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Finding Readers: Dustin outlines the 5 Crucial Elements for Growing Readership

growing-readershipIn today’s instalment of the Finding Readers theme week, we delve right into Dustin Stout’s incredibly eye-pleasing site, dustn.tv, and hear how he has built a blog people just can’t help but read and share.

When I launched dustn.tv in March 2011, I had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that I had some insight and skills that people needed and I genuinely enjoyed helping people.

Between then and now, I’ve had successes and complete WTF-just-happened failures. Through all of that I believe I’ve landed on a handful of crucial elements that have allowed me to get to where I am today.

1. Give the Reader A Beautiful Experience

It doesn’t matter if you have the most amazing, jaw-dropping, slap-yo-mamma content in the world, if people don’t read it. When someone lands on your webpage you have five seconds or less to prove that your site and its content is worth their precious time. So if your web design is cluttered, hard-to-read and visually unattractive, you’re content may not have the chance it deserves.

One of the primary reasons people continue to visit and read my blog (rather than just through an RSS reader or email) is because the reading experience is enjoyable.

With all the templates, themes, and examples of good design permeating the digital space, there’s no excuse for poor design. You don’t have to be a designer in any sense of the word to create a beautifully-designed, content-focused blog. Just find what’s working, what you would enjoy looking at, and imitate it. You can read my tips for creating a stunning reading experience for your readers here.

2. Write For Real People

Once your canvas is ready (your design) you can now fill it with glorious content that knocks people’s socks off! But the most important thing to remember is just that— you want to knock people’s socks off. Not robots: real people.

Having a voice that people can relate to is crucial to growing your readership. If people can’t relate to what you’re saying or how you’re saying it, why would they return?

One thing that has helped me to communicate effectively to my readership is focusing in on exactly who I’m speaking to. No, I’m not talking about my demographic or target audience— that’s not specific enough. To effectively write from an authentic, relatable voice you need to write as if you’re talking to one person.

Try this as an exercise– the next time you draft up a blog post, think of one person in your life that could benefit from the information you’re about to write, and write it in such a way as if you’re talking directly to them. This will help you communicate your message more clearly and your voice will be more authentic.

And people will love you for it.

3. Engaging Content (Actionable)

Another thing I’ve found when crafting content is that the actionable always wins out on engagement. Give people clear, easy-to-do actions and watch your engagement soar.

People don’t always know right off the bat how to take the action you may be moving them towards, so make it easy for them. Tell them exactly what to do.

4. Compelling Content (Sharable)

Making your content sharable is a crucial peice to the continued organic growth. When people share with other people there is power that no degree of marketing could ever capture.

In order to compell people to share your content, you have to first understand why people share things. The motivations are many but here’s just a few powerful reasons someone would share your content:

  • It makes them look smart
  • It makes them look funny
  • It makes them look cutting-edge
  • It makes them look interesting

Do you see a pattern there? People tend to share content based on how it will make them look to others. So if your content gives someone the chance to look better in front of their peers, they will be compelled to share it.

5. The Right Distribution Channels

Okay great, so you’ve got your awesome content written and wrapped inside a beautiful package (your web design) ready for people to consume, engage, and share. So now how do you get people to that content? Distribution channels, otherwise known as social networks.

The right distribution channels make all the difference. For everyone’s audience it may be different. If your target audience is mommies looking for great recipes, then Pinterest may be your best channel. If you’re ideal audience is teenagers who don’t want their parents knowing what they’re up to, then Snapchat may be your ideal channel.

My biggest piece of advice though when it comes to distribution channels is to resist the lie that you have to be on all of them. I’ve built the majority of my audience by doing one network really well. You can either do a mediocre, semi-invested job at many networks or you can knock one single network out of the park.

The latter will grow your audience faster than the former.

For me, I’ve found that the most powerful distribution channel in both driving traffic and acquiring new readers is Google+. No platform has yielded the return on investment that Google+ has, despite what lazy journalists might have you believe.

