For Bloggers: How to Calculate Your Reader Awesomeness Factor

  • June 16, 2011 by Guest Writer
  • 35 Comments

Guest post by Betsy Talbot of Married with Luggage

We all hope and say we have awesome readers, and I believe this is true. I also believe that we often make it harder for those awesome readers to fully engage with us and with each other.

See if this sounds familiar: You spend hours putting together a post on a subject you know a lot about. In fact, you are basically giving your readers a free lesson on the topic. You are pleased to see a nice amount of traffic come through for the post, even if there aren’t many (or any) comments. You take that to mean you answered every question they could have had.

Job well done, huh?

Well, not really. This is where the Reader Awesomeness Factor* (RAF) comes into play.

Reader Awesomeness Factor: (n) The actions, contributions, and comments within your blog community that determine the effectiveness of your message or mission.

If you don’t know what your audience is doing with the information you provide or how it changes their businesses or lives, then you don’t really know if you are on the right track, do you?

The Real Life Laboratory

We all spend a lot of time and attention analyzing the numbers for our blogs. I won’t disagree with this tactic, but tracking reader success in following your advice completes the circle and demonstrates the actual effectiveness of your message.

The more effective your message in the real world, the more new followers you will attract. We like to call this Real Life Laboratory.

We started our own blog 2-1/2 years ago to document the planning of our one-year trip around the world. At first it was only our families and friends following along to see if we were really going to do this crazy thing. Between the moment we had the idea and the date we left 2 years later, the trip evolved into a more permanent lifestyle situation with us selling everything we owned and leaving the itinerary open-ended.

As our plans evolved, so did the plans of our growing readership. Our readers started sharing their successes and challenges in following our methods, as they adapted them to their own lives.

We realized that people could learn a lot of the same life lessons we were learning without even leaving home, probably the biggest “aha” moment of our blogging lives.

RAF Samples for Married with Luggage

Very few will take the extreme we did in getting rid of every possession, but many will take lessons from our experience to lighten the load in their own lives.

Countless people have told us of de-cluttering closets, garages, and storerooms and how this simple act lifted a weight from their shoulders or allowed them to put the past behind them.

Not everyone is going to quit their jobs to pursue a big idea, but more than a few have. One quit a lucrative sales job to follow his passion of cycling across the US to raise funds for a charity, a lifelong dream. Another left a top paying position with a large company to become a consultant with more control over his time.

As we became bolder in trying new things and challenging ourselves, so did our readers. More than a few took up running after watching me go from couch potato to half-marathon racer. Several people tried trapeze lessons after watching my husband Warren sail across the air on video.

And then there are the travelers – people who don’t necessarily want to do it full time like us but do want to experience more of the world around them.

One amateur astronomer finally booked a trip to Chile along with some telescope time at a major observatory. Another man decided to finally visit the country of his ancestors and do the genealogy research he had been putting off all his life.

These are all examples of seriously awesome readers. These samples demonstrate the effectiveness of our message.

How to cultivate awesome readers

When we started our blog we made a lot of rookie mistakes. In fact, I’m sure we still make a lot of them. We are students of Think Traffic just like you.

But one thing we are really good at is encouraging conversation and using our travel experience to showcase a variety of “living well” ideas. Once you encourage conversation like this, people can more easily see themselves in a scenario, and that’s what you want, right?

There are 3 things we’ve used to cultivate conversations and awesome reader engagement on our blog:

  • Ask questions. In virtually every blog post or Facebook update we either start or end with a question to generate conversation. Avoid yes/no questions, because there is no conversation there.
  • Answer every comment on your blog. When people know you are paying attention they are more likely to open up to you, telling you exactly where the needs are that you can address.
  • Shower readers with additional information sources on the subject, even if it doesn’t come from your own blog. An information broker is more valuable to a reader than a know-it-all.

You don’t become successful for developing a great idea or theory. You become successful when your readers take your advice and run with it, improving their lives, their businesses, and funneling new traffic back to you.

We know that most of you have awesome readers on your blog, too, and many of you can list success stories just like I did. But if you can’t think of any off the top of your head, it might be time to work on your Reader Awesomeness Factor.

