|I ♥ My Blog: A look at blog content "engagement"|
This post is going to work against these two problems with what hopefully are some new ways to think about, and navigate, creating engaging content for your blog.
"What is 'engagement'?"
"Engagement” can mean a number of things. A very basic definition, however, is simply that engagement is a “consumer” (a reader, visitor, buyer, etc.) performing some kind of action in response to a particular “product” (post, tweet, book, etc.) from a particular “seller” (author, host, crafts person, etc.). So, when it comes to a blog, engagement is simply a visitor doing something in response to a post.
Why is that important? Because many times bloggers mistakenly think that “engagement” always and only means “commenting.” That’s not necessarily a bad thing … Comments are, after all, one of the nicest ways a visitor can respond to what we’ve written. It is, however, a potentially damaging, or discouraging, thing when you consider the landscape in which we’re working. It can be discouraging when you’ve written what you think is a very meaningful piece that gets absolutely no comments. It can be damaging when you think that because your blog posts get no comments, you’ve failed as a writer.
So what constitutes “engagement”? Many things. Engagement can be clicks, page views, a social network follow, reading, retweeting or sharing a post, subscribing, spending more than five minutes on your page, downloading or viewing a free sample, answering a poll question, and, yes, commenting. The point is: It’s ALL engagement … While one form may feel better, it doesn’t mean that the others suggest visitors are any less engaged!
"So then … how do I 'engage' my readers?!"
The answer to this question varies based on how you want your readers to engage. Here are two basic breakdowns of how bloggers tend to have (or want to have) engagement happen:
1. I want people to find/view/read my work
If what you’re aiming for is viewership, engagement is simply making sure you get your content out there. Share your posts on your Facebook wall, on Twitter, or other social media sites. Comment on other sites. Participate in forums. When you engage anywhere, make sure folks have a way to find you. Join a community like Triberr and become part of a tribe; with this site, as you share others’ writing, others will share yours. The point is: The more you share, the more easily people will be able to find you.
2. I want visitors to share/subscribe to/“like”/buy/etc. my work
Here’s the thing … It’s easy to get people to see your work. It’s harder to get people to share it. Why? Because while the degree to which your work gets out there is (more or less) in your control, the way readers engage with it is not! Let’s face it: The most we can really do is encourage … subtly. Including a call to action, having tools that allow readers to like or share a post or page, posting polls … those are (some of) the “subtle nudges” we as writers can use to ease readers into more “direct” responses. But while you can put that button there, you can’t make your readers click it. You can ask them to comment, but you can’t force them. The point is: If you build it, they will come … but they might not always let you know they were in the stands all along.
"I want something better than that!"
Okay, here’s my number one tip for creating content engagement for your blog. Are you ready? Here it is … Rethink what it means to engage.
I mean this as an encouragement. If a post on Monday gets 20 page views and a post on Friday gets 40, guess what? You’ve increased your reader’s engagement. If you’ve gone two months with silence and suddenly someone has given your post a “+1” on Google Plus, guess what? You’ve increased your reader’s engagement. Even if from one day to the next you get the same numbers in terms of clicks or views or visits, YOU ARE ENGAGING YOUR READERS … whether they comment or not.
In the same vein, please, please, please don’t think that because This Great Writer gets 200+ comments per blog post per day it means you’re a failure if you get two comments a month. This Great Writer didn’t get there overnight. It took time. It takes years. Take Jeff Goins as an example. If you look at his latest posts, you might find his 100+ comments per post intimidating. But visit his archives. Some of his first posts? Two comments a piece. Joanna Penn has a blog that’s been voted one of the top 10 blogs for writers three years in a row, with thousands of followers. Some of her first posts? Zero comments. One thing both writers have in common is that their blogs are user friendly. They encourage readers to comment (and respond when readers do). They share their links on social media … and share other resources … and engage with followers and fans. They have multiple ways for readers to engage. And they keep going .. slowly … steadily … writerly.
So keep going. Share a post. Provide a resource. Ask a question. Give a poll. Remember: You must engage to be engaged. And don’t be discouraged … If you build it, they will come.
What are your goals for reader engagement? Does this post change the way you think of engagement, or affirm it … or do you think I’m wrong? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below (or don’t … after all I just said about commenting, I kind of deserve it)!
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Check out some of these top writer blogs, paying attention to how reader engagement changes over time: