How to build a bigger, more engaged audience online

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, 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 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.

Published by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Mallary is a mom of two young kiddos -- Madelyn and Tucker. Mallary absolutely loves being a mom and often writes about the need to find harmony when juggling motherhood and work. Mallary is the Assistant Director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, where she manages the Center's various programs related to distance learning, freedom of expression, and digital journalism. Previously, she was Executive Director of Images & Voices of Hope and Managing Editor of The Poynter Institute’s media news site, Mallary grew up outside of Boston and graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island. In 2015, she received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. She now lives in beautiful Austin, Texas, with her kids, husband Troy and cat Clara. She's working on a memoir, slowly but surely. You can reach her at

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