The Way We Work
April 19, 2012 by Julia Camenisch

Visitor 201,790 to your website:

  • Stayed on your site for a little over four minutes. 
  • Commented one time. 
  • Clicked on a Facebook link to reach you.

Analytics can tell you a lot about this visitor, but they will not reveal that she is looking for more information on SEO and Pinterest — a subject you did not realize your readers were interested in. Your blog statistics also will not divulge that she has just the expertise you need to improve your product line.

If you rely mainly on numbers and statistics to understand your followers, you could miss all this and more. In fact, your understanding of your readership will be rather limited.

It is time to change that.

Many blogging experts focus on building your readership base: Your goal is to attract more and more eyeballs.  But what is neglected is the other side of the coin — plenty of those blog readers have a lot to offer you as well.

Think of it this way: they are reading your blog because your interests are theirs as well. And they are likely to approach those interests with a different perspective. These are the people who are on the other side of your service or product, the customers with “in the trenches” experience and insight you often lack.

Your readers could become much more than followers. They could become valued advisers, co-workers — and yes, even real-life friends. Want to move beyond your own little world? If you are interested in getting to know your blog readers better, here are five ways to turn followers into friends.

1. Friends will not exploit friends

Many otherwise interesting and useful websites are cluttered with those money-making devices known as advertisements.

Not to say that all ads are bad, but when your readers have to navigate through multiple pop-ups, read text interrupted by large ads and try to differentiate between a real link and an ad link — well, who is not going to feel that you are just in it for the money?

Keep your advertising restrained and useful. If you have any doubts, just ask your blog readers if there is anything about your ads that is annoying. They will let you know.

2. Your personality helps connect

Steer clear of being the all-knowing expert who is set apart from the rest of mankind’s mistakes, foibles and problems.

Instead, let your real life shine through. Poke fun at yourself. Share insights into who you are. Tell anecdotes of memorable blunders. Vulnerability goes a long way in helping you connect with others.

3. Turn your readers into contributors

Once you establish a regular readership, you will begin to notice that certain people’s comments are especially useful and well-thought out. Those are the types of friends you want to make!

E-mail them to get input on your articles and subjects they would like to hear more about. If they appear to be good writers, ask for a guest post. Not only does this type of outreach build relationships, it also diversifies your online content, thereby increasing blog value.

4. Take time to chat

If you are really serious about making new connections, a great way to further that goal is by holding regular meet-ups, both online and off. Online you can host a Google+ Hangout, a Skype conference call or a chat via the very nifty (and free) Talker app.

If you truly just want to shoot the breeze, let the time be a free for all. If the thought of this type of unrestrained conversation scares you, then have a pre-announced agenda and prepare focused questions to keep the conversation flowing. If you travel, you might consider holding offline reader meetups. Crystal at the MoneySavingMom blog does this often and generates further blog traffic as her excited readers post about her after the event.

5. Become part of the wider community

You are not an island. There are plenty of other talented bloggers and entrepreneurs in similar niches as yours. Get to know them and participate in the wider discussion. Contribute to and comment on their blogs. Link to others' posts that you have found helpful.

Not only will this help you build relationships with other experts in your field, community participation will also allow you to grow professionally. Your own knowledge base will be expanded by seeing your industry from a wide range of viewpoints and experiences.

How have you connected with your blog followers? Do you have input on what works and what does not? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


Julia Camenisch

Contributing Author

Julia Camenisch is a freelance technology and business journalist. She also works as an editor and copywriter for a wide range of clients, including national magazines, small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Julia brings to oDesk a passion for empowering small businesses through the innovative use of technology.