5 Ways to Bond with Your Blog’s Audience

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You’re smart.

You know you need to be helpful on your blog in order to grow your audience. You share useful tips. You give away free tutorials.

But somehow you’re not connecting with your readers. Your blog seems a little quiet.

Sure, you’re getting some traffic. But a certain spark is missing. It’s not the enjoyable party you’d imagined it to be.

Is it getting you down?

Today I’m sharing five tips to engage with your readers, make them feel at home, and to turn your blog into a nice and warm get-together.

Sound good?

1. Write conversationally

Nobody gossips with a company. Nobody connects with a robot. Nobody bonds with a corporation.

To engage your readers, you need to sound human. Write as if you’re talking with an imaginary friend. Start a conversation.

Imagine the questions your friend would ask you, and answer these questions. Consider the challenges your friend is facing and help him (or her) with sound advice.

Avoid sounding robotic or corporate:

  • Use everyday words and exclamations like Yep or Hell no!
  • Skip gobbledygook. Words like market-leading, innovative, and best-in-class make your writing stilted.
  • Use short sentences. Feel free to start your sentences with And, But, Because, or Or.
  • Address your reader directly. Use the word you, because it’s one of the most powerful words in the English language.
  • Use the word I. Just like in a face-to-face conversation.
  • Pose questions in your text.
  • Cut down on adjectives and adverbs. Don’t sound like a flowery, pompous press release.

Blogging isn’t like essay writing. Let your personality shine through. Add distinctive phrases. Include a few quirky words. Use phrases that only you would use.

Read your blog post aloud. Does the blog post sound like you? Do you stumble at certain points?

2. Use metaphors to engage your audience

Metaphors can be used to explain abstract ideas or to make complex issues simple. That’s true. But metaphors can do so much more.

Metaphors automatically make your blog posts more vivid and engaging. Metaphors use imagery so readers can see, feel, hear, taste, or even smell what you’re talking about.

The more specific and sensory your metaphors are, the easier it becomes for readers to experience your words. That’s how your writing makes an impact. That’s how you become more memorable, more engaging, and more persuasive.

You can add an extra dose of personality by drawing metaphor inspiration from your hobbies or personal experiences. For instance, Srinivas Rao often uses surfing metaphors on his blog The Skool of Life.

I use cycling or travelling metaphors on my blog. It gives my readers a glimpse of my life and helps them connect with me. It creates another opportunity to interact. Rather than being asked How’s business?, I sometimes get asked What cycling trips do you have planned?

Metaphors inspired by personal hobbies hint at who you are: whether you like football or soccer; whether you prefer a classical to a rock concert; whether you enjoy gardening or cooking.

You can also use metaphors as a theme for a blog post. Pick a theme — such as cooking, bowling, or travelling — and associate freely to find connections with your blog topic.

For instance, let’s say your blog is about content marketing, and you pick cycling as your theme:

  • You can draw analogies between setting your cycling and content marketing goals.
  • You can tell your readers to stop comparing their content marketing efforts unfavourably with marketing gurus — just like you can’t compare your cycling efforts with Tour de France winners.
  • You can mention that the best way to survive a content marketing journey is to love what you’re doing. Just like the best way to improve your fitness is to pick a sport you enjoy doing. If you hate writing, don’t force yourself to write blog posts. Do video instead, or hire a writer.

When working on your metaphor theme, try to get away from your computer. Creative juices often flow better when you’re relaxing. So have a swim, wash the dishes, or stay in bed for a few minutes just after you wake up in the morning.

Engage your readers by sharing personal experiences.

Surprise your readers with unusual metaphors.

3. Inspire your readers

Content marketing isn’t only about teaching. You also need to inspire your readers to change their beliefs, or to take action.

How do you inspire?

  • Empathize with your readers in your opening paragraph. Show you understand your reader’s problems. Because that makes them listen to your solutions.
  • Share cookie content. Create tasty tips that are easy to implement and that make your readers feel better.
  • Conclude with an inspirational paragraph. Don’t allow your blog posts to fizzle out. Galvanize your readers. Re-ignite their passion. Make them get up and take action.

Sharing tips is good. But don’t forget to inspire your readers to implement your tips.

