Amber & Arianna from Shelf Notes here - and also from the floor of BEA 2015! We have done so much in the past few days already, but we wanted to share some wonderful items we picked up from the Blogger Conference with our readers. One of our favorite panels was Engaging Your Readers: Tips from Experienced Bloggers, and it featured Amanda Nelson from Book Riot as the moderator! The panel was made up of Kerry McHugh (Entomology of a Bookworm), Melody Scheiber (Melody & Words), and Emily Wilson (Books, the Universe, and Everything).
The group started off with one big tip from each panelist - my apologies that I didn’t take note of who said what, but I think all of the suggestions were very helpful:
- Think about things in the media you engage with, and then apply them to your blog, put that in your own content - for instance, if you constantly find yourself reposting images, that is clearly something you enjoy, so share that love with others!
- Social media is your friend, but it is also WORK. You can’t just slap up a social media profile and then just hope that everyone will flock to you. You do NOT need to be everywhere! Also - engage in interactions, but genuinely - don’t just say “I liked that book too, here’s MY review!” Auto-posting is also a bad practice if that is all you do (for instance, don’t have a Twitter account that is solely posting links to your blog updates - you need more content than that for people to engage).
- Switch up the format of your blog and of your content, try new things, try new media - keep things interesting! And this panelist also reiterated that you should pursue what you are passionate about, and what you find yourself gravitating towards.
- Try to open up conversation in your book reviews - if there are ways you can expand the conversation in your post, do so - ask questions of your readers, or write about something that might draw others on a more personal level. This speaker mentioned the type of feedback she experienced for her post about “how to become a Tolkien fan, for the reluctant” - she knew there was already a glut of posts out there already about the Lord of the Rings. This was a great, unique take on the matter, and a lot of readers connected.
From there, the panelists discussed further tips in a more open and conversational format. These included:
- Don’t be afraid to write about books that aren’t new - feel free to post from your backlist! They are books the audience has probably already read, so maybe they will want to converse with you about them. Sure, posting about books before they are released can pull in some curious readers, but to engage readers often means shared emoting over how much you loved (or hated) a particular book.
- Go beyond direct book reviews: a summary of the plot plus whether it was good or bad can be rather dry & boring - try to add more about why you chose the book, how you connected with it personally, etc.
- Try to bring something “plus books” in - e.g., a review of the book and its movie, or a recipe that was inspired by the book.
- Along those lines: “Your reading life is multifaceted” - it’s in the movies you like, the foods you eat, the hobbies you pursue, your family - so bring those things in! Think about how in your reading life, books inform your daily life choices (and vice-versa).
- Sharing your personal experience (with a book, or even just a personal story) is going to make your blog more interesting to your readers.
- Establishing a schedule will allow your readers to develop expectations - you can regularly post a “top 10” list on Tuesdays (like The Broke and the Bookish), for instance, and your readers will start to know they will see that content - if they engaged with it once, they may be more inclined to check out future lists!
- Schedule posts in advance! This allows you to both pace your posting (spacing a few out over a week is ideal) and also gives you a breather so you aren’t forced to post when you don’t have content or don’t feel up to it.
- Related: Never publish something you’re not proud of. Don’t just post because you feel as if you have to slap something up. One of the panelists offered the great “gut check” of: If this post went viral, would I be proud of it?
- “At the end of the day, this is a hobby and we do it because we love it. But when it stops being fun, it stops being engaging for you and it stops being engaging for your readers. If you are not interested in what you are writing, why would anyone else be?”
- Make friends! Go out there and meet other bloggers (online or at places like blogger conferences).
- Reply to your comments! Don’t let them fall through the cracks or get pushed to the back burner - make a point to show that you are reading them and acknowledge that the commenters want to engage with you. (You can use a tool like Disqus to make comment management easier.)
- TinyLetter was suggested as a tool for creating very accessible mailing lists.
- Think about having a comment policy. One blogger found that introducing one allowed readers who had once been lurkers to feel more comfortable leaving comments because they knew they would be more protected from trolls or other aggressive behaviors. This is your blog, and you can make the rules about what stays and what goes.
- Feeling burnt out from blogging? Take a break! Just make sure you let your readers know you will be back. They want to know you are a human being just like they are, and they will understand that you have a life outside of your blog. In fact, they might appreciate knowing you are multifaceted!
And last but certainly not least:
- If you are only on the channels where the book lovers are, that is great but remember you might be missing out on the opportunity to engage with people outside of that realm.