The content around “how to blog” is very steadily becoming comprehensive on the web. If you try hard enough and sort through the gunk intelligently enough (like through this blog), you have enough of a resource to do it – and do it well. Write list posts, create a niche, guest post – all fundamental drivers for creating a successful blog.
But oh, there’s more.
The truly successful blogs don’t just create great content based around a niche, tweet it out, and wait for the readers to come in. They create blog evangelists – readers that are actively passionate about the brand, spread it by word of mouth, and happily sit by the “buy” button when a new product is released.
Every great blog has these evangelists – of course, though, the question then is – how do I find and/or create these for my blog? It’s not as hard as you think. Blog evangelists require more than just making one great piece of content, though. They require a nurturing, long process, much like taking care of a plant and ensuring it has proper exposure to sunlight and water. Blog readers are no different – they want to be cared for, and when they are, they reward you with great air and beauty (their evangelism).
How to Create Blog Evangelists
1. Make a Great Second Impression
Hopefully you’ve already written a great post. If you’ve done this, then you’ve already converted your reader in some way. They might have tweeted it out, commented, or added you to their RSS feed. Although this is a great thing to see, it doesn’t mean much. For most blogs, so few of these actions will result in follow-up movements like continued retweets, comments, or the like.
Much of this has to do with blog writers doing a poor job of the follow-up. This second impression is arguably the most important one – because it is a strong, powerful step towards both branding your blog and creating future evangelists.
So how do you do this? When people comment, the standard act is just to reply. Believe it or not, this is not enough. Many of these people won’t ever return to look at your follow-up, or subscribe to the comment thread. So, really, all your follow-up comment does – most of the time – is create the illusion of blog activity. What you need to do – and what is so infrequently done – is send an e-mail to every first time commenter on your website.
This creates a real, personal connection with the person who comments. Do a little research on the person, look at their website, and compliment them genuinely on something they do well. Let them know you’ll help them with anything they might need – and don’t lie if you can’t!
2. Create Social Engagement with Readers
If you can’t find an e-mail and the connection point is through a retweet, first, thank the person. Do this individually to increase personalization (rather than the five person mass “Thanks for the RT!” message). Follow them, even if they haven’t followed you. Given their retweet, the odds that they follow back is significantly higher.
Once they’ve retweeted you and/or commented, create a list for them. You can be straightforward and say “readers”, but I suggest you do something a little more obscure, like “people I find interesting” or “people I engage with”. After all, you don’t want to seem too commercial or automated when doing this. Use this list to track their tweet stream and find the best links or commentary they send out.
After that’s done, make a dedicated effort to make a follow-up engagement with this person. Look for something to reply to, or a tweet to funnel back to your followers. This follow-up will go a long way towards evangelism. And it must be within a week or so of their first engagement – as to ensure that you still have a familiar place in their mind.
Once that’s been done, you’ve made some strong steps towards creating brand evangelists. Now, you return back to the first impression – your blog post.
3. Follow up With More Great Content
Once you’ve planted the seed, it’s now your job to follow up on the initial great content that drew their attention. People love great posts, but they aren’t going to go out of their way to fall in love – not unless you nudge them to. By creating social engagement or putting yourself front-facing in their mind, you improve the likelihood they’ll return. Once that happens, you must continue creating things that stick, that they want to spread, and that they want to speak highly of.
The engagement is the easy (but also necessary) part – it’s the great content that’s going to make people run to their mothers to spread the word.
4. Maintain, Maintain, Maintain
Some people, based on personality type, schedules and other things, will take more nudges before turning in to full time readers of your blog. For these people, it will take more than that initial “poke” to start the ball in motion.
And admittedly, some of the smarter people will be very aware of exactly what you’re doing – trying to create evangelists. The more you connect, the more of a “friend” you’ll become – and less of a snake oil salesman. Of course, these kinds of relationships are more rewarding and fun anyways – and it should be your goal to establish this with as many of your readers as possible.
Every Plant Needs Water
The more I think about it, the more I realize blog readers are like plants. They take a long time to grow, but once you get them to their full height, they stay around for a long time, as long as you put them in the sunlight and water on occasion. But they can – and will – die if you don’t pay attention.
Good luck creating your blog evangelists. Do you have any more tips on creating loyal readership? Leave them in the comments!