4 Ways to Grow Your Audience

4 Ways to Grow Your Audience

Growing sapling

Growing sapling

 

Do you ever feel like you are writing your heart out and no one is listening? If so, you’re not alone. That struggling-artist-laboring-away-in-a-dungeon feeling is common among bloggers.

The blogosphere is cluttered with wanna-be writers and the web is full of noise. Growing an audience is hard work, plain and simple. Picking a niche and knowing your target audience are critical, to be sure, but here are four additional ways to break through and grow your audience.


1. Accuracy:

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Daniel Moynihan

Be a fanatic about accuracy. I think it was Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan who said, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.” Putting all the nonsense in Washington D.C. aside, facts are facts. Your writing is your brand. Sticking to the facts is the same as being honest and being honest is how you build trust with your audience. In fact, it is your job to build trust between you and your audience. If your readers believe you play loose and fast with the facts, that you aren’t a credible source of information and opinion, they will abandon you. If they think your space is just an ongoing rant about how you feel at the moment then you’re work is probably no more compelling than a teenager’s Facebook page. Few readers will not stick around unless you offer interesting facts and unique opinions. Doing good research shows you are a thoughtful and serious person and not just another self-indulgent blogger with a keyboard and free time. Search engines and wiki’s are great places to locate and verify facts. A couple sites I like are http://www.factbrowser.com and www.snopes.com. Here’s the lesson: Don’t cut corners and don’t be lazy. Put in the effort and protect your reputation.

2.     Consistent Voice:

The web is an almost unlimited source of information. So every blogger needs to ask their self, “With so many choices available, why would anyone read my blog?” Beyond your impeccable research and use of facts, is your unique writing style and tone. Professional writers refer to this as your voice. You need to find your own writing voice. There are many things to consider when developing your voice. Pace and grammar are two important elements of your voice. Pace refers to the rhythm of your writing. Some writers prefer writing everything in short declarative sentences. Others prefer long complex sentences with lots of commas. I like to mix up my pace, my sentence length, to give my reader some variety. Using all short sentences can be dull and too many complex sentences is too much work for today’s readers. Grammar contributes to voice and can be quite technical. There are many websites dedicated to grammar. One of my favorites is www.grammarly.com. But owning your unique writer’s voice doesn’t mean you get to throw-up on the page, ignore the rules of grammar, and be a crappy editor. Practice the rules of good writing and you’ll find your voice.

3.     Mix it up:

If you are certain the information you are delivering is relevant but you’re still not getting the readership you desire, experiment with your format. Instead of writing a traditional narrative post, like this one, produce a short video. The equipment is relatively inexpensive and, who knows, video may be your thing. Curating content and sharing them as lists using online tools such as List.ly, is growing in popularity but make sure to add your insights and opinions. Interview pieces is another great way to grow your audience by leveraging the brands of more established experts. Experiment for a few months and then if you want to focus on one format or continue to mix up formats. Another blogging tactic is to simple double or triple the number of images you insert in your posts. Blogger stats indicate that image rich posts are found and read more than posts with fewer images. Finally, mix up your content as well. Publishing the same topics over and over is boring for you and your audience. Even a really important message can grow stale. If you want more ideas, Problogger posted (written by guest blogger Karol K) a long list of “52 Types of Blogs that are proven to Work.” Test and measure various ways to deliver and share your content until your audience grows and you find a comfortable format.

 4.     Relevance:

I put relevance last but probably should have put it first. Ask yourself if your content is relevant to your target audience. Are you writing about what interests you or are you writing about what interests your target audience? It’s a serious question. You’d be surprised how many bloggers are doing the former when we Grow Readership thru Blog Relevancyall should be doing the latter. This is a common mistake with new bloggers. You need to write about what your audience cares about, whether those topics interest you or not. An easy way to check yourself is to simply review your prior blog posts and determine which ones are popular with your target audience. Once you’ve done that then it’s your job to write more about those topics. If you’re new to blogging and have no history to draw from then a good way to select topics is to search popular social media platforms, see what your target audience is talking about, and then share your opinions on those topics.

Here’s a checklist you can use as a reminder. To grow your audience you must:

  • Use verified facts to support your opinions.
  • Write clearly in a consistent and authentic voice.
  • Mix up formats and see which one works best for you and your audience.
  • Write for your audience, not yourself.

And here’s a bonus tip, “Have fun!”

Tie Online and Social Marketing to Business Goals

Delivering compelling content is tough.

Time is limited, priorities change more than Obamacare deadlines, and your available writing talent is debatable. Add to that, every executive is a closet-Editor so you spend hour after hour getting approvals and re-approvals. Likes and tweets seem safe until someone doesn’t like one and another approval process is birthed. Critics multiply, contributors scatter and there are days when it all seems futile. Sound right?

