How to build a bigger, more engaged audience online

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Last week I gave a presentation to the young journalists in Poynter Institute‘s fellowship for college students — a program that I was part of in 2007.

I was asked to talk about how we use metrics to track traffic on Poynter.org, but I didn’t want to just talk about metrics. Tracking traffic is important, but I think it’s easy to get caught up in numbers rather than looking at what those numbers mean and what strategies we can develop to ultimately increase those numbers.

I talked about Chartbeat and Google Analtycis during my presentation but focused primarily on strategies for building an audience. To build an audience, you have to start a conversation about your stories and get them in front of the right people. This takes time and patience, but the more you make it part of your routine, the easier it gets.

There are a few steps you can take to make it easier and that can help drive more traffic to your site. Drawing on my presentation, I wrote about these steps in a Poynter.org story and interviewed NPR’s Matt Thompson, The Huffington Post’s Mandy Jenkins, Facebook’s Vadim Lavrusik and the Associated Press’ Oskar Garcia for related tips.

Here are my five steps:

  • Let sources know about your story, ask them to share it.
  • Include names of sources in tweets and Facebook updates.
  • If other news sites have reported on the topic you’ve covered, link to their work and let them know you’ve done so in a tweet.
  • Comment on stories that have been written about the topic, and include a link to your story.
  • Tweet follow-ups that help advance the discussion about your story.

You can read the piece in its entirety here. Feel free to share your own tips in the comments section of the piece.

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