Building a loyal audience is a popular topic these days. As bloggers, we all desire to have a following that’s interested in what we have to say and engages with our content. And as a business owner, I know that the more engaged my audience is and the more they interact with my blog and business, the more likely they are to book my services, subscribe to the Library, or purchase a seat to my e-courses down the road.
We all know that growing a loyal audience is essential, but the hangup isn’t in the why; it’s in the how. So today I’m sharing 15 easy ways that I’ve found helpful for growing your blog tribe.
1. Ask questions at the bottom of your posts
It’s always important to find ways to initiate conversation with your audience. By asking questions at the bottom of your posts, you’re prompting readers to leave feedback and weigh in on the content you’ve shared.
We’ve noticed that the percentage of commenters to our total number of readers is small, but we’ve also noticed that the people who regularly comment on the Elle & Company blog are some of our most loyal followers. Asking questions and prompting comments is a great way to increase engagement, interact with your audience, and build a relationship with them.
2. Respond to comments
Responding to comments is important for building relationships with your audience. By taking the time to reply to each one, it shows that you’re reading each comment, thoughtfully considering what's been said, connecting with your audience personally, and demonstrating that you’re accessible and approachable. It also shows that you’re grateful for the time and thoughtfulness someone has taken to leave their feedback.
Not only that, but responding to comments allows you to answer questions that may not have been answered within a post and provide further insight for your readers.
My take on responses (although I haven’t been as diligent about it these past few busy weeks) is that if someone is willing to take a minute or two to leave a thoughtful comment, the least I can do is take a minute or two to respond.
3. Reply to emails
Just like responding to comments, replying to each and every email helps build relationships, demonstrates gratitude, connects with readers personally, and provides more helpful information. If you take the time to engage with your audience one-on-one, they will be even more excited to follow along with you.
A few months ago I followed up with Sujan Patel, an online marketing expert who contributes to Entrepreneur, Forbes, Inc, to thank him for an e-book mention and ask him a few questions. I was stunned when he not only promptly replied to my email, but asked if I would be willing to set up a 15-minute phone call to answer my questions and share some insight. I know his time is valuable and he’s an expert in his field, but I learned that he’s a genuinely nice person. That interaction made an impact on how I communicate with my audience. A little time and effort can go a long way; he made me a loyal fan.
4. Support your readers in their ventures
The great thing about replying to comments, emails, and shout-outs on social media is that you’re able to get to know your audience and build relationships with them. And relationships lead to trust and loyalty. Whether it’s congratulating them on a big event in their life or supporting them in a venture, a little support can go a long way.
For example, month or two ago one of our regular commenters was participating in a competition at her college. She reached out to Jake and I and asked if we would be willing to cast votes for her, and we were excited to help. I also made sure to tweet about the competition, and she was so surprised; we received the nicest thank you from her by tweet, comment, and email.
It’s easy to forget that there are people on the other side of the screen. Take time to acknowledge your audience, support them, and encourage them in their ventures.
5. Leave comments on posts that mention you
We talk about blog analytics a lot around here, but it’s not only helpful for keeping track of numbers; it’s great for seeing who’s mentioned you on their site. By following the links back to referring sites and leaving a comment, you’re able to show gratitude and build a connection with the person who shared about you. It isn’t certain, but you can almost guarantee that they’ll become an even greater fan.
6. Keep visitors on your site longer
The longer a visitor is on your site, the more they’ll become familiar with your blog and the more likely they’ll continue to follow along with you. I shared about this in an Elle & Company post a few months ago: 7 Ways to Keep Visitors on Your Site Longer.
7. Engage with your audience on social media
Just like replying to comments and emails, engaging with your audience on social media creates personal interaction. When followers are able to interact with you one-on-one, even if it’s through a short tweet or Facebook comment, it shows that you don’t just look at them as a number. They’re more than likely to become a loyal reader if you take the time to respond.
