I address the power of our readers rather frequently on IFB, don't I? They're like the yin to our yang of blogging – the call and response, the reason our blogs are not just private online journals.
No matter how big or small your following is, readers that are both loyal and engaged are a rare and special thing. They get you, they love what you're doing, and they want to talk to you about it, too. Some of these rare birds will come and stay all on their own, but you can also foster their presence by inviting them to contribute, asking them questions and letting them know they matter. The best part? Listening to their input can be a wealth of inspiration for your blog.
Here are 5 ways you can tap your readers for new content ideas:
1. Inspire comments by asking specific, opinion-based questions at the end of your post.
One thing's for sure: no matter who we are, we all love to talk about ourselves. When you give your readers an opportunity to share a personal story or opinion, you'll open up the conversation for tons of inspiration and valuable cues as to what they'll want to see next.
2. Set up a poll or survey.
As they say, just ask for what you want. Direct questions that only require the click of a mouse to answer make it incredibly easy to gain insight from your audience. If you're on WordPress, there are plugins that make adding a poll to a post really easy, with Blogger or others, you'll probably have to search for a widget and drop the HTML code into your post.
When setting up a poll or a survey, first figure out what it is you want to know. Do you need to ask a series of questions to get a feeling about a larger idea, or do you want to present a few answers to a single question and see with which they agree? Perhaps you want to know what kind of posts your readers like best, what days they visit your site, or what trends they are most looking forward to in 2013.
3. Use social media for crowd-sourced clues.
Depending on where your most vocal followers gather consider posing questions and starting conversations on Facebook and Twitter. Often bloggers use Twitter to more freely chime in about any number of topics, while Facebook may get you insights from your actual friends, family and acquaintances.
The key to getting useful responses and input from more than just a couple of people is to stay engaged yourself. Keep up with the conversation, maybe use a #hashtag, but at least be diligent about responding to those who answer you. Being attentive inspires loyalty and confidence.
4. Present your email in a post with an invitation to get in touch.
This may be the simplest and easiest way to ask your readers for their thoughts, but it also involves the least amount of effort and may inspire the least response. However, it's always good to let your readers know that they have a way to get in touch, and a personal line of communication to you. While they might take the time to seek out your info on your “Contact” page, putting it front and center as a reminder is always helpful and encouraging.
5. Start a “reader request” series.
This is a way to develop a really personal relationship with your readers, and reward those who truly love your content and trust your advice. Create a post or a page that announces that you want to start addressing reader style, beauty, etc. questions individually on the site. Often times you'll find that what's vexing one reader may be similarly bothering hundreds! You might want to provide sample questions to get their gears turning, or nudge a good friend to help you out and kick things off with an inspiring scenario or conundrum.
Beyond getting a post idea or two, calling on your readers for their advice or input is an important step in building a relationship with them, gaining their respect and trust and maybe even exploring an avenue of blogging or fashion that you hadn't considered before. They come to you because they like what you're doing and relate to your perspective, which means it's probably similar to your own.