4. Create a common enemy

You’re building your authority as a blogger.

You’re passionate about your topic; and you’re well on your way to becoming a thought leader in your field.

It all sounds good. But who wants to bond with a snotty, old professor? Or a smarty-pants?

Sometimes you need to share your vulnerability. So don’t just share the lessons you’ve learned, be frank about the mistakes you’ve made, too. Show your readers you’re human — just like them.

You can also stress that you’re similar to your readers by creating a common enemy. An example:

You’re a Copyblogger reader, so I guess you hate in-your-face, yellow-highlighter sales as much as I do. You and I don’t do that. We’re not aggressive. We’re not pushy. We’re helpful. That’s how we earn business.

Be careful. Overfamiliarity can be creepy. Be certain you and your readers are on the same wavelength.

5. Be interesting and interested

It’s easy to think of blogging as one-way traffic. You’re writing, publishing, and sharing your blog posts.

But being interesting is only half the job. Being interested is maybe even more important.

Your blog is not about your successes, but about your reader’s journeys. For instance: Mark Schaefer blogs over at {grow}. He’s a best-selling author. His books have received rave reviews. As a social media consultant he’s worked with companies like Cisco, IBM, and Johnson & Johnson.

Recently Mark published his 1,000th blog post. Can you imagine what it would be like if you published your 1,000th blog post? What would you write about?

About how difficult you found it when you started your blog?

About how far you’ve got since you started?

How much you’ve learned?

Mark did something completely different. He honored the first ten readers of his blog. He explained how much he learned from these ten readers; and how he’s been inspired by them.

That’s what I mean by being interested and caring about your readers. Look to your readers for inspiration. Help them. Respect them. Treat them as your best friends. Ask questions. Find out how they’re doing. Learn how you can help.

Be interested.

The truth about building a popular blog

The next time you answer comments on your blog, don’t just leave a casual thank you. Instead, check out the commenter’s blog. Give some advice, compliment the commenter, or ask a question. Make sure they know you value them.

Next time you receive an email from a reader, don’t dash off a quick reply. See it as an opportunity to start a conversation. See it as your chance to turn a reader into a raving fan.

Forget about going viral. Don’t think about pageviews, and visits, and shares, and comments.

Just think about that one loyal reader that you’re turning into a raving fan.

That’s how you build your audience, your following, your readership (that’s also how your blog becomes a feel-good party).

Here’s what to do next …

  1. Let me know in the comments how you’re nurturing a community on your blog. I’m sure you have additional tips to share.
  2. Are you interested in learning more about copywriting and content marketing? Join my party at Enchanting Marketing and download your free copy of 21 Easy Tips to Turbocharge Your Web Copy and Win Customers.

About the Author: Henneke Duistermaat is an irreverent marketer and copywriter on a mission to stamp out gobbledygook and to add sparkle to boring business blogs. For more writing tips, join her Enchanting Marketing newsletter.

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Comments

  1. Using a metaphor is a great idea. I want to redesign my website (as soon as I find a web designer) and have been thinking about the look and feel of it. It’s time for me to brainstorm for ideas and relate my freelance writing to (fill in the blank).

  2. I’m a snoty, old professor and a smarty-pants…

    Do you think that means I’m doomed, or does the double-negative ensure I’ll have success even if I think my readers are incompetent fools?

  3. “Blogging isn’t like essay writing. Let your personality shine through.”

    Even a company blog can have some personality. After all, people run your company and write for your blog, right? And you can bet they have a personality. People want to do business with other people. You don’t have to force a character in your writer, just be who you are.

    • Oh absolutely. I agree, Nick.

    • Re: “Even a company blog can have some personality.”

      Totally agree! I authored a company blog for about 2 years on a subject many might find boring – IDX. But I wrote in a very relaxed and conversational tone. That led me to build many relationships with readers many of whom eventually became customers.

      It’s not hard to do. I just think folks (aka companies) tend to overthink it.

  4. Henneke
    I really appreciate it whenever someone takes the trouble to comment on my blog.
    For that reason, I treat every one of them as special and reciprocate by giving them the attention they deserve.

  5. Good to see that you appreciate the importance of using simple language to convey any complex point. One of the reasons why your posts are a pleasure to read.

