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.
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.
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.
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.
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.