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How to Blog for a Transient Audience

This post is by Tim Tyrell-Smith, founder of Tim’s Strategy.

We all have a free flow of readers who pop in, consume our content and move along. And while we have them, we hope to convert them: to have them purchase a product, sign up for our feed, or perhaps join our community for good.

Image by Tim Tyrell-Smith

But what if your core audience is transient? Not just a small percentage of them, but the bulk of your readers. They might be in a life stage that requires new knowledge or a key advisor—a life stage that may end before you, the blogger, are ready.

Is your core audience transient?

My primary audience is the active job seeker—a segment of the population that’s highly engaged in my subject. And they’ll stay engaged for the next eight months, on average.

But what happens when they succeed in their job search? Or when the larger macro-economic situation turns around? It’s great news for them, but what about the bloggers looking to build a community in this space?

Of course there are other transient audiences out there. If you write a blog about the following categories, you likely have a transient core audience:

  • pregnant or new mothers
  • beginning photography
  • home buying or selling
  • wedding planning
  • political campaigns

These topics have audiences that are heavily engaged with you today, but may pick up and go tomorrow.

For some of these categories, readers may come back every two or three years (pregnancy) or every five to ten years (home buying). Some needs are unpredictable and can occur at any time (job search). Finally, some are natural progressions (the beginning photographer shifts to intermediate and advanced photography).

My blog has an unpredictable entry point (lay off) and a natural progression (new job) as an exit.

How do you write effectively for a transient audience? How do you keep them satisfied while you have them, and give them a solid reason to become a long-term reader even if your core content becomes less relevant as their lives change? Here are my tips.

1. Know and reflect their experience.

Either on a landing page or about page, you have to connect with new readers. You need to show them that you’re someone who has the life or category experience to lead them through the content successfully.

That first impression really matters. After all, you have to give them a reason to join in the first place, right? A great way to do this is to tell your story (buying your first house, or having your first baby, perhaps). And do so in a way that reaches the emotional or richly practical core of your subject. Whether your story is based on a real-life success, or a failure, the connection to your story is critical in the beginning.

The ideal reader reaction? “He knows me.” “She’s felt my pain.” “They did it right.”

Next, you have to maintain that credibility throughout the first months of their readership. One thing I hear a lot from my readers is: “How did you get in my head? How did you know that was important to me?” The answer has two parts. First, I was there: I was a job seeker for four months in 2007. Second, I meet with ten or 12 job seekers a week, and I ask them lots of questions, so I can stay as relevant and engaged as I can.

2. Know who they are and what they want.

At Blog World, I sat and watched Darren illustrate the importance of creating reader profiles. And I heard him speak about the value of writing posts directly to each profile. He gave each profile a name and a photo, to make them more personal.

As a consumer marketer, I’d done this for years—but I’d never done it for my blog readers. I’m knee-deep in it now.

Ask yourself, “What’s the core content that my readers are looking for? How does it compare (in terms of voice and complexity) to other sources of content in my category?“

While I don’t want to re-hash the same content that’s already out there for job seekers, I know I need to have a base source of content about resumes, interviewing skills, and career networking. Once I do, I can deliver it uniquely. For example, instead of just writing another “how to write a resume” post, I wrote about writing a bare-knuckled resume and cover letter.

I also provide a lot of free content (templates, tools, and ebooks) because I know “practical, easy-to-use, and affordable” is important to anyone looking for work.

While I’m in the process of creating fee-based products and services, I continue to create free content—and will always do that.

2. Know where they’re going next.

While I stay on my primary topic, I try to sprinkle in some more broadly based content.

This allows me to stay highly relevant, but also to begin introducing my role as more than just a job search expert. I also have a perspective and growing expertise on career strategy and work/life issues. For example, I wrote about the importance of building a stable career and life platform. so that if they were ever laid off again, their lives may not be so dependent on a single job.

To support that breadth, a few months ago I renamed the site with the following tagline: job search, career and life. It used to be solely a job search blog.

I am also developing a career strategy newsletter as a way to join my readers, arm in arm, as they transition into their new job, and are looking for content that will support their successful entry into the new company. This is content that will help keep them in a job, and out of the job search market.

I’m also beginning building my database. This is a must, I now realize—especially for bloggers with a transient audience. I figure this is much better than complaining about their departure.

This way, I can celebrate their success and be a part of their new world in a very natural way. But if they ever need me again for job search, I’m here for that too.

Do you target a transient audience? How do you keep them coming back?

