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How to Build an Audience on Your Blog

Your Quick and Easy Guide to Audience Building for Bloggers.

Introduction to Targeted Promotional Campaigns

Building an audience for your blog can be a little different than building one for other types of sites. Blogs are as diverse as any other form of media, and a lot of your promotional efforts will depend on the type of audience you are going for.

Take a tech news site, for example. You would probably do very little good hitting the streets for a word-of-mouth campaign. Instead, an appeal to the tech community directly through aggregate sites like Techmeme, Hacker News, and Reddit could prove more fruitful.

Likewise, a local food blog wouldn't necessarily reap many benefits from an International ad campaign. Instead, they might benefit more from offering "reviewed by YourSite.com" window stickers to restaurants you are featuring.

These short-term campaigns are great, but they are just one part of a greater strategy of audience building. Social media has given us incredible tools with which we can draw in and create conversation with our audience. No longer is online media about push. It is every bit as much about pull as ever, regardless of your business model.

The future of targeted campaigns is all about context. Context for your brand, your content, and the visitor taking time out of their day to check it out. Without context, there is no reason for anyone to visit your site. Your existing audience should be your greatest promotional tool. They have an established relationship with their friends, and are far more likely to generate views on your page than any single ad campaign could.

Think you have a disadvantage because your site only has 100 visitors per day? Those 100 visitors have 100 followers and friends on at least one social network. That is an average. Some might have quite a bit more. If they share a link to your site or social page to their friends, that is a potential doubling of your exposure. If two of them share a link, you have potentially tripled the amount of people that have been exposed to your brand's name. They'll subconsciously remember it, even if they do not actually click the link. Next time your site pops up in a search result, they may very well click it because for some reason they recognize your brand.

That is simple context, and it is quickly becoming the way PR agencies do business. They know it works, and there is no sign that it is going away any time soon.

The Importance of Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and even more blog-like communities like Tumblr should be well within your radar for potential audience building. These networks are full of people conversing about topics and sharing links to content they care about. Why should your site not be a part of this conversation? After all, Facebook and Reddit are where more people are discovering information these days.

Take a moment to consider what makes a post sharable to you. Why would you pass along a link to a story or opinion piece you might have seen on one of a thousand sites already? What makes your blog stand out?

Often, people are more inclined to share interesting tidbits of information, tips for life, or interesting questions than links to someone's opinion piece. Use this to your advantage.

Pepper your social media posts with these types of posts at about an 80/20 ratio. 80% of your posts should be sharable and useful to your followers. The other 20% can be self-promotional without appearing spammy or overwhelming. you have created context by doing this. You are not just the random tech blog, but a tech blog that is willing to share useful tips and happens to have an article that might interest someone.

To be honest, nothing really makes your site unique beyond your individual personality. That is the one thing we can not copy off one-another. Just about every successful blogger out there knows the pain of having their work copied and pasted on a seedy clone site, but the fact that you do not actually write for that site or interact with its community makes a huge difference here.

Take the time to make the effort to interact with your audience. When someone comments on a video on YouTube, or posts their opinion of your site on your Facebook wall, it does not take any more than a few seconds to thank them or respond to their concerns.

Remember, these people took the time out of their day to not only visit your site or page, but they went as far as to comment and share their opinion. That makes them worth caring about, even if their opinion is not particularly positive. Imagine how much harder it would be to post negative responses in the face of an acknowledgment and resolution of their issue?

Even if your site does not sell anything, your words are a product and visitors are paying for them by enduring your advertisement or alternative monetization method. Your site might not actually cost them money to view, but that does not mean they are not consuming your product. Your reader is your customer, and any positive or negative feedback on any platform (comments section on the page, Facebook, etc.) should be treated as a customer service opportunity.

Google AdSense and Other Advertising

If social media is the best platform for context, what role does traditional Web-based advertising play on audience building? To be honest, quite a lot.

Your goal as a brand is to gain recognition in every form possible. You want people to remember you, even when they have not actually visited your site before. Social media can help you build those critical relationships, but advertising still plays an important role by further solidifying that brand recognition and making the initial introduction.

Not many people realize that you can buy ad space directly on most major news aggregates. Many bloggers go about their day with a goal in mind of appearing on the front page of their favorite news aggregate, but you could very well do so by throwing a few pennies per impression in their direction. As an example, Techmeme has an entire sidebar dedicated to sponsored links.

You might also be able to work out a guest post trade with another site in your genre. Despite the appearance of competition here, a guest post helps them generate content and gives you a link on their site. There are many professional bloggers out there that write more content for the "competition" than they do for their own site. The result: Context. Readers of these sites become more aware of your content through your contributions there, and are more likely to check out your site directly if they agree or otherwise appreciate what you have written.

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