There are two ways we can tackle this matter.
First, we can be very technical and talk about best practices.
I can discuss strategies, tools of trade, and how to integrate an email subscription system to your existing website and blog content.
I can talk about why you need an email list if you’re serious about engaging with your audience, or what specific mailer to use. I can discuss how to set up Mailchimp, how to automate emails, or how to incorporate sign up forms across your website.
I can also talk about why I started using Convertkit last year (hint: I probably should, in a separate post) and why it’s important for me to make that investment.
These are all essential to engaging with your readers.
You see, it’s one thing to attract random strangers to read your blog and have, well, a bunch of strangers reading your blog. It’s another thing to know who your regular readers actually are so you can engage with them well.
Or, we can talk about honesty and authenticity, and dive into the very heart of the matter.
I think I’m going to go with the latter. (Let’s talk about technical stuff another day.)
Today I want to share with you my top performing email sendout and what it taught me about engagement, honesty, and authenticity.
If you’ve been subscribed to Chasing Dreams for a while, you should be able to recall (or dig in your inbox to find) an email I sent out in November.
After relaunching this site and launching my first ever Blogging E-course, I went on for a few weeks without publishing any blog content. Although no one probably noticed this more than I did, it’s always a horrible feeling when you’re unable to hit goals you’ve set for yourself. (I’m still learning to cut myself some slack, really.)
I felt vulnerable that day. So vulnerable that instead of publishing a blog post, I wrote a letter to my email subscribers and shared with them my frustration.
I wrote why that period was one of the toughest weeks of the year for me. I shared what caused my exhaustion, and how I didn’t have anyone to blame but myself.
In hindsight, I probably didn’t want to publicly disclose the reason for my frustration. (Read: I didn’t want it published on the blog for everyone to see or make it look like I’m throwing in a blind item—that wasn’t my intention, at all.)
But I learned a lot from that experience, lessons I didn’t want to keep to myself, stuff that are important to me as a creative and as a person.
Most of all, I knew that my email subscribers were some of the people who could relate to my situation and would find those lessons relevant.
So I typed with my heart at the tip of my fingers. I took a deep breath and hit SEND. Within seconds, my email—that had my heart written all over it—had reached the mailboxes of hundreds of women around the world. Some of them I personally know, some I’m only acquainted with virtually, but most of them I only know by the name and email address they left on my subscribe form.
What happened next was a pleasant surprise.
When I wasn’t really expecting anything more than maybe a decent open rate or click-through rate, I started getting one reply after another, within several minutes from each other, from women who could relate and find inspiration from what I shared.
The replies kept coming in for about two days.
Some of them thanked me and gave me words of affirmation.
“Thank you for being an inspiration. I am going through a rough time myself and reading your posts lightens up my mood in a way.”
“Riz. You inspire me. I love how you share and there is always a lesson, an inspiration, a motivation for readers to look further, chase more, delve deeper. I hope you won’t go away (again) anytime so soon. Hang in there.”
“This is just so timely, and reading it affirmed me of my decision to say NO yesterday… Thank you for this, God sent you to tell me that my decision was right.”
“…what you have said is true, that even if we make wrong decisions, it does not have to hinder our ability to see the beautiful things around us. And if it matters, I would like to let you know that you inspired me so much today :) so please just keep going!”
“Oh… THANK YOU Rhiza.. THANK YOU because it is just sooo timely. I think I am about to say YES to something I think is important and helpful for the family too. And I am praying that it will be worth the sacrifice.. THANKYOU for the encouragement. i am blessed.. GOD BLESS you and the whole family MORE.”
“Thank you for this very timely letter. This reply may not reach you or you may read this randomly but I want you to know that you have spoken right to my heart & I want to deeply thank you for it.”
Some replied with their own stories to share.
They shared specific details of what they’re currently going through in their lives, some asked me to pray for them, others asked me how they can pray for me.
Others even took it to Facebook and quoted some of what I said in my email.
Take note that most of them are people I hardly know and yet somehow, it felt like we’re old friends who understood, accepted, and supported each other. Which is exactly what we hope to find in the online communities we’re part of, don’t we?
I’m sharing this not to brag about how amazing my email newsletters are and that you really should subscribe to Chasing Dreams. (Ehem, I mean, you can if you want to. Lol.)
But it’s really quite the opposite of that.
I’m sharing this because I remember feeling so undeserving of all the love, and yet somehow, in my frailties and mistakes, even with my most uninspiring and embarrassing of stories, people reached out to me to let me know that I am not alone.
This experience affirmed to me even more that, in this age where we’re facing massive content influx—great content, bad content, click bait content, countless of blog and social media posts published every minute—this ancient principle still holds true:
Honest, vulnerable and authentic storytelling is what your audience really needs.
Sure, there’s always a need for informative and actionable content, something that I’ve been intentionally creating more of lately here at Chasing Dreams. But time and again I find that the kind of content that truly engages readers are the ones that come from somewhere deep inside of you,
the ones that come out of the abundance of the heart,
the kind you’re sometimes afraid to write.
So I say, go ahead, dig into your heart and write what’s inside. In the midst of the noise and the fear, don’t be afraid to tell your story, talk about your mistakes, reference your personal experiences. Because somewhere out there, someone needs to hear exactly what you have to say.
As a fair warning, creating vulnerable and honest content will sometimes make other people judge you, or maybe make you lose readers. That’s okay. You may lose some of those readers but you’ll gain the right ones.
So tell me. Are you engaging with the right people? Or are you aimlessly creating content for random strangers?