Tim Tyrell-Smith is founder of Tim’s Strategy, a blog that helps professionals succeed in job search, career and life strategy. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimsStrategy and share his 30 Ideas E-Book with job seeking friends!

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Comments

  1. Mike says:

    Very interesting post! My advice is to be sure to collect email addresses, because you can follow-up with them on their next stage in life. For example, if someone is getting married, the next stage will be home ownership (mortgages, etc…) Also, I wouldn’t focus or worry too much on their eventual departure because this type of blog will have a long line of “new people” interested in the topic! This is called the lifecycle.

  2. Hi Tim,

    Great Post. You’ve made some amazing points about a transient audience. I think providing great content is the best way to keep them coming back.

    Thanks for sharing this great Post Tim. Keep up the good work.

  3. The best method to keep those floating population as loyal readers is to know where they will be going next or what will be their next step and what will they need for that. Your idea about sprinkling thoughts for their after-mission is great.

    I have never thought about this kind of audience so far. Great post.

  4. More and more I am noticing how empathy – the ability to step into another person’s world – is CRUCIAL for any business or blog.

    That is exactly what you are describing here. We need to see through the eyes of our readers and make educated guesses about what their needs and wants are.

    I’m going to check out the post about creating reader profiles. It sounds incredibly helpful.

    Thanks for the tips,
    Steven

  5. Nice post, I never thought about a Transient audience, but I understand where you’re coming for. Readers come and go, they learn and read what you have to say and then move onto the next person, It’s hard to hold onto them if they don’t need to learn anything more from you

  6. Hi Tim, you gave me some food for thought. I hadn’t really thought too much about understanding my audience, their experiences, and their needs. I guess I have generally been writing based on my current experiences and hoping the information catches on, but I can understand that serving my audience might be a better idea.

    Thank you, Brian.

  7. Thanks for those comments everyone.

    Devesh, you are right about good content – isn’t that the secret of it all? Create “awesome and highly relevant” as often as you can.

    Thanks Jane – I learned a few things as I wrote the post. A great process as it forced me to think beyond today, as you suggest.

    Brian – I spend a lot of street time with my audience so that helps. But I also picked up a lot of great ideas at Blog World. Darren’s sessions – and many others – were great. I also learned a lot through my SEO efforts. As I compared my original keywords with what my audience actually searches for . . .

  8. Sudeep says:

    Hey,
    Good Point raised Tim…. I normally have some articles to refer them from various topics at the end of the blog post. 25% of my readers do use those links to go forward in my blog which I feel is a good sign ..

  9. Appreciate the great additions . . .

    Mike – Yes, building your list will be key here. At least we will have an olive branch to extend. Whether that life cycle is a hard end or a soft one may decide our ability to keep them.

    Steven – Empathy is a great word to summarize a key transient audience. You really hit it there. You have to care and combine that with experience.

    Robert – Yes, there is a certain inevitability to the loss. It will be hard to hold on to many of them. For my audience, many will want to transition out quickly. Others will feel good about the role I played in their life and want to hear how I can help ongoing.

    Sudeep – Agree that related articles at post end can help introduce those topics – perhaps some that can begin the bridging to their next stage . . .

  10. Tim,
    Congrats on the post on ProBlogger! You are an inspiration! Not just for making it to this level, but for the work you do to inspire, motivate and support the unemployed. You create a trusting and valuable resource on Tim’s Strategy.

    Great to see you reaching your goals!

  11. I run a technology blog and maybe my audience is transient, because once i offer them advises to buy a cell phone, they won’t turn up for at least a year because they already bought a mobile phone and don’t need more.

  12. My niche is video games and so the readers move around all the time to whichever site has the latest big piece of news. However, sometimes, as is the case with a lot of blogs, you’ll realise that you may have created a bit of popular content that a lot of people will view but not stay on your site long enough to read any of the other gems that may have created.

    That’s why I
    a) Make sure that my popular posts are optimised and will send the casual reader to other great parts of my site and
    b) I try and make content that will keep them on the site long enough to think ‘hmm, this is fantastic! What other stuff is on here?”

  13. Tim, you are employing another recommened blogging strategy–replying to your readers’ comments. I began a blog in January 2010 in which I write a daily post of my diary entries from 50 years ago. I have recently told prospective readers that I check for their comments almost daily and respond to each. I have encouraged them to go back to January 1,1960, but so far no one has taken me up on that.

    I found your guest post by Googling “new Blogger blog posts October 31 2010″ and hoped to find Bloggers who are just starting a blog. However, I think I will also search for
    “guest blogger posts October 2010.”

