Connecting with readers and gaining their trust is key to building loyal audiences. Establishing a solid base of dedicated readers is an investment we highly encourage here at Disqus, as loyal audiences are a more reliable source of traffic and tend to engage with content more frequently. For the average media outlet, only 3.8% of all site visitors are loyal readers. But just because they constitute only a small percentage of audience members, these readers should not be overlooked! In fact, they read 5 times more content, spend 15 seconds longer on sites, and visit 4 times more often than non-loyal readers. 👏

Embracing a “quality over quantity” mentality when it comes to your audience certainly has its benefits, but with the impersonal nature of the World Wide Web, achieving that goal can be challenging. The loss of face-to-face interaction combined with the sheer size of the Internet (over 1.8 billion websites!) make these sites feel distant and detached from humanity. This divide causes people to often forget that there is, in fact, a face and name behind every site. Audiences need to be reminded that there is more to your business or brand than just a series of code. Taking steps to make your site and content feel more personal can give your readers a better sense of who you are, which can help to humanize your brand and build trust. This week, we’re exploring how you can do just that!


Include Visuals

Photos are the perfect (and literal) way to put a face to the name. Including pictures of real people (yourself or your team) conveys a sense of authenticity and inspires trust from consumers. In a study comparing screenshots of various web pages, respondents claimed that they consistently trusted sites that included an image of the business owner more than sites with generic images or no images at all. 

While some publishers have photos of themselves on their sites, others prefer not to have their image available for everyone to see, which is okay too! Photos of other personable aspects of your life can be just as effective: your office space, your pet, the yummy lunch you brought to the office that day. Images of this nature present a window into your life and serve as a visual reminder of the humanity of you and your brand. Social media is also useful for showcasing this type of content--especially Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. We use our Disqus Instagram account primarily for “behind-the-scenes” content like team outings, special events, and more to provide an inside look into us as a company. 


Personalize and Relate  

If your content allows for it (a personal blog, for example), let your personality shine through your writing! You can relate to readers on a more intimate level by expressing emotion and talking about yourself and your experiences. Humor, enthusiasm, excitement (or the other side of the coin--frustration, sadness, fear) are all emotions your audience experiences from time to time, and they’ll likely relate and appreciate your openness. Don’t be scared to talk about your interests and express “likes” and “dislikes.” Add commentary or inner thoughts (my personal favorite) to give your content a voice. Don’t shy away from “I”, “me”, “we”, “us”--first person is a powerful way to assert yourself and establish your presence as a real person.  

Adding anecdotes to your writing is another way to incorporate personality. Sharing stories and talking about yourself makes you part of the conversation. In the same way memes or GIFs resonate with readers, anecdotes have the ability to be relatable, and in today’s world, relatability is a huge asset.  

If your content and writing style aren’t conducive to these tactics, there are other ways you can add personality to your site. For more objective writing, incorporating some of the elements above in a more subtle manner (like a play on words) can still give you a voice while avoiding opinion and bias. Personal design touches such as graphic and logos, or even simpler details like font choice and color, will give your site a unique feel and convey a better sense of who you are. By personalizing your site, you set it apart from others, and in turn, stand out.


Introduce Yourself 


To supplement the lack of face-to-face interaction, including an “about me” section will serve as an introduction to you and your site. Provide background on who you are and what your site is about to shed light on the value you bring to readers. Additionally, if more than one person contributes to your site, introduce them too! 

It’s always best to indicate clearly who produced what content. Attaching author names to articles and blogs spotlights the human side of your brand and inspires trust. It establishes credibility by assigning ownership to an individual, holding the author directly accountable for what’s written. Many sites link author names to profiles that include bios and other works by that person to promote familiarity and connection. For example, when you click on the author name of an Entertainment Weekly post, you’re directed to that author’s page, displaying a profile photo, a short bio, links to social accounts, and other posts written by that person.


Respond to Comments

There are many ways you can interact with readers in the comments. Although it may seem simple, don’t underestimate the power of responding. Readers don’t want to feel like they’re lost in a sea of comments, so let them know you see and appreciate their input. Thank them for their feedback, answer questions, respond to praise. If you make a point of being an active participant in the comments, these measures will become an effortless habit that your readers will certainly notice and admire. Your presence will make commenters feel less detached from your site, and will in turn deepen the reader-publisher relationship. 


Feature Employees

If you have more than one contributor on your site, employee spotlights are a fun opportunity to showcase the work they’re doing and, like photos, provide an inside look into the inner workings of your brand. You can feature employees in articles, email newsletters, or on social media. Giving readers a better idea of the day-to-day operations of your business and how individuals fit within that model will not only add a personal touch to your content, but also encourage employees and boost morale. 

For example, HubSpot carries out employee features in a creative, hands-on way. Team members take over the company Instagram account for a few days at a time, using the hashtag #hubspotemployeetakeover. Through various posts, employees showcase what a typical day looks like for them, including personal activities like going to the gym as well as what kind of work they do and how that manifests in the office. 

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What’s your favorite way to make your site more personal? As a reader, what do you think is the most effective way for publishers to humanize their sites? 💬