I can't remember how I've stumbled upon some of my favorite blogs (this one included). I just did. And without fail, I show up day after day, week after week, excited to read what these writers have to say.
Maybe you’ve had this experience, as well: you remember reading through some of the latest posts on a new blog and immediately sign up for the RSS and newsletter subscriptions.
The posts were spot-on for what you needed at the time, and they always seemed to deliver exceptional value. Despite how much these blogs have grown, you've always felt like the person was talking just to you.
So how do you do that?
Why we like personal blogs
When someone writes words that connect with your heart, the effect of is twofold:
- You like the blog, and will continue to read it.
- You will probably buy/read whatever this person comes out with.
The reason those things are important to all of us interested in building our platforms is they allow us to develop and maintain relationships with our audiences. In other words, this style of writing helps us build true community.
On my own site, I’ve coached authors, writers, and bloggers on this very subject. Some call it the “catch-22” of new-age marketing:
We can’t create something and give it to people (or sell it to them) if they’re not listening to us, and we can’t get them to listen to us without giving them something valuable first.
But is that really true? The best blogs get their communities excited and passionate, and then use that momentum to create more exciting opportunities.
If you want your community to get committed, you have to commit first.
I get emails almost every day asking the question, “How can I promote my fiction book (or book on an unrelated topic) through a nonfiction blog?”
While it’s a question that might not be relevant to you, I think the illustration that I use to answer it is a great analogy:
Imagine you’re in your living room, hanging out with a close friend who’s come over to visit. You and this friend swap the usual stories—life, work, relationship updates—and then they notice your book on the coffee table.“Hey—did you write this?” they ask.
“Sure did,” you respond, “it’s about [whatever].”
Now, do you think that person is going to be interested in purchasing your book?
Absolutely, even if only wanting to help support your art. This friend is interested in your overall well-being, not just one particular interest you might have in common.
My favorite bloggers do an exceptional job making me feel like a friend, even though I’ve never met most of them in person.
When they write, it’s like I’m being invited into their living rooms to sit down to chat. When it seems fitting to mention their latest book, course, product, or whatever, I’m going to be interested—because I like this person.
How this works (for you)
I’ve received so much value from some bloggers that I’m more than happy to help them out with whatever they need: by buying their book, promoting a product, or just bragging about them to my friends.
Why? Because they've demonstrated a constant commitment to helping me. I'm happy to return the favor. And here’s the best part about this commitment-trust-engagement strategy: You can replicate it.
This sort of exchange is an age-old tactic to spreading ideas: Find a group of people who share an interest in something you do, and then build a relationship with them over time. The nuts-and-bolts of it looks like this:
- Find an audience. You can use a blog, Twitter, or something else, but you need to find people who share your passion.
- Create stuff for your audience. This can be eBooks, blog posts, newsletters, etc. These are “value adds” that help build trust.
- Turn your audience into a community. After some time, your readers will start to do the heavy lifting for you. Give them the tools to share and spread your ideas, and you can turn fans and readers into “affiliates.”
That’s all there is to it. Most of what you read about “building a platform” or “developing an online presence” can be boiled down to these three components. What holds everything together is your passion and effort.
If you make it about others, they'll make it about you. (Tweet that.)
A final word of warning
When you do this well, there’s little your readership won’t care about. If you entice me with great content, provide massive value about something I need help with, and then over-deliver on that expectation, I’m going to be a fan of yours.
Later, if you wrote a sci-fi/fantasy epic, I’m in. Since I consider you an friend, I’d be interested in hearing about any of your upcoming projects.
But there’s a limit to what we’re “safe” to promote this way. Things that are wildly off-topic (i.e. “Hey! I’m selling used cars now!”) probably won’t be well received, nor will incessant promotions in rapid succession.
Think of this as you would anything relationship in life. Would your brother, friend, or mother-in-law be excited about an upcoming project, and be willing to support you in some way? Of course they would.
Your online network is the same way. They want to support you in whatever you do — if you care enough to treat them as you would a real friend or relative.
Most of the time, if you’ve done a great job getting to know us and building trust, we’ll want to hear about your stuff. In fact, we’ll help you with it, promote it, maybe even buy it. But treat us like we’re watching a late-night infomercial, and we’re done.
What do you think? Can you get people excited about whatever you write if you first show interest in them? Share in the comments.
*Photo credit: Leon E. Pannetta (Creative Commons)
Disclosure: some of the above links are affiliate links.