This weekend, my sister is visiting me from Pennsylvania (I live in the DC Metro area). I decided to take her to my favorite bar in town, which happens to be a Irish pub. While we sipped some drinks and caught up on life, we enjoyed some live music, including a few Irish drinking songs (of course).
The singer played a pretty wide variety of songs, and I noticed something commonly shared by the songs the audience seemed to like the best: They are interactive.
That’s a lesson we can learn about blogging as well. People love being able to interact.
Many Irish drinking songs are interactive because there’s some kind of audience call back line. In other words, the singer says a line and the audience yells something back in response. In a rowdy bar, this can be pretty fun! There are also songs that have hand motions, songs that require you to do a task (most commonly, take a drink), and more.
Here’s how this can translate to the blogging world, no alcohol required:
- Ask your audience a question at the end of your blog post.
Like a call back line, ending your post with a question invites your readers to say something back to you. Sometimes, readers have to be encouraged to respond to your posts, especially if you don’t have a normally vocal crowd. Try getting people warmed up with some topics that are highly controversial, in the same way the performer at the bar warmed up the audience with some old favorites like Sweet Caroline. Don’t bait your readers, but make it easy to comment with a post that elicits an emotion. As your readership grows, you’ll start getting responses to other blog posts as well – but it always helps to ask that question or at least remind people that they can leave a comment.
- Teach them the words.
Inactive songs are pretty useless if no one knows the words or hand motions. The performer at my pub always tests the water a little to see how savvy the audience is. If there are a lot of people there who know the correct responses, he just plays the song. If not, he gives the audience a little tutorial or even invites someone (usually someone who’s already had a few beers) to the stage to help him and lead the audience.
Similarly, you have to “teach your readers the words”. When someone new shows up on your blog, they don’t know the lingo or where to start. If you don’t give them a little guidance until they find their way, they’ll leave. So consider making a “best of” page or “new users start here” page. If you have weekly or monthly features with unique names, explain at the beginning of these posts what they are (one or two short sentences should do). Link to some related posts at the end of each post or throughout. Until your readers know your site like the back of their hands, they need your help!
- Make people smile and then encourage them to pull out their wallets.
One of the songs the guitarist at my pub sings almost every time I see him is “Piano Man” – I know, it’s a funny song for a guitarist to sing, but I understand why he does. He never leads with this song. He waits until the bar gets pretty full, sings a few crowd-pleasers, and then starts strumming Billy Joel. Why? Well, if you don’t know the song, there’s a line that goes: “And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar” – in other words, all the people at the bar tip him. Whenever he sings that, he stops and goes “AHEM” and sings the line again. It always gets a laugh, but you know what? At least two or three people run up and stick money in his tip jar.
This would get annoying if he did it all the time, but by that point in the night, everyone’s had some drinks, and we know we like this guy. He’s played some of our favorite songs, he’s made us laugh, and we’re having a good time. So of course we respond with tips. On your blog, it’s the same idea – let readers get to know you. Entertain them (or teach them something – preferably both) and then when they’re happy and know they like you, ask for their money. Don’t be afraid of the ask. It can get annoying if you beg or encourage them to buy too often, but if you never do, they might not remember.