This is a guest post by Danny Iny.
You spend a lot of time nurturing the relationship you have with your audience.
You give them amazing content, useful information and as much of your personal attention as you possibly can.
You listen to their concerns, accede to their requests and generally, make yourself a vital resource for them.
It’s a lot of work!
Isn’t it time they did a little of it for you?
Wait, you say, have my audience work for me? Isn’t that a little backwards? I mean, I work for them!
That may be true – but that’s not the only way things could be. Your audience might be dying for the chance to work for you – you just don’t know it – and maybe they don’t either.
You see, everyone wants to know that they matter – that they are needed and valuable, and while it’s nice to hear that a blogger appreciates your attention – it’s sometimes much nicer to know that they need you to do things for them too.
Yes, when properly motivated, and a little incentivized, you can have your audience doing a great deal of work for you, in terms of idea generation, promotion, engagement, recruitment and even content creation – and be thrilled to have the opportunity.
Consuming Content is Too Easy
It just doesn’t feel as valuable any more.
Remember when you were a kid, and you asked your mom or dad for an advance on your allowance, or a cool toy, or some other trifling thing – and they refused you?
What an annoying speech to hear: “If you earn it yourself, you’ll appreciate it more.” Hogwash, your eight year old mind tells you – I just want it!
But since the bank of mom and pop is closed, you mow the neighbour’s lawn, hoard your quarters and even agree to weed the garden for a few extra bucks to earn the price of whatever it was you wanted.
And when you put down your own money for it – it felt good. Really good. Like it mattered.
When you work for something, you appreciate it more.
The principle is no less true now for blog readers and subscribers than it was when you were a child: when you work for something and have to sacrifice a little to get it, you value it more.
We’re doing it already.
In a small way, this is what’s happening when a new subscriber gives you their email address in exchange for the content you created for them as opt-in bait. They’re sacrificing a little bit of their privacy to get the content you promised them – but that doesn’t go as far as we’d like it to.
No, let’s see if we can’t get our subscribers to work a little bit harder to get to us – but in such a way that they enjoy it, feel enriched by the process, and end up happier than ever to know you.
Worries About Resentment
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of how to do this, I need to be upfront about something.
This is going to cost you a few people. Some people will be angry, and resent the fact that you’re asking them for something. This is okay – you don’t want them anyway.
What’s more valuable to you, as a long-term business strategy: a reader who is happy to do their bit to build a community, or someone who just wants to suck you dry for what you can give them?
I thought so.
It’s important (if a little painful) to rid your list of the people who aren’t really on board with what you’re doing, and who aren’t willing to work with you to get things done.
So steal yourself for a few disappointed or angry emails – they’ll come, but you’ll be better off for it.
Just What Kind of Work are you Talking About?
Certainly not the boring kind! I’m not suggesting you ask your readers to do your bookkeeping, or sort your wreck of a filing cabinet.
I am talking about getting them to create content for you, promote your work, and generally make your blog an interesting and thriving place to be.
This is the kind of work you can dress up so beautifully that you get people lining up for the opportunity! Let’s go through some of the options.
Guest posting is a great way for you to build traffic to your own blog, and it’s also a great opportunity to take a break from the writing and let someone else do the hard work for a day or two.
Here’s why it works so well: once you’ve established yourself, it’s going to become very appealing for newer bloggers to get a spot on your site. Then all you have to do is edit their piece and schedule the post. It’s a wonderful system.
And you don’t need to wait for people to come to you for this – you can spend just a little time researching smaller, newer blogs in your niche – and if someone has great content, but not too much attention in terms of commenting and social media sharing, you can approach them and request a post. This is great karma, by the way – giving a platform to new bloggers with great potential is a really lovely thing to do for the blogosphere.
You can kick this up another notch by hosting a guest blogging contest: solicit enough content for a few weeks, and award people both on the quality of their posts, and the amount of traction they get in the form of comments and social shares. We did this recently, and had a record-breaking traffic month!
Social Media Engagement
A tweet or a Facebook share is a pretty small thing – but boy can they add up! And is it ever a time sink.
If you’ve ever gone to Twitter or Facebook, for “just a quick update” and groggily raised your head two hours later, you know what I’m talking about. It’s unsustainable, but you’ve got to get people talking about you, sharing your stuff and otherwise engaging with your content.
So get your readers to do it!
Make it easy – really easy.
Services like Click to Tweet and Pay with a Tweet build the functionality right into your blog posts and content giveaways. Click to Tweet lets you create a link on certain phrases within your writing – nice pithy ones, preferably – that will automatically populate into a Tweet box so readers can share your interesting thoughts with just a click or two. Pay with a Tweet allows you to “sell” your interesting content and giveaways for the price of a social share.
These are both great methods for increasing your social engagement that you only have to set up once and can reap the benefits from forever.
This can be stepped up with an element of contest too. At the end of a particularly interesting blog post, for example, instead of asking for a comment, leave a little note along the lines of: The reader who gets this article tweeted by the individual with the most followers wins [SOME NIFTY PRIZE]. Don’t forget to thank everyone who participates! And PLEASE don’t forget to track your metrics!
Contests and Games
Running contests, games and competitions on your blog is one of the easiest ways to pull in more traffic and increase audience engagement.
When something is framed as a contest – anything from commenting, to voting in polls, to replying to emails – it becomes a lot more fun to take part in, even if you have to expend extra effort.
The thrill of competition, the sweet taste of victory, and the rush that comes from trying to exceed expectations take the place of lazy content consuming.
There are some important things to remember when planning your game-related content strategies.
- You have to make the rules and your expectations clear – nothing turns off a contestant faster than confusion about what to do, when or how. Make sure the rules are straightforward, and refer people back to them often.
- Prizes have to be meaningful to your contestants. This will vary audience by audience, but generally, service, physical objects and cash money are a good bet. It might not be a bad idea to poll your audience in advance to see what kind of prize or reward they would like best.
- You also need to keep contestants frequently updated about what’s going on in the contest: how they’re doing, how everyone else is doing, and how close they are to victory. People can lose momentum really easily if they aren’t reminded of what they’re doing and to what end.
That’s pretty much it in terms of critical things to remember about contests. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
Tying it All Together
It’s one thing to get a nice one-time boost to traffic and engagement, and a little break from the work that you have to put in every day – but it’s much better to have people happily helping you on a regular basis.
This means you’ve got to make it a part of your editorial calendar. Scrambling to put together a well-executed competition at the last minute is more headache than it’s worth – and your lack of preparation will be obvious to all players.
These are good types of activities to run when you’re recovering from or planning something else that’s a huge drain on your time and energy – that’s what we’re doing with the Great Online Marketing Scavenger Hunt this month and next – we’re coming down from the dizzy heights of a product launch and a guest posting competition – so we’re very eager to see our readers out there engaging with each other, making new connections and generally becoming better marketers – still with our guidance – but mostly of their own volition.
I’d love it if you came and joined in the fun! But only, of course, if you’re willing to work for the honor and the glory!