Calculating your Reader Awesomeness Factor (RAF)

You can decide how to calculate your Reader Awesomeness Factor however you like. The key is to measure whether your readers are taking action as a result of reading your blog.

Here’s one way we measure our RAF:

RAF = # of commenters taking action / # of commenters

For instance, a fitness blog with 100 commenters in a month (or whatever time period you choose) should have a good percentage of those readers self-reporting weight loss, muscle gain, and increased endurance. When people are successful, they want to brag about it!

In keeping with the Pareto Principle (the 80/20 Rule), that fitness blogger should perhaps aim for 20%, or 20 commenters out of 100.

Are your readers following your advice? How do you know?

* Yes, I made the RAF name up, but the concept is very real. Think you have a better name? I’d love to hear it!

Betsy Talbot writes about carving the lifestyle you want out of the life you already have at Married With Luggage. When she’s not writing, she’s traveling the globe with her husband Warren and wondering where they will end up next.


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Hear Mum Roar June 16, 2011 at 6:21 am

I think you’re really onto something with this! Looking at my own blog (a year and a half old now), I can see that over time it is slowly working as you described, with my readers too.
I’m getting feedback that some are trying my ideas or seriously planning to. They know I converse with them, both on my blog and theirs, and the loyalty is starting to become more apparent.
Totally agree about funnelling info as opposed to sounding like a know-it-all! I like to leave a few points unsaid sometimes, because it gives me readers a chance to share their knowledge as well. Other times, I think I’ve covered it all, but my readers continue to wow me with additional, creative and ingenious tips!
It makes the blog an exciting place for my readers, but it makes the blogging experience more reading for me as well. It’s definitely a two-way street, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I also like to link to others often because it adds value to what I’m saying, and facilitates a spirit of sharing and community.

Hear Mum Roar June 16, 2011 at 6:23 am

‘Me readers’?? Argh! My readers! I know I’m an Aussie, but I promise you, I don’t speak ocker like that! lol. Totally a typo, I promise!!

Betsy Talbot June 16, 2011 at 6:36 am

Hear Mum Roar, it sounds like you have a great audience, too! If you aren’t listening at least as much as you’re talking, then you miss out on what your audience wants and – most importantly – what they are doing with information you’ve given them. Relationships and loyalty build up online just like they do offline, through listening, mutual support, and history together. You’ve got it down!

Our process works for us, and it has given us such a great life that I want others to benefit, too. If I can’t give the information to them in a way that works for them, I’m wasting my time. And if I neglect to realize they can teach me a thing or two, then I’m an idiot.

Our trip would not be nearly as meaningful without all these people traveling along virtually with us.

Debb Whitlock June 16, 2011 at 6:30 am

Now my dear Betsy I do hope you have gone to Urban Dictionary to coin RAF … I mean seriously – if Cone Job lives there – this should too!

In all seriousness – having a metrics to calculate the effectiveness of a blog is a brilliant idea – beyond followers – well done – well done!

Betsy Talbot June 16, 2011 at 8:40 am

Urban Dictionary – the key to fame and fortune. Now why didn’t I think of that?!

For those who don’t know, “cone job” refers to your significant other asking for a taste of your delicious vanilla ice cream cone and then taking off the entire top in one big bite. It looks as bad as it sounds, and it leaves the ice cream owner unhappy enough to coin a phrase and submit it to Urban Dictionary. Vengeance is mine – mwahaha (though it doesn’t taste nearly as good as the ice cream).

Seriously, though, sometimes it seems like we are just writing what we think we should and getting a bunch of head nods. It isn’t until we see our readers taking action that we know our message is resonating with people.

Karen rosenzweig June 16, 2011 at 6:33 am

As one of your original awesome readers, I love this! It’s always interesting to see which posts readers identify with and actually engage, and I love your 3 suggestions ;)

Betsy Talbot June 16, 2011 at 8:46 am

Karen, you are one of the original success stories! You’ve downsized, decluttered, made money off your junk, and started traveling more. I don’t think there is anything left to teach you on the subject!

