A Dead Simple Way to Engage Your Readers Today in 15 Minutes or Less

  • July 5, 2011 by Corbett Barr
  • 33 Comments

There are three things you need to build a wildly popular website or blog: traffic, engagement and conversions.

Today I’m going to show you how to dramatically increase engagement in 15 minutes or less.

Traffic is simply how many visitors arrive at your site for a given timeframe. Engagement is how connected those visitors become with you, your site and your mission. Conversions are how many of those engaged visitors take the actions you would like them to take.

The first part and the last part are obvious. You need visitors and you want them to do something, like buy something you’re selling.

The middle part (engagement) isn’t so obvious, and it’s the part you might be skipping over. Don’t skip over the engagement part, that’s like asking for sex at the beginning of a first date, or asking a first time reader to buy your high-priced coaching package.

To get your visitors to stick around, leave comments, share your content with friends, become true fans and eventually take the action you want, you need to engage your readers. You need to be helpful, solve a problem, change people’s lives and deliver incredible value.

You might be daunted by the thought of having to deliver so much value, but there’s a simple place to start engaging your readers today: ask questions.

Think about when you’re getting to know someone for the first time and you want to engage your new friend and create a real connection. What’s the strategy you use for connecting with new people?

I’ll bet you ask questions.

Asking questions elicits a response and shows you care. It opens the door to dialogue. Questions are the essential building blocks of conversations.

And conversations are what you want for your business or blog. Starting conversations with your readers/visitors is a sure way to engage them and start a deeper relationship. It’s also a great way to look for ways you can be helpful.

Instead of a long explanation of engagement with metrics and examples, I’m going to keep this short today because I want you to take action.

Here’s a quick example of an action I took recently to engage readers at my lifestyle design blog. Instead of sending a typical “thanks for subscribing” email when someone signs up for my email updates list, I recently created a new message that starts a conversation with each subscriber.

In that message (sign up to see it yourself, you can unsubscribe right after if you don’t want to stick around), I specifically ask the reader questions AND ask for a response.

The result? I now get email replies every day from new readers telling me about the most encouraging thing they’ve ever heard. It’s a great conversation starter and no doubt those new readers are more likely to be engaged readers simply because I asked questions and requested a reply.

Total time to implement this engagement starter: 15 minutes or less.

Try this yourself at your own website or blog: ask your readers questions and tell them you want a response. You can do this in your email auto-responder, in a blog post, in your forums, your Twitter stream, Facebook page or anywhere you can post a question and field the replies.

Then, get in the habit of asking questions every day. Experiment and try different types of questions, different topics and different ways of asking. It’s a skill worth refining and will pay off with deeper connections which will lead to more conversions and even more traffic.

What questions have you asked your readers lately? Did they respond? I’d love to hear in the comments.

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


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Graham Lutz July 5, 2011 at 6:04 am

The wordpress plugin “thank me later” automatically sends an email to anyone who comments on your blog, so you can start that conversation like that!

If someone is commenting, they are obviously in the mood to talk so this is a good way to engage.

Nick Stewart July 5, 2011 at 6:55 am

Cool. I use Comment Relish which does the same thing.

Corbett July 5, 2011 at 3:54 pm

When I first started out, I actually responded via email personally to new people who left comments. It was definitely an effective engagement tool. I hadn’t heard of the automatic methods, it seems there’s a plugin for everything.

TrafficColeman July 5, 2011 at 6:19 am

The goals is simple..its to solve their problems and they will continue to come back and engage in your community.

“Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

Sarah Russell July 5, 2011 at 6:35 am

I just did a survey of my readers for the first time (basically, fill out this quick survey and get a free report), and I’m kicking myself for not doing it earlier. The feedback I’m getting from people is incredible, and I’m definitely going to use it to change how I do a few things on my site.

Corbett July 5, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Surveys are awesome, aren’t they? Congrats on getting your first one out there. Good luck implementing the changes Sarah.

Mars Dorian July 5, 2011 at 6:42 am

Hey Corbett,

I have found out that I have to ask a “real” question in order to elicit a response.
Too many times, I post an article and just add a question because that’s supposed to be the way to go. But only the meaningful articles, the ones where there’s an actual need for a question, do I get a response.

So, you should always have reason for asking a question, and you should always be interested in getting answers, don’t just do it because “it’s the way to go”.

Jon July 5, 2011 at 7:39 am

I agree here. This aligns with strategic content marketing (and publishing with purpose). Wrap-up questions that prompt comments are still okay, I wouldn’t advise against posing them. But point well made: address a legitimate concern or pain point in the article and pose a question that other folks are dying to ask or answer.

Corbett July 5, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Absolutely, Mars. Good point. Don’t ask just for the sake of asking. Make sure you’re adding value and putting some thought into your questions.

Nick Stewart July 5, 2011 at 6:53 am

Brilliant. Most people are trying to make money from their sites but fail to realize that visitors are 100 times to buy from someone who engages with them and that they trust.

And you just gave us a simple way to engage with visitors!

Thanks,
Nick, the traffic guy

Corbett July 5, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Cheers Nick, thanks for framing it that way. It is all about trust and connection.

Dean Dwyer July 5, 2011 at 9:05 am

Interesting this should come out today Corbett. I had a guest post go out on Mark’s Daily Apple on Friday (it was my own success story) and the post did a wonderful job of bringing in new subscribers (surprisingly I got 426 over the long weekend). BUT…

My auto-responder is set up in such a way where I ask 2 questions. The first is the big one though…Tell me what you are struggling with. I stole that right from Mr Derrick Halpern himself (thanks DH :-) .

