I used to check my stats. A little obsessively, perhaps. I liked to see the little number graph at the top of my WordPress dashboard, even though I KNOW the WordPress stats aren’t as accurate as Google Analytics. I liked hitting refresh sometimes when a post was doing well.
And then…I had my own personal blogpocalypse. All my lovely Pinterest traffic got cut in half last year when an algorithm changed. My stellar numbers were immediately and irrevocably way less. I realized just how fragile pageviews were and decided to stop trying to chase them.
I talked about this before in my post (and podcast) about changing to a people over pageviews mindset and as I wrap up the four-part series on Finding Your Perfect Audience, I wanted to close out by talking about how to turn your readers into raving fans.
Why does this matter?
I feel like someone needs to write a new version of Kevin Kelly’s 1000 True Fans post so we can all start linking to something else. But it’s brilliant and I love this idea. The idea, of course, being that you can make a living creating your art if you have about 1000 true fans who will buy everything you create. I don’t focus so much on the exact number, but more on the idea that you need people who CRAVE what you make. They want it. They wait for it. And they jump to buy it.
So how do we get that?
In this finding your perfect audience series I talked about figuring out your why, planning out your ideal reader profile, finding out through analytics who your actual readers ARE, and where to go out and find readers. But these readers then take nurturing. They require relationship to morph into true fans.
Sometimes people balk at the idea of platform building, as this post on Beyond Your Blog shows. I think we simply need a mindset shift. In that post Jessica Graham writes about moving hearts, not Like buttons. She resists the idea of playing a numbers game but wants to reach real readers. YES. But we have to think about numbers, too. (My biggest issue with that post is the reality that if you want a nonfiction book deal, as she seems to, you HAVE to have the numbers. Listen to my interview with industry insider Chad R. Allen for more.)
The distinction and the mindset shift comes when we realize that those numbers are people and we treat them that way.
It’s a simple question, right: How do we treat our readers as people?
I mean, that sounds ridiculous to write that. But so often we DO treat people as numbers, or we consider the numbers to people stats, not people.
Think about your favorite writer or blogger. What could they do to make YOU feel special?
I remember the first time I hit reply on an email from a blogger. It wasn’t a personal email to me. It was a weekly blast email that went out to his whole list. But it moved me. So I hit reply and wrote a short message. Within an hour? I had a response. From him. The real person. Talking to me, like a PERSON.
Replying to an email is such a small thing. But it is SO significant. Ever hit refresh a bunch of times on a blog post where you left a comment to see if there was a response? I have. I remember doing that on Young House Love one time and feeling all giddy to see a one sentence reply from John or Sherry.
Tiny things. But they matter. We should treat our readers like VIPs, because they ARE. Here are some simple ways that you can do this.
Listen to Create If Writing – Episode 051
Simple Ways to Turn Readers into Raving Fans
Respond Personally. (Until You Can’t.)
I like to say in some of my signup email sequences that until I’m Taylor Swift, I will respond if they reply to my emails. I’m not as good at replying to blog comments, oddly, but working on that. I also am SUPER active in my Facebook group. I can’t always jump in during real time or quickly (some days I’m not online for hours because: four kids), but even if I’m hours later and other people in the group responded, I like to just pop in.
I feel like it’s so important for people to know that you really are a person. Some people fear that humanizing themselves takes them out of that sort of seat of admiration where people look up to them. But I’ve found people seem to (oddly) look up to me more and shoot me encouragement about what I do when I am just being one of them.
This is a great strategy until you really are too big. But what’s too big? And could you pawn of something else to a VA and spend this time personally responding to messages, comments, and emails? Something to consider.
Build Community FOR Them.
I have been building my Facebook group this year and at almost 500 members, it’s not the hugest group in the world. But I’m almost SCARED of it getting bigger because I don’t want it so big that it loses the very real sense of community it has grown.
This seems simple and small. And, if you don’t have a Facebook group or have people responding to your blog posts and your emails, then it may be hard to listen. So if you’re still just growing that readership, make sure people KNOW you listen. Say that you’ll respond to comments and then do it. Say you’ll respond to emails and follow through. Invite them to respond. Hear what they have to say. Ask your Facebook group members to share their latest posts with each other. Read. Comment. Share.
I have a rule I tend to follow on Twitter. If someone shares one of my blog posts or retweets something, I follow them. Every so often I don’t check notifications as much as I should and a few fall through the cracks, but as a general practice, I follow back anyone who shares my content. Many people are stingy with their Twitter follows and some people follow back EVERYONE. I don’t think either is the best policy. Generally, it’s best to follow relevant people. But people sharing your content certainly are relevant. And they are showing themselves to be supporters of your work. Why not support back?
