Friday, February 16, 2018

A few notes on growing your audience (some basics) *edited*

I am the first to admit that I'm a novice blogger.  I dove into blogging to share my experiences as a writer, game designer, and as a publisher.  It is my hope, that by sharing my experiences I would help others to avoid the pitfalls I find (and often fall face first into).

One of the issues in common with each (blogger, game designer, publisher, and writer) is the need to grow your audience.  That imperative to reach out and draw people to your work. In many ways, I've been reinventing the wheel quite a lot.  I've read a little, spoken with another, far more experienced, blogger, and tried to learn what I can along the way.  I've made mistakes which could have been avoided, and I've learned a little bit along the way.

My largest mistake as a blogger has touched each element of my efforts.  I failed to do a small thing, and it made things much harder than they could have been.  What did I do?  I didn't make intelligent efforts to grow my audience.  I call this a mistake, because I think it may be a flaw in my own approach.  Since launching my blogs and beginning the publication of my books, I have wanted more interaction with my audience and wasn't much concerned about the number of people I reached.  This was a bad decision. I failed to take simple steps to get the word out about all I've been doing. I think the truth is that in growing your audience you promote the kind of interaction I was hoping for.

This isn't going to be an entry on "how to be a good blogger".  I'm not particularly well qualified to give such advice, yet.  This entry is more on, "how not to make a few ridiculous mistakes", sprinkled with a bit of "things you can do to grow your audience".

Mistakes you don't want to make:

1) Failing to share your work ~  I know it sounds incredibly foolish, but when I started blogging I didn't share my posts.  As in I literally didn't use the share feature, nor did I use the share to social media feature.  Once I finally worked up the nerve to share an entry from my blog, I finally had people reading an entry.  As rudimentary as this sounds, don't be afraid to share your work with others.

2) Poor use of social media platforms ~ I knew remarkably little about social media a year ago.  Using social media to share your work isn't as simple as posting it on your Facebook wall, tweeting it to your followers, or making snappy comments on Instagram.  You need to target your audience so they can see your work.  You also need to illicit help.  So ask others with interests similar to your, to share your work.  Use appropriate hashtags.  Use hashtags that are truly relevant to the material you are sharing. You don't want to be "that guy" who tags things incorrectly, because your audience engagement will be minimal.

3) Writing fluff ~ Seriously!  You cannot just post links to your crowdfunding campaigns and expect people to flock to your banner. No, you need to build your audience by creating  engagement through the content you provide.  You need to produce content that has value to your audience.  You need to produce things that people in your audience want to see. You want to provide value because, if you do, you'll find that you have more people paying attention to you.

4) Abusing your audience ~ If you've been reading this blog you've seen me mention time and again how your audience isn't your personal money machine.  Don't treat them like they are.  Be honest, respect their intelligence and interests, and create content that is useful and fun.  In other words, don't be a jerk.

Steps to growing your audience:

1)  Join groups, chats, and channels that share interests in the type of material you provide~  Enjoy the company and companionship.  Learn, participate, and be a person. Be real, and honest.  Your participation in these communities will draw people to you.  Create content with an eye toward what is wanted and/or needed by these communities.  Be ORIGINAL in your vision, pleasant and precise in your posts, and honest. (This is your social media work... its IMPORTANT)

2)  Garner help from those who follow you ~ Any time a person will share you work with others, you increase your potential audience.  Share to them and ask them to share as well.  Spread the word and show people that your content is interesting, useful, or otherwise valuable in some way.

3) Respond to comments, questions, and emails ~  Before you set up a blog, set up a new email account specifically for that media.  Answer questions honestly, use professional language, and accept feedback from your audience.

4)  Continue to hone your writing skills ~ Create interesting, original content, and don't be afraid to admit it when you make a mistake.  Take feedback from your audience on what they might like to see from you.   Keep your content as interesting (and honest) as it can be.  I will recommend, however, that you stay away from low brow shenanigans as you will lose audience members through attrition as they mature. Keep things interesting and classy.

5) Be careful of the links you embed into your pages ~  As you may have noticed I have only a few items embedded on this blog.  You will see that I feature a crowdfunding campaign (either one of mine, or one I found interesting, or because I know the people conducting the campaign) on the page.  Such as I'm doing now ~

I do this to help promote the campaign in question.  Which is to say, to support the team behind the project by making it easier for people to find them.  One or two is enough (in my honest opinion).  I also place affiliate links to Amazon.  Those are to items or services I thought were cool and/or related to the blog in question.

If you're going to use such features, make sure they are for things that your readers would find interesting.  You aren't trying to sell the world to each and every person, you're really just helping people become of aware of cool projects, or goods and services they may enjoy.

{Note:  I was not financially compensated for posting the link to Ghost Assassin.  I'm actually a backer for that campaign, because I think the art is awesome and I'm really looking forward to having a copy in my collection}.

But, be mindful of the links you use.  Make certain they work, and check them periodically.  I like building them onto the page layout, so I can easily update them across the board.  Its also one reason I almost never post links within the blog (but that is just my thing, the above link is used as an example and to promote a campaign I'm very impressed with).  Broken links get people nowhere, and don't do anything for you.  Keep your blog and its features operating, and your audience will be more likely to stick around and grow.

6)  Have fun ~  Don't make blogging a chore. Enjoy the writing you do, the research you conduct, and the people you interact with. People react to joy in others.  Its contagious so start an outbreak of joy.

7) Define your audience ~  I had to edit this point in, as I failed to point it out originally (Thank you Aaron!).  You have to know who you are writing for in order to provide content for them.  I write this blog for a small range of people.  As I've posted before, I hope you can use the information provided in these entries to avoid the mistakes I make, and use those things that have worked for me.

That's pretty much it for my present understanding of growing your audience.  Many of you know I have multiple blogs now, addressing children's books, book reviews, and blogs where I post my own fan fiction (I'm such a nerd).  This is my effort to create content of value for my readers.  I recommend it for anyone who has a lot of creativity they need to utilize, and a lot of ideas they want to explore.

This is it for today.  I hope you enjoyed the post.
If you did like this content, please do share it with others (see, growing an audience!)

Thank you for accompanying me on this adventure.  I hope I'll see you next time.

W.S. Quinton

I wish to extend my thanks to : Beloch Shrike and Aaron McLin for their feedback.

Note One:  This entry has been edited.  I received some nice feedback and made a few changes to clean this up a bit. Changes included rewording the lead-ins for "mistakes" and inserted point #7 and removed clumsy sentence from #2 Garner help from those who follow you.

Note Two:  Always edit your work before you publish it 😁  I wrote this last night, and published it after only a brief read through, and I missed some grammatical errors.  (Yeah, don't do that)

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