Hi! I am excited to share today's post about building your audience! If you have not read my previous posts about the business of blogging, you can read The Business of Blogging, Making Money from Your Blog, and How to Start a Blog first for some insight into this whole blogging world.
Before I share my thoughts on how to build your audience, let's talk about why you would, would not, should, and should not try and build your audience. I will get straight to the point with this one- for the most part, the bigger your audience is, the more money you can make from your blog and Instagram. This if for two reasons: you can charge more for sponsored content from brands and you will most likely make more money from affiliates since you have a lot of people looking at your site, clicking and making purchases.
If you are not interested in making money, which is actually how most blogs start out, than you don't need to worry too much about your audience size. If you are looking for a creative outlet, a hobby, a portfolio, or something else, then again, your audience size does not matter as much.
Here are some good reasons/ motivation for building your audience:
- Growth can show some skill. Obviously there is some skill, technique, approach required to building an audience or else everyone would have one.
- Career opportunities. Having aforementioned skills allows you to obtain jobs in this field.
- Opportunities present themselves. Having an audience magically gets you invited to events, free gifts in kind, and more.
- Discounts. Having an audience allows you to get discounts on services and experiences. Great for spas and travel!
- You can feel better than others since you have more followers. Ha! This one made me laugh because a lot of people feel this way and someone slap me the day that I value myself based on followers and treat others based on how many followers they have. I always try to be kind to everyone and honestly don't care about followers, especially other bloggers compared to mine. My mother taught me, my sisters and all of the Convent students to be kind to everyone and don't be a mean girl.
- Cash flow. I said this before, but for the most part, the more followers you have, the more opportunity you have to make money.
But guess what? There are also some good reasons for not wanting to build your audience and I have felt all of these at some point during my time blogging. I know you are probably like, "what? I thought growth was the most important thing!!!!!" I am sure I am the only one who has noticed these fluctuations in my engagement behavior and growth over the years, but I have moments of actively wanting to grow my blog and then moments when I want to control who reads my blog. The fact is I can't have it both ways and on any given day I feel myself pushing the gas or pumping the brakes.
Here are some good reasons for not actively building your audience.
- You intended for your blog to be read by a few people. It is a really weird thing but you can't control who reads your public site.
- You don't want to be judged. The more readers you have and the more you share, the more you open yourself up to criticism and negative comments and feedback from people.
- You had a child during the course of your blog and don't want others to know too much about them. Yes, yes, yes, yes. As a parent, I think about every decision I am making and how it affects Lillian. I see a lot of parents online sharing everything and it has probably been one of the biggest things I think about since becoming a mom. I don't feel like I need to justify my slowed growth in terms of sponsored content and slower Instagram growth, but having Lillian has made me pause and be more thoughtful in my goals with the blog, hence Curran Creative (ps- new site coming soon!).
Okay, so there you have it. Hopefully that is some food for thought and will help you decide if you want to grow your audience. Now let's get into how I did it and some tips along the way.
Connect with your personal network. I have a unique experience here because I blog in and about the city I grew up in, my parents have a big network, I have four siblings with lots of friends, I am married to a husband with a large network, I worked at a high school with 600 students and 100+ faculty, I was in grad school, a sorority, I'm an extrovert, I have met a lot of people in life. I was very fortunate that when I launched my blog I had a strong start and more page views that a lot of new bloggers get in their first couple of months combined. I started by emailing my friends a link to my blog and then sharing it daily through Facebook.
Build your network. Meet people in the space, attend events, discover other bloggers and influencers. I came up with this idea on my own and am proud!! Every other night I visit other blogs, get their email address and send out a BCC email to about 35 bloggers to check out my blog. People are not going to find your blog unless you tell them about it. I increased my readership by a lot in the early days and people have stuck with me and are some of my most devoted readers. (Thanks everyone!!)
Share something special. I saw a huge increase in readership when I started sharing my pregnancy updates. Readers loved that they could expect it every Monday morning and that they could follow along on my journey. They also loved how I used the Bump app for reference but added all of my own personal experiences.
Partner with great brands. Pretty early on I had the fortunate experience of partnering with ModCloth, who had 220K Instagram followers (they now have 460K) and they shared an image of me on their account. This was before accounts were really featuring bloggers and real life people on their accounts. I got a huge spike in Instagram followers from that and helped me create my base.
Get some press. This can be anything from another blog writing about you, to the San Francisco Chronicle (still the highlight of my blogging experience), to a big advertisement. This helps people know who you are and brands will start reaching out to you.
Engage on Instagram. I used to be good at this but honestly, I would rather spend my time doing other things. This just means liking and commenting on others' photos. One fast way to do this is to search a hashtag like #thatsdarling and like photos with that hashtag. The thing about engagement is that it helps people discover your account. Think of the Instagram space as a very, very crowded room. People are only going to "meet" you if you go up and introduce yourself. It is the same way with commenting and engaging. I know people who are always on their phones commenting. I would rather be with Lillian that sit on my phone and do this. But it is a good way if you are looking to grow.
Cross promote with other highly active users. That sounds like a lot of buzzwords but what I mean is getting other bloggers, brands, stores, etc. to share a link to your site or an image of you on Instagram is how you will get exposed to more followers. Have you ever noticed that bloggers tag other bloggers or their photographers (there some politics to it and it's kind of silly)? Yup, it's a strategy.
I hope this helps! Email me if you have any questions! Caroline.Perfect10SF@gmail.com.