Putting the Social Back into Social Media:
40 Ways to Build a Loyal Audience

image of number 40 on old car

Is your blog a lonely place?

Maybe no one is visiting. Or, if they visit, maybe they don’t comment.

Maybe they don’t share your post on social networking sites. Or they don’t subscribe to your email list.

Or maybe you’ve got the big problem — you can’t convert the traffic you do get into buying customers.

Yesterday we talked about creating the kind of content that attracts a loyal audience. But the problem doesn’t always lie with your content. Your content could be truly useful and valuable. But without one critical element, you could find yourself writing to the wind for years.

What is that one element?

And how do you use it to build an engaged and responsive audience?

You have a relationship problem

Let’s face it — you’re not close with your readers.

Maybe readers were excited when they first discovered your blog.

But now, you’ve let the relationship go stale, with the same old types of posts, day after day. Especially if they’re all about you all the time.

It becomes easy for readers to pass on by. To delete your emails. Soon, they’re not in love with your content anymore.

Simply writing a post and sending it out to subscribers isn’t fascinating. Everyone’s doing it.

You need to do something to put the magic back in your relationship, and make your blog irresistible to your readers.

Fortunately, you have some awesome tools to help you out with that. It’s called social media for a reason — there are dozens of incredible tools that are all about building relationships. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

40 ways to build a valuable relationship with your readers

There are a lot of different ways to rekindle that spark of excitement between you and your readers. But they all involve putting a bit more effort into building your bond.

And as with all good relationships, it requires a lot more listening and tuning in to others’ needs rather than focusing on your own desires.

I’m not saying you should do all of these things at once, but here are 40 different ways to build more engagement and find readers for your content:

  1. Listen for what your readers need. Then, deliver it. Give those readers credit — by name — for inspiring the content you create.
  2. Respond to their comments. They will feel validated and noticed.
  3. Email frequent commenters for feedback. These are often big fans, so deepen the relationship beyond the blog.
  4. Follow your readers on Twitter. It only takes a minute to look them up and click that ‘follow’ button.
  5. Connect on LinkedIn. This makes readers feel like they’re one of the cool people … and allows you to easily scope out their background and learn more about what they’re doing.
  6. Say ‘hi’ if you see readers on LinkedIn groups. It just feels oh-so-friendly.
  7. Comment on their blogs. Most commenters leave a URL when they comment, so it’s not hard to click over there, check out their stuff, and leave a reaction.
  8. Retweet their posts. While you’re there, hit that little RT button. A retweet is a great compliment.
  9. Write a post answering questions they’ve asked in the comments. You could build a whole post around one interesting comment, or create a mailbag roundup where you answer many reader questions. Remember to credit readers when you use their questions as sparks for content!
  10. Answer their emails. Any reader who takes the time to track down your email and send you a message outside your blog comments deserves a response.
  11. Offer them job leads. Nothing inspires gratitude like getting someone a gig, which is why many popular blogs offer a job board.
  12. Ask intelligent commenters to guest post on your blog. They’ll feel special and, in my experience, they’ll be retweeting every post you put up for years to come.
  13. Do a guest post — or two — on their blog. This is one of the fastest routes for going from casual acquaintances to close friends.
  14. Take a poll. What’s on reader’s minds? You’ll be able to write posts they really love if you find out.
  15. Hold an essay contest and feature the winners in a post. Let readers show off their writing for a change.
  16. Skype one of your readers. I try to take a virtual ‘lunch’ with someone new on a regular basis.
  17. Mastermind with a half-dozen regulars. Sales guru Grant Cardone is masterminding now with fans of his new book — and recording it so others can benefit, too.
  18. Arrange to meet local readers in person. Grab a cuppa joe at a local coffeeshop and just shoot the breeze.
  19. Record a free podcast or Webinar for your readers. Hearing your voice or seeing you on a recording makes a more intimate connection with listeners.
  20. Do a live call where you unmute their phones and answer their questions. The immediacy of the live call-in format makes readers feel you care.
  21. Send them cookies. Seriously. Find out their physical address and send them a little gift. It will blow people’s minds.
  22. Ask a question (preferably an open-ended one) at the end of your post. That usually gets them talking.
  23. Don’t finish your posts. Just provide a few tips, and then let readers add to them in the comments.
  24. Ask readers to leave a link to what they’re working on. Nothing gets people commenting like an invitation to mention their own project and URL.
  25. Review their ebook. Or round up several readers’ ebooks and do one post on them all.
  26. Offer a forum. Take it beyond the comments and let readers have a virtual coffee klatsch. With dedication, these can become amazing communities.
  27. Create a buddy program. Help your readers help each other by providing a place on your site where they can state their support needs and buddy up.
  28. Make readers the experts. Ask for their best advice in one post — then, run a compilation of the best responses in another.
  29. Ask readers to describe their biggest problems. Do we like to complain? Yes, we do. A post like this also tells you exactly what you should be writing about.
  30. Hold a contest with a valuable prize. AppSumo did a great one recently where you could win a MacBook Air.
  31. Arrange a meetup at big events such as BlogWorld or SXSW. If you’re not getting out to events in your industry, consider making it there. In-person conversations are rare and wonderful these days — and make people feel they’ve gotten to know you better.
  32. Email subscribers who never open your email to find out why. You could learn a lot about how to improve your content.
  33. Discover readers’ skills — then, trade services with them. Doing a little business together will benefit you both and help you get better acquainted.
  34. Give away a consulting package. Do random acts of kindness and sometimes, just help a reader out.
  35. Give out a free pass to your next paid class or event. Don’t know about you, but nothing makes me feel special like getting a free ticket to something other people are paying for.
  36. Create a free ebook for subscribers. Don’t stop at one — keep creating interesting new material, so there’s a steady stream of extras coming.
  37. Do an autoresponder series with useful information. Copyblogger’s own Internet Marketing for Smart People course is a great example. Free training courses show your blog has more to offer.
  38. Collaborate on a project. Curate your readers’ guest posts into an ebook, or have a reader co-host a podcast with you.
  39. Invite readers to affiliate sell your products. You may think that seems crass, but in fact some readers will jump at the chance to make money doing what they’re already doing — talking up your site to their friends.
  40. Introduce them to people who could help them. Playing matchmaker costs you nothing, and shows you really care about helping readers.

