4 Ways to Connect with Readers

Dana Sitar of DIY WritingGuest Blogger: Dana Sitar (@danasitar)

Let’s start with what “connect with readers” does not mean: It does not mean “Get in front of your readers and convince them to buy your book.” It does not mean, “Aim for big numbers on social media or a high subscriber rate to your blog.”

It also does not mean you have to answer every single email, reply to every tweet, return every share in kind, buy someone’s book if they bought yours, or re-tweet them as many times as they do you.

These are all means to an end, the metrics online marketers have found to define your influence, clout, and worthiness as a thought leader. But these measurable stats aren’t the goal. A real connection is intangible and hard to measure.

What “connect with readers” really means is forging a real-life, human bond with the people who love your work.

Contacting and following the work of your readers through email and social media are a great way to forge a connection, but they don’t guarantee it. What you need to ensure a valuable connection is the right state of mind. Remember these tips:

1. Don’t depend on loyal readers for sales.

What will ruin the connection you have with your readers faster than you can see it coming is needing their money. When you forge connections based on sales opportunities, you have already put up a wall between you and a reader who loves you.

Don’t seek connections solely with book buyers who fit your demographic; seek interesting people who can offer fulfilling interactions. Watch how quickly and organically your network will grow in size and strength as these loyal supporters fall in love with your work on their own and eagerly tell others about it.

2. Engage in genuine conversations.

Scheduled and carefully-scripted messages have their place in building your author platform, but if you want to create memorable connections with readers, you have to make time for candid words, too.

Use your planned interaction — like an email newsletter — as a launching point for more personal, one-on-one conversations. Invite your readers to respond, and follow up personally. You won’t believe the kinds of friendships you can forge through a few emails! And, when you take the time to respond personally to reader mail, readers will be eager to reward you for your effort.

3. Consume and understand their message.

Get to know your readers beyond your turf. Reading their comments, @replies, and answers to your surveys are an important gauge for their needs and thoughts, but not the whole picture. Venture out of your bubble, and read their blogs, check out their books, and reply to their tweets even when they don’t mention you.

Be more than a methodical networker, though! Don’t just share blog posts because someone shared yours. Read it, comment on it, and share it with a unique message about why you liked it. Don’t share it if it’s not good — maintaining a dedication to quality will make your praise that much more valuable.

4. Actually care about them.

Do you ever reach out to your readers without a particular goal in mind? Or do you always have some link to share, or question to ask? Try just saying “hello”! Try asking how their day is going — Twitter is a good place to spark these casual conversations. You can also share how your day is going, even when it’s not going very well, to open yourself up to vulnerable conversations with people who care.

Subscriber counts and blog readership are fine numbers to keep an eye on. But if you want to forge lasting relationships doing what you love, the key is simple: Be yourself, and treat everyone else like people, not potential sales.

As a reader or writer, what are your favorite ways to connect with others online?

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Dana Sitar is a freelance blogger, author, and entrepreneur with a mission to guide you in the pursuit of happiness through writing. She shares resources, tips, and tools for writers in search of a path through DIY Writing. Her latest ebook, “A Writer’s Bucket List”, an inspirational guide to the writing life, is free at WritersBucketList.com.

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“Connecting with readers” is more than just high subscriber counts. @danasitar explains: (Click to Tweet)

Do you ever reach out to readers just to say “hello”? @danasitar offers a few reasons to consider it: (Click to Tweet)

Forging a lasting connection with readers is one of your most important goals, explains @danasitar: (Click to Tweet)

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  • Jean Lee

    I often email or message authors when I’m reading their books. It’s impressive to receive a personal response. Liz Murray, Homeless to Harvard, followed up a second time weeks later. So engaging.

    • Dana Sitar

      Good on Liz! When you’re in the “reader” position you realize how special it is that a writer takes her time to truly engage you. Think of that impact, compared with how little time it takes, when you consider connecting with your own readers!

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    I love to connect with readers and followers in two places: Facebook and my blog, http://www.danerickson.net. I also use Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+, but mostly just for posting updates. On my blog and Facebook I take time to share, comment, and reply to my readers and followers.

    • Bob T. Panda

      Yes, there is also a lot of back and forth in my comments section. OK, not a lot, but definitely some. I try to keep my answers in the voice of the pandas.

  • Bob T. Panda

    I love connecting with my readers on Facebook, because we all belong to the “panda fan groups” which are kind of my “guilty pleasure” I write “panda satire cartoons” starring…um…pandas. You would be amazed at how many videos of pandas you can watch on Facebook!. My readers and I share this love of pandas and I am constantly amazed at the heartfelt and heart wrenching stories they tell me. What could be better?

    • Dana Sitar

      Your reader stories are some of the best, Anne! It’s so cool to find a unique connection like that around something that you’re totally…passionate? obsessed? about, beyond that reader-author relationship.

      • Bob T. Panda

        I resisted facebook for so long, but once I discovered my panda passion, it really has been fun to make this connection with the readers. I’ve met quite a number of them at …um…panda events. You would not be wrong to say “obsessed.”