And if you want to take it a step further, respond to their tweet. Like it. You can retweet it if you want, but sometimes that can seem weird like if they were retweeting YOU to begin with and you retweet them retweeting you. Be sensible. But there’s no need to be stingy.
And if you want to go FURTHER, check out their stream while you’re there and share one of their relevant posts. Just for kicks.
Drop in Unannounced for a Visit.
Every so often, drop into your readers’ Twitter streams and blogs. Share a post or retweet something. Just show up and let them know you were there. This doesn’t take a lot of time and you don’t have to do it for every single person or be on a crazy schedule. Plan it into your weekly workflow and then surprise your people by showing up on their turf. Again, it’s a small thing that makes a big impact.
Give Exclusive Content.
I’m not an RSS fan (if you’ve read my book Email Lists Made Easy for Writers and Bloggers, you know this!) but I subscribe to Pinch of Yum’s email list and get each full blog post in my inbox. And I read them, too. About once a year they surprise the email subscribers with a special email that holds a free gift. One that I remember was a guide to creating great food photos on Instagram. Amazing! Free! And just for subscribers. Free and exclusive perks make people happy to know you. Especially when they are unexpected.
Meet in Real Life.
If you’re going to a conference where some of your peeps may be, host a meetup. I’ve been to several of these and they are fantastic. I also sometimes hang out with people who live in Houston and every so often get to meet up with someone traveling through. Face to face interaction is amazing. Nothing compares, really, so if you have a chance to do this, DO IT!
Let Them Shine.
I feel like being generous is a hallmark of greatness. And this is easy to do online. Whether it’s something simple like sharing a blog post or giving people a shoutout on Twitter (not through some automated system) or even mentioning them by name on a podcast—the smallest mention publicly can make someone’s day.
In March I attended the Smarter Artist Summit in Austin and got to meet Bryan Cohen and Jim Kukral from the Sell More Books Show. It’s one of my favorite podcasts and I arrived at their live show accidentally early and got to crash their small dinner. Since we made that real-life connection, I’ve gotten shout-outs on the show a few times. It has TOTALLY made my day. I feel valued and special and like I’m really a part of a community because I’m on their radar.
If you don’t have a podcast, think of other ways you can shine the spotlight on your community members. Someone who does this really well is Debi Stangeland, who features a reader in her weekly email, The Big Idea. (I would highly recommend subscribing, by the way! Great content every Friday.) Consider this as a great model and think of how you can feature your people.
With that in mind, here are a few people from my community that I want to give a shout-out to this week:
Matt McCarrick has become indispensable to me as my community manager and part-time virtual assistant. He has really helped grow and promote discussion in my Facebook group as well as personal encouragement and really helpful updates on my blog and podcast show notes. He has his own podcast, the One Verse Devotional, which is about a five minute five-day-a-week devotional digging into one verse. It’s a great way to start the day. He’s also a FABULOUS virtual assistant and podcast editor. Contact him through his site, Phosphorus Project.
K. Kris Loomis is a fiction writer who just published a book of short stories called Funeral Home Stories. She had me at “funeral home.” I’ve loved getting to read short stories again (sometimes my reading life really suffers) and it’s great to have fiction writers in my community, which is really a diverse ecosystem. You can check out her book HERE.
Rebecca Confiño has been vocal in the Facebook group and has a neat site called Mamaguru focused on mindfulness. I think most moms could use mindfulness, don’t you? If you’re interested in deliberate living and want to consider how you can up your mindfulness, check out her site for some really great resources.
Elizabeth Elliot is someone I recently “met” online through my sister-in-law and she has dived right into the community. We went to dinner last week since we are a few miles apart and had a lot of laughs over gyros and talked about writing and platform up close and personal. She writes about faith in the daily grind and is working on a really unique devotional for parents whose kids are involved in sports. I’m not going to name names (cough JJ WATT cough), but she has a well-known football player’s mom on board for the project.
If you’re reading this post thinking, “Ain’t nobody got time for that,” I get it. These are not easy things. They are involved. They require YOU to be involved. Up front. Personal.
This isn’t for everyone.
Seriously. This kind of philosophy may just not be your jam. It may not fit with the business you’re trying to build or the kind of writing you want to do. You may NOT want to reply to emails, even if you aren’t at Taylor Swift status. That’s fine!
Or maybe if you’re overwhelmed you can pick a few manageable things and be really good at those. If you do everything on this list, you might die. (Or not get anything else done.) You also might build some of the craziest, raving fans around.
What do YOU think works to build a deeper relationship with your audience?? Leave a comment below.
(And hey! I’ll answer. PROMISE.)