How about you? How do you keep readers hooked on your blog? Leave a comment below and tell me all about it …

About the Author: Carol Tice keeps readers coming back to her Make a Living Writing blog with monthly free, live podcasts, among other goodies.

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Reader Comments (65)

  1. says

    Really great tips, Carol. I will certainly be using some of these tips, as i’m reaching a bit of a boundary in my Blog. I will soon have a new self published Blog and want to take it to new levels. I feel some of these tips will help


    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  2. says

    Great list! I especially love the part about sending cookies. Another SEO (Jon Cooper from @PointBlankSEO) and I talked about this strategy, and I think it’s a really good one. A hand-written note with a couple of cookies shows real time and thought, and it can leave a real impression on someone.

    • says

      I’ve actually done that, for people who help out a lot and sort of go above and beyond, in my own community, Freelance Writers Den. I love it — need to do more of it this year.

      • says

        Ah..! So now I know I know what you meant. When I first read your post, I thought you must be joking to make the post light hearted. Surely, it is not feasible to send cookies to those who leave comments on your blog, like your page on Facebook or indeed your Twitter followers. Seeing your response however, I can see what you mean and that it is indeed not a joke. Sending cookies or chocolates or wine to those with whom you have partnered or worked closely with is a different question alltogether and I can see why it can work.

  3. says

    I think #7 and #8 are great ideas. It’s a little give-and-take and can help turn your readers into loyal advocates. You want to have a relationship with your audience, not just stand on your soapbox shouting at them.

    • says

      Those are two of the easiest strategies to do, too, Nick — you’re talking maybe 5 minutes a day. And it makes such a big difference in how readers relate to you. Now you’re not just one more blog they read — you’re the influential blogger who comments on their stuff, and shares it.

