Happy podcast-iversary to me! I've been podcasting now for sixteen months, but just passed the 52 episode mark, which seems like the official time to celebrate. (As to why it took longer than a year? I also hosted another podcast and couldn't quite hack both. That's a freebie: don't take one two or three podcasts at a time your first year.) I thought for this episode and post, I'd talk about things I learned this year.
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It takes many more hours than you'd think. Each episode takes maybe a total of like 3-5 hours. Sometimes with my shorter solo podcasts, it's only 1-2 hours. That includes recording, editing, writing up show notes, doing all the meta data stuff, uploading to my media host, and actually publishing. It's a LOT. If you don't have a lot of time, don't start a podcast.
Like everything else on the web, you have to WORK to find an audience. I assumed that since I had been blogging for years, I would have no trouble getting thousands of downloads. The reality is that most of my original audience didn't carry over (to the new blog OR the podcast), which shouldn't have been surprising to me. After all, I started the podcast and Create If Writing site because my lifestyle blog peeps couldn't care less about writing, blogging, and social media. But it still surprised me. A year in and I really want better numbers. I'm on a steady climb. But it's work. And audiences for blogs don't necessarily cross over to podcasts.
Despite all the popular trainings that say you'll get rich podcasting, you will not get rich podcasting. See the part about it taking 3-5 hours to publish and also the part about struggling to find listeners. There is money to be made. People are making money. I still hope to do that one day. But about a month in, I realized that making money was a long way off.
You need a workflow for editing. My biggest struggle for the first bunch of months was editing. Yes, there are YouTube videos for everything. But they all say different things. And I would encounter an issue, look up a YouTube video, spend an hour watching and trying to implement, and everything would sound worse than it did in the beginning. I finally hired an editor, but that only worked when I was getting paid for my other podcast gig. I went to Podcast Movement in 2015 with the goal of learning to edit sound myself and after ONE amazing session with Meron Bareket, I DID. I can't sing his praises enough. I now have a workflow that takes me five minute to edit sound. THANK YOU, MERON. Check out his free podcasting checklist.
There are two kinds of editing. So...my mention above was for sound editing. There is also CONTENT editing. Some people just leave everything in, but I realized quickly I'm not one of those people. I edit out mouth sounds (especially lip smacks) and sometimes loud breathing (more of this is happening now that I'm pregnant and out of breath) and excessive ums or longer pauses. After my five minutes of sound editing, there is always an hour or two of content editing. Maybe one day I'll chill, but probably not. :)
You will begin to edit yourself. Because a few things really annoy me, I found that I autocorrect myself. As in, I RARELY make those lip smacking noises anymore and when I'm recording, I'm very aware of my pronunciation and the way my mouth is moving. I've also cut way down on ums. This is the third kind of editing. I'm pretty happy with the effect on my overall speech. Thanks, podcasting.
You really DON'T need to spend a billion on equipment. Everyone talks about the Yeti because it's like the sexy mic with a fun name that looks cute. But based on what I hear from multiple sound professionals, my trusty, un-sexy ATR2100 is the way to go. There are different kinds of mics, dynamic and condenser. The dynamic (which is the ATR) cuts out more background noise. The condenser will make your sound editing more difficult. I hear great podcasts from people with the Yeti, but when it's more money and the sound quality will be harder to achieve, why not go with the unsexy? The ATR is generally about $60 and other than buying Ecamm Call Recorder for recording my interviews, I pay my monthly Libsyn media fees and I'm good to go. I use the free Audacity program to edit and I have my site on Wordpress. Simple stuff.
I talk too much. I had to edit SO MUCH OF MYSELF out of my early interviews. They were rambling. I talked. And talked. And talked. It was super embarrassing to hear these monologues back as I edited. So I got better at this, too, over time. I still like a more conversational podcast, but I had to tell myself to shut the heck up. Mentally. Not out loud. Because that would be weird.
