A few weeks ago, I saw post over at the Firefly Coaching blog about getting found and connected online, that got me thinking…
Online engagement has now become a well-worn buzz word. But most people, business owners included, think that increasing online engagement is this big complicated and expensive process. It’s not. It’s also not about bombarding people with optimized, keyword-rich proclamations of what you do and why you are good at it. (And, I’m talking about online and off. How many times have you heard an optimized, keyword-rich elevator pitch?) Nor, for that matter, is online engagement about self-promotional comments disguised as trying to help another person. It’s not about fancy widgets or plugins nor stunning, eye-catching graphics and design.
At the end of the day, online engagement is about people.
It’s about rolling up your sleeves and being you… really you.
Look, most of us realize that for all the connection that the Internet offers, we are way more dis-connected now than ever before. The sight of a couple sitting at a restaurant staring at their cell phones and hardly saying a few words to each, or the sight of people doing the same while walking through the park on a beautiful day, practically speaks for itself.
Whether you like it or not, it’s the reality of the world we live in today.
But, this reality presents a great opportunity. For, whenever there is real connection, it stands out so much more. A face-to-face interaction is a lot more powerful now than it ever was, and sincere attempts at engagement can feel like a welcomed breath of fresh air.
That said, here are 12 quick things that you can do to increase your online engagement and build some real relationships. Not all of them may seem so extraordinary. But, let’s be honest here, how many of us actually make the time and effort to do these things?
#1. Send a “welcome” email to new commenter. Did a new reader leave a comment on one of the posts on your site? Why not send this person a follow-up email thanking him/her for taking the time to read your content and make the comment? Your chances of seeing this reader/commenter again on your site will be much greater.
#2. Actively answer your readers’ comments and your subscribers’ emails. Many business bloggers realize that responding to reader comments is important; it helps to show that there is a person behind the site and that reader discussion is valued. But, another powerful way to increase reader engagement is to encourage questions and discussion among your email subscribers. Let your readers know that they have the privilege of getting access to you and your expertise by sending in their questions. Not only will this help you to stay in touch with the needs and issues of your target audience, but it will get your readers more invested in you and your business. Just a caveat here: there is a fine line between offering value to your readers and selling yourself short. You don’t have to solve all of your readers problems (for free, anyway), but you can help them get going in the right direction.
#3. Share someone’s content… and let them know. Did you read something from a peer or a niche expert you’d like to connect to? Let your followers know about it, and make sure you inform the author as well. Even if you don’t have such a large following, you could leverage sites such as JustRetweet to get the social sharing going.
#4. Say “Thank you.” This tip is from Derek Halperin of Social Triggers. His point: if you really want people to repeat a desirable behavior, then make the time and the sincere effort to show your gratitude for what they have done so far- whether it’s commenting on your blog, linking to your content, or helping you out.
#5. Meet face-to-face with your readers. As I mentioned above, we are swimming in so much digital interaction, that off-line interactions are starting to seem pretty novel. Where possible, try to organize a meet-up with some of your peers and readers in person. Where this is not possible, even an informal online hangout can help to make your connection to you readers, customers, and followers more real and personal.
#6. Promote those who promote you. Did people link to your content or share it? Thank them and make sure you share their content with your followers as well as leave a comment on their site.
#7. Say “Hi” to a new connection. Got a new follower on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook, etc? Why not send this person a quick (non-canned) hello? Not only does it show that you noticed your new follower, but it can potentially open up a conversation that will leave this person feeling more connected to you and thus more likely to engage with you and your content down the road.
#8. Respond to blog commenters directly. Ever see a comment on another site, and you know you have something of real value to add to the conversation? I know comments are a way to advertise your knowledge, and expertise, etc. But this technique can be more powerful to the recipient. Find out who the commenter is and email your response directly to this person. This can happen with social media comments as well.
#9. Give with no strings attached. Offer to help a mentor, niche expert, or a peer with something you’re good at for free and that will be of value to them. Can you send them more business, help promote their content, offer some service that they don’t realize they need (or haven’t yet invested in)? Don’t just be looking for when you can ask them for a favor, either. This is about opening and building up a relationship, and that is much a more important asset over the long run.
#10. Have valuable free offers. Make your free stuff really, really helpful to your readers and subscribers and then actively ask for feedback from them. “Did you read it?… How is it going?… Any questions?”
#11. Send a physical item. Send your subscribers a physical item of value for free with no strings attached. You can have them pay for shipping. This is something I’ve seen Danny Iny do, but I’m sure others have done it as well. The psychology behind this tip is very powerful. Having a tangible item in your hand will leave more of an impression, and if the item is useful, it will act as a physical reminder of you and your business.
#12 Create a community name. If you have succeeded in building up an active and engaged community, then look for ways to give that community an identity. One of the easiest ways to do this is by giving the community a name (other than your website or business name). People have an innate desire to be connected to a greater purpose, mission, cause, or movement. By naming your community, your followers are likely to be more loyal to it since it will become a part of their identity.
In short, online engagement is the exact science of relationship building- especially these days when so many of us are caught up in so much distraction, noise, and claims on our time. But if you go into it with the right attitude, you’ll end up getting back much more than you put in to the process.