How to Know if Your Readers are Engaged

Filed as Features, Guides on October 19, 2007 9:37 am

In my last post here I said with feed counts, size isn’t everything. What I was saying is it is better to have a smaller, more engaged audience, than a larger and disinterested subscriber base.

How do you know if you have an engaged audience?

Checking for Signs of Life in Your Audience

When you are talking to someone in real life, how do you know they are interested in what you are saying?

Many of the signals that we have an interested audience in real life are non-verbal:

  • Eye contact
  • Nods
  • Leaning towards you rather than away

The online equivalent of passive signals of interest are things like page views, click-throughs, and other metrics that show up in your analytics package.

These small signals on their own are quite a potent sign of interest. I was talking to a guy the other day who was looking at a blog with a huge number of subscribers (we are talking massive), but when a new post was published the page count hardly moved at all. Now, obviously, when you publish full feeds the percentage of readers that view online will be fewer than your total subscriber count but you do expect some page views. At the very least from interlinking your posts.

A lack of page views when you publish new articles is a sign your audience is not engaged.

Generating Feedback … or Not

As in real life, again, if you are having good, lively conversation then you would hope for a reaction. This could range from a muttered “uh-huh”, through to more expressive feedback like “wow! really?”.

Online our feedback will be in the form of:

  • Comments
  • Feedback form submissions
  • Votes
  • Stumbles
  • Send to Friend
  • Bookmarks
  • Competition Entries

Interactions are your best sign your audience is engaged. Encourage them!
What about subscriptions? Well you could say they are signs of engagement, and yes they are probably one of your most hoped for conversions, but they only hint at a snapshot in time, not ongoing engagement.

Summary

The key is to look for trends over time. Is your audience growing along with a growing interaction, or are interactions decreasing while your audience grows?

Do not dispair right away if you don’t get many comments, etc. It could be your readers just don’t know you want them to interact with you. Start putting out invitations for feedback, ask for comments, put up a voting form.

Are your readers holding up the other side of the conversation? How do you encourage more interaction? Share in the comments …

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  1. By pelf posted on October 19, 2007 at 10:11 am
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    I ask for comments whenever the post permits it (I learned from you, Chris) but I don’t do it ALL THE TIME.

    And yes, my subscriber count has increased, but I missed the conversations on my blog with my old buddies (who have either stopped blogging or aren’t blogging as frequently as before). I now look at an entirely new audience!

    Reply

  2. By Jack @ The Tech Teapot posted on October 19, 2007 at 1:00 pm
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    This is something that Dave Winer has been commenting on recently…that he’s been on the home page of some supposed A list sites that generate very little in the way of referrals.

    Reply

  3. By Chris Garrett posted on October 19, 2007 at 3:05 pm
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    @pelf – Yes my audience has changed over time, some of the regular faces don’t comment quite so much. Funny how that happens but then my non-blog friends have changed over time too :)

    @Jack – I see the same thing, but sometimes it can be down to *how* we are linked. For example the link in this article in the “about the blogger” part hardly ever sends any visitors to my own blog. Some links just don’t draw any attention and therefore don’t get clicked.

    @pchere – Then my work is done :)

    Reply

  4. By pelf posted on October 20, 2007 at 1:27 am
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    @Chris: Maybe that just confirms that WE ALL CHANGE, LOL.

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  5. By imassage, Inc. posted on October 20, 2007 at 1:21 pm
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    We have a newer blog (6 week old baby). I have noticed that our traffic count is not huge, but we have a high percentage of subscribers and page views. They are not leaving many comments, however, so I will tone postings with encouragement to leave feedback.

    Reply

  6. By Jacob Share posted on October 21, 2007 at 12:10 pm
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    This article makes a good point but it’s important to remember that every blog community is different and may interact differently with the blog.

    I’ll give you an example.

    My blog, JobMob, publishes articles in full to the RSS feed but most of my readers are email subscribers. Via FeedBurner I can see that on an average day, almost 3/4 of my readers will actually view the article.

    I consider this very good because my target audience of job seekers often complain about being overburdened with email, yet they consistently read my articles.

    Reply

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