  4. says

    For me the most interesting looks to send cookies to your reader :)

    All in all I really like the advises provided.


  5. says

    Many great ideas…. I am at a point of taking a new push for my blog of Botanical Beauties & Beasties / Eco Art and Storytelling. The Botanicals are Flower Folk, with art + tech and imagination. The motto is “Live Green/Live Kind.” #13 – do a guest blog…. I would be happy to- Any takers!?!!??? A blog that is for arts minded, ecology minded, or folks that would like a “bright spot” to their day would be grand! Email me and we can talk!
    Thanks in advance if you are interesting! Cheers – liz (www.botanicalbeautiesbeasties.com)

    • says

      Hi Liz — I might love a guest post from you on an interesting take for my peeps. I’m on my IPhone now so it’s kind of hard to do a lot of messaging. But when I get back to my computer I’ll get to your site so I can email you. Fun. Fun. What a great idea!

  6. says

    Great article, Carol. A couple of points that I’m planning to start using right away are #1 and #9. I think that giving readers credit by name not only reinforces to those individuals how important their time and input is, but it conveys that same message to the whole audience as well.


    • says

      Don’t forget to give ’em a link back to their blog when you mention the idea they gave you 😉 As they say at Sexy Bookmarks, sharing links IS caring.

  7. says

    Really good tips, carol. Love the idea about creating a mastermind group with your blog readers and sending cookies to them.


  8. says

    Hey Carol,

    You’ve provided some great food for thought here, and I couldn’t agree more. It always comes back to the point of serving your audience genuinely, however that might be. Answering questions, solving problems, joining discussions, etc. Be helpful early, often, and continuously will always make your audience stick around and deepen the connection.

    Thanks for sharing these tips!

  9. says

    These are great tips! I am currently at a wall with our blog, the audience hasn’t been engaged for two years and undoing that has proven to be a difficult task. Are there any tips you can provide that might help bring them back in?

    • says

      Umm…see points 1-40. I think this advice works just as well in revitalizing a stagnant blog where readers have become disengaged over time as it does for starting a new one.

      When’s the last time you took a poll, or asked your readers what their biggest problems are, or held a contest, or had an interesting guest poster on? Try it, you’ll like it 😉

  10. says

    These are really great tips. Listening to your readers needs is so important as well as giving them feedback on their own blogs, but of course, my favorite is sending cookies also!

  11. says

    Carol-As always, you’ve given practical advice that you’ve proven works! Thanks for the pointers. If I had a crystal ball, I’d say a wise entrepreneur might want to open up a mail order cookie business right now to cash in on Tip #21–it seems to have struck a chord with readers.

  12. says

    Nice post! I guess you didn’t have #23 in mind when writing this particular post – you’ve covered so much ground here that there’s really nothing left to add!

  13. says

    Carol I enjoyed the post, but at the risk of being a little cynical isn’t this all motherhood and apple pie? These common sense tips make perfect sense. But there is a growing unspoken reality about content marketing – it takes a massive amount of time and effort. I would love to see some suggestions on how to artfully and tactfully automate relationship development when and where possible. Just a thought.

    • says

      Tactfully automating your relationships? I feel warm and fuzzy and like I want to hang out with you now. 😉

      I actually do suggest some automation above, like autoresponder e-courses. But automate tasks, not relationships.

      But my main point is building real relationships with readers actually IS a time-saver. It makes them raving fans and then they spread the word about your blog and keep your audience growing. Doesn’t that get you there faster?

      A lot of these tips to me don’t take any more time than what you’re already doing. You’re writing blog posts anyway — if the posts are designed to engage readers, you’ll build your relationships and get useful info on how to create products they want.

      Everyone is automating everything as they chase the dream of millions on autopilot…so I advocate going the other direction and building more personal relationships. It’s just what’s paid off like mad for me.

      • says

        agreed good feedback. And always great to be reminded what the ‘social’ in social media is all about. And I cringe at suggesting automation as well. But there is a certain level of reality in building a network that, in the right hands, can leverage technology in order to automate some tasks.

