I started blogging in 1999 before the word “blog” existed. Back then it was more like an online journal. I was a pimply high school student at the time and would write a few paragraphs about random geeky topics every day.
But I gave up after a few months when nobody seemed to care.
A few weeks later, some friends asked me why I hadn’t posted in a while.
My chin fell to the floor. It wasn’t that they didn’t care. They just were passive readers. They enjoyed what I wrote, but they just didn’t do anything to show it.
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You might remember the 80/20 rule (80% of revenue comes from 20% of customers, etc.), so you might think that 80% of word-of-mouth for your blog comes from 20% of your readers.
But that is not true when you are starting out. If you have 20% of your readers as active promoters—brand advocates, if you will—you are doing an amazing job.
When you start blogging, you will likely only have 2 brand advocates... your mom and best friend. Plus a few close customers, if you’re lucky.
This can be incredibly frustrating because you spend countless hours writing endless blog posts. You know that content marketing is supposed to:
- Drive sales
- Generate leads
- Encourage conversions
But instead, it feels like all it does is waste your time.
If you're not getting the results you want from your blog readers, it might not be apathy that you are fighting. You might just need to engage with your audience in a slightly different way.
There are some activities that popular bloggers all seem to do that are generally written off by beginner bloggers because they don't understand why they do them.
I call these activities "The 5 Laws For Turning Passive Readers Into Brand Advocates", and here's how you can make these work for your blog:
Law #1: Use Surveys To Find Your Readers' Deepest Desires
There are 5 major reasons people will share your content on social networks: entertainment, defining themselves, relationships, self-fulfillment, and supporting a cause.
So how do you write content that helps people achieve their goals and define themselves to others? Many bloggers write from their gut instincts, this is a big rookie mistake.
It is much more effective to just ask your readers about their own desires, hopes, and dreams. The biggest bloggers like Tim Ferriss do this on a regular basis.
If you have a small mailing list and are just getting started, you might not get a lot of feedback if you ask people directly to tell you their hopes and dreams.
In fact, asking people up front like that is generally ineffective (unless you have a big following) because people don’t often reply honestly with personal details like that to mass emails.
But there’s a trick you can use to get high quality, actionable feedback even from a small mailing list: use the Net Promoter System. It’s a highly effective way to get 8–10 times more actionable data than traditional surveying methods.
Because it is so quick, easy and painless to respond to such a simple survey, you will find much higher response rates. After they give you their number, you ask an open-ended question: What's the most important reason for your score?
Although you will get interesting answers here, the single biggest trick for turning passive readers into active promoters and brand advocates is in responding personally to every survey whether they give you positive or negative feedback.
If they give you a 9 or a 10 (very likely to promote), it’s the best case scenario. All you need to do is follow-up with a personalized email with a suggestion for how they could promote you to their friends (leave a review, tweet a message, etc.). Often people are willing to promote, but just need a nudge in the right direction for how to promote you.
If they give you a 1 or a 2 (very unlikely to promote), don’t fret. This is a great opportunity to learn more. Follow-up with a personal email thanking them for their time and asking what their biggest problem is so you can write more about it in the future. That way you get ideas for new things you can write about that you had not considered yet.
Law #2: Create Conflict And Drama
A fair amount of blog posts are dry and boring.
The most common advice to spice things up is by adding facts and data, but sometimes that will just make a post more boring. The trick to draw people in is to create conflict and add drama by telling stories.
For example, popular blogger Neil Patel tells the story of how he learned new marketing ideas from scantily clad women: 10 Marketing Techniques That I Learned From Instagram Models.
People share controversial, provocative, and dramatic opinions like wildfire. Give them something to talk about.
You don’t need to be as provocative as Neil to achieve a similar result. One simple and reliable formula you can use to draw in your own readers is to open every blog post with a personal story about a problem you faced and how you overcame it or what it taught you. For an example, take a look at the beginning of this post.
- Make a list of at least 20 hopes, dreams, fears, and frustrations of your readers collected from the action item in Law #1.
- Think of 20 personal anecdotes or stories where you or a friend had similar dreams or frustrations for each one, and how you achieved the goal or overcame the frustration.
- Review previous blog posts to see if you can optimize them with stories.
Law #3: Train Your Readers To Be More Active
Did you know subliminal messages are a myth? There is no scientific evidence that they work. That’s why the pre-show movie overtly shows you pictures of popcorn and coke. Because explicit messaging does work.
So if you want people to share your content, you must ask them to. If you want people to join your mailing list, you must ask them explicitly.
