As much as your site needs to be technically sound and functioning, the most important part of any online success is the relationships and trust you build with readers, subscribers, clients, customers and other people in your industry. Keep them “top of mind” and you’ll see progress. Think of your site as your living room. Be a good dinner host for the visitors of your site.
Here are my observations, tips and advice on what makes a sociable blogger. This list is geared towards the more human side of blogging and is focused on dos and don’ts that help foster relationships with your visitors, subscribers and other authors.
- Don’t be anonymous. Have a great “about” page that shows people who you are and what your business is all about. Be unique and original. No one likes boring. As long as you are more interesting than they are, you’re sure to attract them and they’re going to want to hear from you more.
- Read other sites. Are you a blogger that only plays at home or are you interested in what other are writing and aren’t afraid to travel? When you read a great post do you comment? I ask because if you do take an interest in other bloggers then you are going to make friends because the sites you reach out and say hello to are going to respond and take an interest in you and your site in return.
- Mention and link to other sites when you write. When you do read a post that inspires you, link to it. There’s a good chance the author monitors their traffic sources and backlinks and will know about the link and pay you a visit. You should also do the same. Google Analytics will tell you which sites have provided you with visitors and give you an opportunity to open up a conversation and make a new blogger friend.
- Basecamps and outposts? If you’re sociable you’re likely to consider your site as your basecamp but have social outposts like Facebook and Twitter where you’re also happy to have a conversation. A multi-social approach will extend your reach and if you do make friends at any of your social outposts you can introduce them to your site and turn them into loyal readers and contributors.
- Do put Archives & Categories in the sidebar or footer. Many times when visitors come to your site they want to know what else you write about. Give them easy ways to browse so that you can engage them and keep them there longer.
- Do have a follow me option. Some may just want to follow you on Twitter, so offer both. Give people the choice of how they want to hear from you. Make it easy for people to follow you in social media or subscribe to you via email. Even better, offer something for free when they subscribe.
- Do define your area of specialty clearly. This informs people of exactly what you do. If your tag line is too general, you won’t capture your target market’s attention. Not being specific will either cause people to leave (because they didn’t find what they were looking for) or will keep the wrong people at your site.
- Do create banners ads for your own products and/or services. This tells people what your business offers. Products you sell are your business. Featuring other people’s products suggests that they are the experts, not you. You want your visitors to think and know you are the expert. First impressions make an impact that are difficult to change.
- Do highlight other places you’ve created content at. This reinforces your expertise and builds relationships with other bloggers. Relationships can and should be both vertical and linear.
- Do invite guest posters. This also helps build relationships with other authors and shows visitors that you are part of a bigger community and that it’s not just you (solo-entrepreneur). It’s a bonus to show different points of view and get free content.
- Guest post on other site. There are just so many upsides to guest posting. If you accept posts you get fresh posts for free. This is great for ensuring you’re able to keep your content interesting and frequent – something your readers will thank your for. If you offer posts you get to introduce your work to a wider audience and get your site another important backlink. You can get your name out to others that read your guest posts while building your trust and authority.
- Do reply to every comment. Use plugins to notify commentators of responses. One plugin for this is called “Comment Reply Notification.” When you reply to someone whose left a comment, it makes them feel important. You took the time to spend a minute on them directly by responding; something they’ll remember.
- Interview experts. A great way to gain valuable information for your followers is to do some interviews with them. Ask industry experts if they would be willing to give you an hour of their time for an interview. Give them details regarding your topic of interest and a list of interview questions. Therefore, you both will be prepared. You may have to ask a hundred people before you get one “yes,” but be persistent.
- Be yourself. No one likes fakes. Fake Gucci watches can be nice but they don’t last. I know I’ve had one before and it’s sitting in my closet. It broke the first week I bought it. The real thing lasts longer and is much better quality. This the same for relationships. Be real. Be yourself. Some will like you, some won’t. So what?
- Don’t stop and start. Start and keep going. Create an editorial calendar and schedule posts ahead of time. Inconsistent posting is like not calling a friend for a year and expecting your friendship to remain the same.
- Don’t make it difficult for visitors to get your free stuff. Make reports, ebooks or white papers easy to download. Ensure videos are streaming so they don’t have to wait. Having double opt-in can be confusing for some people. Be sure to explain the process clearly. They are more likely to follow through and confirm.
