Some 150 million blogs exist, but the majority are failures that stick around for only a few months. Meanwhile, nine out of 10 startups fail. Figuring out how to grow an online following, whether you’re trying to build an audience for your blog, product or service, is no easy feat. But content without promotion is just content. No one is there to read it or engage with it, let alone spread the word.
If you’ve already tried the usual suggestions, like guest blogging, with mixed results, it’s time to dive into some lesser-known tactics. Here are seven ways to get started.
1. Turn your followers into partners.
Are you writing in a vacuum and talking to an invisible audience? To grow a loyal following, you need to give its members a reason to stay engaged. Recruit your followers’ opinions on everything from what type of content they want to see, to product launches and market research.
Turning followers into beta testers is also a way to build up some loyalty and intrigue among your followers. As they test your product or service, ask them to generate a little buzz to get the word out about your upcoming launch. The more your following feels like an integral part of your brand, the more engaged they’ll be in your success.
2. Position yourself as an authority.
Position yourself as an authority in your market by creating content and original resources to drive sales. Wouldn’t you buy from someone whose opinion you completely trusted? Whether you’re in a hot market like a travel startup in Bali, or running an association for manufacturers, leveraging your authority can attract legions of fans.
Stand out in your niche by offering something unique like Moz's Whiteboard Friday videos. Videos can also show off your personality and help you stay visible to your audience. Epic content with expert interviews, charts, graphs and detailed research is always a winner. That’s how Ramit Sethi continually stands out in a crowded personal finance market.
3. Write less content.
It's true that I just got finished explaining how writing novel-length content can help you stand out in your field. But that doesn’t mean you should stuff your blog and social media channels with a nonstop stream of content. If you’re going to go big, then make that your thing that your fans come to expect.
Give them a juicy piece of content every few weeks, or even once a month, and let them digest it and share it generously. Spend the rest of your time promoting your content, reaching out to influencers who are interested in your topic and engaging with your fans on social media.
4. Buy leads.
Normally, buying leads doesn’t lead to a loyal and engaged following, and isn’t necessarily a best practice. But done correctly, and with value behind it, buying leads can actually help you establish your online presence with rapid-fire success. Blog Tyrant featured a case study of how to launch a blog and get 17,800 email subscribers in six weeks.
He featured a reader, Marina, who reported how she'd managed to amass a large and engaged following for her fashion blog through highly-targeted Facebook ads, fun product giveaways and a Lead Page.
5. Offer content upgrades.
Engagement is about more than leaving comments and talking over Twitter. It’s also about creating incentives for your followers to share their email, read more of your content and ask for more insights. Give your readers a reason to stick around, and offer a content upgrade at the end of your posts or videos.
Ask them to subscribe or tweet a shout-out, to unlock freebies such as a list of resources, a video that goes into greater depth or a roundup of links and tools you mention in your content.
6. Target the enthusiastic.
Everyone talks about targeting a niche, but there’s more to do than just narrowing down your audience. You need to connect with a niche group that’s enthusiastic and hungry for content. This is especially true in "boring" industries like the death-care profession. I wrote about how LA-based mortician Caitlin Doughty found industry fame with her "Ask a Mortician" video series, and attracted more than 60,000 subscribers.
Now, imagine what her following must feel like. They’re interested in death care for whatever reason, and normally stumble across nothing but industry statistics, best practices and somber websites about bereavement. But thanks to Doughty, her following instead gets an interesting look at how the industry works, as well as some kooky videos on such topics as "Is It Legal? Viking Funerals.”
7. Send a personal 'thank you.'
To turn your followers into loyal fans, there are still some old-school tactics to turn your followers into loyal fans. Send a personal thank you, for instance, to your customers, leads, fans and blog readers (we do this all the time at When I Work, the company I work for).
You might include a hand-written thank you note, a mention in a blog post or an effort to follow up with them out of the blue, by email or on social media. Take this tactic a step further and mention a personal detail to show you’re listening. The more you prove you really care, and remember to say thanks, the more your following will engage with you.
What about you? What are some of your favorite, but lesser known ways to grow and engage a loyal following?