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!