I CAN talk alone. My very first solo show was a wreck. I think I called myself a weirdo like four times. A friend nicely told me after that episode that I needed to trust myself more. And also that I should smile more when I talk. Done and done. THANKS, LIZ!!! I now write out the briefest of notes for my solo shows and blow right through them. I guess I channeled all the me I now edit out of my interview podcasts and put them right into the solo shows.
I'm a perfectionist about SOME things. Remember that bit about editing out lip smacking sounds? Yep. I do that. And I do it for my guests. And I can't stop! While I'm happy to let some things just slide (um: housework, anyone?), I can't NOT spend a lot of time editing my podcasts.
I'm good on the fly. Okay, so truly I learned this in college the time I had an oral report due and realized in the first five minutes of class that I had prepared all my literary criticism and notes on THE WRONG TOPIC and had ten minutes to plan a twenty minute oral report right then and there. After that, what can life throw at me? But it can really be intimidating to interview big time people that I've looked up to for (in some cases) YEARS. I get nervous still when I hit the call button, but after that, I love talking with people. It's easy. Fun even. I'm not sure this skill has a practical application in real life, but it makes interviews fun.
Always know how to say names. I constantly started an interview and, after saying my guest's name, had to stop and say, "Wait-- is THAT how you say your name?" Also, my name is hard, so I started sending out a note that said "Kirsten rhymes with BEER-sten." Figure names out before you go live or even get your guest on the phone.
Go to the bathroom first. I will not divulge with which guest this happened, but I may have allegedly peed into a cup (while my mic was muted, duh) during an interview. Ahem. #proudmoment
Be respectful of time. Let guests know how long the interview will take and DON'T GO OVER. Unless you realize that things are on a roll and you ask if it's okay if you go a little long to finish a train of thought.
Set expectations. I didn't always send out a little document with what to expect and it was ALWAYS a mistake not to. I had people do interviews while in the room with other people who were talking and eating or people not know they needed earphones or just a lot of things they needed to know. Sometimes I did say this in email, but without a little document PLUS the email, people didn't always get it. Be sure they know what you need them to do. Especially if they aren't podcasters or used to doing audio interviews.
Podcasting is addictive. I have now been at the helm of three shows. One is still going on. Another I hope to resurrect. One died, but I'll be repurposing the content here, which is excellent news! You start a podcast and you may fall in love. Forever love. Launching multiple podcasts might be something that happens to you. This will likely not be my only one. It's just too fun!
I can't even begin to say what I learned from all my guests. It's all soaked up in me, sponge-like. Sometimes I had amazing conversations that weren't recorded. I feel like I learned so much more than I could ever put in show notes.
I've loved this year. I love my small but might community. (Are you in the community? You should be!) I'm happy to still be going strong and hope this is the year to really dig in now that I have some great content and fabulous guests behind me to GROW.
Any questions about podcasting? Thoughts from your own experience?
Free books! Free downloads! Free courses! Free breakfast!
Free offers are all the rage, especially in this online world of blogging & author-platform building. But is there such a thing as too much free content? Let's talk about it.
(WARNING: I may give you things to think about but not a definite yes-or-no answer.)
The popular thinking about free content is that you'll draw more readers with your stellar free content and then people will stick around. You'll create raving fans and then when you create a product or write a book, these raving fans who came for the free will pony up their hard-earned cash and shower you with Benjamins.
That's one theory. It's popular. Here's another.
You create awesome free content and attract readers. They love you and they love your content! You write a book or create a product that costs money and your readers, who have been trained and weaned on all your free content are confused. Pay you? When we are used to free? No, thanks! Instead of attracting rabid fans who want to buy your products, you have attracted a bunch of bargain shoppers who have no budget or don't want to pay when they're use to free.
Do either of these sound familiar?
I think the thing to remember is that we set expectations with the things that we do. Free content can set the expectation that people can expect awesome content from us. It lets our people know that our paid content must be REALLY amazing because our free content is so good. People grow to trust us, to value our voice, to gel with our content. This happens because we give away great free content.