Who’s to blame?

You. It’s true, senior management needs to support online and social marketing for them to be successful but it’s Marketing’s job to help them understand the benefits. The simplest way to do that is to tie your online and social marketing activities to business goals. When the CEO knows your content plan produces revenue, net income, or some other important financial goal, then every campaign, post, Like and tweet becomes serious business. Topic selection becomes important, dates matter, and metrics are checked regularly since they are now part of the financial plan, senior management’s priority.

 Metrics are necessary

Metrics are key to improvement

Metrics are key to improvement

If those that create content want to focus more on productive work and less on lower value added activities, like meetings, then creating clear line-of-sight metrics between spending, actions, and senior management’s goals are critical. Writing clever prose and selecting cool images are more fun but it’s revenue and earnings that produce employment. Every employee, including the sensitive souls in Marketing, needs to connect their work to the top or bottom lines of the business. They don’t teach that in school but it’s true. In every functional area, if you can prove you make or save money for the company you can keep your job. If you can’t prove your worth in financial terms your job may be at risk since there’s a whole team in Finance, and all of senior management, making sure every dollar spent, which includes your salary, is generating a required return.

Start with Data and Facts

Start with industry stats that support your goals. Here are six gleaned from Amanda Nelson’s recent post and other sources (see links) that support B2B marketers using online marketing for promotion:

Show Cause and effect

I’m a consultant, not an employee, so here are some metrics I’ve used to support our online marketing activities. Feel free to ponder and modify to fit your situation.

  • Search engine and social: As a B2B SEO consultant we always increased our client’s website visits through Google, Yahoo and Bing. So each month we showed the client an increase in new visitors, pageviews, time on site and Bounce rates, as well as Likes, posts, tweets and retweets. If Google+, Scoop.it or one of the other new platforms are part of your mix, then add those as well. Even though my client’s sold exclusively through distributors, if we produced new visitors and those visitors viewed several pages and spent increasing amounts of time on the client’s site and social accounts, then we assumed the company added new customers. Those are soft metrics but when a long list of soft metrics line up over time the correlation and value are clear.
  • Demo’s and downloads:  These are easy. If the campaign goals are to schedule product demos (sales leads) or get visitors to read a sales brochure, a mid-funnel action, or Follow, then measure those. My client’s products were almost always highly specialized and technical so data sheet downloads were critical to future sales. When the download numbers increased we were confidant additional sales would emerge and they did. It was never a one-to-one, cause-and-effect, relationship but over time the connections were clear and senior management agreed.
  • Goals, fees and salaries: One of our clients focused on visitors and Likes. They were and still are an industry leader. They believed that simple exposure to their products and value proposition increased sales. So every month we simply divided the number of new visitors and Likes into our fees. We were delivering new visitors, for example, who had searched the web for very specific and unique keywords for under $2.00 each. They viewed that as great value.
  • Sales leads: A contract is basically an offer and an acceptance. Marketing should have a service contract with Sales. Here’s what I mean: We, Marketing, will deliver X-number of sales leads through our company website and social media activities each month. Sales, in return, will contact each of those leads and deliver back to Marketing the results of those engagements including but not restricted to, the number of pre-sale interviews, product demonstrations, new product introduction presentations, quotes, sales volume and additional contact information. In time the organization will learn which sales people follows up on leads, how many leads are required to generate an order and many other useful stats and metrics.

Dashboards

Whatever metrics you decide to use create an executive dashboard so you can quickly and easily showcase your progress.

Here’s one I created for a client concerned about keyword utilization and website activity:

Sample SEO Dashboard

Sample SEO Dashboard

Here’s the (simple) one I use for my own website just to enjoy my progress.

Sample Social Media Report

What are some of your best online marketing and social media metrics?

Hartkopf Blogroll

My Blogroll

Want to improve your blogging skills? I do. That’s why I try to learn from the best.

Below are the bloggers I visit regularly, some more than others. These are some of the true heavyweights in blogging. Spend time reading these blogs and you will improve your writing, gain insight into your own unique voice and writing style and be exposed to an array of blog layout styles.

That’s important. You want the look and feel of your site, the visual element, to be consistent with your blog topics and writing style.

 

Chris Brogan @chrisbrogan Chris Brogan is a best selling author, online contributor on multiple platforms, marketing consultant, and frequent speaker on social media and online marketing. Chris is highly accessible, we’ve emailed each other several times on subjects ranging from pets to blog templates. He recently launched Owner Magazine for entrepreneurs and is the CEO of Human Business Works.

Copyblogger: Brian Clark is the guiding genius behind Copyblogger. This is the number 1 site for blogging and writing instruction, which is good since that’s how they earn their living.

Brains On Fire: Robbin Phillips is the President but she has a good team of inspired writers. They write an interesting blog and have published two books.

