“I made a decision to write for my readers, not to try to find more readers for my writing.”Seth Godin
Be honest. You spend a lot of time going through your stats, going through the numbers: how many views, how many likes, how many readers…
You also spend a lot of time trying to figure out creative ways to grow your audience.
The truth is that the art of blogging is hard drudgery, and there’s a lot you can do to get more people to read your blog, but what if I were to tell you that there’s one aspect you (most probably) have been overlooking?
The numbers always lie.
Take a good look at this picture. It shows the map of all the folks who read this blog on a monthly basis.
It’s a fun statistic. On the same page, you can see a number of other stats: the number of followers, shares, comments, page views…
Traffic, they call it.
But that’s you, if you come to think about it. One of those numbers is you. If you’ve commented a few times on my blog posts, your name appears in another statistic as a top commenter.
Are you a statistic? Just a number?
Aren’t you an actual person?
Aren’t you just like me? Like the person who commented before you? Like the person who will comment after you? Or even reply to your comment?
Yet, somehow, it’s so damn easy to forget that our followers are real people.
And that’s when you make all sorts of mistakes. And that’s how you screw up. Big time.
The power of one
Here’s an interesting story. The first article of mine ever to go viral went viral because of just one person sharing a link to my article with their impressive Twitter following.
I didn’t even know such an influential person was reading my blog. I had less than 50 followers at the time.
And that’s the thing. That’s the issue.
No one ever starts a blog with the goal of having one reader. Just one.
And that’s a big problem, because, you see, you write your first blog post, you publish it, and you get that first follower.
But you don’t celebrate at all. You want another one. You don’t even see that reader as someone who thought your writing to be good enough to subscribe. You just see a number.
This is why no amount of followers will ever be enough. Because you see them as nameless, faceless, voiceless entities, when in fact each and every single one of them has friends, has a voice, a life, a story.
Funny… we never focus on the one. On that one follower. On each and every single one. On our ideal reader.
We always seem willing to go to extreme lengths to get more readers, yet we are rarely willing to go through the trouble of engaging and interacting with each and every single one of our readers.
You see, if you chase followers, you will have a few problems, such as:
1. No number will ever be big enough.
When you chase numbers, it’s not possible to reach the end. Numbers keep going forever. You just keep counting. The 1 millionth follower will feel no different than the tenth.
There is no finish line, there is no satisfaction.
2. A follower will forget you.
Do you remember that first follower? They could have been a lifetime fan. But did you care enough about them or did you neglect them to chase follower number two, number three, and so on?
The enormous irony is that when you chase followers, you really will attract people who want what you have. Don’t ignore these people.
3. There’s no time to develop relationships.
Here’s the thing: if you are constantly chasing followers, you never have time to stop and ask yourself if what you are doing even makes sense. Or if your readers actually resonate with your content. Or what type of content they like best.
There’s no time to do anything but chase more followers.
Focus on your ideal reader
If you are in need of a plan that will help you win more readers, you first need to understand one reader. Just one.
Let’s start with getting to know this reader.
1. Who is your one fan?
Here’s the thing: when you think about large numbers of readers, actual human beings tend to dissolve into this faceless crowd. And when you write for a something as vague as a hundred thousand followers, your blogging becomes colorless, lukewarm, and boring.
Quick question. Do you think Stephen King focuses on his millions of avid fans when writing his novels?
Actually the King himself admitted to writing for one reader only — his wife.
When you write for one reader, your blog becomes more engaging, personal, and persuasive. Your posts will receive more comments, which will inspire you to write more and better content.
Do you know who this reader is?
It does help if you can find an actual human who you’d like to write for, but if such a person cannot be found, you can always imagine them into existence.
Who is that one person who’d love your writing? Your number one fan? What kind of person would care most about your content? What are their dreams and aspirations, what do they fear? What problems do they face, and which of those problems can you help them solve?
2. Why would this one fan read your blog?
Whenever someone clicks on your blog, they ask themselves this question. They want to know what’s in it for them. They do not know you personally, so you are not socially relevant to them, which gives them permission to be quite selfish.
So…why would your ideal reader want to spent their time on your blog?
If you have trouble answering this question, try completing the following sentence: my number one fan reads my blog because I help him …
Your purpose defines how you help your readers and keeps you focused on engaging and inspiring them.
That’s how your blog becomes a must-read in your niche.
3. Does each blog post help your fan?
Unless you understand who this ideal reader is, unless you can empathize deeply with this person, you will forever feel like walking on tightrope. Torn between selfish writing that is supposed to meet your needs and selfless content that helps your reader, you will never feel like what you are writing makes much sense.
Think about your ideal reader.
- What does this person dream about?
- What are their struggles?
- Which resources could educate them? How? Why?
- What could you teach them?
- What questions doe they badly want answered?
Stop writing blog posts for the sake of posting something.
4. Does this reader know you exist?
This is the question 99% of bloggers never bother to ask, let alone try to answer.
Promoting content feels like a giant time-suck — and how can you promote your content without going crazy?
Guest blogging is the one of the best ways to make sure your reader knows you exist.
Also, try being active on the social media platforms where this reader might be.
Sorry, but being social is an integral part of being successful both offline and online.
5. Is this ideal reader a friend of yours?
“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.”J.D. Salinger
Why do we read stories and blogs and articles and magazines and newspapers?
I’d say that we do so because we wish to feel less lonely. Actually, I think that we read because we want to know for sure we are not alone.
There’s someone else who feels and thinks and wants the same things we do. Someone like us, someone who’s everything we wish we were, someone who’s the exact opposite.
This ideal reader, do you want them to be your friend? Would they?
Be honest for a second. Did you ever ask yourself if you’d like your readers to be your friends? Would you like to meet with them for a cup of coffee and talk for a few hours about what interests you all?
It’s easy to forget that those stats in your dashboard represent actual human beings. People like you, people who live and breathe and love and cry and laugh and dream and want to read the stories of other people who do the same things.
Are you the kind of blogger your ideal reader would want to be friends with?
Give yourself the permission to write with personality, to sell your soul, so to speak. Write from the heart. Do your best to be insanely helpful, be consistent — whether you blog on a weekly, daily, or monthly basis, make sure your reader knows what to expect and when.
One of the most crucial (and underrated) aspects of blogging is that in order to become a popular blogger, you have to stop treating your readers like some numbers.
Without the one, the rest is just a bunch of zeros
Keep this in mind as you write your content, as you engage others in the blogosphere.
Stop focusing on the numbers, stop chasing followers. Make friends. Build relationships.
If you chase followers, it will never be enough.
Yes, you might be successful, but success without fulfillment is… what? The ultimate failure?
Instead, focus on interacting with each and every single reader as if you are trying to build a beautiful friendship with them.