Building a loyal following is a lot like making good friends: you want to be kind, be yourself, and spend time with these people celebrating and talking about the things you have in common. You might have more readers than you have friends, but that doesn't mean you can glaze over important the relationship-building steps that require individual attention.
Another way to think of it? You're a reader too, aren't you? Put yourself in the place of the “customer” and think about what keeps you coming back. Incentives? Attention? Egagement? I felt inspired to explore this topic a bit more after talking to newbie blogger Megan about how she used her professional experience to build her blog readership. How do bloggers build a loyal online following for their site?
Keep up with commenting, personally.
The etiquette and effectiveness of commenting is a hot topic amongst bloggers. When you're looking to create a readership that cares enough to come back again and again, it's absolutely invaluable. Your readers want to know you're not a robot – that there's a beating heart behind the blog. Commenting thoughtfully on the blogs of your peers is a great way to encourage them to do the same, and build relationships in the community. Odds are, however, that most of your readers are not bloggers themselves. Taking the time to respond to comments, questions and emails is a personal and genuine way to keep your daily readers coming back (and look attractive to new visitors!). The little ways you go above and beyond make all the difference.
Engage actively on social media.
Engage, engage, engage! We've said it before, and probably can't say enough how important it is to be social on social media. Remember that you're not just tweeting and posting into outer space: actual people are reading what you're saying, taking it in, and hopefully sharing and responding to it. It takes time and diligent attention, but responding to questions, giving thanks for compliments and taking part in conversations is a critical element to building a loyal following.
*Bonus tip: Don't forget about Instagram! Leaving comments and responding to the ones on your images is a little effort that goes a long way!
Give readers what they want.
After reading the comments on my post on blogging for someone, not about something (as well as this one about pleasing your readers vs. pleasing yourself), I know many of you out there have mixed feelings about pandering to your readers. The truth of the matter is, you cultivate the audience you want by the type of content you produce, and those readers will come to expect a certain thing from you – and that's not bad. Studying your analytics and paying attention to your comments will give you a great idea of what your readers want, and it will probably be content you like, too. I don't want to say you're “training” your readers, but by rewarding them with exactly what they want to see, you encourage them to keep coming back for more. Customer satisfaction builds loyalty!
*Bonus tip: Readers also love incentives! From giveaways to promotional codes and exclusive content, offer something unique that they can't get anywhere else.
Routine and planning are two of my least favorite words, but two of the most important in building a loyal blog following. People repeat actions when they know they can expect results, including your readers. This also builds trust, and helps you build a reputation for reliability. Your readers want to be able to count on you. Using an editorial calendar is one of the most effective ways to create a routine on your blog that your readers can follow along with. From planning out your months and weeks to posting consistently at the same time of day, the more strategic you can be (in a reasonable way that you can actually keep up with) the better.
How do you keep readers coming back to your site? What kinds of engagement and consistency are most important to you as a blogger?