  6. Love this man! I personally write by these guidelines pretty organically. I typically don’t think about it but it is my style of writing on my personal blog. I also love metaphors and analogies, they (as you said) are a perfect way to make someone really in the middle of a scenario and gives them a real sense of understanding.

    In fact I did that exact thing in the same way that you spoke of, with travel in a recent blog post; http://seandillonsmith.com/blog/17-lessons-learned-in-costa-rica (I hope you don’t mind the link, feel free to make it no-follow, just wanted you to read it) I think you would really dig it, but basically it was 17 marketing lessons I learned while traveling through Costa Rica last year.

    Love this post as all your stuff mate, keep it up!

  7. Probably the hardest thing about blogging, particularly for those of us who started in MarCom, is finding your voice. As you stated, the tendency is to use marketing language and that just doesn’t work. Even after a year of blogging, it’s something I struggle with every day!

    • Like you I have a background in marketing; and had to unlearn using marketese.

      It really helped me to imagine myself writing a proper email to a reader. And then reading the post aloud to see whether it sounded like me or not.

      It can also help to find three blogs that you enjoy reading and that you feel are close to your tone of voice. You can mix the three voices to create your own. :)

  8. That’s great advice (as usual), thanks.

  9. Jan Schumacher :

    When I began my professional career years ago as a reporter at the Las Vegas Review Journal, I found it helpful to picture myself writing to a specific person. I covered the energy and environment beat, which was quite technical. By writing to my mother’s best friend who lived in Vegas, I was able to overcome the tendency to use the jargon that the experts were throwing my way and rather wrote so she would understand it. So, I agree that writing – whether a news story or a blog – should be written as a one-on-one communication.

  10. Love this post Henneke. Passing it on to my students (and a few clients) who think that blogging is essay writing. I think that Tip 1 will help them a lot.

  11. Thanks so much for the mention here. I think it’s safe to say I couldn’t write if I couldn’t surf. That’s how much it informs my content. That’s why I think hobbies that have nothing to do with your writing are important. They give you the opportunity to cross-polinate. That’s why I believe in viewing life as an eco system and the more you allow into your life the richer the eco system becomes.

  12. I’ve noticed with my first blog, it just felt like essay writing, there was no personality, no pizzazz, and even *I* was getting bored with it. When I launched my new blog, I made it my goal to interact with my readers and let my personality shine through, like you mentioned, and I find that it’s a lot more successful.

    These are great tips and I think every blogger should read them!

  13. People like doing business with other people. Show your personality and passion in your posts and you give yourself a leg up over those who never do more than try to talk shop.

  14. My blog is still pretty small compared to the millions of other blogs out there. However, I’ve found that by sharing great content on Twitter and treating my followers as if they’re long-lost friends, our readership has been steadily rising.

    One thing I’ve often wondered about is whether to refer to my blog as an “I” or a “We”. It’s technically just me doing the writing, but there are other people involved with the blog. I feel like “We” makes the blog sound too corporate, but I don’t want to neglect the other people on the team.

    • It’s not about the size of your audience, but about the quality of the connections you’re making. I like your idea of treating your followers like long-lost friends!

      I strongly prefer “I” rather than “we”. How are the others involved? Could you just get all your pictures up somewhere and explain how everyone is involved?

    • Yeah I think “I” is personable. “We” does sound too corporate.

      Using “we” would be good if you were trying to foster a group mentality by saying something such as, “but we know better,” when you are referring to your readers and yourself.

  15. The last tip is the most important one, IMO. If your readers find you interesting, they sometimes will let other elements of style slide a bit.

  16. Loved this post, Henneke! You’ve got my wheels turning. I’m going to work on figuring out a good metaphor for my copywriting/content marketing blog right now. Any suggestions? :-)

    • Thank you, Katie :)

      Start with a hobby. For instance, if you like cooking, then you could talk about how writing a blog post is like making your favorite dish – nobody else can cook it exactly the same way like you do.