8. Use a personable tone
The blogs that we connect with most are usually the ones that are the most relatable. And while blog content and topics can lend to a blog’s relatability, much of it comes through a blogger’s tone within their writing. Even if you’re writing a how-to post, there’s a way to write authoritatively and still be personable and relatable. When people feel like they can connect with you, they’ll become even more faithful in following along with you.
When I create posts, I try to write conversationally by using the terms "you" and "I." I consider what it would sound like to sit down with a friend one-on-one and share the same information that I'm sharing within my post.
9. Provide freebies
Whether it’s helpful content, webinars, ebooks, instructional videos, giveaways - consider how what you share you can benefit your audience and keep them returning. And then give it to them for free. I’m not referring to bribing people, but I do think that providing your audience with resources without expecting anything in return leads to blog loyalty and expands your tribe of faithful fans.
For us, it’s free content. We’ve seen a great response from exercising transparency within our blog posts, to the extent that several readers have contacted us and told us that they want to pay us and support us in some way because the content has been helpful for them.
10. Offer something different
It isn’t fun to follow along with people who are mimicking what everyone else is doing; it’s much more fun to follow someone who’s breaking the mold and standing out from the crowd. Consider that as you approach your blog content, your marketing strategies, and your brand.
The example that comes to mind lately is my favorite show, Fixer Upper. I get excited about rooting for them because their character, style and values set them apart from other shows out there (and Chip reminds me so much of Jake, I can hardly stand it). They also have this incredible gift of taking the worst houses and fixing them up into beautiful homes. Their fans are faithful because Chip, Jo, and Magnolia Market are one-of-a-kind.
Create a blog that your fans will be proud to be a fan of; make it exciting to follow along with.
11. Narrow your niche
When you try to appeal to everyone, you end up appealing to no one. By narrowing your niche, you’re able to hone in on a more specific group of people. And the better you’re able to relate to them and create content that fits them to a T, the more loyal they’ll become to following along with your blog.
12. Remember them/pay attention
As you’re following up with comments, emails, and social media shout-outs, answer people by name. Show an interest in them and make an effort to remember who they are so that when they reach out to you again, you’ll be able to recall past conversations and build a relationship. We all like to be acknowledged and remembered, and remembering a small detail can go a long way.
13. Provide value
This one is huge. If you’re benefiting your audience, you’re making it easy for them to return to your site time and time again. It’s hard to lose interest in something that’s benefiting you, encouraging you, or making an impact on you in some way, so consider your audience in each and every post you share. Create actionable, useful steps for readers to take, and when they implement them and see that they work, they’ll become an even bigger fan.
Stemming from this, follow the 90/10 rule (90% audience-centered, helpful content, 10% promotional posts); you aren’t providing value if you’re constantly trying to sell or promote yourself.
14. Put effort into the visual appearance of your brand and website
Yes of course, I’m a designer so it may seem expected that I would say this. But the design of a website can have a large impact on a visitor’s perception of a blog’s credibility. I go into more detail on this topic in this Elle & Company blog post, but it’s important to mention that people aren’t likely to follow along with blogs that don’t appear professional or legitimate. And while some visitors may stick around and read the content on a blog without paying any mind to the design of it, the majority of people subconsciously judge the legitimacy of a site upon first impression without taking a look at the content. Good design can build trust, demonstrate professionalism, and increase brand loyalty.
15. Be accessible
If a reader has a question or would like to get in contact with you for any reason, do you make it easy for them to reach out to you? Are social media buttons clearly displayed on your site, along with your email address? My favorite bloggers are those that are willing to be accessible and make it easy for their audience to connect with them.
Being accessible goes further than making your social media accounts and email address available for your audience, too. Consider participating in or hosting blog meet-ups, workshops, and/or Twitter chats.
It all boils down to appreciation, effort, and intention. If you’re willing to spend the time following up with your readers, remembering them, and focusing on providing them value, you’ll have no trouble building a tribe that’s excited to follow along with you.
How have you acquired a loyal blog following? Are you one of the few that responds to blog comments?