But free also can set an expectation on monetary value. Free can attract people who are at a point where they are not able to pay for courses or coaching. Free can make people ask for discounts, free rides, and favors when it comes time to pay. Free can get people's panties in a bunch when it stops being free. Because it goes against the expectations YOU set.
When we are trying to attract our ideal readers and clients, we do that by creating targeted content that speaks their language. While it stands to reason that creating quality free content develops raving fans, it is also logical that free content breeds fans who enjoy and expect free content.
The answer to the question of how much free content is too much is, of course: it depends.
On you. On your goals. On your revenue streams. But here are some general principles I thought I'd lay down while you are trying to decide on how to balance free and paid content.
I have attended countless webinars or opted into free trainings where the first four of eight points on the topic are free. Then, just when I'm usually getting really interested, the host lets you know the last four points are only revealed in his or her new course. Nevermind that the webinar was not called Four Things You Need to Monetize Your Podcast PLUS a Bonus Sales Pitch for Four More Things IF You Buy My Course. Don't bait and switch. Be free or don't be free. But be CLEAR.
A lot of free content is meant to give you value but also present a related paid product. (That is, in essence, a sales funnel.) A great example of this is a free course, like my Free Email Course. You get X number of emails or videos that provide training. Typically at least one or two of these emails or videos will mention the paid product, perhaps with a more hard sell at the end. These free trainings can be so full of value! But I've also taken a few that really were ONLY a sales pitch and had no inherent value. Typically that will result in an unsubscribe and not a sale.
If you offer a free book or course, don't also charge for the same product. You might think I don't need to mention this one as it's pretty obvious. YOU'D THINK. I still remember meeting an author at a conference and buying a book from him (after he asked me in a way that felt like an offer I couldn't refuse). Later, I joined his email list. And got the book for free.
No, it wasn't a print book like the one I bought in person. But I would have preferred an ebook to print. And free to NOT-free. I also felt like the author could have mentioned that I could get the book for free, so it made me feel a bit icky about him. This only makes sense if you have two different versions, like a printable workbook with extra features that costs money and a simple ebook with fewer bells and whistles that is free.
I've heard more than one person talk about giving away about 50% or more of their paid material in their free trainings. Perhaps they underestimate people like me, who exhaust all free before moving to paid. For people like me, a course made up of 50% or more content that was available for free, it feels like you were cheated.
I have been disappointed by paid courses more than once when only one module out of six had new information that was not included in free workshops or blog posts. This feels...ew. It makes me regret spending money. It makes me lose trust for the creator. It makes sense that some of your free funnels like webinars and posts and even ebooks might have some similar content. But what is behind the pay wall should really WOW. And if it doesn't...well. Maybe you shouldn't be charging for it at all. Or perhaps you are giving too much away.
Because there is so much free these days, people are getting more discriminating. I have literally seen Amazon reviews for permafree books that say, "Not enough content for the value." Which baffles me, because ANY content for free is greater than the the value...right? Because it was FREE.
Except I learned in Nature Camp back in middle school that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Maybe that book is free, but it cost you time to read it. It may have cost your email to opt-in. For your free content to be effective, it needs to shine. It needs to have value in and of itself, NOT only if you buy the related product.
This is a little trickier, as the online space is super crowded. I do think it's important to check out related content. I wouldn't go too crazy and read every single thing or purchase a course just to spy. That's weird. Just do a little research! But not TOO deep. Sometimes reading all the content out there related to yours imprints it on your brain so that it comes out subconsciously in your own work. You don't want that. You want your own original spin.
Recently I bought a book that was almost $10. Not a ton, but it was a PDF ebook. It was like 10 pages. And was literally less content than many of the free (and popular and easily searchable) blog posts on the same topic. A little research would have helped this author realize that her book was not remotely worth the price tag considering how much similar (and more in depth) content is out there.
