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When a blogger starts writing for a new site, he or she indubitably hopes for a large readership of instant supporters and eventual friends. However, this can only be accomplished if the blogger is mindful of the readers, and not just of the content’s agenda.
Learning what the reader wants and needs is never intuitive. Guest bloggers must study the audience the same way that the audience is studying them. Here are a few key tips for new guest bloggers who hope to turn visitors into return readers and eventual advocates and friends.
People come to a blog for its touted topic and not to read tangential personal stories (although the occasional anecdote serves as a good metaphor or analogy). Deliver the information the reader is anticipating, and you’re already doing more than a lot of other bloggers who get so bored with their own expertise that they mindlessly write on unrelated topics.
A good rule of thumb is that 90% of your writing should be topic-related, while the remaining 10% can be used to push an agenda, sales, or personal stories.
Try to write your blogs in a similar style, tone, and length each time. Readers who gravitate toward that style will stick with you until you deviate from that style. While it’s perfectly acceptable to have special holiday or event-type blogs that don’t fall within the norm, try to remember what your core audience appreciates. Shifts to style and tone should be accomplished gradually.
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Readers appreciate a writer whose voice seems to be audible in their heads while perusing text. This kind of friendly, human tone is accomplished by writing as though the audience is filled with friends or close acquaintances. Keep a professional stance, but engage the reader with your personality.
Remember the difference between talking to someone and talking at them: often bloggers write as though the readers are children to be lectured, when most readers are looking for a peer-mentor spirit from the writer. Providing this level of respect in your communications will encourage readers to keep reading and become even more engaged.
While most bloggers and writers like to have a solid ending and leave no stones unturned, this sort of closed-book writing doesn’t keep a reader’s attention past the last period. If you want the readers to scroll beyond that last period and leave comments, then you should try to leave questions unanswered.
Occasionally it’s okay to end the last paragraph with a real question, but usually it’s enough to leave an open-ended idea on the table for readers to consider. If you ask for opinions or advice, then you need to be prepared to hear it from a diverse audience.
Friendships that are one-way streets always end. That’s why bloggers who hope to befriend their readers must reciprocate. If the reader cares enough about a blog to comment or refer friends to read it, then the blogger should care enough to thank them, respond, and refer them to additional resources if possible. Also, remember that readers lose interest within a few hours of posting a comment, so your response should be posted as quickly as possible.
Never reply sarcastically or from a superior stance: your readers deserve respect, too. Although we all know there are in fact stupid questions, it’s still best to treat every question as a worthy and interesting opportunity to respond.
Another rule-of-thumb is that a response should be approximately as long as the question. Try not to give short answers to complex questions, or lengthy, in-depth answers to simple questions.
When readers become commenters it’s time to engage them further. Ask them questions in response to their queries, and try to get full-fledged conversations going. Encourage them to follow you on Facebook or Twitter, and try to learn more about them, too.
Readers are often people working within the same industry, so a lot of networking can be done in this way. However, even if the reader is a student of your expertise, he or she will continue to be an advocate for you as a brand if you treat them with dignity and interest.
Befriending your readership is as easy as viewing them as friends from the beginning. While you must maintain a professional tone, your writing should be personable and engaging as though it’s a correspondence with friends. Don’t be afraid to build rapport and become friends around the social sphere.