      Or what about parenting? In your blog post you need to answer why, why, why people need to do something. ;-)

      Do you like watching sports? Flexing your metaphoric muscles is like working out in the gym. Keep practicing and you’ll get better and better :)

  17. I accept that blog comment reply challenge! Great post.

  18. Thanks for the great advice. As a fairly recent English grad I could definitely relate to your first tip; I’ve really had to work to adjust my academic writing style to make my posts more readable, and I’m hoping to develop my own unique “voice” over time. I also liked your idea of going above and beyond the typical “thanks” response on blog comments, and really show that you appreciate your readers. I’ll be using these tips going forward for sure!

  19. Hello,
    I see your site uses a template by Studiopress for WordPress. I also have a WordPress site and would like to improve my theme. Would you kindly tell me which theme you are using from them? It looks fantastic.

  20. Building a new blog requires a vision of what you hope it can ultimately be.
    It is a bit like learning martial arts. There are only so many ways to punch, kick, choke or knock down an opponent. It is the perfected use of the basics that make you lethal.

    These were some very good basics to learn and practice.

    Adventure Insider
    ArtofAdventure.Net

  21. Henneke,

    Thank you for providing these tips! I especially love #5. The building of a relationship with a reader does not end when you hit Publish. It’s just beginning. I remember when Midwest Sports Fans first started getting comments, I was so eager to reply and thank the commenter. But then as traffic grew, I lost sight of it a bit and stopped interacting as much, and over time I felt a sense of community stagnate and even lessen. It’s a lesson I’ve taken to heart and won’t allow happen again. When people take time to comment on a blog post, or email you, or tweet your link, it doesn’t take long to show a reciprocal measure of appreciation. I know that when an author does that for me after I’ve commented, I feel like a million bucks. It’s important to not lose sight of that. Because if we aren’t nurturing these relationships with our readers, our content and community are only going to go so far.

    • So true, Jerod. Thank you for adding your thoughts.

      I’ve noticed that commenters on my blog are often people who I’ve helped in one way or another – they’ve either sent an email and I’ve shared some advice. I’ve also done a few free web reviews for people. Something like that can also be the start of a conversation :)

      My blog has only been going for 6 months, so I’m still getting excited about comments :) I hope I don’t lose that excitement!

  22. Great post. It is not the normal that fascinates. We all love to watch a bit swagger.

    Funny, I was just told a couple days ago that I was too conversational on my blog. I just like to write how I speak and let it hang out there a bit…

  23. This new Copyblogger design is not as good as the old one. I loved the old design. Why did you change it?

  24. Awesome post, thank you! I can’t agree more with your point on relating to your readers on a personal level and avoid sounding “robotic” or “corporate.” The most engaging and memorable content is written in a personal voice (and of course relevant to the audience).

    You couldn’t be more spot on, thanks again for this!! :)

    Liz

  25. I never thought like that , I always just thought you need traffic go SEO , Thanks for the eye opener. I would certainly be more caring about my readers and help them out more.

  26. Congrats on the new design. Looks good, clean and simple + nice calls to action :)

  27. That bond with your audience can only further your success. I also love the new update copyblogger!

  28. Great post. These are very useful tips that many blogs I have seen tend to overlook!

  29. I’ve been reading Copyblogger on an almost-daily basis for a few months now. This is my first ever Comment. My dream right now is to build my own website, maybe on how to practise writing copy in plain English, but still floundering there. In the past 2 months, I’ve written posts at InfoBarrel and Bubblews aside from my full-time job as a technical proofreader…

    THANK YOU, Henneke Duistermaat for inspiring me!

  30. Simply the best post I’ve read all month on blog copy. This one is likely to even get the HP printer fired up too. (pun completely intended)

    Great job Henneke!

    Will

  31. Great Tips Henneke!

    I especially resonate with nurturing the new community by leaving thought replies to blog commenters. My blog is very green, but every person I left a thoughtful reply with ended up subscribing.

    It’s very worth the effort. More to the point, it’s the reason I started blogging, to help others.

    Thanks

  32. Hello, Henneke,

    Your piece really spoke to me, reminding me of strategies that I have been too lazy or thoughtless to always follow through with. I love how you emphasize the importance of gaining one true fan through a little extra care and attention. Those dedicated fans, though they may be few, are so important.

    I enjoyed your article so much that I did a write up on it (I do some content curation in addition to traditional blogging). Here’s the address if you are interested in seeing what I did with it: http://goo.gl/K3fYs

    Thanks for the time and care you put into your post. I especially liked your idea of using metaphors to make the complicated simple. A joy to read.

