This post is based on episode 116 of the ProBlogger podcast.
Over the past few weeks I’ve talked about the first three stages of warming up your readers and turning them into raving fans:
- getting the word out about your blog
- getting first-time visitors interested in your blog
- getting more subscribers, followers and connections.
And today I’m to tell you all about the final step: getting engagement.
Yes, it’s nice to have people subscribing to your blog, following you on social media, and sharing what you’ve said with others. But what you really want is for them to talk back to you, join your conversations, and even start new ones.
So how to get people to stop lurking and start participating?
Be the community you want to create
If you want people to be engaging with you then you need to be engaging to them.
For some of you, this will be easy. My wife’s pretty good at this, especially on Instagram. Whenever someone makes a comment she’ll comment back and then head off to like their page. She loves this kind of engagement.
But some of you might struggle a little. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s like any other skill: some people pick it up easily, while others need to work a little harder to get there.
Unfortunately, you really do need to engage with your readers before you can expect them to engage with you.
Looking back at my own blogs, there were times where I was great at this. But there were also times when I wasn’t so great at it, and my blogs suffered as a result.
It’s a big commitment. But if you’re willing to make that commitment then the strategies I’m about to share with you will make a real difference.
Set up an autoresponder
Last week I talked about getting people to subscribe to your mailing list. But what happens when they do subscribe?
In a lot of cases they’ll receive a “Thanks for subscribing” email that tells them what they’ll get, how often they’ll get it, and how to unsubscribe.
And that’s it.
But if you set up an autoresponder you can also start engaging with them.
When you sign up at Caz and Craig Makepeace’s yTravel blog, you start receiving a series of emails they’ve set up with an autoresponder. The first email thanks you for subscribing, talks about what the email will be used for, and explains when they will be sent: “Every Wednesday you’ll receive an email with a personal inspiring message”.
It also tells you how to get the free audio download they offer as part of their opt-in, and what will be coming in future emails. (Yes, they send more than just that ‘welcome’ email.)
But what I really love about that first email they invite their readers to reply to it: “Reply now and introduce yourself. Tell us what is your travel dream, why travel a priority for you and what is the biggest obstacle in your way right now? How can we help?”
Remember me saying a few weeks ago that you should think about what your readers dream about and want to achieve? Caz and Craig are asking for that information straight away. They even ask the reader about their priorities and pain points.
But most importantly, it’s an invitation to start a relationship and engage with them.
In their next autoresponder email they talk about how they’ll help the reader make travel part of their life. In other words, they make a bold promise. They also provide links to three articles that closely relate to the reader’s pain and what they want to achieve, which gets people back to their site.
(That’s important. It reinforces your brand and gets them used to coming back to your site.)
And they finish their second email with another invitation to reply: “P.S. Don’t forget to reply to our emails at any time to tell us any content you feel is missing on our site that you like us to write about”.
The third email taps into the reader’s pain: “We’ve discovered that there are five reasons why you won’t travel. We wrote a series of posts to help you to discover ways to overcome these barriers” (which they probably found out about from that first email). This not only gets the reader back to their site, but also gives them a quick win.
What to create an engaging relationship with your readers? Then let them know in those first few emails by getting them used to coming back to your site.
Create engaging content
Another way to engage with your readers is to create engaging content.
You can make every post engaging to a point simply by asking a question at the end (“What is your best tip for finding new readers?”) and encouraging your readers for their answers.
But you can also create content specifically to engage your readers.
One option is to create a discussion post based on a particular question. In these posts you don’t provide the answers. Instead, you ask your readers for their answers.
In the early days of Digital Photography School, a reader asked: “How do I photograph a funeral?” (They’d been asked to photograph a funeral by family members who couldn’t attend in person.)
And I simply couldn’t answer it.
But rather than reply saying, “Sorry, I can’t help you as I’ve never photographed a funeral”, I raised the question in a post and asked my readers if they could provide an answer.
It was an amazing discussion, with many readers offering suggestions (some from personal experience). And it showed me the power of starting a discussion. My readers could see I was interested in helping them, and hearing what they had to say.
Is also led to other readers sending me their questions, and it started what became an ongoing series of discussions.
Something else we do on Digital Photography School is give our readers a weekly challenge. We announce a theme for the week, and then ask everyone to take a photo based on that particular theme. We did a similar thing on ProBlogger with writing challenges. I’d ask everyone to write a particular type of post (list post, opinion post, etc.) and then I‘d share a link to their post.
Another thing you can do is to run polls and surveys. But don’t just collect the information – share it with your readers. We often present the results in another blog post, which shows we not only got the information but are also willing to share and interpret the results.
Start live streaming
One of the most effective ways to engage with your readers (and have them engage with you) is by using live video.
Whether you use Facebook live, Zoom, Twitch or something else, it creates an incredibly engaging experience. They’re not just typing out a comment and posting it. They’re also on the screen with you.
In some of my Facebook live sessions I’ve had 30–40 people ask questions or leave comments. And experience has taught me that those same people will probably leave a comment on my blog.
It also gives your readers a chance to meet each other, which is a vital part of engagement. And live streaming is a great way to introduce your readers to each other.
Create content events
My final tip for building engagement is to create what I call content events.
Back in 2005 I ran a series of blog posts called 31 Days to Build a Better Blog –the first time I’d ever done a series that went for more than a week.
When I announced the series at the beginning of the month, my subscriber numbers jumped quite a bit. But during that month the engagement on ProBlogger went through the roof.
Why? Because every one of those 31 blog posts invited people to do something and share something. (For those not familiar with the series, each day I gave everyone an activity to do on their blog and invited them back to share the results.)
And as the participating saw what everyone else had done, they started engaging with each other.
Yes, it generated a lot of traffic. But it also created a lot of ‘stickiness’, bringing people back to ProBlogger day after day. And getting them to show up regularly, engage with you regularly and notice the other people on your site is a great way to build engagement
Turning content into an event with a specific timeframe is a powerful thing. Some people will stay for the duration because of the fear of missing out. But others will join because they know it will only be running for a month (or perhaps a specific number of weeks), and so they can fit it into their schedule.
So there you have it. How to get your readers to engage with you and your blog, which is the final stage of turning your readers into raving fans.
Do you have any other tips for engaging with your readers, and having them engage with you? Feel free to share them in the comments.
Image credit: Maxime Bhm