Do you sometimes feel like this Elvis impersonator, spewing hound dogs into a mic with an empty pavement for an audience?
Last Monday, I caught Passing the Hat, a BBC radio feature by Jolyon Jenkins, about street performers (it's on iplayer until 28 September).
In the programme, the world famous street magician Gazzo serves up the following pearls:
People think it's the performer that gets the audience. But it's the audience that gets the audience.
Yes! That's it! I wanted to shout. It's not about YOU. It's about the audience!
If I were to put a FAQ on my website, I would put "Should I start a blog?" as the top question. When writers realise that I am involved in websites, this is the question most frequently asked of me.
A lot of writers skip the question and simply inform me, "My book is coming out. I'm going to start a blog."
A blog is an incredible way to reach out to an audience. But so many bloggers use it as an indulgence and forget about their audience in a way that goes against the spirit of blogging. I blog primarily because I enjoy it, and I really make an effort to make it an enjoyable experience for my readers too. It's not about broadcasting your message, telling people Ding Dong Your Book is Out. Unless you win the audience, your message will not be heard by very many people. You might as well dress up as Elvis and stand on a street corner.
There is, of course, the book. The book will draw readers. And then after the book, there is the huge marketing spend your publishers will put behind your book (is that hysterical laughter I hear around me?). And then after the marketing budget, there's you. How do YOU build that audience? And keep it?
If you haven't got the time to listen to the BBC programme you can go straight to 12:10 on the iplayer where the show goes into the nitty gritty of pulling a crowd. It's about "marshalling" people, "taking control of the situation". Here's how a magician named Neill described it:
It's about unifying the people who are watching you into an audience ... when we go to the theatre, a performance still has a job to do of turning that crowd of people sitting in the auditorium into an audience.
But on a street .. they are just individual people going about their daily busness. To get those people to stop, to stand in one place, to feel connected as a unified whole as disparate groupings ... then it's better for the performer and it's better as an experience for the people who are watching it as well
Like the street performer, your blog draws them in with your talent and your humour. You make them stay by forging bonds, not just between you and the reader but bonds between the readers themselves.
Here are some ways to keep your audience:
- Be useful. Give stuff (information, freebies, anything that your readers like)
- Be entertaining. Make an effort to put that extra something into your posts eg. pictures, design. Give them a reason to come back.
- Be human. Don't just churn out the words. Reply to comments (and try to reply in a way that sounds like you are a real human being), praise, react, be real.
- Engage with your reader. Remember, blogs are conversations. You have to show that you are listening too.
- Visit your readers' blogs and comment on their posts. It's a relationship not a one way street.
Here are more tips from the Pro Blogger blog 9 Ways to Make Sure Your Post is Read By More than Just Your Mom
And if you care enough to do it right, your reward is a loyal reader who might just buy your book. As Gazzo says:
Every street trick needs some form of pay-off. That's what will get you the money