    Darin L. Hammond

  33. You are right Henneke. I used to sound robotic when I was new into blogging, but now I have improved.

  34. I think it is easy to over think things and get lost in all of the advice out there.

    Between SEO, engagement, calls to action, the color of your links, social widgets, promoting your posts and everything else, it is easy to lose track of the actual content creation process.

    I think most of these tips boil down to “Be real.” Don’t put on a front, don’t force a sale, don’t worry about writing perfect copy… connect, engage, inspire and interact. That’s what keeps people coming back for more.

  35. There’s some very good advice in this piece, especially the first point in writing conversationally. In some instances this might be necessary, but you don’t always need to write in a corporate way. As this blog notes, you can really use this space to let your own personality come through. If you manage to find the exact tone to connect with the majority of your audience then you’ll be onto a winner and it’s more likely to be shared between your customers and readers too, great post.

  36. Well written and expertly handling the comments ;-)
    Has anyone mentioned yet that Henneke D. is dutch at that?

  37. I’m doing all the things you suggest. My blog isn’t dead, but the traffic is not increasing very quickly. Yep, it’s true. Blogging is no cake walk for the weakhearted.

  38. The new design of copy blogger looks great. I an just loving the increased font size. BTW, nice post, Henneke.

  39. I believe that all bloggers should write like they are actually talking to someone. Same goes for video bloggers, I assume…

  40. I have seen a lot of people leveraging pictures that they have created themselves. Most of these are done for humorous effect and give the blog a character if they are unique enough. Also, adding pictures throughout the blog seems to make it easy to get through longer ones.

  41. Thanks for the great post.

    I have spent the last 12 years as an academic. Needless to say, that is training that is very difficult to to unlearn. I have been reading Copyblogger since I started my blog 2 months ago and am learning to stop writing essays.

    I have to admit, I love writing essays, so it has been a challenge! It doesn’t help that my business is freelance editing and writing which means that I can’t let my blog slide to a super casual level – it would not advertise my services very well if I did that (and I am absolutely obsessive about punctuation and grammar). But, my last few posts are moving away from the essay model.

    I love the idea of metaphors. The post I am preparing for the coming week uses music to talk about writing. I am loving the post and can’t wait to get it up.

    And you are completely right about engaging with your audience. I finally got some comments on last week’s post (it is embarrassing to admit that it took this long). I share your excitement about the comments, and hope that I never lose that enthusiasm. And I will always do my best to respond to comments. I actually made that pledge when I began and plan to keep it.

  42. Great post Henneke.

    Writing more conversationally is something that I’ve been working on quite a bit lately, and I’ve found that it makes writing much more natural and fluent, and the response from readers has been better as well.

    Jake

  43. Great advice! I think the future of IM is to create content that matter to a audience and there is no better audience than a bonded fan-base! Will subscribe to Enchanting Marketing too!

  44. What I liked the most from the tips you gave on this article is not only to be interesting but also to be interested as a blogger. We often tend to forget or skip this important aspect. We are so into our blog and topic(which is good), but we forget to get to spend some time and get to know our readers and respond authentically to readers comments.

    I personally like to write about something and to create a video about the topic every once in a while as well. It’s takes a little bit of practise to focus on the camera when you speak but after a while you get really good and you can really connect with readers and viewers on a deep level because it is almost a live conversation. And readers can have an eye contact with you and see what kind of personal you are behind your writing.

    Sharing personal experience on Vblogs is also very profound way to really really connect with readers.
    I admire your idea where you mention to write your blog in a conversational manner versus essay as we learn that in school. This is the way your readers will notice that you actually care about them and wanna spark a conversation that they can join and contribute.

    Thanks for sharing your tips!

    • I agree – video can be an excellent way to connect with your readers. I heard about someone – not sure who it was – who answers questions from readers on video. That’s also an interesting idea to deepen the relationship.

  45. I haven’t been honest enough with my readers. I haven’t pointed out that I’m a geek who’s never seen a Star Trek episode or read a single Isaac Asimov sentence.

    I’ve been trying to act like an expert – this needs to change. Honesty and empathy seem to create a good blog following.

