One of the most popular questions that I’m asked by new education bloggers is, “How did you go about growing your audience?”

While page views, subscribers and comments are not the primary metrics that I use to judge the success of my online efforts, seeing new visitors is definitely rewarding—and a result of authenticity, bravery and consistency, three key behaviors described by Amber Mac in Power Friending: Demystifying Social Media to Grow Your Business (2010).

I figured I’d create a series of posts describing each of these behaviors—and showing what they look like in action on my blog. 

Here’s the first entry, which introduces authenticity as a characteristic of successful education blogs:

Tips for Growing Your Blog’s Audience: Authenticity

For better or for worse, our interactions with businesses have become increasingly impersonal in the past two decades. It seems that each year, we spend more of our lives listening to prerecorded messages or poking our way through websites instead of connecting with real human beings.

This shift has left individuals highly sensitized to poor customer service and distrustful of any organization that they stumble across online.

Breaking through these barriers and building trusting relationships with readers requires demonstrating an authentic desire to listen and to interact with your audiences.

That means if you want to see your blog’s subscriber and page view numbers rise, you’ve got to think of your entries as a part of a larger, ongoing conversation with your readers. Simply crafting new entries without ever engaging readers makes it look like you’re shouting from your very own electronic soapbox, a digital preening behavior that is unlikely to encourage repeat visitors.

Authenticity also means that you have to be willing to share a bit of yourself with your readers. They’ve got to see you as something more than the impersonal reporters and customer service representatives that they’re used to interacting with every day.

Instead, you’ve got to convince them that you’re a “regular guy” that they can imagine knowing in real life. Bloggers who aren’t willing to add personality or voice to their posts aren’t likely to ever develop a significant audience.

To make authenticity a part of your blogging behaviors, try developing a series of posts that are intentionally designed to let your readers know more about who you are and what you value.

Share your passions—and be passionate while doing so. Include honest emotions in your posts early and often. Concentrate on being something more than a blogger to your audience. Instead, be human, with all the strengths and flaws that includes.

Also, remember to add provocative questions to the end of every entry to elicit responses. Then, make sure to follow—and to respond to—the comments that are being added to your posts. Consider using comments from readers to build new entries.

Each of these behaviors shows that you are genuinely interested in learning with—instead of preaching to—your audiences, an important characteristic of the education blogs that gain the largest followings.

Authenticity in Action on The Tempered Radical:

While years of experience as instructors leave most education bloggers prepared to be authentic online, it might be helpful to look at a few examples of authenticity in action on the Tempered Radical:

Letting Readers See Who You Are

Some of my favorite posts to write on the Tempered Radical are a part of a series that I call, ‘This is Why I Teach.’ TWIT posts were originally designed as a personal reminder of why I love teaching—something that I tend to forget in the grind of a typical school day, week, month or year.

TWIT posts, however, have become much more than personal reminders of the joys of teaching. Instead, they’re honest reflections of who I am as a person—and those honest reflections resonate with readers, helping them to see me as something more than just a blogger.

Converting Comments into New Posts

One of my first experiences with authenticity in blogging happened way back in 2006, when edublogging superstar David Warlick cited something I’d written in the comment section of one of his entries in a new post that he had written.

That post was tangible evidence that I’d been heard and that he was listening—and it felt like my very own 15 minutes of fame!

Since then, I try to regularly convert comments into new entries, something I’ve done in this 2007 piece about pulling technology integration efforts off in my middle school classroom.

Converting comments into new posts is a simple way to show readers that their ideas are valued, an important behavior for anyone interested in developing an audience.

What’s interesting is that most of these behaviors are just common sense, aren’t they?  Authentic individuals are embraced whether they’re working online or in our workrooms.

Another interesting question is how authentic are the communications shared by your school?

Are your principals and district communication specialists working to come across as genuinely interested in their audiences, or are your messages as cold and impersonal as the messages that leave you frustrated with businesses?

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