibly insightful points here. If we're empowered to be the most happy, fulfilled versions of ourselves, we're going to be much more likely to excel in our personal and professional lives.