Part 4 of this series is going to be about a very important (and very fun!) aspect of building up your blog. It's one of the things I've enjoyed most in getting the Rock and Roll Chemist off the ground and growing in exposure and popularity. While this series of articles is solely based on my own experiences and the knowledge I've gained since I took up blogging several years ago, I think the theme of this part is something that most bloggers more seasoned and successful than me will still agree with. That thing is ENGAGEMENT!
|Not that kind of engagement!!|
By engagement, I mean interaction...with your readers, with potential readers, and with the larger blogging community as a whole.
|THIS kind of engagement!|
I've broken it down into three phases: Attract, Sustain, and Growth. Let's take them one at a time:
|If only it were that easy...|
Merely posting interesting content on your site will not entice anyone beyond the few who stumble upon it to read your blog, nor will it make them want to leave comments on your posts and tell their friends to check out your site. In order to attract people to your blog, you're first going to have to act as your own PR agent. This can be a lot of fun but you also have to tread carefully here. Similar to how I explained getting exposure for your book in my series on How To Write a Book, there is a fine line between being excited about your work and wanting to entice others to check it out, and coming across too aggressively like a huckster who is only trying to get something from your audience. It's okay to be really excited about what you've written and wanting to share it with as many people as you can...in fact, that's essential! Why else are you blogging? But make sure to do it in a tasteful and somewhat restrained way so that your targeted audience doesn't feel like they're being bludgeoned over their metaphorical head...that ends up having the opposite effect by turning people away. This phase is one you will spend the most time on in the earlier stages of getting your blog off of the ground and working to make it successful. That's not to say you will never have to do it again once you've established a faithful readership base and reputation as a blogger...you're always going to want to attract more eyes to your site and it will always take some effort. But the amount of effort you'll spend on it will lessen the longer you're established as someone of quality and trustworthiness that readers can expect great content from.
In terms of engaging with your audience, this means getting involved in various ways, whether it be social media, message boards, blogging communities, etc and tastefully enticing people to check your blog out. Personally, I use a combination of all of these: Twitter, Facebook, InstaGram, and Tumblr for social media, various message boards I am active on relating to music, certain bands, writing, sports, etc, and blogging communities like Blog Catalog and twitter blogging chats that occur regularly every week like #blogchat, #bloggab, and others. These are all great ways to interact with your audience, fellow bloggers, and potential new readers of your site.
The second stage of engagement is to sustain it. This means that you want to keep most, if not all, of the readers you've attracted to your site coming back time and again to read what you're writing. It also means that, in order to sustain that growth, you need to continually produce new quality content on a regular (or semi-regular) basis. Much of what you need to do here overlaps with what I wrote in Parts 1 and 3 as far as producing quality content on a somewhat regular basis and establishing yourself as someone your audience can trust, respectively. I'll also add that comments on your blog posts come under this umbrella. Once you've got enough interest that readers start commenting on your posts, making sure to interact with them and keep the discussion going is a great way to maintain and sustain their interest. Additionally, any feedback you get from readers on social media or elsewhere should be promptly answered and the engagement nurtured for the same reasons. Like the Attract phase, the Sustain phase never ends. However, unlike the Attract phase, the amount of effort you'll need to spend on the Sustain phase will never really diminish, not if you want to keep the gains you've made from slipping away. However, these two phases are intimately entwined and both lead down the path toward...
|We'd all love to have an audience for our blog like this!|
The third and final phase is the Growth phase. Here, you'll take what you've done in the Attract and Sustain phases (both of which you'll continue doing) and begin to reap the benefits in terms of growing your brand and your blog. It doesn't mean that you don't have to do anything in this phase in order to grow and expand, however. In this phase, you'll need to think long and hard about how you can change, improve, and move on to the next stage in your blogging career. This might mean taking advantage of some new blogging opportunities that come your way, it might mean producing new and difference types of content for your site, it might mean trying to broaden your exposure through new channels, or all of the above and more. However you do it, this growth will then lead to a new round of attracting and sustaining audience engagement with your blog. Think of this phase (all three of them, in fact), as a big feedback loop, where Attract and Sustain feed into Growth, which then becomes something new that feeds back into the beginning of the cycle, which will repeat ad infinitum. The more you put into it, the bigger and more rewarding this cycles becomes.
As you can see, engagement with your readers and nurturing that connection in order to keep it alive and growing takes a lot of work, a lot of time, and a lot of creativity. However, it can also be the most fun and rewarding part of blogging...I know that, for me, the only thing about blogging better than the engagement part is the actual writing itself. However, the reason I and countless others write is because we believe we have something worthwhile to say and we want to share it with others and get their feedback. When you stand back for a moment and look at it this way, it's easy to see why this is one of the most difficult and crucial things a blogger needs to do to be successful. Just remember to have fun with it!