In the past few ever responded to the email I did have. This time I got 178 responses. And I am not talking about twitter like responses, I’m talking twitter on steroids-like responses, where people were writing between 200 to 400 words.

It is tempting to get overwhelmed with all of this, but I responded to each and every one in long detailed emails as well. Took a lot of time but I as Derek Sivers mentioned in his new book…I simply focused my efforts on helping people.

Best response I got was from a woman who said I was a very “compassionate listener.” Thought a lot about that today and realized that is exactly what I am on email. My responses show people I am a compassionate “listener.”

Might make for a great guest post somewhere I think.

Thanks for rattling the cages of my neurons my friend.

DD

Corbett July 5, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Holy crap, that’s a lot of email! Nicely done. Of course, the rules of “engagement” might have to change as a site grows larger, but the effort will definitely pay off if you can keep up with all of it.

Tracy O'Connor July 5, 2011 at 9:06 am

I love the idea of using the subscriber thank you message to engage with the reader and making it clear that you’re interested in a two-way relationship rather than broadcasting.

Corbett July 5, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Broadcasting is so last century, no?

Sunil from The Extra Money Blog July 5, 2011 at 11:06 am

i can vouch from experience that providing high value is key, followed by simply asking questions. asking questions at the end of my posts and through my newsletter certainly engages readers by initiating and facilitating conversation. excellent reminder – thank you C

Corbett July 5, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Cheers

Dave Doolin July 5, 2011 at 11:18 am

“In that message (sign up to see it yourself, you can unsubscribe right after if you don’t want to stick around), I specifically ask the reader questions AND ask for a response.”

Heh… I have one of Derek Halpern’s initial followups lodged down in my inbox waiting until I have time to blatantly copy it for myself.

I’ve been sending people personal emails on signups for a long time. Nothing long, just short, and reply from the notice I get so they know it’s a real email. Smart marketers will know something about my signup rates from this.

Corbett July 5, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Awesome tip, Dave. Those personal emails can do a lot when it comes to connecting with new subscribers. I’m always impressed when someone takes the time to personally comment or thank me for something.

Dr. Bob Clarke July 5, 2011 at 12:46 pm

I ask questions all the time… I ask them in my emails and in my blog posts. I send surveys to my subscribers, with a little enticement to complete them (free exclusive video, free 15 min consultation, etc.)

The information you get from your readers is far more informative than any research. Why? Because it’s not theory or speculation – it’s real issues and real problems coming directly from the people in your target market.

Thanks for the reminder, Corbett. Great post.

Corbett July 5, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Great point Dr. Bob, that’s the other side I didn’t even really get into in this post. Soliciting responses is a fantastic way to do research for content and product/service ideas.

Meg @ One Love Meg July 5, 2011 at 4:27 pm

I totally agree. I love going to sites where they are asking a question. It almost makes the posts feel more real. I think I need to ask questions more. This is really good.

Cathy | Treatment Talk July 5, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Another good post Corbett! Questions can be so helpful. I recently sent out a survey to my readers and it was wonderful to create posts to meet the specific needs of my readers. But I like your idea for questions on the welcome email. Thanks!

Tom July 6, 2011 at 2:10 am

You know another reason why this is such a good idea Corbett, aside from the more overt engagement that a question elicits in readers?

Like lots of people I often have a bit of trouble thinking up writing topics from out of the blue, but comments left on my site spark paragraphs of response (and often entirely new posts) from me. I’m sure that asking questions is a more direct way do the same thing. Everybody wins!

In fact, the meat of today’s Digital Media Minute post is in the form of a question. Thanks Corbett.

E46 Tuning July 6, 2011 at 7:19 am

Great post I love the date analogy. It’s like making a loaf of bread, you have to warm the oven before you stick it in

Adnan Ali July 6, 2011 at 10:50 am

driving traffic to weblog isn’t difficult, the uphill part is to keep the visitors stay longer and engage on the blog.i’ll must try these tips told by you.Thanks .

rohaizad July 6, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Good post here, the best way to blogging is keep a good relationship with readers / customers.

Benny July 6, 2011 at 9:59 pm

I’ve always engaged with my commenters through a plugin I mentioned in the first comment thread. I found that a great way for them to know that I appreciated their comment and they can see my reply. Sometimes it’s so hard to remember which post we left a comment on.

I really like the follow up email you send out. I’ll have to change my to ask a genuine question.

Shae July 11, 2011 at 12:55 am

This is such a great post and it couldn’t have come at a better time as I;m at the very beginning of my blogging journey. These are such simple techniques that anyone can apply and engaging with your readers is what it’s al about. Thanks for another great post Corbett!

Missy July 5, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Are both plugins essentially the same? Which one do you recommend? I plan to install one as I too have lacked in engagement with my readers and visitors on some of my sites. But not for long.

Let me know.

Cheers,
Missy

Benny July 6, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Hey Missy, you might also want to try ReplyMe plugin for WP. It sends the commenter an email of your reply when you comment back. It’s a great way for them to know you’ve responded to their comment. I use it and get asked about it all the time.

Stella | Keyword Research Basics July 7, 2011 at 2:13 am

Hi Benny:
I started using the ‘WP Reply Me’ plugin and noticed an improvement in conversation threads on my blog, a lot more than when I was using only ‘Thank Me Later’.

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