One big note about this-- I am speaking on the assumption that you are creating content that you sell, whether books or courses or services like coaching. If your revenue streams are focused around traffic-based methods like ads or sponsored posts, a lot of this discussion is moot. If your point is simply to drive traffic to your site in and of itself, then you may not even need to worry about how much free you should give away. You can give away ALL of it, because you aren't saving content to create products or books.
Think of Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income: You can see his most recent income report to see how most of his sales are NOT related to products. It comes from affiliate sales and sponsorships and speaking fees, with some coaching and books tossed in. He doesn't need to worry about free content vs paid content because his revenue streams are not steeped as heavily in creating products, but more in traffic-based sources. This may be you, too.
What'd I miss? I'd love to know your thoughts on free or NOT free or TOO free, both as a creator and a user! Share in the comments.
If you need a few more thoughts, here are some interesting points of view!
I used to check my stats. A little obsessively, perhaps. I liked to see the little number graph at the top of my Wordpress dashboard, even though I KNOW the Wordpress stats aren't as accurate as Google Analytics. I liked hitting refresh sometimes when a post was doing well.
And then...I had my own personal blogpocalypse. All my lovely Pinterest traffic got cut in half last year when an algorithm changed. My stellar numbers were immediately and irrevocably way less. I realized just how fragile pageviews were and decided to stop trying to chase them.
I talked about this before in my post (and podcast) about changing to a people over pageviews mindset and as I wrap up the four-part series on Finding Your Perfect Audience, I wanted to close out by talking about how to turn your readers into raving fans.
Why does this matter?
I feel like someone needs to write a new version of Kevin Kelly's 1000 True Fans post so we can all start linking to something else. But it's brilliant and I love this idea. The idea, of course, being that you can make a living creating your art if you have about 1000 true fans who will buy everything you create. I don't focus so much on the exact number, but more on the idea that you need people who CRAVE what you make. They want it. They wait for it. And they jump to buy it.
So how do we get that?
In this finding your perfect audience series I talked about figuring out your why, planning out your ideal reader profile, finding out through analytics who your actual readers ARE, and where to go out and find readers. But these readers then take nurturing. They require relationship to morph into true fans.
Sometimes people balk at the idea of platform building, as this post on Beyond Your Blog shows. I think we simply need a mindset shift. In that post Jessica Graham writes about moving hearts, not Like buttons. She resists the idea of playing a numbers game but wants to reach real readers. YES. But we have to think about numbers, too. (My biggest issue with that post is the reality that if you want a nonfiction book deal, as she seems to, you HAVE to have the numbers. Listen to my interview with industry insider Chad R. Allen for more.)
It's a simple question, right: How do we treat our readers as people?
I mean, that sounds ridiculous to write that. But so often we DO treat people as numbers, or we consider the numbers to people stats, not people.
Think about your favorite writer or blogger. What could they do to make YOU feel special?
I remember the first time I hit reply on an email from a blogger. It wasn't a personal email to me. It was a weekly blast email that went out to his whole list. But it moved me. So I hit reply and wrote a short message. Within an hour? I had a response. From him. The real person. Talking to me, like a PERSON.
Replying to an email is such a small thing. But it is SO significant. Ever hit refresh a bunch of times on a blog post where you left a comment to see if there was a response? I have. I remember doing that on Young House Love one time and feeling all giddy to see a one sentence reply from John or Sherry.
Tiny things. But they matter. We should treat our readers like VIPs, because they ARE. Here are some simple ways that you can do this.
Respond Personally. (Until You Can't.)
I like to say in some of my signup email sequences that until I'm Taylor Swift, I will respond if they reply to my emails. I'm not as good at replying to blog comments, oddly, but working on that. I also am SUPER active in my Facebook group. I can't always jump in during real time or quickly (some days I'm not online for hours because: four kids), but even if I'm hours later and other people in the group responded, I like to just pop in.
