The internet is a fickle place. One minute you're hot, and the next minute… well, let's just say people move on quick. Building a loyal following can be difficult in a time where everything changes so quickly, yet, most all successful bloggers have a dedicated audience. A small, yet loyal following is worth a thousand times more than a large transient following. Whether it be for building your traffic, using your affiliate links, attending your events, loyal readers convert because you've built a relationship with them. Sure, big numbers sound great, but when it comes right down to it, they can be bought. How much is a large following worth if they don't actually follow your lead? Not much.
So how do you build a loyal following?
1. Know what you stand for
What are you values? Are they clearly communicated on your blog? While some people tend to think that there are no values in fashion, I beg to differ. Eco fashion, luxury, DIY (crafting), working with what you have, body image, modest fashion… they all have a sets of values which can be applied to their niche. You have your own unique set of values which comes out in your blog content whether you intend to or not, so knowing what you stand for helps your readers identify you values and gives them a chance to align with them.
2. Create meaningful content
Do you create content that's meaningful to others? Do you give them something they can take away, or are you just asking for them to give you attention. Think about Oprah, no matter what, her content revolves around enriching the lives of her followers. “Meaningful” can manifest itself in your content in many ways, does it make people laugh, does it educate, does it inspire? By creating meaningful content, you continually give your readers a reason to come back.
3. Develop a strategy
You know what you stand for, and you create meaningful content, great! You are well on the way to building your loyal following. But what's your plan? How are you going to grow? Developing a strategy helps you identify what works for your blog and what doesn't. Your plan might go off with out a hitch, but chances are, it will be in constant evolution. Knowing what you want to achieve, and mapping out a plan to make it happen will help you stay on track.
4. Be consistent
One day you're talking about the joys of fast fashion, then the next you're criticizing it. One day you're working with a lot of brands, then you write a post about not wanting to work with brands anymore, then a week later you're working with a brand again. Yes, I've seen this a lot. It's hard to be 100% consistent 100% of the time. We all evolve, but there is a line. Stick to your values, your direction and show up on a regular basis. Readers love consistency so make sure you are there for them.
5. Give your followers a name
I've not personally done this… do you all want me to give you a name? But I have seen this done, Lady Gaga has her “Little Monsters,” Leandra Medine has her “Repellers,” Clare Sulmers has her “Bombshells” and it's cute, it's catchy, it gives your readers base a sense of comradery and belonging to something larger than themselves.
6. Make your followers feel special
Always ask yourself what can you do for your followers. Whether it's making you followers feel smart, cool, or just plain good about themselves, do what you can to make your community feel special when they come to your website. This can be done with clever content, opportunities to do cool things, or win prizes, speak to them in a friendly tone. However most rings true to you.
7. Engage with your most engaged
Some people advise to engage with everyone who comments on your site or tweets at you. I have tried this, and it works for a while, but there becomes a point where you have to decide if you want to spend your time engaging with everyone or spend your time creating quality content. Since a majority of your readers are silent (even the most loyal and engaged can be silent lurkers) do not sacrifice your content for engagement. However, you can engage with your most engaged, you most loyal followers, the ones that speak to you, or create meaningful interactions. You certainly want them to feel special!
8. Promote your followers
There are a lot of ways you can promote your followers. Here at IFB, we have Links a la Mode and the IFB Project, two things that help promote our community. You can do an interview, post their thoughtful comments to the rest of your following, promote them on social media… there are loads of ways to share your audience with your audience.
9. Give your followers what they don't know they want (yet)
Sometimes it's good to ask your readers what they want to see on your blog. I've tried giving readers what they say they want… more often than not, it's not what they really want. What always surprises me is when I put together something that hasn't been tried yet, and it goes extremely well. The readers never asked for it, and probably didn't know it was what they were looking for. Chances are, if your readers are asking for it, the information can be found a million other places on the internet. Your goal is to be the one who surprises them with something they never knew they wanted, until they came to your blog.
10. Don't be afraid to drop what doesn't work
Maybe calling your readers a name goes terribly wrong. Or inspiring people is just not your style. Maybe your readers hate it when you feature another reader, or worse, they don't care. If it's not working for you, drop it. Try it again with a different angle, or better yet, try something new. Building a loyal following takes time, and it continually evolves. My only real advice is to continually think about what you can do for your followers and put it into action. You'll be surprised how that alone will build a loyal following.