  14. Good advice- I can think of several niches that may have a transient audience…

    I often wonder when I see mom blogs all about breastfeeding or natural birth, etc…..

    I mean you can only talk about breastfeeding so much, and you only DO IT for so long….

    …in that case, I think they should pick a niche with a broader subject base.

    But in your case, I can see why they are transient.

  15. Thanks for the post. It articulates an important point.

    It’s really difficult to go against conventional wisdom but I believe that there are endless numbers of blog readers who engage in search and find your site; but they’re not coming back until the next time they need information on your topic.

    Our world is extremely fast paced and for bloggers to believe that they will have a loyal audience (tribe) may be overly optimistic. With careers, family obligations and household responsibilities, who has time to frequently visit a site?

    For a lot of us, Facebook and Twitter and dozens of social media sites may be of questionable value. Maybe, just maybe, search is king and we need to devote the vast majority of our time to that endeavor.

    Create great content and make it easy for people to find you. That philosophy may be 80 percent of success when it comes to social media.

  16. I think sometimes the best part about blogging is reading the comments. Positive or negative, I learn something new or think of something new after reading each each one. Here are more thoughts on your comments:

    Hannah (Career Sherpa) – Appreciate that! And, yes, I have always wanted to write something for Darren. Meeting him at Blog World was the final push to pull something together.

    Rakesh – Yes, selling cell phones is a very tight window. A few weeks of research and then a purchase! Hopefully you can add content on apps, software upgrades, social media integration – things that allow your site to keep them using their cell beyond just text and phone calls.

    Jasmine – I imagine the video game category is incredibly competitive. News driven, as you suggested. Optimizing your popular posts is important as is making sure that content is easy to find. I tried to that by adding a lot of it to a FAQ page – seems to help (hopefully with user usage and SEO).

    Barbara – As I said above, the conversation I have with readers is a favorite aspect of mine. Ideally on the blog but also on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, those conversations provide great general feedback as well as research results. Did I write a post people want to share (Twitter, Fb Shares) or is it something they disagree with or have a strong opinion about? Nice to know . . .

    Carolee – You listed a couple of good sub-segments of pregnancy and I think the sub-segments are even more transient than pregnancy in general. As I read your comment, I also thought about one other aspect. Did the life stage that brought your reader end in frustration, fatigue or smiles? For example, a tough pregnancy might make a reader run from your content (to escape more reminders about the subject). Same with my job search core focus. Their experience (are they ending a bad thing or a good thing) may dictate the likelihood of their sticking around . . .

    Leonard – Great content is critical, I agree. But I’m finding that good content is not enough. You have to have people who believe in you enough to share. I had a really interesting conversation with a reader who lives in my home town. She said: “Tim, your blog is awesome and a huge help to us job seekers. But there’s not much else you can do to grow your blog”. Of course, I started at her with some frustration brewing. And then she said: “It’s up to us now. If we (your readers) don’t share it, you’ll just remain a nice, helpful blog”. I was blown away by her statement and I still think about her a few times each day. What can I do each and every day to give people a reason to share my ideas?

    Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

  17. febri says:

    I am not target a transient audience. The reason is simple, we need visitors who will be loyal and one mind with ourselves and our blog. Perhaps, we can use of temporary visitors to our new blog as an experiment.

    Thank you for new ideas.
    # Alifebriyanto

  18. Your points are well made and aimed at most blog readers, not just transients. Let’s find out what they want and then give it to them. AND… be sure to add material that is connected but not staying to just the main point or you’ll wind up with readers who look for you on your main topic but won’t know what else you can help them with.

    It reminds me about a printer I know. One of his clients came in one day and showed the printer the new stationery he just got from another printer. “Why didn’t you get ME to do that,” he asked. “I thought you only printed business cards – that’s all we ever get from you.”

    Don’t let that happen to YOU!

    Charlie Seymour Jr

  19. Ruth says:

    I blog about weddings and the planning process usually takes 9-12 months which is not bad at all. Blogging for a transient audience means that you have a constant stream of new readers. Although it is always a good idea to create new content we can use past posts ever so often that will be new information to the newest followers. As long as the information on the post is timeless you can bring it up again. I’m not sure about the other bloggers but I have a lot of readers that are NOT getting married, they just enjoy wedding or are daydreaming for when their time comes. Providing them with information they find useful and interesting now, will most likely make them followers later. Not only that, but they will recommend your blog to others in the same boat.