Tuesday, 30 November 2010

So You Want Readers?

These are The Vernacular Curate's top tippy-tips for how to expose the wider world to that stuff you write on that screen of yours. That is why you write it, after all [if that assertion is incorrect, accept my abject apologies and try a note book instead]

I haven't got a neat little 'model' for this, but rather a rough list of things that seem to work for me, writing a not-for-profit Christian(ish) blog. I propose to fashion my list in the style of bums on a washing-line.

What - There seem to be as many types of blog as there are writers and all are different in one way or another. However, we want readers, so we need to fit our material into a genre. If I got up and wrote about anything, everything, nothing and all - as a private person, without a consistent message, I doubt I would find many readers unless my style was in itself compelling. I am a priest who writes a Christian blog. These are the two facts that I hold true to in all that I write, and in so doing, hope to attract readers who want to read Christian writing or a priest's writing, or possibly both. Family blogs attract readership from the family, blogs about the trees will find tree-lovers, and so on, but an unconnected mix of all will attract none, I think (unless you are famous or eccentric and widely known as such). 
I have also written in the past about variety of material. This works for some blogs and not others - for if you are writing a specialist blog on the ecclesial architecture of Rutland, then posts about your feelings on George Osbourne might seem out of place!

Who - readers breeds readers. Discovering who and when your audience is logged in is no bad thing. Getting noticed by such noble and widely respected enterprises as eChurchBlogs, Church Mouse and Footsteps in the Sand and other such bloggers/blog readers whose opinions will attract you readers is helpful - them seeing your blog is therefore important, and knowing when they are likely to be looking will add reader numbers. It seems mercenary, but I think it is how we have all grown (or are growing). Like good retail, our blogs are mainly spread by recommendation, so having other bloggers adding you to their blog rolls is perhaps, numerically, the most likely way of bringing in punters. This starts with reading their blogs, then commenting, then perhaps even asking the question. Remember that favour later when you see small newer blogs who need support.

Why - if you never fully discover why you are writing, then no one else will. Having an honesty with your motivations and intentions, with yourself in the first instance, is crucial. If I were trying to write to attract more people to my church, I would have resolutely failed so far. A simple desire to propogate the Gospel is ok, but honing that is more likely to deliver a yield in readers. Have an angle; have a direction; have a perspective. Be you and don't try to be a Blogger Laureate - readers read people and not ivory tower specialists. Blogging is one of the most exposing activities you can do except streaking at Twickenham and your honesty will be gratefully recieved. Be careful of seeking collusion though - that is not so good. Blogging is not good counselling if you are either writer or reader!

When - this follows from the 'who' element. We will attract a whole array of readers, but posting at midnight means that a great majority of them will be asleep. I have all but dispensed with weekend posting (if I have something 'meaningful' to say) because I discovered that many people read this blog during what I recognise as working hours, UK style. Something installed like Feedjit will teach you much about peaks and troughs in reading times. Machine-gun posting won't help though. Pace posts or post on days when you have nothing to write. Slamming out three in succession works for very few blogs - and for the rest of us, our third post is the one that will recieve attention.

How - social media is largely about the ability to expose your contageon to the widest audience geographically and in the quickest time. A Twitter account or a Facebook account are very helpful - though only if you use them in their own right and not purely as a tool for 'spreading the word'. Again, it is about relationships and people who I draw close to on those forums will more likely read me than if I am unknown to them. Those of us who read lots of blogs follow Twitter links, Facebook posts and the blog rolls on our own blog sites. This is a factor in why the 'when' element is important. Be careful of overdoing it though. I have since discovered how annoying it is to be told of a new blog post written elsewhere - five times. Subscribing to blog-spreaders like Networked Blogs is good, but work out how they 'share' your work - as often you can double or triple up a feed on Facebook, for example, and become spam to the noble readers you so desperately crave! Sharing widely is clearly the most important thing you can do yourself, but in the end, readers breeds readers.
On a seperate note, I have noticed that bloggers don't talk very much about their blogs in the real world where they exist, and I am guilty of it myself. Those who know us personally are the ones mosy likely to be interested in what we have to say, though sticking the link at the foot of all emails is perhaps not my own choice! When I am slaughtering someone for poor customer service, my blog link would seem ill-placed!