I feel like it's so important for people to know that you really are a person. Some people fear that humanizing themselves takes them out of that sort of seat of admiration where people look up to them. But I've found people seem to (oddly) look up to me more and shoot me encouragement about what I do when I am just being one of them.
This is a great strategy until you really are too big. But what's too big? And could you pawn of something else to a VA and spend this time personally responding to messages, comments, and emails? Something to consider.
Build Community FOR Them.
I have been building my Facebook group this year and at almost 500 members, it's not the hugest group in the world. But I'm almost SCARED of it getting bigger because I don't want it so big that it loses the very real sense of community it has grown.
This seems simple and small. And, if you don't have a Facebook group or have people responding to your blog posts and your emails, then it may be hard to listen. So if you're still just growing that readership, make sure people KNOW you listen. Say that you'll respond to comments and then do it. Say you'll respond to emails and follow through. Invite them to respond. Hear what they have to say. Ask your Facebook group members to share their latest posts with each other. Read. Comment. Share.
I have a rule I tend to follow on Twitter. If someone shares one of my blog posts or retweets something, I follow them. Every so often I don't check notifications as much as I should and a few fall through the cracks, but as a general practice, I follow back anyone who shares my content. Many people are stingy with their Twitter follows and some people follow back EVERYONE. I don't think either is the best policy. Generally, it's best to follow relevant people. But people sharing your content certainly are relevant. And they are showing themselves to be supporters of your work. Why not support back?
And if you want to take it a step further, respond to their tweet. Like it. You can retweet it if you want, but sometimes that can seem weird like if they were retweeting YOU to begin with and you retweet them retweeting you. Be sensible. But there's no need to be stingy.
And if you want to go FURTHER, check out their stream while you're there and share one of their relevant posts. Just for kicks.
Drop in Unannounced for a Visit.
Every so often, drop into your readers' Twitter streams and blogs. Share a post or retweet something. Just show up and let them know you were there. This doesn't take a lot of time and you don't have to do it for every single person or be on a crazy schedule. Plan it into your weekly workflow and then surprise your people by showing up on their turf. Again, it's a small thing that makes a big impact.
Give Exclusive Content.
I'm not an RSS fan (if you've read my book Email Lists Made Easy for Writers and Bloggers, you know this!) but I subscribe to Pinch of Yum's email list and get each full blog post in my inbox. And I read them, too. About once a year they surprise the email subscribers with a special email that holds a free gift. One that I remember was a guide to creating great food photos on Instagram. Amazing! Free! And just for subscribers. Free and exclusive perks make people happy to know you. Especially when they are unexpected.
Meet in Real Life.
If you're going to a conference where some of your peeps may be, host a meetup. I've been to several of these and they are fantastic. I also sometimes hang out with people who live in Houston and every so often get to meet up with someone traveling through. Face to face interaction is amazing. Nothing compares, really, so if you have a chance to do this, DO IT!
Let Them Shine.
I feel like being generous is a hallmark of greatness. And this is easy to do online. Whether it's something simple like sharing a blog post or giving people a shoutout on Twitter (not through some automated system) or even mentioning them by name on a podcast---the smallest mention publicly can make someone's day.
In March I attended the Smarter Artist Summit in Austin and got to meet Bryan Cohen and Jim Kukral from the Sell More Books Show. It's one of my favorite podcasts and I arrived at their live show accidentally early and got to crash their small dinner. Since we made that real-life connection, I've gotten shout-outs on the show a few times. It has TOTALLY made my day. I feel valued and special and like I'm really a part of a community because I'm on their radar.
If you don't have a podcast, think of other ways you can shine the spotlight on your community members. Someone who does this really well is Debi Stangeland, who features a reader in her weekly email, The Big Idea. (I would highly recommend subscribing, by the way! Great content every Friday.) Consider this as a great model and think of how you can feature your people.