But I love what you’re teaching me these days about stepping out and trying something new in a very public way (that’s a special interest of mine, you know!). Readers, if you want a sneak peek check out http://goodfishgoodcook.com/

Onibalusi Bamidele June 16, 2011 at 7:13 am

Hi Betsy,

Thanks for the really great post on calculating your Reader Awesomeness Factor.

It’s great to read this post especially since you also told your own personal story and I think you’re right about it being wise to focus on action takers instead of generic readers.

You’re right about responding to comments build trust as I have noticed readers sharing more with me since doing that. I also sometimes encourage people to talk to me whenever I send an email, and I get 10′s of replies, both from people already getting results based on my teachings and people in new of help.

I think I’ll start to calculate my readers awesomeness factor from today!

Betsy Talbot June 16, 2011 at 7:31 am

Hi, Onibalusi. Emailing your readers is a GREAT way to find out how your message is coming across and get feedback people might not be keen to give you publicly. Very smart of you.

I love this method and first learned it from Baker at Man vs. Debt – he emails each new commenter, sometimes developing a relationship from there, but always at minimum letting readers know how much he appreciates them coming by and chiming in and opening the door for future communication. Wouldn’t you want to come back to a blog if someone emailed you personally? I know I would.

Your action readers will always be a big asset in bringing around the more generic readers if you highlight their successes. It’s cool if you or I can do something, but 10 times better if we can show dozens of readers doing awesome things, too. Peer pressure in the best possible way, don’t you think?

Benjamin June 16, 2011 at 8:44 am

Hey Betsy,

Great post and I’m excited about your RTW trip!

I’m launching a blog soon and eating up info and I’m curious as to where you came up with the 20% number as the awesomeness factor. Is this from your blogging experience or have you spoke with other bloggers as well?

Great title by the way. :)

Thanks,
Benjamin

Betsy Talbot June 16, 2011 at 8:54 am

Hey, Benjamin. I took the 20% number from the Pareto Principle, which states that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your clients. Or 80% of your problems come from just 20% of your employees. It is an incredibly helpful principle to use across the board in your business and life.

Get started reading about the 80/20 rule here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle

Good luck on your new blog!

Brad June 16, 2011 at 8:49 am

Your awesomeness factor is off the charts for getting to do what your doing.

As for my readers awesomeness factor, well, I think they all kick ass just for taking the time out of their busy day to even stop by for a quick read. I guess I’m a simple man.

You guys keep on having fun. For those of us like myself that can’t currently travel, we’ll hold down the fort.

Betsy Talbot June 16, 2011 at 9:00 am

Aw, shucks, Brad. You make me blush!

It took 25 months of extreme saving and getting rid of everything we owned, including our house and car, to go on this journey. Our awesome readers were there with us every step of the way – long before we got to the sexy part of this project and boarded the plane.

They know we live what we preach and they know there are no quick fixes, and we all take this “life is short, live your dream” mantra seriously.

Not that I’m trying to tempt you or anything, but you can find out exactly how much it costs to do this thing we’re doing by checking out our monthly expense reports (just like Corbett’s monthly reports, which were our inspiration) where we lay it all out: http://www.marriedwithluggage.com/?cat=549

Okay, maybe I am trying to tempt you. Bad Betsy!

Darin Moss June 16, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Betsy, your 3 methods to cultivate awesome readers really hits the mark:

Asking Questions:
I am amazed by people that say that listening is a stronger trait than speaking, and yet seem to fail to realize that it takes great questions to foster any successful dialogue.

Answer Every Comment:
Connecting to people on a personal level is not only engaging to a reader, but it can help to remove the perceived barrier of a unidirectional webpage, tweet, or Facebook posting and brings people together through an interactive conversation. Without a doubt, it takes time, but the rewards seem to always outweigh any initial investment.

Information Brokering:
I find the key is to utilize the Pareto Principle here as well. Zeroing in on the key 20% of the links/sources/postings that cover 80% of the core inquiries, interest, and questions involving the content, vs. spamming the users with link after link after link helps to deliver your message succinctly and with authority (even if I have none on the subject to begin with).