        Make sense?

        Again, enjoyed the post!

        • says

          I like Carol’s distinction — automate tasks, not relationships. Very smart.

          Some tools like autoresponders, podcasts, and Q&A sessions are terrific relationship builders and they scale beautifully. As your audience grows, you’ll need to keep looking at what’s working and what isn’t.

  14. says

    Great list you’ve written here. As a blogger, you need to be social. Bloggers are meant to share their opinions with others – there needs to be that social aspect. If you’re not willing to provide it, then you’re not going to make it far. It’s that simple.

    You should be willing to take whatever means needed to reach out to your audience. It’ll pay off in the end.

  15. Meg says

    Your emails are extremely helpful and insightful particularly for a novice like me. You’re truly a guru in this business.

  16. says

    Hi, Carol! =) insightful post..
    love how you open up the post. My blog’s a lonely place but still grateful I have few loyal commenters. The “Skype one of your readers” makes me think. It’s the great use of building relationship because you can talk to them face-to-face. sounds special, too.
    Bookmarked again. =)

  17. says

    Hi Carol,

    This is a great list, thanks! Already do a few, but really need to put more of this into practice.

    I’ve sent thank you notes, but cookies! :) … You’re good.

    Also, I like to idea of letting the readers finish the blog post. That’s something I might have to experiment with, but love that idea.

    I’ll be hitting Skype hard in the coming weeks too. This article helps push me in that direction for sure.

    Thanks. Love this post, Carol.

  18. says

    I love this post carol. I’ll be printing it out and working on one each week. I just know (!) doing that will be a huge boost for my blog. Thanks so much fir this great article.

    As James early said, I’ve never seen so many of these ideas all in one place.

    My favorite? After 9 months of faithfully writing one really meaty blog post per week, I think it’s time for me to have one guest post per month.

    Any takers? Who wants to do some guest posting? You could write about some of YOUR business challenges and how you solved them.

    Check out my website and email me through there. http://www.workvibrant.com

    And you don’t have to be a woman to write a guest post ; )

  19. says

    Fantastic post. I too will be printing it out and keeping it on hand for when I’m working on my blog. I like the “real life” element in quite a few of your suggestions. It’s hard to be loyal to a blog. It’s easy to be enthusiastic about a person.

  20. says

    I found this really interesting and useful. However, I have a gray area as far as replying to comments. Despite having Askimet installed as a plug-in on my WordPress site, I’m getting an increasing number of spam comments. Some are really difficult to decide whether they’re genuine or not. The URL’s link back to sites which aren’t relevant but as my blog is aimed towards helping new and small businesses (particularly for over 45 who may not have had a formal education in computing), surely I have to expect random links.

    • says

      That’s very much a factor for us as well.

      Here’s my approach, for what it’s worth. If the comment adds value to the conversation, I approve it, as long as the link back isn’t to something dodgy. If the comment adds no value (all of those “great blog, I will be reading you again” comments), I trash it.

      We don’t reply to every comment, as you can see, but we do read them all and chime in when we feel moved.

      • says

        This is where I love using the CommentLuv plug in, as it offers me the chance to simply remove their spam link. I’m getting more spammers where they do not list a URL but do have a link that CommenLuv picks up…which always seems to be for dentists in the UK lately.

        Spammers are definitely getting more clever and some are clearly paying real people to read posts and try to leave something coherent. If I think it has value I’ll just remove the link and leave it…but mostly the whole post gets removed.

  21. says

    Carol – love these tips…and you obviously know of what you speak, seeing as you’ve got a great many responses here!
    I will be printing this list and posting it near my desk for quick reference. Mind if I ask your advice on #4?
    What’s your take on whom to follow? Everyone who follows you? We typically follow only those who are active participants in our twitterverse. And conversely, if we follow someone who does not return the favor within, say, 30 days, AND we find no value-add to following (i.e. they don’t post anything relevant to us), that’s a sign that it’s time to unfollow, as well. What do you think?
    Note: We’ve found that your #7 is dead-on. Our own blog views skyrocket every time we leave a thoughtful, relevant comment on someone else’s blog. This definitely works!
    Thanks for the great tips!

