Whether it's sharing key learnings via Twitter threads, behind-the-scenes TikToks, reflective Instagram posts or considered blog posts, plenty of business owners are embracing the sharing spirit and being transparent about what's happening under the hood. But, as the most cursory glance will show you, plenty are coming to it with the wrong aims, wrong ethos and, ultimately, the wrong execution. Kevon Cheung, founder of Public Lab, a business advice platform, is a master of the art and has even created a course on making friends on Twitter. So, here are some of his essential dos and don'ts when it comes to building in public.  

Tips for best practice

Use whatever platform feels right

‘[Building in public] is all about doing it in front of your target audience. For a brand like [jacket company] Paynter, Twitter and LinkedIn aren't right, but Instagram is perfect. If you're in the tech space, Twitter might be right. It doesn't really matter where you are, as long as you can put the story out and people are reading it. It's all about storytelling.’

Approach it from the position of a learner

‘When you're sharing updates, you have to be a learner yourself. A lot of people make the mistake of pretending that they're an expert and trying to put out wisdom. That doesn't work. In the beginning, it's all about making friends, making connections and having conversations. Your work will spread. So, make friends.’ 


‘Building in public is essentially audience building. That means you need to give, give and give. It's all about giving, because it's all about credibility and building trust. If people trust you, ultimately they're more likely to buy anything you create.’

Engage in two-way conversations

‘People are going to gather around you slowly – but at least you have people watching. Ask them questions so that you understand what they're looking for – ask questions around the product that you're trying to build. In a way, they're helping you to build the product. Building in public is like putting people around you – as long as you're open-minded and you listen, you'll build something that people want.’

Know when to stop – or change what you share

‘This is about sharing the journey – the fewer people involved, the easier it is; it's a lot better for the personal brand and the personal voice. When you're a startup with 20 to 30 people, it gets complicated. What can you share? For example, there might come a point where sharing numbers could make it complicated to run your business. As you grow, adjust how much you share and the frequency. It's still the same mindset because, at the end of the day, it's still about being open and building trust. But, when you get to a certain team or revenue size, there might be hesitation. At that stage, it's not common to be building in public.’ 

Things to avoid

Expecting to get an audience overnight

‘It's very slow. You can't start sharing your journey for a couple weeks and expect a lot to come back. Sixteen months ago, I started writing a guide to building in public – the first time I spoke about it, I hadn't written a word. I just put it out there. I got like four likes, because I didn't have any followers. Then seven, then 10. People don't pay much attention when you're starting but, over time, when they see that you're serious, that's where the trust and credibility kicks in. It's not good to set big expectations at first.’

Sharing everything

‘People instantly think: oh my god, I need to share my journey; I need to share everything. That can be a barrier that stops people from doing it. But this isn't much different [from] other types of content marketing – why do people need to listen to you? A lot of people put out their daily to-dos and think that they're building in public – and no one cares. Who cares what you're doing today? What they care about is what they can learn from you. Always package it in a way so that someone can learn something from you.’

Imitating others

‘You don't have to share what other people are sharing. Everyone has a different audience and environment. It's important to figure out what the people around you want and then be that captain for them.’ 

Assuming you need to be extroverted

‘The ultimate building in public people are YouTubers – they're always showing what they're doing. But a platform like Twitter is a place for people who are more introverted. It doesn't matter what kind of personality type you are; it's just about practicing the rhythm of sharing – and being OK with public criticism. People are going to give you all kinds of feedback and it takes practice to build up those muscles [for receiving feedback].’ 

Expecting business outcomes from it

‘I think a lot of people want to grow an audience because they think that it's going to power their business. But an audience and customers aren't equal. If I have 9,000 followers on Twitter, 8,000 aren't my customers. You need to be OK with that – and still help people, even if they won't buy from you. That's what audience building is. It's about conversations and interactions, and most founders just don't think of it this way.’ 

A version of this article was first published in Courier issue 47, June/July 2022. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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