Successful blogging takes epic diligence. As a blog grows and brings in new readers, we all want to maintain what we’ve already built. No easy task! This sort of strategy calls for an effective tactic. And that tactic, my friends, is flirting. Though we can call it anything, My Super Official Blog Maintenance & Growth Tactic is pretty lame, so I prefer the operation name Wink Wink, Nudge Nudge.
The premise here is simple: flirt.
To grow your blog and maintain that growth, wink at your loyal readers, nudge the new ones. It’s akin to keeping the romance alive with a steady love and coming on a bit stronger with a potential new flame (hint: send a glass of wine, not a Chupa Cabre). Blogging is just people, flirting is just attention, and no person anywhere dislikes attention. I’m not talking about asking your reader out on a date. I’m talking about rewarding them for engaging with your words – with you. The trick with blogging, of course, is that you’ve got to flirt with everyone at once, the old and the new, without being insincere. No one likes a player…but everyone loves a flirt.
1. Wink with a link to a previous relevant post
Link up with a brief explanation and a bit of a tease that will help loyal readers anticipate what you’re talking about before they’ve even finished the sentence. I admit, this is the tactic I use most because it’s the easiest (“you regular readers will remember that I blogged about this last month in such and such post. I just know you remember.”) And flirting with your older readers by showing you trust they’ve kept up their end of the repartee just proves to your new readers that they’re on to something good. No reader is going to invest herself in a blog long term (visit more than once) if she doesn’t feel she is in for some appreciation. She’s flirting with you, with your blog, for only a moment – show her you’re attentive down the road.
2. Wink with a reference to a reader in a post
Readers love seeing their name in hypertext (who doesn’t?). Mentioning and discussing a comment from Susan is great, but if you can use a tip from her, all the better. Your readers will begin working hard to find good information for you to post about, saving you work. And all you had to do was wink! Remember to say “Reader Susan”, not just “a reader” or “this chick”.
3. Reference a past poll
“Hey, guys, remember that awful design we all voted against? Today’s new product is even stranger.” If you haven’t started using micropolls yet, do it. (Here’s one at Treehugger, and here’s an example from my own site, EcoSalon). Both micropoll.com and polldaddy.com are free and easy to use. Polling is also a great way to get new readers involved when they’re too shy to de-lurk and leave a comment.
4. Link love again and again…and again.
Good bloggers do it more than once.
You’re winking with reckless abandon – good for you. You’re clearly into meaningful community as opposed to grabbing few quick pageviews before moving on to other projects (people). This brings me to ye olde linky link. Doing it more than once shows you’re not just in it for the one-time Google boost. Create a genuine relationship by linking to a generous blogger again in the future – and when you do, reference the post with the original link and, if pertinent, explain the history to your readers. (Loyal readers who have already seen a previous link will feel smarter from the familiarity – people are encouraged by repetition, not put off by it.) Don’t link ‘em and leave ‘em.
1. Ask Them to Subscribe
Oh, the new reader. You get hundreds – or, if you’re lucky, thousands – every day. How many return? How many think you’re worth it?
Asking for something from a new reader is one of the best ways to get them to come back. Whatever we invest it becomes more valuable. But the challenge is creating a request that is compelling. A lot of bloggers make the mistake of only ever asking for comments. I don’t think this is necessarily the best tactic. Many will be shy until they’ve been reading you for a while – the infamous “lurkers”. So get them to read you for a while. Don’t write a bland post and add a worthless comment call to action; focus on quality content and go ahead and ask them to subscribe. (On WordPress? You might try out the nudge par excellence Seth Godin plugin). I am inclined to think many new readers are more likely to subscribe than they are to comment because they can maintain their anonymity until they’re a bit more comfortable. A subscription is ultimately far more valuable than a single comment, so ask them to subscribe. After all, a good flirt is bold but never fails to put the subject of affection at ease.
2. Ask Them to Comment
Maybe you should ask for a comment after all. This works well if the content is really inspiring, or if your blog is in a niche where the posts are typically considered starting points for content creation (read: politics, blogging, eye candy of the living or inanimate sort). As for me, I’m shameless, so I ask for everything: RSS subscription, newsletter, comment, sharing, firstborn – you know, the usual. This is technically more of a hug than a nudge, so if that’s not your personality, don’t do it. ;)
3. Ask Them to Share It!
If a post is good and there’s a big, easy social media button to push, I push it. (I can’t help it!) This is something I haven’t tried out much with my own readers, but I’m curious to know how well it works for you. Do you prefer to carefully prepare one special post, and make a special request of your best readers to Digg or Stumble or Reddit, or do you throw it all out there at everyone and wait to see what sticks? In other words, do you lavish your skillz on special, or do you flirt with everyone? Whatever you do, do something. Flirtation does not favor the wallflower.
I won’t belabor this point as it’s been covered. But bear in mind that if people are reading your blog, they want to spill their opinions. And they like to see the fruits of their efforts. But new readers need a little extra nudge to overcome the initial shyness hurdle, and leaving a comment can be intimidating for some newbies. There’s nothing like a good, juicy, or polarizing survey to get them to test the waters (or, in keeping with our theme, to take a sip of what you’re sending).
Once a Flirt, Always a Flirt
Don’t be afraid to repeat, repeat, repeat. Then go do it again. Be generous with your winks (references), and those new reader nudges (calls to action) won’t seem so annoying (utterly shameless).
Though I’ve outlined some specific ways to “wink” and “nudge”, what this is really all about is pretty basic and intuitive: it’s simply about responding, acknowledging, and inviting. No one wants to be ignored, most enjoy helping, everyone likes to feel smart, and people love attention. You can’t become a BFF with everyone, nor can you answer every email, but a wink and nudge are no trouble at all. In the blogitat, it just helps to be a flirt. ;)