How to convert a reader to a fan

Part of being involved and branding yourself on the internet is posting comments on people’s blogs. When you read a post, comment on it. At least, that’s what I try to do. Let the writers know that you’re out there, consuming information and have something intelligent to say. But it’s a little deeper too; Aurelius said that “you cannot quench understanding unless you put out the insights that compose it.” Which means two things: 1) Knowledge must lead to action to create understanding. 2) You encourage understanding in others when you send out your own perspective.

Anyways, a few days ago I posted a comment on an excellent post by Penelope Trunk of Brazen Careerist. She wrote about the gender disparity in Web 2.0 and its possible implications. My comment was simply that there is no need to worry right now because the web will likely shift dramatically multiple times before it finally settles. In other words, the leaders right now are transitory and like any revolution, the original members almost never end up as the ruling party.

Today, I got this email:

Hi, Ryan. Thanks for the comment. It’s so smart. And thanks for adding me to your feed. I feel really lucky to have such smart readers 🙂


And so I went back to her site and looked at the comments section. To my amazement, Penelope had responded to every.single.one of her commenters with a personal, appreciative message. Not a form response, but a genuine acknowledgement and address of the reader’s point and existence. That is PR 2.0.

I emailed her back about it and she responded with:

Thanks for this email. some days i think i’m nuts for responding. but then i think, what am i doing blogging if i don’t want to have a conversation? it’s a conundrum. today i am glad ot have met you. today i like dealing with the comments 🙂

She is 100% right, and I will continue to tell anyone who will listen. The internet is about good will and there is no faster way to earn it than by making it clear that you care about the audience. PR isn’t just about getting eyeballs to the site, it’s about converting the ones that are already there. Before this little exchange I was an on-the-fence fan, but now, I’m firmly in the pro-camp. If someone asks me for an interesting site I’d recommend hers in a second.

If you have a site, you can learn from this. Understand that winning fans is a constant battle. It’s responding to each comment, it’s emailing the readers that have made an effort, it’s respecting the reader above all else. I’ve seen my traffic slowly grow as I took the time each day to respond to people’s emails. I’ve tracked down book quotes, given advice, said thanks a million times, and it has paid off. But even I am inspired by Penelope and you should be to.

How to follow her example (and things I’ve learned):

And as a final note, I predict that her blog is really going to explode in the next few months. I’ve been picking up a ton of buzz about her, and a strategy like hers does NOT go unrewarded. This kind of goodwill pays huge dividends, so you’ll be hearing a lot from her I imagine.

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