I got off the bus that dropped me on 27th and Fashion Ave. I hailed a cab, knowing I was late to meet a friend for dinner in Chelsea. I got to the restaurant, jumped out the cab and trekked through the crowded space with way too much luggage for a one-night trip. Close to the end of dinner, I went to use the bathroom. While I was washing my hands, the woman next to me said the kind of sentence that never ceases to trip me out: “Hey, I know you.”
“Oh, I’m not from here,” I replied, assuming she had mistaken me for someone else and that would be the end of our conversation.
“No, I read your blog. I’m Purple Kisses on Twitter.”
“Ohhhhh!” I screamed, instantly recognizing the Twitter handle.
We hugged and talked about the brunch I was hosting in the city the next day. She said she wanted to make it, but something had come up. I laughed about the fate of our random bathroom interaction and told her to stay connected.
Few moments in life are more surreal than someone knowing me before I know them because they’ve read my blog. It has happened a few times now–that time in Chelsea, at a friend’s birthday party and (as serendipity would have it) on a D.C. street right after my second “blogaversary” celebration. These moments always feel strange, beautiful and cosmic. I don’t consider myself famous nor would I ever attribute that adjective to my life, but there is something special about your own words preceding you. It reassures you that those words have meaning, they make an impact and they’re resonating in places you never realized.
I don’t think of my readers as “readers.” Instead I often refer to them as my tribe, this beautiful collection of smart, supportive, observant and courageous women who blow me away, time and time again. I think about them as a collective every time I write. I challenge myself to give them something new, fresh, substantial and authentic. Although I do not know them all by name, I love them for who they are and what they’ve meant to me and my work. In that vein of thought, I wanted to share a few things about establishing a close relationship with readers online, in-person and one-on-one.
Online: Engage and say thank you
I’ve already written ad nauseum about the importance of responding, replying and reaching out. I’ve already written about not just “favoriting,” but also replying. So, the same rules apply here. And remember to say thanks. It’s easy, it costs you nothing and it’s the least you can do when someone has taken the time to invest in your work by sharing it or complimenting it.
In-person: Be who you are on the page; look like who you are on the screen
Myers-Briggs would tell you I’m an introvert, so hosting events and being around people sucks a lot of energy out of me. However, live events are now an integral part of my brand. It’s important for me to not only show my face, but to see the faces of the women reading my work. There are two things I adhere to when it comes to live events: be who I am on the page and look like who I am on the screen. I am open, vulnerable, opinionated on the page and I try to remain open, vulnerable and opinionated in-person. Few things are worse than meeting a writer who is a totally different person from the persona they convey online.
Also, keep an up-to-date photo on your site. Look like yourself. That’s the beauty of a reader running into you on the street–they can identify you. If you’re someone who likes to switch up your look a lot, that’s cool too. Just try to keep the latest look on your site.
One-on-one: Remain accessible, approachable and authentic
Even though I solicit feedback at the end of each of my newsletters, I hardly get it. So I was surprised a few weeks ago when a reader replied, opening up about her recent struggles and how unhappy she was. She sent me a link to one of her posts. I read the post and replied to her email with what I hope was a genuine and heartfelt response. There is so much to be said for being accessible, approachable and authentic as a blogger. That is the beauty of what we do–access. People can reach us and we can reach them. Always keep that line of communication open. You never know who needs it.
What about you? How do you maintain close ties with readers? Let us know in the comments.