With that in mind, here are a few people from my community that I want to give a shout-out to this week:
Matt McCarrick has become indispensable to me as my community manager and part-time virtual assistant. He has really helped grow and promote discussion in my Facebook group as well as personal encouragement and really helpful updates on my blog and podcast show notes. He has his own podcast, the One Verse Devotional, which is about a five minute five-day-a-week devotional digging into one verse. It's a great way to start the day. He's also a FABULOUS virtual assistant and podcast editor. Contact him through his site, Phosphorus Project.
K. Kris Loomis is a fiction writer who just published a book of short stories called Funeral Home Stories. She had me at "funeral home." I've loved getting to read short stories again (sometimes my reading life really suffers) and it's great to have fiction writers in my community, which is really a diverse ecosystem. You can check out her book HERE.
Rebecca Confiño has been vocal in the Facebook group and has a neat site called Mamaguru focused on mindfulness. I think most moms could use mindfulness, don't you? If you're interested in deliberate living and want to consider how you can up your mindfulness, check out her site for some really great resources.
Elizabeth Elliot is someone I recently "met" online through my sister-in-law and she has dived right into the community. We went to dinner last week since we are a few miles apart and had a lot of laughs over gyros and talked about writing and platform up close and personal. She writes about faith in the daily grind and is working on a really unique devotional for parents whose kids are involved in sports. I'm not going to name names (cough JJ WATT cough), but she has a well-known football player's mom on board for the project.
If you're reading this post thinking, "Ain't nobody got time for that," I get it. These are not easy things. They are involved. They require YOU to be involved. Up front. Personal.
Seriously. This kind of philosophy may just not be your jam. It may not fit with the business you're trying to build or the kind of writing you want to do. You may NOT want to reply to emails, even if you aren't at Taylor Swift status. That's fine!
Or maybe if you're overwhelmed you can pick a few manageable things and be really good at those. If you do everything on this list, you might die. (Or not get anything else done.) You also might build some of the craziest, raving fans around.
(And hey! I'll answer. PROMISE.)
This is part four of a series on how to find your perfect audience! Catch up by reading post one about knowing your WHY, post two about creating your ideal reader profile, and post three about knowing who you currently have in your audience.
Experts say you should write for your target audience, preferably with one ideal reader in mind. When I first started blogging, I totally nailed this concept. Every post had a laser focus on that one reader.
Because my audience literally consisted of one person: my mom.
Ten years, two blogs, and a podcast (or three) later, I’ve learned a thing or two about writing for the ideal audience. Mostly I learned the hard way: by alienating people, accidentally building the wrong audience, and trying to force my current audience to like content they did not like. Targeting the right audience can be really tricky, especially if you also want your blog audience to be your book audience.
If you are starting from scratch or with a smaller audience, you can find where your target audience is hanging out and do some quality research. If you have already built an audience, you need to find out who they are. You want to target readers who will help you reach your goals.
So, WHERE ARE THEY? How do you go find your perfect audience and bring them back to your blog? I've got a slew of ideas for you. 2500 words worth of ideas, so buckle up, buttercup.
Before you look at the actionable steps, download your worksheet to identify your target audience.
The cohesive theme of your blog combined with a clear goal will help you attract and keep your target audience. But unless you are great at SEO (search engine optimization), people are not just going to stumble across your blog. You will need to do some work to find your readers. I'm going to break this down into platforms and tools.
You are probably already utilizing groups in Facebook, but if you are not, get in there. I really think this is the best place right now to connect, but it can also be very frustrating as so many people are using groups.
First, find relevant groups. Go back to your reader profile and use the information you created. If your ideal reader is a mom who likes to read and has grown children, you have three different groups to search for: mom groups, book-reading groups, and groups for empty nesters. As a group-creating addict (I admin something like 25 groups), I can tell you that there is a group for EVERYTHING. If not, CREATE one and use keywords in the description so people can find it in Facebook. Maybe you'll created your own group of ideal readers!