- Don’t sell in an email. Emails and blogging shouldn’t be about selling. That’s what landing pages/sales pages are for. Linking to those types of pages from a post is acceptable, but don’t try to sell right in the middle of your site or in an email. It’s a little pushy. Give them value first and reasons why they should buy, or educate them on the benefits of buying, then on a page that makes sense, sell them something.
- Connect with industry experts. A great way to start out is to discover what parts of an industry you are interested in. For example, if you are passionate about internet marketing, you may want to connect with blogging, social media, Analytics, SEO, or mobile experts. You can follow people in your specific niche or choose to follow people in all of these internet marketing categories.
- Go to industry events. Most of us know that going to industry events provides a great networking opportunity. In addition to listening closely to the great presentations at these events, be sure to walk around and introduce yourself in the halls to everyone. Don’t be surprised if the most unlikely person you talk to winds up being the person that helps you out the most!
Compare your site to a newspaper
Newspapers have been around forever and have established quite a reputation for themselves. Readers trust the information that a newspaper puts out because they know its an established company. Now here you are with a blog talking about the news and other up to date information. Why shouldn’t we all look at what you write as opinions rather than facts? Is the “blog” really reputable as a source for information? It doesn’t matter if you are a blog or an actual newspaper. If you have readers and what you’re sharing with the world grabs the attention of others, you build credibility. This does take time, but if you work hard at it, like anything, your efforts will pay off.
If you’re looking to make your site credible like a newspaper and you don’t know how to add readership, building your foundation can be difficult. What’s the best way to do this? Word of mouth. Unlike with newspapers, which cost money to read, sites don’t cost anything to read. That’s one significant advantage as a blogger that you have. People like free and if you deliver articles to them in a unique and interesting way, you can succeed.
Just think, newspapers didn’t have the opportunity to write guest posts on other newspapers to help gain exposure for their content. They had to use traditional forms of media that required a lot of money to build their foundation. We have many tools at our fingertips that cost nothing and we can leverage these tools to our advantage to build credibility. I don’t believe the newspaper is truly going to completely go away, but with so many bloggers out there and all of our attention focused primarily on the internet, we don’t need paper forms of readable content.
Not only is this a great way to save the environment, but now anyone can have a voice and if you do it well, these newspapers are going to have serious competition. If you don’t believe me, look at any successful blog out there. They have advertising on there just like a newspaper would have. Advertisers are now shifting the way they spend their money and that shift is obviously towards the internet. So do what you do well and you will see that credibility is determined by the eyes of a reader.
Steve Martin, the co-author of the New York Times bestseller “Yes! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion”, shares these three secrets of persuasion:
- Be unique. Have a unique and rare offer. To differentiate yourself from everyone else you must provide something unique, you must create value for your audience and you must give them what they want. Instead of focusing on what the customer stands to win by using your product you should focus on what customer stands to lose (instead of focusing on what they have to gain) if they don’t consume your material. This is a powerful and motivating way of selling something and has been proven is several different studies to work better than focusing on the needs themselves.
- Brand yourself as an authority. People pay more attention to those they see as experts so focus on specific subjects where you can build your expert brand, showcase your knowledge, teach people and get them to see you as someone with a lot of knowledge in the field. This is the key to any person creating content online. In order to build an audience and create a large following you need to showcase why people should trust you. What do you have that they need and that nobody else has. You can showcase yourself through content you create. Give your opinion on recent news and trends in your field, review different products in your field, provide instructional tips and practical advice on how best to get started and so much more.
- Use social proof. Point out how many others are reading your site. The more popular your site is, the more persuasive it becomes automatically as people like to be a part of the crowd and like to follow things that are popular and that other people are following as well. One of the ways you can do this is to list in your sidebar one of those buttons that shows how many people follow you on Twitter or like you on Facebook or subscribe to you. Another one is to make sure that the social media share buttons on your blog get some clicks so they don’t all just have 0′s in the counter.
If you want to engage with other bloggers you need to communicate with your audience in what ever way they want to be communicated with. Email, mention, link, comment or smoke signal. If it works for them it works for you. Building social value or clout requires a lot of time and effort. Making and keeping friends is a lot of effort but every site that has a significant following does all of the above and more. If you want your site to be read by a wider audience or even make money from blogging you need to engage with others. That’s why it’s called social media. Therefore, planning out your journey to success can be daunting. Be diligent in your effort; that is, set aside scheduled time for these tasks to be successful. Give it a go and enjoy the fruits of your labor.