How can you go from just another voice on the web to an online destination with a devoted following? In last month’s Penguin Random House Author Webinar, Kate Rados, VP & director of community development of the Crown Publishing Group, gave tips on how to grow and develop online communities by attracting new readers and retaining existing ones. Keep reading to learn more about gaining traction and growing your following.
Find a home for your community.
Your community might take hold on a website, social media, an email newsletter initiative, a blog, or another online destination. When thinking about where your community might grow, first think about which platform fits your personality best. Do you enjoy expressing yourself in 140 characters on Twitter, through beautiful imagery posted to Instagram, or with the spontaneity of behind-the-scenes content on Snapchat? Your audience will sense if you feel uncomfortable on a particular platform, so choose the one (or several) where you feel most like yourself.
Use email marketing.
At Penguin Random House, some of the highest conversion rates come from email newsletters, particularly author-specific newsletters. Consider starting your own with one of these easy-to-use and budget-friendly tools: MailChimp, Constant Contact, GetResponse, or Emma. Don’t be intimidated by highly designed emails. Sometimes, a simple note is just as effective as a dramatic visual, and readers are often more likely to read and engage with content that has a personal touch.
Create a feedback loop.
Always listen and respond to your audience. Watch how they interact with your content and make content decisions based on their behavior. Most of the email tools mentioned above come with built-in analytics options, which make tracking data points like open rates easy, but you can dive deeper by adding an analytics tool like Litmus to your toolkit. Take one step further and ask your audience for direct feedback. As Yelp has proved time and time again, community members don’t necessarily need to be incentivized to tell you how they feel. Just ask! By responding to their feedback, you can ensure loyalty and increase the chance of referrals.
Think about schedule.
Wherever you are communicating with your audience—on a blog, on social media, or via email—consistency is key for both tone and frequency. Planning ahead and developing a publishing schedule can help you to stay consistent and view your material from the reader’s perspective. That being said, don’t be afraid to experiment with publishing frequency. For an email newsletter, try sending once a month, and if it’s successful, consider increasing to once every two weeks. By watching how readers respond (through open rates, click-throughs, feedback, etc.), you can home in on the perfect delivery schedule that leaves your readers engaged but not overwhelmed.
Tap into other networks.
Take advantage of complementary audiences by partnering with other authors, colleagues, friends, or publishing outlets. By teaming up with an author who has an overlapping audience, you can cross-promote, expand your reach, and gain new followers. Work with your publishing teams to spot potential opportunities, or to coordinate social media moments like a Facebook live video, interview on YouTube, or Twitter chat. If you know your audience likes a particular blog or website, talk with your publishing team about getting your content onto their site to introduce yourself to interested readers.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to developing communities, but by keeping the reader in mind, you can help maintain and build your audience into a community that interacts with your content and each other. Talk to your publishing team to learn more about how your community can become an online destination.
Emily Condlin works in the legal department and on cross-departmental corporate projects at Penguin Random House.