Pay attention to the stated guidelines of each group. Don’t just bust in to drop links to your blog. Watch and see what people are talking about and engage in meaningful conversations. Trying to be helpful and provide value will get your farther than trying to link to your blog every day. Each group has its own culture and you need to get to know it a bit first. It's pretty easy to see when people are trying to simply piggy-back off another group to gain followers. Be an asset. Follow the rules.
Twitter is a fast and easy way to connect. I like to find and follow other bloggers and writers similar to me. Then I look at who they follow and especially who follows them. Check the Twitter profiles to find new followers. (For more on this method, see my guest post on Jane Friedman’s site on using Twitter in 15 minutes a day.)
You can also utilize search and advanced search on Twitter to find conversations and users. See this list of Twitter chats to hop in and join an actual weekly conversation. In Twitter chats people tend to follow each other and get to know each other week to week. It's a great way to connect on the platform. (Need help figuring out Twitter chats? Read THIS.)
Reviews on Amazon can be great for research (and a rollicking good time). Search for genres similar to what you hope to write and check out the book reviews. Great reviews can help you know what people enjoyed and bad reviews can help you see gaps that people want filled.
Some reviewers also have an email listed. You CANNOT add these to your email list (you always need permission for that), but one more aggressive strategy might be to send an individual email to reviewers who liked a book, offering a free chapter or digital download or maybe linking to a relevant blog post. Don’t be ultra creepy- be sure to mention where you found their email address. But if they are making that public on a site like Amazon, they are open to communication. Or...they might not understand the internet and privacy so well.
Not everyone on Goodreads fills out a full profile, but you can spend some time searching books like yours or in the genre that you hope to write, reading reviews (again, great for research purposes!), and connecting with reviewers either through the platform. You can click through their profiles to find where to connect online through Twitter or a blog. There are also many groups centered around genre that can also be fantastic for connecting with readers. I'm not a huge Goodreads user myself, but many people are and for book writers, it is a great place to connect with readers.
I am not a heavy (or even light) Wattpad user, but many have found success releasing manuscripts one chapter at a time on this platform. It’s slick and pretty and many of the books have hundreds of thousands of reads.
Not every writer wants to share work for free, but even if you don’t share content, the site is full of readers. You can connect there with people’s other social profiles or even just use it as a research tool. See what kinds of books people want to read and what kind of feedback they are leaving.
Back in the day, people used to leave comments on blogs and then connect with other bloggers by clicking through the comments. Though commenting is really drying up, you can still connect through comments. Some blogs have hundreds of comments and you can learn more about potential readers or click through their name to find out if they have a blog or online presence to connect with your target people. Head over to their blog and leave a comment.
As with Facebook groups, don't be gross and try to just fish for readers. It's always pretty obvious and looks smarmy. Every so often on a blog post, someone asks a question and before I can respond, another blogger jumps in and leaves a link to where they answer that question in their own post. I mean, kudos to you for being resourceful (and faster than I am responding to comments), but it just doesn't sit right with me.
This site isn't for everyone, but it's a great place to submit your book, blog post, or podcast episode. It has some strict rules (don't ask for upvotes in particular) but can be a great place to share your content and bring readers back to your site. It's used by a lot of entrepreneurs and freelancers and you have to get invited to be able to Hunt (ie, post) your own products or links.
I really like Medium and would love to spend more time there. Some people have moved their blog exclusively over to Medium rather than self-hosting. I wouldn't do that. But I would say that it's an okay place to actually re-post your blog. (Many times, duplicate content is an issue for people, but Medium seems to be above the Google law on this, so you can literally post on your blog, copy and post the same thing on Medium.)
You can connect with new readers through reading and commenting as well. Make sure your profile is set up to send people back to your site. To give you a big rundown of how you can use Medium, this is a super guide from Buffer.
Yes, I mean not behind a computer screen. GASP! This can be tough for the people like me who are either in pajamas working out of the house or wrangling a bunch of kids. But you can go to local meetups, seek out local groups that meet in person on Facebook, or even host your own Meetup. This is a great way to actually connect and get information from real people in person. I have spoken at a few local conferences and find that some of the people that hear me in person do my thing stick around and become engaged. It opens up doors that the internet can't do, or at least not as quickly.
