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Sharing One Journey: New Ways to Continually Engage Your Users

This guest post is by Rob Summerfield of Newsgrape.

Kicking off and running a blog can be quite a challenge. Strong bloggers have to be adept at tweaking their SEO, covering performance-related issues, and constantly supplying a reliable stream of quality content.

Many bloggers that I encounter feel very strongly about these topics, discussing new ways of improving their blogs via technical aspects, design, and more. But they neglect a core factor in their site’s success—the dear readers.

So, in this article I’m going to explain some easy ways of developing and maintaining close user relationships. The goal? To generate a flock of quality followers that engage in and appreciate your efforts.

The warm welcome

Here at Newsgrape, a team member of mine once said something like this:

“I try to welcome new users the way I would welcome friends visiting my place for the first time—with a great big smile and some friendly words.”

What he basically meant was, it’s important to go the extra mile and not rely on automatic emails and messages to do the job.

Of course, they can come in handy—especially if you are busy providing cool, informative Twitter updates while receiving loads of new followers each day. But they’re used mostly on a descriptive level, to say, “It’s great you’re here? Why not check out the site?”

What I am talking about is a really warm welcome. Show each user who demonstrates some genuine interest in your blog—via comment, reply, retweet, or something else—that you appreciate it and that you’re not taking them for granted.

A warm welcome

Using slow channels (e.g. email)

Some channels allow you to act in a more personal way, and you should grasp this potential by coming up with unique ways of introducing yourself.

Making a first impression—on an eye-to-eye basis—can be a powerful way of expressing your mindset as a dedicated blogger. As an example, here is the little gesture my team member was talking about. It ultimately produced some great results and tons of happy faces!

Using fast channels (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

The more followers you tend to receive on a regular basis, the harder it can be to individualize your welcome message. With great quantities of users, you have to get even more creative to come up with something really special.

  • Celebrate certain achievements: If you are working within a fast channel that has a rapid movement of users, you can celebrate special achievements. Pick the 500th reader, Facebook fan, or Twitter follower and post a great big “thank you” to them, conveying your gratitude for this group effort.
  • Think outside the box: With our startup, we wanted to come up with a way of thanking all of our Kickstarter supporters at once. So, we filmed a thank you song incorporating their names into the lyrics and basing it on a cool guitar groove. Obviously, our little movie delivered the message quite well—soon we were receiving pledges by people excited about our platform and the possibility of being mentioned in the next “thank you song”!

User maintenance: keep the love coming

Equally as important as your unique welcome message is the effort you put into keeping your users happy and interested in what’s happening on your blog. Here are some ideas on how to achieve exactly that:

  • Go marketing on this one: Keep an excel file where you list important power-users and others who are active on your blog. Write a sentence to every person, trying to pin down their interests and where they came from before they landed on your blog. Remember: interest creates interest!
  • Live the connected web: When you’re contacting users and engaging in conversation, encourage them to subscribe to your newsletter and befriend you on Facebook. Put them onto a special email list so you can manage them and send out messages that are as well-targeted as possible. Broaden your circle of acquaintances to people who share your passion for writing and online publication. Also, use social monitoring tools like TweetDeck, to see if somebody mentions your blog or retweets your posts. If so, add them to your smart Excel list and show some love for their social spreading!
  • Be omnipresent: Check out which users on your site have blogs of their own. If they do, subscribe to their RSS feeds via GoogleReader. Then: comment, comment, comment. Why not ask publicly on your blog which of your users currently run their own blog? This way, you can connect over blogging tips and information, while creating a list of blogs that you can regularly visit and comment or guest post on.

The goodbye

It will happen that certain users decide to jump away from your blog. Here are three ways to make the best of this situation:

1. Input is learning, is better blogging, is more happy users

Even though it might be tough to read, ask for input about why your user decided to un-subscribe from your newsletter or stop visiting your site.

You can write a personal message—or maybe even use an email template—to ask what that user’s experiences on the site were, what they feel other blogs are doing better, what worked for them, and what didn’t.

2. Don’t be passive: act!

Even with professional blogs, important users or numerous readers may decide at some point to distance themselves from the site by making comments on social media, in blog posts, and so on.

Of course it would be easy to just sit back and concentrate on more important stuff like writing, but again, why not use this as an opportunity to show some face and a strong presence within your niche?

A while ago, the popular blogging platform WPBeginner publicly announced its break from the Livefyre Commenting System in the feature article 6 reasons why we switched away from Livefyre.

An extensive discussion started in the post’s comments, with users asking follow-up questions and sharing their insights on the subject.

As a consequence, a Livefyre employee got into the discussion and posted a statement which conveyed compassion, appreciation for the input, and strong optimism that their product was going to come around to meet users’ needs.

Livefyre comment

3. Accept it—but be awesome about it

I think Groupon is the best example of how to resubscribe people who are thinking of unsubscribing, or at least how to say a classy “goodbye”. Check it out here.

Punish Derrick

Sometimes the best way to get people back into your boat—or at least to leave a good impression—is to invest some energy in a quality farewell. If you’re all needy about trying to convince them to resubscribe, your chances of changing their mind are close to zero. So think of something cool.

Share your journey

This article intended to show you some ways of building and maintaining a strong user base, while being creative about coming up with some unique, interesting ideas.

