Growing Your Audience- Some Basics

Brogan and Penn My friend and former coworker, Mike Desjardins asked me about how people go about growing a blogging audience. It’s a great question. I run into tons of people who have wonderful blogs that deserve much more attention than they receive. So what gives? What can one do to grow your audience? If you want to grow your audience, you need to know who they are, give them easy to consume chunks of content, promote your work effectively, and be persistent.

Let’s Start With Audience

First and foremost, who are you writing this blog for? If the answer is “myself” and you have more than one RSS subscriber, congratulations. You’ve done it. If the answer is, “Anyone into _____,” like “anyone into tech,” and you have more than 10 subscribers congratulations. Be clear about the audience. If I’m going to bother giving you some of my time, I want something back.

Let’s take Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation. This is a top shelf blog, with clearly written content, that speaks to people looking to better understand the future of digital influence. Brillant work, considerately written, and created in such a way that I come away thinking about how this impacts me. Perfect. Spot on.

Other great examples of a focused blog that targets its audience well:

Technically, I could give you links all night, but the point is this. Look at how the content is focused on a specific audience. Look a few posts forward and back. Except for a few exceptions, you can tell exactly who the audience is.

When my audience dips, it’s because I lose my focus. But there’s more to it than that.

Your Content Needs to Be Well Chunked

First off, journalists know this, but I’ll tell you: start with the best stuff right up at the top. Don’t do it as a build-up. Second, make it such that people can read it in chunks. Look up at this. I’ve got headings that break up the post. I’ve got bullets that break up the post. I’ve led with a graphic. I could pull out a graphic or a pull quote to keep it looking better.

Break things up so that human eyes can read them easier. Dense posts and super long posts are a turn-off. Oh, and that’s another thing. Brevity. It rules. Pass it on.

Promote Your Blog Effectively

First, make sure there’s a very prominently displayed link for folks to subscribe to your RSS feed for your blog. The bigger and more attention-drawing, the better. Second, add an email subscription option to your blog. I prefer using FeedBurner to manage all that.

Second, be sure your blog’s URL is loaded into pretty much every social network where you belong. Add it to MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Flickr, and wherever else you can bring awareness. Make sure you submit it to directories like Dmoz.org, and Yahoo and Google. Get that URL out there where people can find it. I’ve had lots of interesting moments where someone has found my blog via Facebook or LinkedIn.

Third, add it to your email signature and your business cards. If your company doesn’t give you business cards, go to Overnight Prints or Vista Print or Moo and buy some. Thirty or so bucks and they help people find you (and your blog!).

In services like Twitter, promote your blog posts from time to time. Not EVERY post, but ones where you feel you’ve done well. I never use automatic post-to-twitter links. They just don’t seem to net decent conversations. Instead, try using a conversational tone. For instance, when I’m done this post, I will send to Twitter something like this: “I shared my thoughts on growing your audience. What are YOUR ideas?” and then the link to this post. You don’t have to follow, but you’ll know exactly why I asked for your attention.

One quick note: it’s not always about your blog. Don’t be that guy.

Be Persistent

I could also say “be consistent,” but in this case, I want you to persist in not only putting out your content, but also making it better. EVERYONE can make their stuff better. I could do to focus on my takeaways. You might need to pare down the word count. There’s always room to do better work.

Further, do lots to try new things. Stretch out the medium. Think of new ways to ask the same old questions. Decide on challenging approaches to blogging in ways that powerfully reveal the information your audience seeks from you. Persist in such matters, never accepting that your work is flawless, but instead analyzing your responses and uptake or downturn in traffic, and giving more effort accordingly.

And Now, the Bonus Round

Other ways that I’ve built traffic to my blog include the basics: comment on great blogs. Write and submit guest posts to top blogs in your similar space (but be careful of HOW you guest post). Add occasional links to your blog posts in places like Flickr. Consider contests. Participate in other people’s events. Find groups of bloggers you like and see if you fit their circles of friends. Write series so that people want to participate and come back for more. Make your URL memorable.

And beyond all that? Be as human as humanly possible, only do that in the most interesting senses of the idea. Make sense?

What else did I miss? The part where I ask you questions so that you help add YOUR personality and ideas to the conversation?

Photo Credit, Chel Pixie shooting for Financial Aid Podcast

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  • http://babywalters.blogspot.com Rebecca

    Thanks for the great tips!
    babywalters.blogspot.com

  • http://babywalters.blogspot.com Rebecca

    Thanks for the great tips!
    babywalters.blogspot.com

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  • http://www.mymovienews.net Sinoun

    wow i sure wish i could go for lunch with david usher! you are one lucky guy chris brogan!

    but apart from that, this is a great article.

  • http://themanmeetsabharwalblog.com/ Manmeet

    Nice blog post check out mine on a simialr topic
    http://themanmeetsabharwalblog.com/?p=164

  • Pingback: » How to Blog (and use Social Media) Like Chris Brogan

  • robbritt

    Great tips. I love it when someone give useful information rather than fluffy vagueness.

  • robbritt

    Great tips. I love it when someone give useful information rather than fluffy vagueness.

  • http://www.dumblittleblog.com/ Jimmy

    Thanks for this post. I've had my blog for a few months now and I feel like a failure already. I want to keep it at Blogger, but can never decide on style and layout and this distracts me. I have to admit that I think I'm failing miserably at this.

  • http://blackzen.me BZ

    This is great stuff. I only discovered your site a few days ago but I've found so many useful and entertaining posts. Keep 'em coming.

  • K Keefe

    great help thanks

  • http://www.savetubevideo.com youtube downloader

    This is a top shelf blog, with clearly written content, that speaks to people looking to better understand the future of digital influence. Brillant work, considerately written, and created in such a way that I come away thinking about how this impacts me.

  • http://www.123contracting.co.uk Contractors

    Really useful article, I think knowing who your audience is, is so crucial to success – gotta know your market.

  • http://twitter.com/themomfactor Sherelle Jackson

    Very informative. I will make use of the suggestions to improve my blog. Thanks

  • http://resolutionrevolutionproject.blogspot.com/ Susan C

    i just started my first blog, thanks for the advice!  

    you advised: “comment on great blogs.”  how would you suggest going about promoting your blog via other “great blogs” without coming off in a negative/pushy/obnoxious way?

    i also liked the chunking pointer, it’s definitely something i’ll be paying more attention to.

  • Jmahudson

    Thank you!  These ideas are great — though I am wondering exactly when days became 30 hours long… ah, well!

  • Ali

    Great ideas here! I’m definitely going to take this advice for my blog.