For me it’s about being able to not only distribute content, but also to be able to create and repurpose content in different formats such as images and video. With Google+, the number of tools at your disposal is beyond that of any other platform making it the most diverse, feature-rich and multi-demensionally engaging platform of them all.

Ultimately though, your perfect distribution channel will be one that has all of the following characteristics:

  • Your audience is there (or at least willing to follow you there).
  • You can fit it into your workflow.
  • You thoroughly enjoy the platform.

One Last Thing

Above all else, be true to yourself. Don’t be someone or something you’re not. Be uniquely you because that is your secret sauce.

Nobody else has the perspective, experiences, and thought process as you in the same combination of skills, knowledge and insight. The more true you can be to yourself, the better you can relate to your ideal audience.

Top 3 Takeaways

  1. Make it more about them than about yourself.
  2. Give them an enjoyable reading experience.
  3. Be a real human, not a regurgitation robot.

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Comments

  1. My blog is a work in progress. I’m still finding things to fix and add and social media is like being lost in a garden maze. I have no idea which corner to turn next. But posts like this help keep me on the right track. Thanks!

    • I hope you take comfort in knowing that even the best blogs are a “work in progress”– they have just been in progress for a little bit longer. :D

      Avoid the “lost in the garden maze” by picking one network that you enjoy and focus everything there. Trust me– it works!

  2. I agree with networking. it doeasn’t matter if we carry three poor social net, the matter is to do it effectively

  3. Kamal Pandey says:

    No doubt Social media have grown much higher in terms of users than ever. I personally feel that Google + and twitter are the good investment regarding traffic gain and higher outreach but its always fruitful to target the audience and at the same time making a pitch at the available distribution channel as termed by Stacey Roberts.

  4. LeslieZ says:

    Stacey,

    Great post, very insightful! I love your advice about writing for to one person. It makes your blog posts much more personal.

    I understand your point about not trying to do all the social media at the same time. I’ve struggled with trying to give justice to any of them and basically do a crud job on all of them.

    I don’t fully know how to use Google+, but I have tried working with it. I’ll focus on it a little bit more now.

    Thanks,
    LeslieZ

  5. Being true to you is the ultimate Dustin. All advice falls in nicely if you speak your voice. Make your BLOG an experience. The whole thing. 1 quick visit to my blog lets readers quickly know who I am and what I do. No doubts. It also makes folks feel good too, seeing images of me petting tigers, feeding rare monkeys, traveling all over the world.

    Share a story. Share your story. Don’t be shy. Go heavy on images to create a more intense, vivid experience, because all that you do creates the full body of work and people are in love with eye candy. Kick any doubts out of your mind too. Folks love your story if you’re telling it through your blog. Readers will show up again and again if you make your blog, make them feel good. Make sense?

    So, recapping, it’s all in the reader experience. Images, your words, and real life stories make people come back for more and more, again and again.

    Loving the tips Dustin, thanks!

  6. Iman says:

    Yes, focus high quality content for real human, not for the bot (e.g: search engines). The content must educate readers and makes them to back back back again. And if possible, the content can persuade readers to buy anything and explain why must to buy. If readers really like the content, they will share the content through social media such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.

  7. Suzi says:

    I love your tip about imagining a particular person to write your blog to. I do this all the time, and it is much easier to write in a conversational tone this way.

    I think another point to add is to infuse the stories with personal elements to appeal to reader emotion.

    • Using story is critical as well Suzi! We naturally do it when we speak to real people in real life. We humans have an incredible ability to communicate and relate through emotion. Great addition!

  8. Hey Darren,

    Awesome Post. I like your points you listen in this post. If we want to find readers for our blog the we need to focus on these points. Mostly on Compelling content and real readers. Distribution of content is also necessary, but without compelling content is not possible to go viral.

    Thank you for this awesome post….. :)

  9. rubel says:

    that is good post for bloggers.all of bloggers should know 5 crucial element of growing readership.