I’ve realized that if I go the extra mile at an early stage of my blog, I end up saving a lot of time and energy promoting my material afterwards. So, try cultivating your readership by finding new, out-of-the-box measures that create a personal, intimate user experience. The reactions you’ll receive will definitely be worth it the effort!

Rob Summerfield is copywriter and community manager at the social text platform Newsgrape. Having worked with different agencies and at Cannes International Festival of Creativity, Rob is an award-winning writer focused on creative solutions for blogging and online content management.

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Comments

  1. Samuel says:

    Engagement is key to getting those new subscribers and subscribers recommending to others.

    Very good article by you Rob.

    Sending occasional emails to your readers or commentators is a fine way to keep them engaged.

    Also making sure to respond to all of comments shows you are engaging with your visitors.

    • Rob Summerfield says:

      Hey Samuel, thanks for the feedback. You’re exactly right, its not that much of an extra effort to stay in touch and build a relationship via email, but its definitely worth it.

    • That’s true. Engaging the audience is what it’s all about. Commenting and replying is key.

      What an epic post this is, Rob. Also, continual posting of quality content is another of those factors that will help in keeping the readers and users engaged.

  2. Hi Rob,

    Super tips here.

    As for people who unsubscribe I let them go with a hearty thank you. Pure abundance mentality. When you let go a non-match, 10 better matches pop up.

    Be personable. Treat people online like you would treat them offline.

    Remember the person on the end of your emails. Blog comments. Social interactions. They are not a profile, or a number.

    They are a living, breathing person, who intends to make a connection with you on some level.

    Your job is to breathe life into this intent. Reach out. Call individuals. Ask how you can help.

    I call all members of my list who provide their phone number. I thank them, and simply ask, “how can I help?”

    This act alone has fostered many long term relationships. A simple gesture to reach out and connect goes a long way.

    Thanks!

    RB

    • Rob Summerfield says:

      Ryan, i think you put it very nicely. “Breathing life into this intent” makes the whole thing authentic and real. Genuine interest is so hard to come by these days, so if you find a way to convey exactly that, you are on a great way of building quality user relationships.

      Thanks for your insights!

      Rob

  3. Ayaz says:

    Hi Rob! these are great tips and certainly its been great to do a warm welcome to your site reader gives them an idea they are here and will get something personally if they require for that. For me, blogging is something that you didn’t need the marketing guys to work for you, you can interact personally through your blog and convert you readers into a great potential leads.

    • I think in the end, the best marketing you can achieve on your blog is a transparent, personal communication to your readers. So i am definitely in line with you!

      Rob

  4. Tom Clark says:

    Very interesting read Rob! I used to think about this relationship blog owners should be having with me when I followed guitar tuition sites in the early days. Now i am running my own guitar site I have maintained this activity with my user base. Where I can benefit from this info is in segmenting readers with personalised messages and keeping them loyal by meeting there needs on an individual basis should they wish to leave. Great stuff!

    • Your own guitar site? That sounds amazing, send me your link, i’d love to check it out!

      Wow, sounds like you have everything figured out ! If you are down to connecting your users with individual needs, then you’re on a good way of creating a powerful community around your site.

      Especially as a music site you could probably get really creative with the way you maintain your users, like customized welcome songs etc.

      Rob

  5. Chris says:

    Hi Rob,
    great tips about engaging readers. Beeing proactive is very important – without it we can only “follow” the others.
    The same thing is with thinking outside the box – your “thank you song” is great example of it :)
    Chris

    • Thanks for kind words, Chris!

      Exactly, you can turn mundane marketing tasks into interesting, fun work, simply by breaking some rules and working outside of the box. Especially when you are running your own blog you should take advantage of the fact, that you are your own boss – no editor, nothing between you and your readers. So be proactive and go crazy!

      Rob

  6. James Kadena says:

    Great read! I never saw someone covering how to see a user off. thx rob

  7. Peter Gallher says:

    Wow, these are some creative ways to welcome and to say goodbye to users. Especially smaller blogs and sites should be aware that users are their customers and should get individual treatment just like in the grocery store around the corner!

    • Hey Peter,
      you’re absolutely right, sometimes a simple mindset can help boost the performance of a blog. Obviously, most bloggers are writers first, and then marketers. Understanding that these two areas of expertise aren’t “either-or” decisions can be a really important step towards building a strong online presence.

      Rob

  8. Syed Balkhi says:

    Hey Rob,

    Thanks for mentioning WPBeginner’s article about Livefyre. We are good friends with the team at Livefyre. Jenna and I had multiple email exchanges, in person meetings, and phone calls. The only reason why we wrote that article was to answer the questions our users were asking. The platform didn’t work for us, but it surely works for thousands others. The fact that Jenna and the team engaged in the discussion definitely shows good character of their company.

  9. I have to agree… these are interesting facts. Thanks for putting this up. You can’t imagine how much time I spent going through this post over and over again. Thanks again.

  10. Matt Coffy says:

    Interestingly insightful thing to read, Rob. We always want to think of new ways to keep things fresh and engaging for our audiences but reality is some will leave and unsubscribe from you. You work hard and all that, but when someone leaves it’s always wise to address them personally and ask why. It certainly will help you improve on some things or plainly decide that’s just how it is. Thanks for the read.

  11. Tony Hoskins says:

    A fine and illuminating article. And so generous-spirited.
    Many thanks.