Keep inspiring others and congratulations on the upcoming choice for the next 6 months of the journey!

Betsy Talbot June 16, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Darin, re: the information brokering, I have never been a fan of posting links and rarely do it without an informed comment. I hate receiving info that way and feel like the good stuff gets lost in the junk. If you don’t have time to sort through it and point out the good stuff, how are you ever going to get a conversation going? Good call on doing the heavy lifting first so your readers can spend their energy engaging and absorbing the best info.

The Pareto Principle also informs where we go to interact with our readers. We do have a percentage on Twitter, but the majority of our readers still interact from the blog and Facebook. We know that, so 80% of our time is spent in those two places.

How else do you use the 80/20 rule? I am oddly fascinated with this and love hearing how other people use it.

Gary Peeples June 16, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Well, for starters, my twitter name is @garyawesome, so anything I read instantly increases that value. ha.

But seriously, you are spot on with this. It gets back to goals, ultimately. And as many ways as you can measure — and measure things you can take action on — the better off you are.

Good post!

Betsy Talbot June 16, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Gary Awesome! That is the best name I’ve ever heard. (But you already knew that because you are Gary Awesome!)

I think you can – and should – measure engagement just like you do page views and all the other metrics. It takes a bit more time and effort, but the payoff for you and your readers can be huge. Imagine telling your story/idea/plan over and over again for a year and not realizing that the WAY you were telling it was preventing full engagement? Wouldn’t you want to figure that out sooner so you could modify your strategy and reach more people?

I look back on our first posts and see a huge difference in how we relay our message now. Do you ever do that? It’s a fun exercise (and a little humbling).

Tune in, ask questions, and develop a thick skin. Good advice for blogging and for life as well.

But you already knew all this – because you are Gary Awesome! (I’m seriously jealous I didn’t think of that first)

Leevi June 16, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Hi Betsy
Great article, I loved the 3 tips.

There are so many different levels of influence you can have on your readers. To move them from passive participants to actively doing things like the examples you mentioned is awesome!

That is when all the energy and effort into writing is rewarded.

Leevi

Betsy Talbot June 17, 2011 at 6:29 am

Leevi, I like the idea of ‘levels of influence’ and moving your readers from passive readers to active doers. Some people are naturally wired to be one or the other, but I think we can all become more “doer-like” with the right kind of information and motivation. It is finding what combination of the two works best for your audience that is the holy grail we’re all after as bloggers.

Sarah Russell June 17, 2011 at 10:18 am

Betsy – What a cool concept! I guess, as bloggers, we all try to be as awesome as possible and we hope that our readers get something out of the content we post, but I never thought about measuring whether or not they’re taking action as a way to gauge effectiveness.

Definitely something to keep in mind for the future!

Betsy Talbot June 18, 2011 at 12:57 am

Hi, Sarah. I think at the beginning we are so happy to have commenters that we don’t take the extra step of finding out if they just liked the message or if it really impacted them. (OMG, someone is reading my blog! Or was that just me? ;)

I didn’t develop that habit right away either, and it hampered me from fine-tuning the message in a way where it could have more impact.

Once we started reaching back, soliciting feedback, and encouraging self-reporting, we had a much clearer vision of how to relay our message on the blog. Plus, if you have awesome readers it is really fun to engage with them on a one-to-one basis.

My recommendation? Email at least one of your commenters every week out of the blue and ask how they are doing. You may be surprised at what you find and how it informs your next blog post.

James Agate June 18, 2011 at 1:31 am

I have to agree with you that being an information broker is an extremely smart way to engage with your audience because you are still delivering value to them i.e. connecting them with the information they need – whether you wrote it or not.

Answering every comment is so important, even when I do a guest post, I will take ownership of comments and questions on the post because it is a part of the guest post experience. Not answering comments makes you look like a pompous know-it-all who doesn’t feel the need to communicate with their minions – which of course is an image that I’m sure most of us probably wouldn’t want to portray!

I enjoyed the post though – a little different from the stuff that’s usually here and it’s nice to see a change.