  10. Edmund says:

    Hi Darren,

    Dustin is spot on with these pointers on how to grow readership. With regards to the distribution channels, LinkedIn is another great platform to consider as well.

    Finally, converting my posts into video presentations and uploading them to my Youtube channel is another way that I use to grow readership as well.

    Regards,
    Edmund

    • Repurposing blog content into video content is a great technique to! A really great way to expand your audience to those who like to watch more than read.

  11. Riya says:

    So true, If your content is not unique or interesting enough nobody will care to share it. I second you for your Sharable point, People actually care about what they sharing on the Social platform, now a day users are getting smarter.

    Nice Blog!

  12. Bob says:

    According to recent reports the future of Google Plus is questionable. If in fact Google does shut down (scale back) G+ it could prove problematic if relying heavily on G+ to grow readership, etc. Given the unknown fate of G+ it might be best to have other networks in place to grow readership, as a back up plan, instead of relying *primarily* on G+.

  13. Hey Bob, I suppose you’re talking about all the false reports (started by a writer for TechCrunch) being regurgitated. They were put to rest by a number of people (ad nauseum) and the claims that were made we fabricated at best. The writer’s motives were later found to be disreputable since she stated she owns stock in both Facebook and Twitter in here author bio page. It’s too bad fake journalism like that found it’s way into so many well known sites.

    Google+ is alive and thriving with no sign of slowing down. Plenty of real data to back that up, and anyone who says otherwise either has no authority on the subject or their motives are less than honest.

    • Bob says:

      Hi Dustin – Yep, I reached about the same conclusion as you regarding the *G+ cyber gossip*. Like you I’ve noticed no signs of G+ slowing down. Nor, to my knowledge, has Google officially announced any plans to shut G+ down (or scale it back).

      And yes, I tend to agree with you that it’s unfortunate misleading information, such as that contained in *G+ cyber gossip* articles, is circulated on the Internet. Perhaps this can serve as a reminder to all of us about the importance of always *verifying* the accuracy of information before passing it on.

  14. that is good post for bloggers.all of bloggers should know 5 crucial element of growing readership.

  15. Benaya Paul says:

    Write for the People and Right Distribution Channels are new to me, thanks for sharing. I will implement this on my blog.

  16. George says:

    When you say actionable. At what part of the post should we have the actionable items, bottom, top, middle? Do you have any advice on that?
    I love the compelling content part. Do you have any specific examples you could share?

  17. Pete Boyle says:

    Great post Dustin,

    Particularly liked point 2 and the final recommended exercise.

    I’ve also been focusing a little more on Google+ recently and have to say i think it’s incredibly underrated. It’s good to know that it can work well if you;re willing to put the effort in.

    Thanks

    Pete

  18. Great post! I agree, Google+ has been fantastic for interaction and where I’ve seen the best growth.

  19. Josette says:

    This was an insightful article and it has given me some new ideas. I like the tips given especially the one about writing for real people and also about making the posts more about them.

    As usual, this is one of the wonderful posts on Problogger! :)

  20. Lal says:

    Infact, I am new to blogging and I am learning to organize things well on my blog. Still a long way to go and reads like this will definitely help me !

  21. Impressive and good post. Google+ is pretty good and user-friendly.

  22. Louise says:

    Hi, please could you give me some examples of actionable engaging content? I do try to write for others rather than for search engines, but I’m curious about what I could do to get readers interested and involved in what I have to say.

  23. Great article, except I think that viewing social media as distribution channels is a big mistake.

    • Anders says:

      Hey David, Just wondered why you feel using social media as a distribution channel is a mistake?

  24. jay says:

    great post dustin.
    i really learn from your post

  25. Dean Berman says:

    Awesome advice. Thanks for sharing. I particularly like your first point on the experience readers should have. Makes so much sense and is practical!

  26. Dustin, thanks for sharing this article and pulling from your experience. Very authentic. Was a joy to read. Thanks again! Have a Great Day! Jarrod

  27. Thank you for the tips, especially about using Google +.