Close
Close

Making Yourself Accessible to Readers

be-accessible.pngToday I want to share a powerful principle of successful blogging… that I wish I was better at.

Accessibility.

What I Know

One of the reasons I was attracted to blogging as both a blog reader and as a blogger was the opportunity I saw it opening up for conversation and interaction between people sharing common interests. To be able to discover others to learn from is a wonderful thing – but that learning can be all the richer if it is interactive – where the person sharing their ideas makes themselves contactable.

As I look back on the growth of my own blogs over the past 8 or so years I certainly have benefited by putting myself ‘out there’ for people to contact. At different times I’ve done this by promoting everything from my email address, to my cell phone number, to my instant messaging details, to my social media accounts etc.

The results of being so accessible have been – in the main – very beneficial. It has deepened my relationships with readers, opened the doors for contact from journalists, other bloggers, publishers, potential business partners, event organizers and many others. Many of the opportunities that I’ve taken over the years to expand what I do have arisen simply out of being accessible.

It is well worth working hard on being accessible and interactive with your readers. It’s not easy – but the benefits will well outweigh the costs.

What I don’t Know

The problem with being accessible is of course that it is challenging to scale up as your blog grows. In fact almost every popular blogger that I’ve met have told me that this is amongst their biggest problems. The weight of incoming comments, email and social media messages can become quite overwhelming – some days I personally feel quite overwhelmed by it.

Please don’t hear me as complaining – it’s a challenge but it’s also great – however I’m just not sure how to scale it (or if it really can be).

Each blogger I’ve chatted with about the challenge has dealt with it in different ways.

  • Leo from Zen habits switched off comments and gave up on email (he did this for numerous reasons – he is a minimalist after all).
  • Gary Vaynerchuck has been famous for answering every email he gets (although managed expectations of those who emailed him by auto-responding to emails with a video explaining how many emails he gets and how long it takes to reply – interestingly he’s recently said he’s changing his approach)
  • People like Timothy Ferriss preach about the power of outsourcing and minimizing how much time one spends on things like email.

Other bloggers use a variety of tools to manage their communications, hire a teams of people to assist and use time management and organization philosophies to streamline their workflow.

What I Do

My approach is not perfect – it is something that I need to improve and on many days fail at miserably. Having said that – here’s what I’ve been doing:

  • Limit the points of contact – as mentioned above, I used to put my cell number, IM accounts, email address and more on my contact page. While this had some benefits it also made things disorganized and messy. It also became unmanageable. These days I attempt to funnel people to my contact form and Twitter account as primary places for contact/interaction.
  • Outsourcing – I don’t outsource much but do have some help with comment and forum moderation. I have a number of people help with this. They don’t ever comment in my name but do, when needed, let me know where there is something I need to address and comment on personally.
  • Maximize the impact of personal contact – one of the best things that I do is try to get on Ustream for live video streaming on a semi-regular basis. I find that this type of contact is great because it allows individuals to make contact but because it is in a public setting my answers are heard by many. I find this more productive than one on one communication (email). In a similar way I try to use some of my private email communications as a basis for blog posts (with permission of the person of course).
  • Conferences – the best part of going to live events is that you get to meet people face to face. Getting to Blog World or South by South West (the two US based conferences that I try to get to) has been invaluable to me on this front. Each time I go it allows me to have personal face to face contact with hundreds of people.
  • Boundaries – in the early days of my blogging when I didn’t have much demand for my time I was able to put myself out there fairly liberally and without any real restrictions. As things have grown I’ve found it necessary to pull back. I don’t like this but I’ve found for my own sanity (I’m an introvert and need to watch my energy levels when I’m interacting with people too much) but also my own productivity that I need to set boundaries around when and where I’m contactable.

It is certainly not easy and I’ve not arrived yet. I’ve resisted outsourcing too much of this because I want to retain a personal approach – however every day the unanswered emails and messages that I receive grows and I’m approaching a point where I think I’ll need to get some help on this – after all some contact is better than none (or is it?)