    • I started out thinking I needed to portray myself as an expert (and I was nervous about stuff I didn’t know), but I’ve found that when I admit I don’t know something or there’s something I’m struggling with, readers really appreciate it and it feels like they’re getting to know me.

      I’m sure even Brian Clark doesn’t know everything. ;-)

  46. I have been blogging for 4 years and I would love to get more interaction with my readers. Thanks for the article.

    • Henneke | Enchanting Marketing :

      You’re welcome, Janell. Let me know how the suggestions work for you?

  47. We’ve recently started to focus more time and energy on our “business” blog. I put business in quotes because just as you’ve suggested, we’re trying to drop the formality and just create a bond with our readers.

    Great article, will be reading more here and will also be checking out Enchanting Marketing.

    • Henneke | Enchanting Marketing :

      Glad you’re dropping the “formality” on your blog, Brendan :)

  48. Thanks for the great post Henneke. I think I’m already on track with some of your suggestions but definitely need to work on my metaphors. One of my challenges is that I’m writing some B2B content – and I get the feeling that my target audience (who are mostly baby boomers/gen xers) are a little too comfortable with stuffy writing. Should I adjust my style to fit this or soldier on with aspiring to keep things fresh?

    • Henneke | Enchanting Marketing :

      Are you sure your audience enjoys stuffy writing? I’d try to mix things up and see whether it works or not.

  49. I must say that’s a brilliant piece.

    Writing controversially definitely helps. But unless we can’t support the fact/statement, we may not start adopting the style. But, that’d definitely help a lot.

    Metaphors are something that I always loved. They attract more audience and are easy to use. Right metaphors inside a blog post can do much more.

    BTW, I just love the latest redesign of Copyblogger. Wow! I’m awestruck. I’ve heard about the Genesis 2.0 and am eagerly waiting for the update.

    Brian, I’d be the first one to dance if you can put this theme on the Studiopress site.

  50. Thanks for the refresher.

    This is the common sense stuff that isn’t so common online. We need to be reminded to get back to the basics from time to time.

    • Henneke | Enchanting Marketing :

      Yep, you’re right. It IS common-sense, but sometimes it’s easy to forget and just hit publish.

  51. Hi, Henneke. “Forget about going viral; get that one loyal reader…!” You gotta love those agencies that actually offer to “make your content go viral”! I think they measure ‘viral’ by how many robo-spun copies they can distribute in less than a day.

    Anyway, love the focus on getting “one loyal reader”, and it earned you a spot on next Friday’s round-up of “Best Content Marketing Quotes” of the week (on my personal blog).

    Thanks!

  52. I really had a good time reading your article and it brings me back to the time when I was still a novice in writing. Well said, It is true that writing gives you fear most specially when your mind and your hand has no coordination. Your hand wants to write your thoughts but on the other hand, something is depriving you not to do it and that is your mind.

    Fear that no one might read what you have written or fear that you might received negative comments.

  53. I’ve read countless “grow your audience” posts but none that address the points you have. Empathize with readers in the opening paragraph is a great suggestion! Thanks for the tips!

  54. #3 Inspiring Your Audience – that is probably the hardest to do on a weekly basis, especially with so much content out there – but when you do – its golden!

    • Henneke | Enchanting Marketing :

      Yep, it can be tough. But if weekly inspiration is overstretching you, why not reduce your blogging schedule to every other week?

      • I have thought of that – but I do like the challenge of weekly – keeps me on my toes. I know some do it daily – not sure where they get the inspiration – or the time for that matter! ;-)

  55. I really enjoyed this piece. As some others are, I also am having my blog site redesigned and I look forward to incorporating some of these ideas. I was pleased to see that I’m already on the right track though because I absolutely love metaphors and I’m very conversational in my writing style. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

  56. Archan Mehta :

    Thanks for this post: it was a pleasure to read it.

    Readers tend to appreciate quirky types. The unconventional can work: you just have to be creative.

    “Finding your voice” reminds me of the way Ernest Hemmingway used to write: he had an unique style. He wrote short and simple sentences: that was his eccentricity. And readers tend to appreciate it–and relate to it too.

    I appreciate your timely reminder: writers should pay heed to your wisdom.