Welcome to part 2 of our Starting a Blog from Scratch series! By now you should know how to get set up and start publishing your fabulous content. Next up, it’s time to delve into how to cultivate a loyal audience of fans. That’s right—we’re covering the best ways to build a following for your blog. Let’s go!
New to our blog series? You might want to start by reading part 1.
The content side of things
Now, you can’t call a bunch of people into a room and then just stand there in silence with your hands in your pockets and a sheepish grin on your face. In other words, prior to reaching out for readers, make sure your blog is worthy of people’s time and attention in the first place!
Before we launch into how to get followers, here’s a quick checklist of some of the standards your blog should be meeting:
- Engaging, high-quality writing
- Use images, videos and/or infographics to liven up the content
- Update the blog regularly (you can lose hard-earned followers if your content output suddenly drops off)
- Craft intriguing titles (but avoid click-bait)
- At least some of your blog posts should be evergreen
Promotion within the blog
Image source: Sincerely Media (via Unsplash)
Start off by making the most of what the blog platform itself actually offers. We covered a couple of these options at the end of part 1, but they’re important, so let’s recap: If you’re using WordPress or something similar, it can be really beneficial to include a widget that allows people to sign up to your blog via email. This way they’ll receive a message every time you add a new post to the blog. Using this tool will allow you to build up a list of contacts that will be very useful for any future campaigns.
Struggling to gain email subscribers? Consider launching some kind of promotion or prize draw as an incentive for people to sign up. For example, you could offer a social media shout out to every 20th person that signs up to your blog.
You can even take it one step further and start a newsletter linked to your blog. Not only does this add an extra incentive for people to sign up (because you’re going to send them exclusive content straight to their inbox) but the newsletter itself provides another vehicle through which you can promote various blog posts.
There’s also the option of including some kind of contact form on your blog. This allows you to get more than just an email address. Along with their name, people can leave questions or comments about your content. Use these interactions to start a discussion and begin building relationships with your readers.
We know the comment section of any internet page can be a hellish place. It’s not all trolling and negativity, though! In fact, allowing people to comment on your posts is another vital step in building a following. If you just expect readers to passively consume your content, the blog doesn’t have much hope of taking off. People like to feel that their opinions are valued, so let them share them! Part of putting your work out into the world is accepting the scrutiny of others. It’s not always fun, but it’s necessary.
A great thing about comments sections is that people can interact with each other without you even having to get involved. Having said that, we urge you to respond to every comment if you can—be it positive or negative. To further encourage people to share their thoughts, within the blog posts themselves you can provoke discussions by asking questions and raising hotly-debated topics.
The cherry on the cake is that the comment section is a great place to discover new ideas for future blog posts, because people will often tell you first hand the exact topics they’d like to see covered next. What a gift!
Make sharing easy
Finally, one of the most simple things you can do to get more visitors to your blog is to make your posts easy to share. The internet is a very interactive place, so people will often post links to pages and articles that they enjoy. Adding a few easily-clickable share icons (via email, Twitter, Facebook…etc.) to your articles takes seconds but can make a world of difference. Just don’t provide too many choices—people can get overwhelmed by options and end up choosing none at all. Think about the platforms that are suitable for your brand or aesthetic and stick to no more than 3.
Promotion outside of the blog
Image source: Karsten Winegeart (via Unsplash)
If you’ve reached this section you’ve probably created a pretty great blog by now. We’ve covered what you can do to encourage people to keep returning to your blog, but what about those who haven’t found it yet?
The social media landscape is constantly evolving and expanding, so the first advice we have is to rein in your aspirations in this area. It’s important that you set up accounts for your blog on some platforms, but be selective about it. You can always create new accounts later on.
When deciding which social media channels to go for, think about which formats most complement the style of your blog. Don’t force a square block through a round hole simply to maximise exposure. Let’s say your blog is largely image-based, for example. The most obvious choice would be to set up an Instagram account where you can really show off your visual content. On the other hand, if your blog is mostly made up of text articles, you’d be better off sharing your work on Facebook or LinkedIn.
Kick start your social media presence by adding a branded profile and header image to your account, writing a short but snappy bio and following a few pages/people/brands that reflect your area of interest. And, of course, make sure your blog URL is clear and easily clickable from your profile!
What and when to post
On social media the line between not being active enough and bombarding people’s timelines with content can be fairly thin. To make things even more complicated, the accepted norms are slightly different depending on the platform. A good general rule is that Twitter is the only place you should be posting more than once a day. And you don’t even need to do that if you have nothing of value to say.
It’s also important to mix things up! Sure, you can share the latest article from the blog minutes after it comes out. However, if there’s a timely news topic that links to something you wrote, say, 2 months ago, it might be better to go with that! There’s absolutely no shame in reusing or repurposing old content if it fits the moment. Take advantage of trends and consider any shifts in public mood before sharing something. Even though we recommend scheduling posts ahead of time (sites like Hootsuite and Buffer can make this a doddle), it’s easy enough to dive in and make last-minute changes if necessary.
Lastly, a quick word of warning: exclusively sharing your own blog content is kind of bad manners. Diversify your feed by sharing posts from others (more on this later), getting in on the latest meme, or highlighting some breaking news in your subject area.
Get involved with the community
Image source: Adam Solomon (via Unsplash)
When you build up a following for your blog, your content is the glue that brings them together. It’s only right, then, that you play an active part in the community. Take the time to have genuine interactions with people and use their comments as a springboard for conversations that others can get involved in. Some of your followers may have blogs of their own. Give them a follow and leave some comments about what you liked—spread the love!
The community you’re a part of also reaches beyond your blog followers. Make an effort to get involved in forums where your target audiences hang out. You can find these by searching for your topics of interest within platforms like Reddit and Quora. You can also take recommendations and tips from your existing followers. Once you’re an established part of the community, and when it feels appropriate, drop a link to some of your posts that might be of interest to those who haven’t discovered your work yet. Do this sparingly, though, as it may come off as pure self-promotion if you’re not careful!
We alluded to this earlier, but it’s really important that you follow and promote the content of others. Becoming a successful content creator involves a lot of give and take. This is definitely a two-way street. You can’t expect people to follow and champion you if you don’t seem interested in doing the same for others. Be generous but selective—only share work that you actually think is valuable. Doing so will enable you to build up a level of trust within the community you create or join.
Once you’re active in comments sections and other forums, people may bring up the option of guest posts. This could mean them offering to write for your blog, giving you the chance to write for their blog, or both! If the opportunity feels right, this can be very beneficial for every party involved.
Here are just a few of the benefits of guest posting:
- Your name/brand gains visibility in a new space and you can include a link to your blog
- Guests posting on your blog are likely to bring at least some of their followers to your page
- It can be very handy when you don’t have any new content to share yourself!
Don’t be afraid to make the first move and reach out to others regarding guest posting, either!
It’s a big achievement when your blog develops a considerable following. As well as proving that your content is of value, it provides you with a potential customer base. Those looking to take advantage of this power will want to check out part 3 of our Starting a Blog from Scratch series.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on Supersede Media, because it’s coming soon!