Betsy Talbot June 20, 2011 at 6:08 am

Hi, James. I’m always surprised to read a blog where the owner doesn’t answer comments. Many times it is because the community takes on a life of it’s own – how awesome is that? – but it is like being the host at a dinner party and not engaging with your guests. Or learning from THEM.

Thanks for your nice comment. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Corbett’s readers a little bit better.

Floricel @ Starting an Online Business June 20, 2011 at 8:26 am

Hi Betsy,

Yes indeed, this post is really up to something! This is definitely up for one reality check. I hope all the web owners or webmasters read this. ;-) But here’s something that I want to ask for anyone/everyone who just wants to answer: Which would you prefer, a blog that is full of comments on mixed content (more on feedbacks/additional points, appreciation, and least success stories) or a blog that has very little genuine comments on various suggestions, success stories and additional insights?
Other than that, I so like this post. :) It somehow challenges me as a new blogger.

Cheers,
Floricel

Betsy Talbot June 20, 2011 at 11:16 am

Hi, Floricel. I’m interested to hear what everyone has to say on this subject. For me, a blog with excellent content, reader discussion and engagement, and real-life testimonials (good and bad) is the one I want to read and subscribe to. If I’m going to spend my time there, I want to know that other people feel the same way and we can connect over our shared interests.

I don’t like reading a blog with no reader engagement because otherwise I would just get a book on the subject. It is the comments and reader input that make a blog more “live” than a book and with more accurate, up-to-date info. At least that’s the way I see it.

Extreme John June 21, 2011 at 4:03 am

Woah! Reader Awesomeness Factor.. A new term but with a really great concept behind. This is such a valuable tool to assess our effectiveness as a blogger. This post made me reflect on my own blog and inspired me to know my blog’s RAF. I have always wanted to share and help others learn things about business and stuff but I haven’t realized yet whether my style or process of sharing is as effective as I thought it should be. So thanks for such a very insightful post Betsy!

Betsy Talbot June 22, 2011 at 12:46 am

Extreme John, it’s always good to check that our message is getting through. We write a lot about relationships on our blog because we travel together 24 hours a day, 7 days a week 365 days a year – people want to know how we do it without wanting to kill each other.

I’ve found that the same tactics that work in a face-to-face relationship work online as well. You have to first express yourself in a clear way, then you have to make sure you are being heard by your mate, and then that your mate is responding to the message in the way you intended. If not, it’s time to reevaluate your methods! (or book a separate room :)

Alex June 16, 2011 at 7:54 am

Stone the flaming crows! I just saw the word ‘ocker’ on the pages of ThinkTraffic.

Struth! ;)

I loved the title of this post Betsy, or at least the concept! Of course my readers are awesome! They must be awesome. They have to be?
aren’t they?
OMG – i have to go assess the RAF of my blog now…

… Ok, I’m back but there is a problem. I can’t seem to find the RAF tab in GA. Can you direct me to it or at the very least explain why it is not included?!? ;)

Betsy Talbot June 16, 2011 at 8:08 am

Alex, as soon as I finish negotiating my lucrative deal with Google to give them the secret code to the RAF I’ll let you know where to find it in Analytics (or you can just wait for the press release). Until then, the process is more manual and I have to keep working for a living. :)

Hear Mum Roar June 16, 2011 at 6:10 pm

haha!

Darin Moss June 16, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Betsy —

I use the Pareto Principle is nearly every situation that can permit it (and sometimes I challenge myself to find it as often as possible in all aspects of daily life…)

Some examples: From life, business, and completely trivial (but applicable!)

1) Email: 20% of my email takes up 80% of my time. Formulating clear actionable responses that anticipate possible “what if” scenarios in advance and provide direction that can be accomplished without 10-15 back and forth threads, etc. has been very beneficial in cutting down confusion and the “drag out” factor to reach a discussion/decision email thread’s conclusion, especially amongst a large group.

