If you’ve ever gone to the trouble of starting a blog or developing a mailing list of some kind, you’ll know that getting an audience is only half the battle. Once you’ve managed to draw readers in, you need to make sure you keep them, which is usually done by regularly providing meaningful or amusing content to help them pass the time.
Then when you have a captive audience, you need to find a way to encouraged them to actually engage with you and your website. Having a passive audience isn’t much use to anybody: it may help bring in a handful of dollars, but unless the readership becomes actively engaged in some way, a huge percentage of your potential sales and marketing will go to waste.
Nowadays people are pretty net savvy; they mentally block out the overabundance of ads and sales literature they see online everyday. Which is why first you need to make sure your readers trust you, by providing great content – ideally in a way that calls for an active response from the viewers, as that will help to form bonds of community between members of your site (or list), making them more receptive to your future requests or sales pitches.
Just writing good content, having a comments section, email address, Twitter and Facebook is not enough. All of those are great for engaging with readers who already want to actively converse with you. However traditionally those people will make up a very small percentage of your actual readership. In order to entice people into becoming active members of your online community, I find the following methods to be extremely effective.
Run a Poll
Probably the simplest tool to set up and the best way I’ve found to get audiences to respond, is to use one-question multiple-choice polls. These can be funny, serious, topical or completely off the wall. People are happy to take polls because they’re so quick to fill in. You’ll also find that if you ask a question on subjects that your readers are particularly passionate about, people become more inclined to elaborate on their poll answer with further detailed comments on your site. Also it’s fairly common for polls to go viral (at least on a small scale), as people take advantage of social media to rally friends to their cause.
Some of the advantages to running a poll on your blog or mailing list are:
- Encouraging Engagement As stated above, this is an excellent way to provoke basic engagement with your readership, particularly for blogs.
- ResearchIf you get a reasonable response to a poll, even without a lot of comments from readers, it can still provide a valuable insight into the way your audience thinks and act as a hint as to what kind of content they want to see in the future.
- Increase Site AwarenessI already mentioned how a majority of readers wont actively engage with a blog or list unless otherwise prompted to. Having poll results on display which show a more accurate picture of how active the site is, can work wonders for promoting the site as a living community to new comers.
- Organic Link BuildingIf your poll is about something topical or entertaining and the results are on display on a public page, you may find that other bloggers use the stats when discussing the topics themselves, linking back to your results as reference. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it can be the first signs of your site going viral.
Recommended software: Twitter poll: because it is Twitter-friendly and fun to set up (and share results as well). It also requires no registartion.
Quizzes are an excellent tool for getting your audiences to engage with the site. Not only can quizzes be set up to uncover a staggering amount of information, but the more entertaining ones are almost certain to get promoted (at least once) across the various social media platforms used by your readers.
Due to the length of time involved in taking a quiz, it isn’t always easy to convince your readers to actually take the test in the first place. Which is why tailor making the quiz so that it will appeal to the intended target audience is absolutely essential, especially if you want to see engagement from more than 5% of your readers.
Recommended software: ProProfs is a really handy site that lets you set up online quizzes, quickly and easily. You can add images and videos to your quizzes, set all the questions and answers up however you like and then get full analytical details of the results once people are done.
Survey Your Readers
Surveys can provide a vast treasure trove of valuable information to site owners, though it can be difficult to entice people into sitting through something which has been marketed to them as a bland personal opinion survey (which is why on the whole quizzes are a better option).
The main advantage to simple survey research, is that you can be completely honest and extremely thorough when asking your readers questions about how they view your site or product, without really having to pretend your asking about something else in order to try and gauge their opinions.
As a result, surveys can be used to gain a very accurate picture of just who you viewers are, where they come from, what they like, what they want and so on. Understanding your target audience is key in any kind of business, which is why achieving a high level of engagement and feedback through the use of surveys, can help to provide crucial information that could turn a site with reasonable traffic but no commercial success into a big money maker.
People like being able to feel like they can give direct feedback, so whether or not you are actually planning on running a survey campaign, it’s always a good idea to have a basic feedback survey ready to fill in for those people who would like to send you a comment.
When it comes to running active campaigns where you want to feel out readers who may have been silent for some time, try offering a special promotion of some kind alongside the request, as that is generally the best way to encourage people to fill in something they know is probably going to take up quite a lot of their time.
Recommended software: Survey Monkey because I really never tried anything else.
Any of the methods I’ve mentioned here are effective in terms of engaging a normally silent audience, but be aware that people have seen all these tricks before. You need to think outside of the box when applying these techniques to gather feedback from your site (or list), take the basic idea and adapt it to suit the people you know your trying to reach. If you do it right, you’ll be amazed by the kind of response you’ll get.
Post image by Leeks