    • says

      Personally, I follow people I want to learn from. I’m trying to create a tweetstream that will be full of valuable links of stuff I want to read and learn about.

      I think when you’re first starting out, following back can help you get acquainted, but like Sonia says, if you find they’re not saying anything interesting to you, I get rid of them.

      There’s a dynamic on Twitter that you become seen as a thought leader when you don’t have to follow a lot of people to get a lot of followers…so I always try to stay aware of that ratio.

  22. says

    Great list, Carol. I’ve let my responses to my readers slip, and I need to get back on track with that. As well as add some of your suggestions here… Thank You!

  23. says

    Thank you for sharing Carol! You gave tremendous insight. What I liked most about your post was this: being invested in your clients’ and followers social media is the best way to develop and strengthen the relationship. Simply for the fact that you are so distant from your reader, in terms of proximity, things can go stale rather quickly if you do not provide new content week in and week out. Although certain blogs stay very closely to a singular topic, it is nice to change things up every once and a while. Alongside doing this, being invested in their own social media outreach is a simple yet great idea that many of us overlook. Thank you for your post! If you have time, check out our website to read our blog and see some of our services http://heliosmm.com/phoenix-video-production/

  24. says

    A great list of ideas. I do have a bit of an issue with #32, at least at face value. How often do you get a response to an email sent to ask why your other emails are unopened?

  25. says

    I’ve saved this post in my favorite list. Thanks for sharing these tips and reminding us all that social media is all about communication, two-way that is.. and we have to be interested in people to make that connection work; not just treating social networking sites as some kind of a digital billboard. Cheers!

  26. says

    Dear Carol,
    There is no doubt that this list is a very powerful tool for anyone who desires to build good public relationships in any business venture. It simply cuts across and to me its a great energizer. Thank you for the ideas well thought.

  27. says

    Great article Carol. I’ll admit, I’m still ‘working up the nerve’ to attempt guest blogging. Reviewing ebooks – fabulous idea and one of my ‘takeaways’ from your post, cheers!

  28. says

    I can’t remember where I’ve heard this from, but someone told me about this #1 car salesman who would send emails of “I Love You, Thank You” to his customers on occasions like Christmas and more. The weird thing was that he got an extremely high rate of sales! It does show that if you cultivate a good social following, your profitability also bursts through the roof.


    • says

      Nothing weird there, witty — how many car salesmen tell you they love you? He took the relationship one step further and you can imagine how many people those customers referred to him.

      You know, years ago when I bought my first house, that agent sent us a little white board with a marker for taking notes on the fridge — every year. For about 15 years! What a great way to keep his name in front of us. We referred him a ton of people. He kept us on even after we moved to another city. And you know what? We came to consider him as a friend really, not a realtor. Masterful.

      He also was very successful, naturally.

  29. says

    I really needed to read this post! I have known for a while that I was really lacking in this area and had a few thoughts of what I could do, but never did it. You had some great ideas here that I had never thought of for some reason. This was just the motivation I needed….thanks! :)

  30. says

    Great list. Thanks so much. I’m just starting out so I’ll be giving some of these a go. I’m not sure about #32 though.

  31. says

    What I get from all 40 ideas here is a sense of generosity and recognizing it’s not all about me me me even though I’m blogging for my business. It’s like all aspects of building relationships — what are YOU about? I love the idea of sending cookies — just the idea of a personal note is novel these days.

  32. says

    Great ideas, I’ll be using some of them for sure. I know I don’t do enough open ended questions, or responding to comments. My nemesis is the spot for people to leave a comment, like this one you use. So comments have to go to my email and then approved. It’s not very user friendly. I do get a ton of traffic but would love to have people comment on what they think and what they are listening to in the audio book world. Thanks for sharing such great tips. btw, found you from a RT, from Jinx Schwartz.

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