How do you build a following for an event?

Posted October 9, 2016 by Lory in discussions / 12 Comments

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Krysta of Pages Unbound had a good point to make in a comment on my last discussion post, How do you attract more followers? I suggested participating in or creating a blog event (such as a readalong) as one possibility, and Krysta said:

As for readalongs–we’ve done some of these and many events over the years. They tend to be hit-or-miss because you actually need an established reader base in the first place if you want people to participate, seeing as there aren’t many ways to get the word out about it unless these people already read your blog or follow you on social media. So if have an event and two people post about it on their blog, it’s not really going to get you traffic.

It’s true that if you have a new blog with not many followers or a lot of traffic, it’s not going to be possible to just create an event, announce it once on your blog, and sit there and wait for lots of participants to flow in. I still think that events can be a great way to create something different and exciting and pull in new readers to your blog — but unless you’re a star blogger already, you’re going to have to do some work. Here’s what has been helpful out of my own experience:

Get other people involved

When I was planning my first-ever blog event in 2014, Witch Week, my idea was very simple: come up with five Diana Wynne Jones books I wanted to feature and ask other bloggers whose writing about DWJ I admired to contribute guest posts. I was nervous because I had never asked anybody to do anything for my blog before, so I was completely thrilled when they all said yes!

Naturally, I was hoping that each blogger would help spread the word to his or her own audience, and this would help extend the reach of the event. It definitely helped, but I felt it was important to not pressure them or overwhelm them with requests for publicity. I mainly wanted them to enjoy the event and do what was most of interest to them.

Another possibility I have thought of, but never tried, is to ask another blogger to co-host an event. As partners, you can expect more of each other in terms of publicity, and also brainstorm with each other about ways to reach out more. Two can be stronger than one!

Link up wherever possible

Finding places to link various elements of your event can help to enlarge your audience as well. I’ve included a giveaway each year for Witch Week, and since On Starships and Dragonwings hosts a weekly SFF Friday linkup, that’s a perfect place to put it; Feed Your Fiction Addiction also does a weekly round-up of giveaways. I’m sure there are many others that I’m not aware of — do some hunting and I’m sure you’ll find some.

Last year I also added a Top Ten Tuesday list since that’s such a popular linkup (and I also love lists!) I did one as a sneak preview, and asked one of my guest bloggers to make another list during the main event.

And when I wrote a post about my alma mater, Carleton College, as the basis for the setting of the fantasy book Tam Lin, I made sure to send a link to Carleton. They posted it on their blog and I got quite a boost in traffic from that. So you can also try to look beyond book blogger linkups, and see how your content can be relevant to other circles.

Announce early and often

…but not too often, lest your readers become tired of your event before it happens. What’s the optimal timing? I don’t know for sure, but my instinct is to do an initial announcement about 3 months ahead, reminders at 2 months and 1 month, and another one a week before. Share some information each time that you hope will get readers excited – as in this post about Witch Week 2016.

In addition, you can announce your event by mentioning it in other contexts (as I am doing in this very post — ha ha, my cunning plan is now revealed). You can talk about your readalong book in a post about your TBR pile, or, as mentioned above, do a list related to your theme for Top Ten Tuesday. Be creative!

Be social

You can’t expect other people to do everything for you while you sit back and reap the benefits. If you’re asking other bloggers to help you with your events, participate in theirs — or if they don’t have any, be active with commenting or supporting them in other ways. If you’re including your post in a linkup, go around and visit other links. Don’t just talk about yourself on social media — share your appreciation of others as well.

Visit the posts of those who participate in your challenge or event (for my Reading New England challenge this year, for example, I’ve tried to visit and comment on every post, and also link to them in a monthly round-up). This is one thing that is actually easier if your event doesn’t grow too huge.

Building social connections takes time, of course, so you might want to plan for the long term. As I’ve repeated Witch Week over three years, it’s been heartening to see how a small following has slowly grown, and the connections I’ve made through this have been some of the most rewarding.

Have fun

I’m putting this last, but I still think that genuinely enjoying your own event is the most important element of all. Your enthusiasm and interest will attract others — and if it doesn’t, at least you will have had a good time anyway. An example is my Elizabeth Goudge Quiz from Elizabeth Goudge Reading Week — it didn’t garner a lot of responses, but I still enjoyed doing it.

Of course, you want to share your enthusiasm with others; that’s why you’re doing a blog event in the first place, so hoping for many participants is natural. But try not to obsess about numbers too much. Even one person joining you is a plus.

Have you created a reading event for your blog? Do you have other tips or experiences to share?

Shared in the Book Blog Discussion Challenge hosted by Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts at Midnight

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12 responses to “How do you build a following for an event?

  1. Those are some good tips! Co-hosting the Children’s Lit Event for a month was probably the most successful event I ever did, so I recommend co-hosting. 🙂 Otherwise I haven’t done a lot of events–a Morte D’Arthur readalong, plus a couple of challenges. I always think up weird challenges that few want to do, and also I do struggle with growing a readership.

    • I think co-hosting would be fun. I’m hoping to have a co-host for the readalong at the end of Reading New England, so we’ll see how that goes.

  2. This is such a great post, Lory! I’ve found that simply asking some people to help spread the word can be a great help. Personally, I’m always happy to help someone get the word out about an event or giveaway–the blogging world works best when we help each other!

  3. These are fabulous tips! I especially loved the one about reaching outside of the blogosphere- that is one I hadn’t thought of and will DEFINITELY be trying in the future! I think that these are really great, especially for someone who wants to start an event but feels overwhelmed, you have such great suggestions! I know when I wanted to start Shattering Stigmas, it was SO daunting- but I knew of two other bloggers who were interested and open about their mental health stuff, so I asked them, and voila! It was born! The support is so key- not even just from a practical standpoint, but for when you inevitably freak out and think “no one is going to say yes and I am going to feel like a loser and everything is going to fall apart” (because they will be there to talk you down, and then you can do the same when they freak out 😉 )

    I also had forms for people to fill out if they wanted to see more or less of certain topics, if they wanted to guest post, etc. That was quite helpful. Then I did a couple tweets about it- but like you said, I think it’s VERY key not to inundate people- no one wants to be reminded of something every day for months before it happens! But reminders are nice, I think your thoughts on that are spot on! This is a great post, thanks so much for all the awesome tips!

    • The Tam Lin post was a special one for me. It was so much fun to revisit my college days through that.

      Forms to fill out would be great if asking a lot of people to help in various ways – I hadn’t thought of that. Thanks, and I’m so glad you found this a helpful post.

  4. Our events tend to be very hit-or-miss and I don’t know what the secret is. Even when we choose a very popular topic and do publicity and have people say they’re going to participate and they’re excited we might have no participation.

    • Oh I know, that can be so frustrating. I do not know the secret either — that’s why I think it’s important to do things I can enjoy all by myself if need be. (And why I’m glad I don’t do this for money.)

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