Brand Against The Machine: John Morgan is a branding guru and author. His posts are often provocative. I like that.

Brand Savant: Tom Webster runs this site. He focuses on the consumer side of business but his content is well-written and to-the-point.

C.C. Chapman CC’s site is highly visual. He consults through his marketing agency with big brands like Coca-Cola and HBO and wrote Content Rules with Ann Handley.

Peter Shankman: Shankman is one busy dude. I won’t try to describe all the things he’s involved with but he’s an entrepreneur, consultant, author, internet guru, CEO, and a bunch of others things all rolled up into one guy. If you want to see what’s possible this is a good place to start.

Six Pixels Of Separation: Mitch Joel has a great site with lots of video and a fantastic color palette. If you want to be challenged then read his blog.

Ann Handley @marketingprofs. Ann manages the contributory blog at marketingprofs. A pioneer and leader in social media and B2B marketing. I also love the site, it’s resource rich and easy to navigate.

Guy Kawasaki @guykawasaki, Guy is a bit of a legend in the online marketing world. He recently took a position at Motorola so has toned down his online presence. However, he’s authored about 10 books, co-founded Alltop.com, is a Founding Partner of Garage Technology Ventures, worked at Apple marketing the original Mac, and is sought out by startups. Huge web-celeb, prolific writer and social media user and, like Brogan, approachable: we’ve also exchanged emails.

Gary Vaynerchuk @garyvee, I interviewed Gary when his book Crush It came out in late 2009. He’s a showman but his videos and insights are spot on. He gets it and is worth listening to if you want to get calibrated on social media and content marketing. He’s worth listening too but you’ll learn more by watching him apply the tactics.

Scott Stratten @unmarketing is the President of Unmarketing. He produces lots of informative podcasts. Scott is opinionated and good.

Robert Scoble @scobleizer, long term blogger, technical evangelist, trend setter and author. Scoble is best known for his blog, Scobleizer, Lots of great video blogs and a great site to visit if you’re interested in cutting-edge thinking.

Liz Strauss @lizstrauss, of Successful Blog posts long well written blogs. Liz is a storyteller.

Peggy Noonan writes for the Wall Street Journal. She was Ronald Reagan’s speak writer and author of several books. She is one of my favorite writers with a unique style and rich voice. She is someone worth reading if you want to add a bit of style to your writing.

Kristi Hines writes the Kikolani blog. It covers the latest in content, search, and social media marketing for personal, professional, and business bloggers to succeed in blog marketing.

 

I’m going to post these bloggers on my Resource Page as well. Let me know if I left anyone out and, if I think they make the grade, I’ll add them to the list.

Hacking Your Blogging Schedule

Hack your blogging schedule

According to Hubspot companies that blog have 55% more website visitors. Yet in our recent  survey of the industrial and electrical industry creating quality content, such as blogging, is the leading challenge for most business executives.

keys spelling out blogHere are 6 hacks (time saving tips) for getting your blog post out on time.

  1. Set-up a blog calendar in Excel. You’ll need six column headings: (1) blog title, (2) posting date, (3) category, (4) keywords, (5) key points and (6) comments. Use the comment column to free-write about calls-to-action, target audiences and list links you want to include in your post, anything you want to remember to think about or do. The spreadsheet is a tool to give you structure.
  2. Blog topic selection are hard for some people but they don’t have to be. Your opinion on industry problems, for example, is a quick and easy way to come up with blog topics and position yourself as a thought-leader. If you are a member of any online industry community, take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions and react to those posts. You don’t have to solve world hunger, you’re just trying to find an audience. It’s a blog, not a contract so try to be conversational and informal.
  3. Invite others to write guest posts for your blog. It’s a win-win approach. You get fresh content, your audience gains a new perspective, and you both gain visibility to each others (broader) audience.
  4. Let other employees write blog entries. You’ll need guidelines such as word count and topic selection but don’t be too restrictive. In addition, you’ll want to approve every post before it becomes public but you may find there are people in your organization that enjoy writing and view this as an opportunity to grow and add value. If writing is difficult for you then delegating your blog is the way to go.
  5. If you are comfortable in front of the camera adding a short video to your blog, or reading the entire blog, is a great way to engage the audience and attract the search engines. The search engine like video more than text because they know their audience prefers watching videos to reading. Check out my Aligned Marketing blog post on creating videos for tips on video production.
  6. Blogging isn’t for everyone. If you don’t have the time or interest in blogging you can always outsource. You’ll need to set the guidelines and, in my opinion, want to hire someone with industry knowledge. For the best results I recommend you list the topics and provide your writer with an outline of key points. In the end that will save you time and money while, at the same time, produce better results.

What other hacks work for you?

 

Edited from original post on 3-12-12 by Aligned Marketing, LLC