So you’ve got a great blog. You’ve got must-read content, you’ve got a unique voice, and you’ve got a lot to share. <i>You</i> know all of this. And you hope the world does, too, but that lonely comment chain says otherwise.
Sounds like it’s time to get a little more strategic about curating that audience of yours. Launching a successful blog, after all, means having a knack not just for writing but also for promoting yourself as in the most authentic and down to earth way possible. But how to do it?
<h2>Determine Who Your Blog Audience Should Be
First things first. In order to reach an audience, you have to define just who’s sitting in those chairs. If you take a look at some of the most successful blogs and businesses out there, you’ll notice a commonality: narrowed demographics, evident in just about every way that blog or business’ marketing is constructed.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at the super successful business, <a href=”http://www.modcloth.com/” target=”_blank”>ModCloth</a>, which first gained traction by being an early adopter of Facebook ads. While the business’ mode of operation and products are clear indicators of their demographics, the product descriptions are even more so, casually dropping in mentions of great books, quirky cocktails and Bohemian hangouts. The descriptions are so specific, they’re likely to turn away a large number of people…But when they <i>do</i>find their intended audience (and they certainly have), the message really hits home, turning the casual consumer into a brand loyalist. That’s what happens when consumers feel that a brand really <i>gets</i> them — and you can’t do that when you don’t have a focus.
To determine just <a href=”http://www.inc.com/guides/2010/06/defining-your-target-market.html” target=”_blank”>who your blog audience should be</a>:
- <b>Seek common traits among your current visitors</b>. A good look at <a href=”http://www.google.com/analytics” target=”_blank”>Google Analytics</a> will tell you where the bulk of your visitors are coming from, how they’re reaching you, and what kind of platforms they’re using to get there. Use these metrics to get a sense of who likes you already and use that knowledge to your advantage.
- <b>Analyze your competition</b>. Is there a fellow blogger you’d like to emulate? Browse through their comment sections to see just who engages with what content, keeping your eyes peeled for content requests your competitor isn’t already providing.
- <b>Do a <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics” target=”_blank”>demographics</a> and <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychographics” target=”_blank”>psychographics</a> analysis</b> to determine both how your customers live and how they think. For bloggers, <a href=”http://pewinternet.org/index.aspx” target=”_blank”>Pew Internet</a> is a great place to start, as it breaks down internet usage by demographic.
- <b>Look for what’s missing</b>. Let’s say you want to start a cooking blog. Even better, you know you want to narrow that to Asian cooking. Use the <a href=”http://www.adwords.google.com/” target=”_blank”>Google Adwords</a> tool to focus even further, looking for related terms with high search values and low competition. This way, your niche might go from “Asian cooking” to “healthy Chinese cooking” to “healthy Chinese cooking for Americans,” all based on data about what specific consumers within your broader audience desire.
Okay, now you’ve got your target audience. How can you reach them?
<h2>1. Market on Social Media</h2>
When you’re selling a blog, you’re selling both content and personality. And one of the best ways to promote that unique mix is on social media, where you can connect directly with potential followers and build real, authentic relationships.
To truly stand above the fray, however, you may need to get a little creative with your social media techniques, and that can only be accomplished with an intimate knowledge of the ways in which each site works and what tools they provide. You might, for instance, use Twitter to perform keyword tracking and find out just how people are searching for you, while you use Facebook for developing a deeper secondary community to support your blog and Pinterest to promote your blog’s tantalizing visuals. To get started, we recommend taking a browse through this <a href=”http://www.simplybusiness.co.uk/microsites/guide-to-social-media-success” target=”_blank”>social media guide</a>, which provides effective ways for setting clear targets and goals, developing a consistent stream of compelling social media content, monitoring analytics, ensuring you’re leveraging each platform to maximum effect and standardizing your social media process.
<h2>2. Partner With Other Bloggers</h2>
One of the most interesting (and cheering) things about blogging is that, with a worldwide audience open to you, competitors don’t have to be enemies. In fact, working directly with competitors — particularly those who are already influential in your niche — can be a very fast way to build an audience. Working with other bloggers can mean everything from guest posting on each other’s blogs to forming a joint blogging community. There are plenty of ways to get creative! Not only does this give you access to a large audience, but you’ll also gain instant credibility.
<h2>3. Be Visible Outside Your Niche, Too</h2>
That said, just because you have a niche, doesn’t mean you have to spend all of your time there (get out and see the sun once in a while!). Chances are, no matter what niche you’ve chosen, there are plenty of related niches that could be of help. Let’s say, for instance, that you run a fashion for children blog — a market that’s already packed with contributors. Try looking outside the fashion niche to education blogs. Do you support organic and ethical trade clothing? See if you can guest post on a green blog, or even a hyper-niche blog like one that caters to urban dwellers with a passion for rooftop gardening. Or, get super creative and invent craft projects that use old children’s clothes as a base before targeting DIY blogs. The applications are endless; don’t limit yourself arbitrarily.
Networking today is a unique combination of in-person and online efforts. You might start your marketing efforts by commenting frequently on popular blogs or message boards within your niche, whether on a social site like Facebook or on a professional site like LinkedIn. Once a certain amount of rapport is established, reach out directly to your favorites via email or a social media to let them know how much you enjoy their work. These efforts will be all the more effective when you can follow them up with an in-person meeting, whether it’s one on one in a coffee shop or in a crowd at an industry conference. Even Skype is an option for out of town contacts. Once back in the anonymity of your office, follow-up in-person meetings with thank you emails and specific proposals to work together. Together, online and in-person efforts are a solid and comprehensive way to establish and strengthen connections.
<h2>5. Use Incentives</h2>
Of course, the <a href=”http://theentreprenettegazette.com/2010/08/12/how-to-reach-your-target-market/” target=”_blank”>good old giveaway</a> can’t be beat, traditional as it may sound. Once you’ve got sponsors, brainstorm a creative contest for them and promote it all around social media. Or become a sponsor of your own on a sister site and offer a unique prize. If you’re just starting out and don’t have a lot of cash floating around, don’t worry. You’d be surprised at the level of competition that will arise when the prize is a niche-specific book, an hour of your time, or even one of those goofy comics you draw for fun.
By definition, a successful blog is one that reaches — and pleases — its target audience. Define yours carefully, embrace all the many tools on offer to develop credibility and fandom, get creative with your techniques, and your blog is sure to be a success.