2) Customer Support: (Might be a reach, but bear with me here…) Unfortunately, with the exception of a few very customer centric companies, I have found that only about 20% of customer support representatives are given the ability and the empowerment to solve 80% of the issues or problems that are out there. I find that it is helpful (to all parties) to clearly state the problem, the desired resolution and to determine if the current representative is able to engage and (key point here…) has the authorization and ability to resolve the actual problem — many do not, and though they mean well, will in many cases simply will spin through many additional cycles and processes until getting to a team/escalation point/proper group to resolve the problem. (This is not the fault of the individual, but of the cumbersome structure in place to accomplish many seemingly simple tasks). I find that if I put a small amount of time into research, background knowledge, and understanding the system (20%), I can start the process at 80% complete, and get directly to the heart of the issue and to the person or persons needed to get us to the finish line.

3) Travel Packing: (This one hits very close to home for me) — No matter how much I travel, I am still realizing that 20% of the stuff I pack is used 80% of the time, and the rest simply gets chalked up to “I might have needed that” or “You never know when…” or “What if I spill on my good dress shirt?” and never gets touched.

There are a ton of examples and I am always looking for more — the principle itself is subject to interpretation and I am quite certain that there is some good healthy debate (conversation at its best!) to be had, but for me, the goal of applying Pareto to all aspects of my life are to better define balance, efficiency, and effectiveness in all of the things I do…

What aspects of your daily life could benefit from some additional balance, efficiency, and effectiveness with a solid application of Pareto? (Closing with a question! See! I am learning!)

Hear Mum Roar June 16, 2011 at 6:12 pm

Yes! One thing I found though, is that it does take time to build up to that point. I was doing most of these things from the word go, but it’s a matter of doing consistently for a long time to build that momentum:)

Betsy Talbot June 17, 2011 at 6:13 am

Darin, excellent points (and after managing a customer service team many years ago, I completely agree with your assessment).

Packing is a special topic to me as well, since everything I own now fits in a 65-liter backpack. When we left on the trip I tried to account for every situation in the world, which obviously won’t work. We’ve been on hot sandy beaches, high mountain ranges, and even in the cold of Antarctica and I’ve done just fine. I rely on my core pieces and add in others (or rent them) as necessary. No need to lug around an entire closet all the time.

One thing I’m experimenting with right now is related to the 80/20 rule. I found that I was spending a lot of time trying to write a book on how we saved so much money to travel. People are interested, it is a great story, and there are useful tips. It should write itself, right? Wrong! I was spending way too much time with unfocused activity, getting distracted by every little thing that came along, and worried I would never get it done.

When a couple of readers suggested the Pomodoro technique, which is basically 25-minute bursts of concentration coupled with some Getting Things Done-style listing of the to-dos that pop in your head so you can quickly move past the interruption, I decided to try it. I now spend 20% of my workday writing and have created more content than I was ever doing with an all-day focus. Seriously, 2000 words a day with no problems, and before I was struggling to get 1500 in many more hours.

The 80/20 rule applies to so many things in life, and if we are feeling scattered or unproductive in any area it is worth a look to see how you can apply this principle to increase your effectiveness.

(nice use of the ending question, btw!)

Darin Moss June 17, 2011 at 7:19 am

Pomodoro is a powerful (not-so) secret weapon!

I have some colleagues that work only in Pomodoro bursts, and the results speak for themselves. Though it takes a little getting used to (They are “untouchable” during these periods — no calls, no knocks at the door, no email responses, which is really not all that bad), the deliverables and products of their work are far and away superior to when they were trying to accomplish their tasks in a “standard” constant interruption, always being distracted, work environment.

Your own example is a great case study to engage Pomodoro when it can be beneficial for one (or more) key objectives that one is working through. Will have to keep an eye out for more Pomodoro opportunities!

Thanks!

Floricel @ Starting an Online Business June 26, 2011 at 9:46 am

Thanks Betsy for your answer and reply. I really appreciate it. But anyway, I see your point. And it truly does make sense.
Maybe the tricky part then is how you can effectively start the connection between you as a blogger and them as your readers. It’s also like building rapport (something I learned in my Psychiatric nursing course).
Anyway, thanks again. I’m looking forward for more insights from you. Cheers! :)

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