These days you can’t throw a rock without hitting a self-proclaimed writer or blogger, but far too often many folks just aren’t doing it right.
Despite all of their talent, killer content ideas, and their willingness to write page after page (or blog post after blog post) of “awesome” words, their efforts just don’t seem to garner the results they want—an audience who reads their work, and most importantly, sticks with them.
Building an audience out of nothing takes damn-near Herculean efforts. Although most of us would like to be overnight celebrities, often times we fall way short of our idealistic goals while watching others blow up with seemingly little effort.
I won’t lie; I’ve wondered the same thing.
I’ve often shook my head in disbelief about how a certain obscenely popular mommy blogger pulls the readers she does despite being absolutely boring (in my opinion). I mean, I didn’t get her appeal until a friend of mine broke it down.
Despite my apprehension about this particular blog, my friend told me that the writer gets millions of visitors every month because she gives the people what they want—pictures of her dogs and too-cute kids, while talking candidly about the comings and goings of her life.
It was that simple.
Or as Shadow Henderson so eloquently stated in Mo Betta Blues, “If you played the sh-t that they like, then people would come, simple as that.”
So, how can you play the ish that people will like?
Here are 5 tips for engaging your audience….even when you don’t have one yet.
Have something interesting to say
Your blog design may be top-notch, your graphics may be on point, and you might make the best YouTube videos this side of Awkward Black Girl, but none of that will matter if you have nothing interesting to say.
Often times bloggers spend too much time venting about every minute detail of their lives, only to wonder why no one seems to be listening. Let me school you right quick: No one cares. Too harsh? Maybe. But it’s the truth.
Unless your goal is to simply write a personal account of your life (which is cool, but don’t expect too many folks to check for you), you need to give the people what they want—something that relates to their lives.
Now, this doesn’t mean strip your writing of all personal anecdotes. Sharing our stories is one way to connect with readers and make broader points about life. But it DOES mean that you shouldn’t make each and every thing you write totally about you. While we may start with the familiar (our lives), you need to branch out to show how your story can be used as a tool to connect with others in a more universal way.
And if you just have to vent about how your boo forget your 3-weekaversay, save the emo rants for Twitter. Cool?
Have a sense of humor
There is a reason sites like the Onion, Very Smart Brothas, Awesomely Luvvie, and Faux News are popular—they poke fun at the truth. While having something interesting to say gets you in the door, if you can make people literally laugh our loud or have to suppress a chuckle, 9 times out of 10 they will come back for more.
Let’s face it; we are bombarded by serious news all of the time. Every second a story reminding us just how horrible and despicable human beings are are circulates the ‘net and forces us all into collective depression. But while we cannot ignore such issues, handling the world’s ills and our own problems with a little bit of humor endears others to our cause. If you can find a way to work in a little levity into your work, I guarantee you’ll win over more than a few fans.
Express your opinion, especially if it’s unpopular
What can I say? Controversy sells. And there’s nothing worse than clicking on a site that is filled with plain vanilla ramblings about how average everything in the world is.
I know this seems counterproductive to building your audience, but if you walk around with several unpopular opinions brewing in your head, you should probably write about them.
I’ve come across far too many writers who are afraid to share their “real” thoughts because of how others will view them or because they’re scared doors will magically slam in their faces. But you know what? Who are the people we most remember and garner the most attention?
There’s a reason Rush Limbaugh wasn’t tripping about losing 20 sponsors after his controversial comments about Sandra Fluke—he knew he had 20 more waiting to sign up. Love him or loathe him enough to want to duct tape his mouth shut, Limbaugh articulates his position and is rewarded handsomely for it. In a world full of pundits and B-list media personalities Rush is a star because he has a distinct opinion and isn’t afraid to share it.
Make them say ‘aha’
Nothing keeps folks coming back to your work like having the ability to teach them something new. If every time someone clicks on your site or reads your book they have an “aha” moment, I promise you they will keep coming back for whatever you’re serving up.
While most of us are huge consumers of random and sometimes useless information, somewhere between the latest celeb gossip and last night’s sports scores we want to learn something.
Whether folks Google how to jailbreak their phone or look for tips on baking the perfect cheesecake, if you can add value to your readers’ lives by teaching them something new (or offering them a shortcut), then you will have just earned their trust. And with their trust comes the likelihood that they’ll continue checking for what you have to say so long as it remains useful and applicable to their lives.
Make them believe
There’s a reason Oprah Winfrey is a billionaire and Maury Povich is not. While Maury is still on a mission to conduct every paternity test in America, Oprah stopped trekking through the muck to take the inspirational high ground long ago. After she stopped traveling the same muddy highway as her daytime talk show comrades and pursued a decidedly inspirational tone on her show, Oprah blew up.
While people are indeed drawn to drama and controversy, underneath it all, we want to be inspired. We want to be told that we are exceptional, brilliant, and if given a chance, we can do great things.
Look at me, for instance. Sure, this site could have been a place of shameless self-promotion, but I realized that what I really loved was helping and inspiring others. And once that happened and I began building the #GOALDiggers, amazing things began to happen. Not only did I amass a large and growing email newsletter list in just a few weeks, but this site has already started off with a bang and has been adding new readers every day.
When faced with all of the negative news about the economy, our divisive political process, and the everyday griminess of the world, people want to know there’s hope—even when they claim they’re over all that hopey-changey crap. At the end of the day, people still want to know that their dreams and goals are possible, and if you can get them to believe it deep in their bones, then you’ve just earned yourself a serious fan.
Are you a blogger or writer? Have you had trouble building your audience? If not, do you have any tips for audience engagement?