(Image by Ben Stanfield, via Flickr) By Diane Gilleland It’s the number one question people ask me about blogging, Twitter, and Facebook: “How do I get more readers?” It’s a fair question, but I think it’s also a fuzzy one. So I want to spend this month’s column examining it (and yes, answering it).
(Image by Ben Terrett, via Flickr) Why do you WANT more readers, anyway? When people ask me about getting more readers, the first thing I do is ask them why they want more readers in the first place. And it’s surprising how often this question makes people hem and haw. It’s surprising how often the answer is, “I don’t really know.” There’s nothing in the world wrong with wanting more readers, mind you. But if you can be specific about what your purpose is for having more readers, then the way to get those readers becomes much clearer. Consider all these reasons why someone might want a larger readership: As you can see, there are lots of reasons to want more readers - and not all of them are business-oriented. Which one comes closest to your reason? (Image by TheChinaMan, via Flickr) The WHY points to the HOW… As I mentioned a moment ago, once you understand why you want that bigger readership, then it’s easier to figure out how to go get it. Check out these examples: If you want more readers because you want more comments, then one way to get both is to get out there and leave comments on other people’s blogs. Make yourself a regular schedule and comment on new-to-you blogs as well as your friends’ blogs. Make time to post replies to people on Facebook and Twitter. The online community is very crowded, so you can’t sit back and wait for people to notice you in all that noise. The way to get people to notice you is to notice them first. In addition to actively commenting, think about whether the material you’re sharing online actually encourages commenting. Are your posts thought-provoking? Original? Do they ask meaningful questions? Are they about subjects people can relate to, or are they all about you? It’s important to understand that everyone’s busy, so if you want someone to stop everything they’re doing and comment, you have to inspire them out of their everyday mindset, and that means putting more thought into your content. What kinds of posts motivate you to comment? If you want your designs and projects exposed to a larger audience so that influential people see them, then getting more readers means being a good participant. Be on the lookout for link parties, blog hops, and blog carnivals to join. Meet their deadlines and do your part to promote them. Post thoughtful comments on other people’s Facebook business pages. Participate in Twitter chats, like Craft Social and Crafterminds. Efforts like these constantly show new people that you’re a nice and capable member of the community. Everybody knows people, so good participation increases your chances of being seen by (or referred to) the right ones. While you’re participating, do some research. Who do you want to be hired by? Do these people or companies have blogs? Facebook pages? Twitter accounts? Read them all closely. How can you be a good participant there? If more readers means more buyers to you, then it might be good to think about who your ideal buyers are, and where they hang out online. I think it’s easy to assume that your current group of online friends is also your pool of customers, but that isn’t always the case. Let’s say, for example, that you make amazing crocheted pot holders to sell. Does it make sense to reach out to other crocheters with this product? Perhaps not. But what about all the blogs and Facebook pages and Twitter accounts devoted to cooking? Those people have a real need for your pot holders, and aren’t as likely to know how to make them! So if you focus on commenting and participating within the online cooking community, you’re actually reaching many more potential customers. In addition, if you want your readers to think about buying, it really helps if many of your posts on a blog, Twitter, or Facebook have to do with how your product solves a problem or makes some aspect of life better. It’s not that your content should read like one long ad; it’s more that you’ll want to focus on the stories that subtly explain why what you make is useful and interesting. This post gets into more detail on that idea. If your goal for having more readers is simply having more friends, then the best way to accumulate more readers is to reach out to people in a more personal way. My Mom is amazing at this. When she likes someone’s blog post, she doesn’t just comment with, “Great Post!” She reads more deeply and learns more about the blogger’s life. Then she sends a personal email, detailing what she loves about the blog and sharing any ways she and the blogger have things in common. As a result of this genuine friendliness, she’s struck up email friendships all over the world, and without really aiming for it, earned a devoted following for her blog. Not only that, when you comment or reply to people in the social media space, the more thoughtful and detailed you are, the more likely you’ll create ongoing connections with people. There’s nothing wrong with leaving those simple “That’s Funny!” or “Good Luck!” comments, it’s just that they can easily vanish in the day-to-day noise of the social media space. If you want to connect with busy people, your posts need to stand out. (Image by AHMED, via Flickr) What’s your audience-building priority right now? Some of you may have looked at my list of reasons to want more readers and thought, “I want more readers for ALL those reasons!” Well, that’s completely fine, but the question is, how many hours do you realistically have each week to spend on audience-building? If you try all the approaches above at once, it either adds up to a lot of hours, or you may end up spreading yourself too thin to be effective. What if instead you chose one of these reasons as your priority, and focused your energies there for the next 30 days? And once you’ve built some readership in one area, you can always spend the next 30 days focusing in another area. …And never forget the magic ingredient here: time. No large readership happens overnight. It happens over months of consistent action and focus. All avatars in this post were created with Face Your Manga. About the Author: Diane Gilleland produces CraftyPod.com, a blog that geeks out on crafting and also helps crafters use the web more effectively to promote their businesses.