And lastly, a couple of miscellaneous bits and bobs, as I have taken up a lot of your time already here. 
1. Images - Pictures get my attention before words do, and the same can be said for many. Bp Alan is a great example of one who uses imagery well and engagingly. Have fun with it too, its an art form of sorts!
2. Titles - I like to be a little risque in my titling to entice curiosity, but do this in accordance with your own style. If you arn't given to semantic gameplay, don't be trying this at home!
3. Currency - trying to always write on what is current is ok, but lots do that - and they do it better than me mostly. Swimming against the tide provides something different for readers and that can't be bad!
4. Originality - if you can be different to everyone else in just one little way, it will pay dividends. Be you, that is no mean start - but don't be me, I already have that covered, thanks!


  1. Good post, simple as that really...

  2. Sound advice. I would just add a piece of advice that I was given when I started, which is that content is king. The rest doesn't matter if your blog is not a good read for someone. If you are writing interesting things you will get noticed eventually, and you provide some good tips on how to do that, but without good content you might as well stop now.

    I would also just re-frame the 'getting noticed' stuff that you recommend. Whilst that is good advice, it is easy to fall into the trap of being annoying and effectively spamming people with comments in other people's blogs or just emailing other bloggers saying "look at my new post". The best way to be noticed is to become part of those communities which already exist. So on Twitter, don't just spam people with attention grabbing tweets - join in the discussions. Same with blog comments - join in the discussion. That will make people want to hear what you say.

  3. Thanks both, and Mouse - I couldn't agree more! The community aspect of this is so important, and people don't ever like annoying buzzing insects after all!

  4. Lots of good advice in this one David, but as I've said before, one has to have the ability to use things like Facebook, Twitter etc., and in my case also the technical Know-how to access and add good images to our blogs.
    In the interim the writing will have to stand (or fall) alone!

  5. cymraeg - I am ever mindful that some of my suggestion are, at the present time, words akin to Hebrew script. Fear ye not, my padwan learner - you are young; you will learn!

  6. Having not long since started blogging, I'm still learning and discovering other blogs. Your series of posts about blogging is fascinating and very helpful, but from my own experience so far I feel I must take issue with you about the What section of this post.

    I would say that my own blog is a fairly eclectic mix of posts, mostly long, reflective and drawing on my 65 years of life, but in 7 weeks it has gathered 25 followers and not a single post has gone uncommented on. I didn't start it expecting anything like this amount of notice, especially as I only post 2 or 3 times a week on average, but I feel that if I can say what I feel drawn to say and others read it and like it enough to comment, my blog is doing everything I had hoped from it and more. That's not meant to sound boastful, just a way of saying that there are lots of ways of being a blog and a blogger.

  7. Perpetua - thanks for your comment. Of course, these views are only those from my seat looking at my screen - and delighted always to be reminded that the world is far wider!! It seems that you have had, by any standard, a very successful start - and that is wonderful news. You have bucked what is considered normal by most of us - so whatever you have, bottle and sell it!

    In any instance - it is nice to 'meet' you. I shall seek your blog out and have a good read!

  8. That's a very gracious welcome, David. Thank you. I lay in bed after I'd posted thinking I had sounded boastful, when really I was very lucky to find someone who put me on her blog-roll very early on and it all went from there. That's why I feel being generous with blog-roll listing, following and comments is so important and I spend as least as much time doing that as I do posting.

    BTW, my last parishes were in your diocese, but in Oxford Archdeaconry, just north of Bicester. I was House for Duty there.

  9. Great post - I just wish I had stumbled across your 'blogging' work a lot earlier on in my blogging journey! It has taken me a long time to recognise the importance of blogging communities, and spending far more time reading other peoples posts than writing your own! Not the quickest learner!! Now to work on the blog-roll advice :)
    Thank you - I not only enjoyed the read but learnt a LOT from it - that will be put into practice :)




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