I don't want to spend a ton of time going through every single platform. Some of them I neither use nor fully understand or like. But you can connect on basically any platform by doing searches for users or hashtags, checking for groups, and joining conversations that are already happening. Some other places to look for your ideal peeps: LinkedIn, GooglePlus (communities can be a good place to connect), Instagram, Reddit, StumbleUpon, and more. I love Pinterest for bringing traffic, but it's not my go-to for actually getting to know people as it's the least social of the social platforms. (Which I mostly love.)
This is a pricy tool, but has some free search options, even if they tease you about the awesome content you could get for only $99/month. Use BuzzSumo to search for your genre or a book title or blog post similar to yours and you can see top posts online, broken down by the number of shares on each social media platform. This can let you know what is being shared and WHERE, which is an important component of finding your peeps.
FAQ Fox lets you search for what questions people are asking in forums. That's pretty awesome because I heard a lot of people giving the advice to "check in forums" to learn what questions people are asking. But the internet is FULL OF FORUMS. This cuts right through the noise in a way that Google couldn't. See which can help you see what questions people need answered, what problems they have, or what they are curious about. Learn more about the best ways to use the tool from this post. Did I mention this is free?
SemRush allows you to search terms and see what related searches people are making on the internet. It is not free, but you can get ten free searches per day. These tools can help you learn what your potential readers want to know and read and also what keywords to use that might help your blog become more visible in search.
This may not lead you to your audience, but the Keyword Tool will help reveal some things about your audience that might bring them to you or help you create relevant content for them. You can try using the basic Google method where you start typing and see what Google fills in, but this is more extensive.
Google Keyword Planner
This is also more about creating the right content that will bring people to you, but is helpful in terms of research and knowing what questions people are asking. For a great tutorial on the Google Keyword Planner, check out this informative post.
Facebook Custom Audiences
This is a bit advanced if you aren't already using the Facebook advert manager, but you can do SO many things with the information that our favorite spy, Facebook has. You can actually upload your email list as a custom audience to Facebook in the adverts manager, then create a lookalike audience and target them with ads. This is a great way to bring in new, ideal readers, especially if your email list is already pretty targeted and filled with your peeps. This post from SmartBlogger has a TON of info (including how to upload your email list) on using the Facebook adverts manager tool for custom audiences.
You can also create custom audiences and look at the insights from those custom audiences, whether you choose to use your own audience (like your uploaded email list) or create an audience to watch. Facebook collects data like my kids collect Legos, so you can learn TONS of information (and be terrified at the amount of information that Facebook collects).
Here is a tiny glance at some of my custom audiences:
What you may notice as you've read through these tools and platforms is that there are two main strategies to finding your ideal audience. Both are proactive, which is to say they require you doing something, but they are slightly different. Ideally, you should do both.
1.Reaching Out to Bring People Back to Your Site
This way is more hands-on and personal. It involves things like commenting on blogs, speaking up in Facebook groups, attending Twitter chats, and anything that means that you are stepping out and personally talking to people. You are hopefully doing this in a non-smarmy way where you really want to be helpful and connect without just stealing someone else's audience.
Example of a smarmy way to leave a comment:
2.Researching and Creating Content that Will Attract People to Your Site
When you are using some of the tools to understand your ideal readers, you will be learning information that you can use to create the kind of content that will hopefully attract those people. SEO (search engine optimization) is a piece of that, but it also can look like this:
Those are just two examples to get you started. The point is that you can research, create content based on what your people want, and then share where those people will find it.
If you ONLY create the great content your people want but expect ideal readers to just find you, you'll be sorely disappointed, unless you're an SEO genius. You need to have both pieces: creating the ideal content for your ideal readers and also going out to find those readers to bring them back to your ideal content.
This beast of a blog post concludes our four-part series on Finding Your Perfect Audience. WHEW.