I think it was still the late 90’s when I started my first blog. It was a form of a personal journal back then since I didn’t even know how to code yet. Now, 20 years later and a dozen of publishing platforms later, writing is like second nature to me. I believe quality content is both a necessary and sufficient condition to have a great blog. And having a place to share your thoughts, expertise and to engage with your readers is a crucial part of — as your human resources department would call it — employer branding. It was simply called blogging last decade, and it was mostly ridiculed by companies. I’m glad the tables have turned.
While I believe this should be an organic process, something that grows naturally and react to your and your audience’s expectations, this time I decided some preparation was in order. I wanted to gather some data to prepare the best publishing experience in advance.
I sent out a survey to examine how developers (a.k.a. my target audience) consume technology news and articles. I asked about what aggregators do they use (think: reddit / hacker news / facebook, etc), how do they get notifications about new content, and do they also subscribe to individual sources. What follows are my conclusions based on their responses.
I suggested over a dozen of different sources, including but not limited to online chats (like discord & slack), publishing platforms, and social media sites. My expectation was to see what’s most popular and try to be present in those channels.
To my great surprise, the most popular technical news source is… YouTube. Nearly 4 out of 5 developers I asked use this site. As it turns out, articles aren’t the best choice any more if you’d like to reach a broad audience. In contrast, podcasts are consumed only by less than 14% of respondents.
Reddit, Hacker news and twitter are used rather by minority. A clear winner is both Medium and Facebook. I can assume I could reach nearly 90-95% of my audience using these channels.
- Repost your content to Medium, so it’s available on that platform also, and it’s easier to reach by those that use it (if you’re wondering, I’m not going to use Medium as my primary hosting)
- Be present on Facebook, both on your own fanpage / group, as well as in already existing groups with similar topics
- Make sure the site looks nice in the Share tool
- Have a newsletter (perferably one without a popup). It’s not that popular, but it’s easy to implement, so the cost/benefit ratio is favorable. It also closes that 5-10% gap left after Medium & Facebook
This is a simple one, and rather no conclusions here. Some people like to get email notifications, other rely on what the app provides (eg, Facebook’s notifications), and another group take advantage of an ancient technology called RSS feeds. Having a feed, newsletter and a profile in the popular social media sites solves all of those needs.
I was interested if people engage with the content and their creator, and if yes, how do they do it. Not surprisingly, they use the aggregator’s commenting / sharing / reacting features. I’m guessing they’d rather join the discussion in context of their social network rather than the authors.
The conclusion here is simple:
- Avoid implementing / rolling out your own commenting system (like disqus, yuck!), and rely on being present in the social media
- Having some control over those channels would help you engage with your audience better (since you’d know where the discussion is taking place)
Subscribing to individual sources
Last but not least, I was interested if people subscribe to individual sources if they find them particularly interesting. I know I do, and I long for new and interesting blogs to follow. This is also my primary source of information: I subscribe to nearly 200 feeds, half of which are active (at least one new entry monthly), and most of which are not aggregators.
The surver responses didn’t reflect that: it seems that people rather use social media to subscribe to their sources, and most of them (over 85%) don’t follow more than a dozen of indivuduals any way.
- Again, have your social media profiles, so people can find and follow you there
- Newsletter and RSS feeds for the rest
- Having a Twitter profile is a waste of time in this context, nearly nobody is interested (I assume it has it’s merits and you can utilize it in other ways to engage with the community, dunno, I’m not a heavy Twitter user)
Create some social media profiles to promote your content and have a central place for audience engagement. Don’t bother with enabling comments under your articles. Provide RSS feeds and a newsletter for readers to choose their preferred way of subscribing. Your mileage may vary.
Taking advantage of this opportunity, scroll a little further to find subscription options for this blog. 😄