One of the most effective ways to engage your audience is by giving them an incentive to promote you. Virtual or physical giveaways are always a great way to make this happen.
A pro tip is that it’s usually better to give away 10 items one at a time than one giveaway with 10 items.
For example, you will usually get the same number of people to enter the contest every time (and thus promote the contest). 10 times the prizes will not get you 10 times as many contestants.
- Make a list of 20 things you could give away: paper books, e-books, audiobooks, interviews, checklists, cheat sheets. Make sure they are hyper-relevant to your audience’s hopes and desires. Use LeadPages or similar software to have the giveaways lead directly to new email list subscribers.
- Get the KingSumo Giveaways WordPress plugin to run your own contests quickly and easily. Tweets and Facebook messages give people better chances to win.
- Personality quizzes are a great way to activate your passive readers. WordPress plugins like WordPress Viral Quiz make them easily to build. Add them to your blog and watch them convert like crazy.
Law #4: Create More Personal Relationships
You are more likely to actively engage with friends than acquaintances, so how do you make your audience feel like they are your friend?
One way to create personal relationships is by telling personal stories (from Law #2), but there are more techniques for creating intimacy with your reader.
For example, if I am talking to you as friends would, I would never say: “People should share the content if they like it” if what I really meant to say was “You should share my post if you like it.”
It goes against what you learned in high school, but when blogging, use personal pronouns (like “I” and “You”) instead of impersonal pronouns (like “people should do this and that”).
Another great method is to combine this with Laws #1 and #2. Engage with people through your surveys to find out their personal stories (like “please tell me your story”, not “send me stories”), and then ask permission to share their stories on your blog.
Most people will gladly say yes, and then you can share your own point of view through your customers' stories (and even in their own words).
Personal pronouns combined with great storytelling bonds people together and creates relationships.
This should be a top goal for your blog if you want to create active subscribers and brand advocates.
- Review your 3 most popular blog posts for impersonal pronouns (he, she, they, people, them, one) and see if you can replace them with more personal ones (I, you). This will give you a sense for how vigilant you will need to be in the future.
- Call or email your 5 best customers, and tell them you just wanted to make sure they were happy. Then ask them to tell you about the last big challenge they had and how they overcame it. LISTEN. Don’t interrupt. Write notes.
- Carefully read some of the popular blogs in your space and see what they do to draw people in. Do they use personal pronouns? Use QuickSprout to research their most popular posts and figure out how you can replicate that success.
Law #5: Tell Your Audience What To Do
The end of your posts will make or break how active your readers are. If you end with something typical like: “In conclusion, do X to get Y,” then your reader will happily close their tab and move on. But if you end with a call to action, then if they liked the post, they will know exactly what to do next.
A simple and effective way to do this is with a postscript.
Postscripts tend to catch people’s eye and are very hard to ignore. If you want people to share a post, you could write a post-script as simple as this one: P.S. If you know someone who makes this mistake, I'd love it if you shared this post with them. Thank you!
It’s a non-invasive way to increase the virality of your posts. You can even auto-include it on all your WordPress posts if you use a plugin like Bottom of Every Post.
If you use the SumoMe WordPress plugin, you can keep track for free of what percent of readers get to the end of your posts. On average, we find that half of our readers will read the whole post.
By the time they get there, they will be ready to take an action. You just need to point them in the right direction.
- Think of 1 thing that has inspired you recently that wasn’t related to work, but tied into work (like Neil Patel’s 10 Marketing Techniques That I Learned From Instagram Models) and make it into a new blog post full of story and personal pronouns. End it with a P.S. that asks readers to share the post and see what happens.
- Combine postscripts with the giveaways created in Law #3 to make irresistible actions for your readers to take.
- Think of ways to make more content out of your most popular posts. For example, you could create slides and post them to SlideShare or record yourself dictating the post and make a podcast out of it. Then the action your readers can take is directly related to the content they just read.
Turning passive readers into active promoters and brand advocates isn’t hard, sometimes it just takes a few tweaks to make a big difference.
Try some of these techniques and see what works for you. If you discover other techniques, please come back to this post and leave a comment to help others just like you.
P.S. I know we covered a lot of resources in this post, so I created a quick summary for you. For Coschedule blog readers, download the "Word of Mouth Checklist: 15 Actionable Steps To Generate Word-of-Mouth Referrals" from Promoter.io for free.
Credits: Net Promoter, Net Promoter Score, and NPS are trademarks of Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Bain & Company, Inc., and Fred Reichheld