  • Marie-Therese Hernon

    You know, I never just say hi to my readers for fear of wasting their time. I usually share links or advice. (When they write to me, I do write back.) Thanks for the tip. I’ll try it..

    • Dana Sitar

      Absolutely! I used to feel the same way. Then I realized how excited *I* get when a blogger or writer I love chats with me via email or social media, and I realized that as long as it’s genuine, my readers will probably appreciate the same :)

  • Connie Almony

    I love this post. The message is to BE REAL. I once wrote a
    letter to an author whose work inspired me. I’d NEVER written to authors before
    this. Just felt I needed to write the words and maybe–just maybe–the author
    would pick it up and read it. I did not expect an answer to my missive so was
    thrilled when one came in the mail. I opened it and read through the letter
    which was obviously a mix of a standard form and well-meaning suggestions
    supposedly based on the content of my letter (I hadn’t asked for suggestions in
    the letter at all). It was fairly lengthy and tried to address points in my
    letter. However, it felt so contrived and standard that I wondered if the
    reader (who was actually the author’s assistant) had actually done more than a cursory
    scan of my letter. It felt so impersonal, and even bordered on insulting, that
    I almost cried. Had the author not read it and no one replied, I would have
    been fine. But to have an assistant pretend to read it and pretend to address
    it, felt downright false.

    I still love what this author writes. I will still recommend
    it and will read her work again. But after that experience, the luster faded a
    bit and I no longer rush to be first in line to read her stuff. As an author, I
    think about how to respond to readers. I want to be fair to authors and their
    time, so I won’t judge an author who is doing the best she can to respond to the
    myriad of letters sent to her. However, my preference is for an author to be genuine,
    even more so than generous, in connections with readers.

    • Dana Sitar

      Connie, thank you for sharing this story! What a great illustration of this idea — and I love the point you make about an author being “genuine, even more so than generous, in connections with readers”. That’s a really interesting part of it that I didn’t get into; it doesn’t matter HOW MUCH you talk to readers if you’re not being real about it. You’re exactly right: The whole point is BE REAL.

  • http://marcusdehart.com/site marcusdehart

    I’m still early enough in the game that I can connect with my readers face to face :-). Still working on expanding readership, but I see the value of connecting with “interesting people who can offer fulfilling interactions.” Just need to carve out time to make it happen.

    • Dana Sitar

      So awesome! I do NOT get enough face-to-face time with readers — that’s one thing I’m envious of — but when I can manage it, it’s really the best! Stick to your roots, and enjoy the depth of the connections you have. Growing the audience is always a nice goal, but those strong, genuine connections remind you WHY you’re writing in the first place — such a great feeling!

      • http://marcusdehart.com/site marcusdehart

        Maybe I should clarify… the audience I have face-to-face time with is the friends and family who have read my book. Not to say that it’s not valuable time. If it weren’t for some of them expressing their enjoyment of the book and pestering me to write a sequel, I might have gone onto something else. I currently have a first draft of the sequel and am mapping out the third book in a series that I hadn’t planned on writing originally.

  • Sylvia A. Nash

    I keep wondering about the “social” aspect of Twitter. I do try to reach out to and respond to anyone who comments on my blog or my Facebook page. But I have yet to see much of anyone responding to the tweeters that I follow except to retweet, so I’m reluctant to do so myself. I do get a DM upon occasion, and I send a DM upon occasion, and I retweet, but I don’t see any commenting going on on Twitter. What am I missing? Thanks! Sylvia

    • Dana Sitar

      Good question, Sylvia! You might actually be missing what I call Twitter’s “best-kept secret”. If someone responds to a tweet by someone you follow (when the tweet begins with an @handle), their tweet won’t show up in your feed unless you follow BOTH tweeters. Any text in front of the @handle allows the tweet to show up in your feed; e.g. “RT”. There may be conversations going on on Twitter that you’re not seeing!

      Don’t be hesitant to reach out and chat on Twitter. The platform is great for connecting with people you don’t know or have access to anywhere else, and the brevity of the communications ensures you won’t be asking for too much of someone’s time :)

  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    I made a very good friend, by writing to an author I admired. I’d met a WW2 veteran in a bookstore, and he had a very interesting story that I was qualified to write.

    But I knew of an author who could do the story justice, and found him through Facebook. Long story short, the veteran’s story was written, and the author and I became friends.

    It’s something I treasure. And I will try to emulate his kindness, decency, and openness, when my readers contact me.

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/

    • Dana Sitar

      What a cool way to kick off a project, Andrew!

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  • http://www.peterdehaan.com/ Peter DeHaan

    In person, I best connect with people by asking open-ended questions and listening to their answers, mostly listening. I’ve yet to figure how I can effectively apply that to forging online connections.

    • Dana Sitar

      That’s a good point, Peter. The best way I’ve found to do this online is through email, because you can give someone the same one-on-one attention as in a conversation (as compared with the public interaction on social media). I utilize social media to meet new people, then nurture those connections by encouraging conversation through my email list and in a Facebook group.

      • http://www.peterdehaan.com/ Peter DeHaan

        Thanks, Dana. This is encouraging. My problem with email is that I tend to spend too much time trying to write the perfect message! I need to work on overcoming that for casual email communications!

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