Do Your Best – Some Last Tips

Lets come back to what I know – there are many benefits from being accessible so I would encourage bloggers to find ways to do it. A few quick last tips:

  • Set up a contact form on your blog. This is better than an email address as it keeps your email private from spammers.
  • Set up good expectations with readers – try to communicate on your contact page how you prefer to be contacted and what kind of response people might expect to get. If you can’t answer every email, try to graciously communicate that. If you answer them within 24 hours, let people know that too.
  • Direct people to where you’re most interactive – if you have a variety of social media accounts but are more active on one than others – let people know this. Again it is about setting up good expectations and funneling people to where you are most present and more likely to interact.

What tips would you add on being accessible to readers? How do you approach it?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Problogger.net runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis Framework

The Genesis Framework empowers you to quickly and easily build incredible websites with WordPress. Genesis provides the secure and search-engine-optimized foundation that takes WordPress to places you never thought it could go.

Check out the incredible features and the selection of designs. It's that simple - start using Genesis now!

Comments

  1. I still struggle with engagement with readers. Probably, I don’t ask enough questions of them. Engagement is extremely important and I would love to see more posts on how to engage. One thing I do now is always answer commenters. I would love it if there were so many that it wouldn’t be possible. I’d still plug away at it.

  2. Hi guys,

    I think that email is the best way to be contacted. Because an email address is the first thing I look for when I need to get in touch with the blogger. I find that most bloggers don’t even have contact information on their page.

    Kind regards,

    Sam
    X

  3. msn says:

    I think that when it comes to social media, being accessible is one of the most important things that a blogger can do. I think that readers respond to you when you are ‘hands on’ and communicate back and forth with your audience. I’m glad you’re making this point because it’s very important that bloggers especially grasp this concept.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Ishrath says:

    Hmmm. Im not that big yet
    :-)

  5. Darren,

    I love that you come up with such great stuff so often. What good is writing if no one ever gets to read it. Thanks!

  6. Mike says:

    Outsourcing or making a team to handle communication with your readers only comes when you become enough successful blogger, there are not many like what you have achieved with this blog and this is nice thing for any blogger or writer when he comes of thinking to this point of level.

    For a writer like me in any specific niche, there are not much load of work in communications but still enough to handle this.

    Email each your reader is time consuming until that reader is not your potential customer……

    I like to reply on blog itself and handle only meaning full comments which makes sense

  7. Patrick says:

    Sandra –
    You need to understand that, especially on popular sites, most bloggers simply don’t have the time or resources to reply to every single person who comments. To chalk it up to “blog snobbery” is foolish and self-serving.

  8. I have found that just by showing there is a REAL person on the other end of a virtual/digital business can go a long way, especially with international customers.

    I’ve had people email me just to see if I would write back. Once they knew I was real, they bought a ton of products from me.

    The majority of the on-line businesses out there have total crap for customer service. If you can show that you are truly interested in your customers, and like Darrren says, make yourself accesible, then you will be leagues ahead of the rest of them.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  9. This is an interest article, but noticing the comment above about spam – I have found that the more popular my blog the more spam comments I get! I also find it hard to keep getting inspiration to write articles regularly!

  10. Dave Higgs says:

    Thanks Darren,

    1. I am surprised that you are an introvert. You seem so “out there”, I just assumed you would be a “marketing type”.

    2. You make a point about needing to withdraw for your own sanity/productivity. I would add family time to this list. It is so easy to have a few more hours slip by at the expense of your own family – the people who really need and deserve some communication.

    I have a rule of 6-8 pm is family time no matter what. I am fortunate to work from home so I spend a lot of time with my wife and kids, but 6-8 you don’t get me unless you are visiting my home…

    I don’t think outsourcing email replies is a bad thing, you need your sanity, in fact we all need your sanity :)

    Dave

  11. Sharel says:

    Hi Darren,

    Are you aware of an automated tool to solve the problem of “The problem with being accessible is of course that it is challenging to scale up as your blog grows.”

    Thanks,
    Sharel

  12. Sanjay says:

    Accessibility is important principle in most of the disciplines. However, in blogging, its new for me. Because I have not yet reached to the level that requires some of my to be spent responding the readers issue.

    Follow up is better if contacted personally. But if it is out of your reach, then outsourcing is surely a best option.

  13. Introduce yourself to others is a special support on the web that we control. They will see our side, who we are, and what is intersting from us.