Image by Flavia_FF, via Flickr
When Abby Glassenberg mentioned on Twitter that she’d been scheduling phone conversations with her blog readers, I was intrigued. What a wonderful way to better understand who you’re writing for, and therefore change the conversation with them! I’m so glad she agreed to share her experiences in this guest post. And by the way, Abby’s a former student of my Monetize Your Craft Blog class.
Writing a blog can be like having a one-sided conversation. You pour your ideas out into a post and publish it in the hope that somebody out there will read what you’ve written and perhaps be affected in some way. Maybe they’ll relate to your story, or use your tutorial to make something awesome. Perhaps they’ll find themselves nodding their heads, or feeling inspired to start a new crafty project. As bloggers, we’re out there talking. How much should we care who’s out there listening?
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I’ve written a craft blog for eight years. In all that time my readership remained somewhat enigmatic to me even as I watched it steadily grow. Recently, I found myself becoming more and more curious about who was actually interacting with my content and what I might learn from them. I had a hunch it would help me hone the direction of my blog and my crafty business as whole.
I knew I wanted to start 2013 by trying to find out more about my readers, but I didn’t want to go about it in a traditional way. A written survey didn’t appeal to me. Even though I know that analyzing survey results can be informative, I felt that just looking numbers would leave me without the nuance I was hoping for.
Image by dshack, via Flickr
Here’s what I mean. A written survey question might read:
“How often do you update your blog?”
with the possible response of:
- “Never, I don’t have a blog”
- “A few times a year”
- “Once or twice a month”
Okay, that would be helpful for finding out how many of my readers are regular bloggers, but where would that leave me?
When I though about the answers I might get to that same question if I asked it in a one-on-one conversation I started to get excited.
- “Well, when I’m getting ready for a craft fair I’m just making the same inventory over and over. I have nothing new to say so I don’t write anything, but I feel pretty guilty about it.”
- “Maybe it’s not even worth having a blog now with so many big name craft bloggers out there. I can’t compete with them, so should I even bother?”
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I wanted to have real conversations with my readers. I put up a post on January 3rd asking my blog readers to sign up to talk with me for 15 minutes on the phone. I was a bit worried about their possible reactions to this unorthodox move. Will they think this is kind of weird? Will anyone sign up? The good news is that tons of people signed up (I had to quickly close the sign-up form because the response was overwhelming) and I had great phone conversations with 18 of my readers.
I chose the questions I asked according to what I’d want to ask them if we could just sit and talk. I asked things like:
- Do you have a blog? If so, how long have you been blogging?
- Tell me about some of your goals for this year when it comes to crafting or blogging.
- What about my blog stands out in your mind?
- Do you buy sewing patterns? Craft books? If so, tell me about a recent purchase.
I felt like if I could hear the responses to these questions I would have a pretty good grasp on how I could cater my blog to meet their needs. Those responses above? They’re actual things my blog readers said to me. I got deep, rich, nuanced answers to my questions and I’ve been working from them ever since. I have enough ideas in my notes to keep me going for at least a year.
I’ve always known that one of the keys to writing an effective blog post was to write to a single reader. Writing to a single person gives your post the broadest appeal because every reader will feel like you’re talking directly to them.
Now, though, when I sit down to write a blog post I hear an ensemble of voices talking to me about their Etsy shops, their blogs, their creative businesses, and their sewing projects. I write to one of them addressing her guilt about not updating her blog often enough, and I research a tricky sewing technique for another. I share an inside look at my creative business with a third and on and on. Every post on my blog now is a continuation of those one-on-one conversations.
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Learning more about my readers through these one-on-one conversations has also helped me to write blog posts that are relevant to my readers’ lives and businesses. I can see more clearly what kind of post would be valuable. This increased understanding has helped me to add a second leg to my business. I primarily design sewing patterns for stuffed animals and that is my #1 source of income (including pattern sales, book royalties, licensing, and teaching). I’m also very interested in issues related to entreprenuership. Now I use my blog to explore both of these issues equally. I’m happy with this mix and my readership has grown quite a bit as a result, enough so that I now have a thriving ad program on my blog, and I’ve now officially brought the blog into my business as an income generator. All of this work is rooted in my deeper understanding of who is out there reading.
When you write a blog you can sometimes feel like you’re talking to no one. Even when the analytics say you’ve got readers, blogging can be pretty lonely. Talking to my readers made the numbers come to life.
Abby Glassenberg is a craft book author, plush pattern designer, and sewing teacher. Her first book was The Artful Bird and her new book, Stuffed Animals,comes out in just a few weeks. Abby blogs about sewing softies and running a creative business at While She Naps.