Welcome back to class everyone! You all look so tan and rested. Did you lose weight?!
Today’s class is going to focus on building a community around your blog. What I mean by community is this: The people who visit and comment, the meaningful interactions with other bloggers, and positive word-of-mouth about your blog. I think that building a community around your blog is vital to attracting and maintaining readers. You want to create an atmosphere on your blog where people feel welcome and want to come back.
To build a community around YOUR blog, though, means occasionally…okay OFTEN…venturing out and participating in OTHER blog communities.
1. Comment on others blogs
I think that this is THE NUMBER ONE THING you can do to attract and maintain readers to your site. Commenting on other blogs is especially important when you’re first starting out with your blog. In fact, behind well-written content, I think it’s THE MOST IMPORTANT THING you can do to generate traffic. Find other blogs in your niche and let the comment love flow.
People LOVE receiving comments and your comment let’s people know that you visited. Consider your comment your calling card. Not only does the blog author see your calling card, but so do other visitors to the site. If you’ve left a particularly witty or well-written comment, you’re likely to get people’s interest piqued enough to click through to your site. Beware of leaving very obviously “traffic-seeking” comments, like “Oh that was funny. Be sure to check out my blog at Practically Comment Spam!”
With that said, there does come a point when commenting and reciprocating comments can take over your life. Literally. For me, I attempt to visit new readers’ sites, but it has become nearly impossible. Sometimes it takes me weeks or months to return the visit. We’ll discuss more about managing your blogging time commitments in an upcoming post.
EDITED TO ADD!!!!! Thanks to Megan at Velveteen MInd, she brought up an excellent point about not having time to comment, but instead promoting a blog post on Twitter or StumbleUpon…I think this is AS GOOD if not BETTER than leaving a comment. Not only are you giving a virtual high five for their post, you’re potentially sending them loads of traffic. And what blogger doesn’t adore loads of traffic?
2. Join weekly meme’s/carnivals
(There is some debate as to what these weekly participation things are called…from here on out for ease of reading, we’re going to call them carnivals, k?)
There are so many different carnivals you can join to promote content on your site each week. Participation in these carnivals can be a great way to generate traffic, especially when you’re first starting out. Being a regular contributor to a particular carnival is also a way to developing relationships with the other participants. If you do choose to participate, it is a good thing to also visit the other sites participating.
Here are just a few carnivals in which you can participate:
Best Shot Monday, Tackle it Tuesday, Wordless Wednesday, Works for Me Wednesday, Thursday Thirteen, Haiku Friday, Fight the Frump, Weekly Winners, Weekly Words Challenge, Theme Thursday, Manic Monday …if you know of any others to include, please let me know and I will add them!
Participating in carnivals should be interspersed with original content. Solely posting lists or pictures can turn some readers away. I know that some of my regular readers don’t visit on Fridays because they don’t care for Haiku Friday…AHEM.
3. Be involved in at least one social networking site
So now that we’ve established some ways of getting your name out there and socializing like a nice person, here are some things you can do right on your own site that will help build and maintain your community.
4. Be accessible to your readers
One thing I failed to mention in my post about sidebars, was to make your email address easy to find. I would say that I get at least two emails per week from people who have a question or want to make a comment privately. This leads me to my next pet peeve point…
5. REPLY to emails!!!!
If someone has emailed you, REPLY. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve emailed another blogger only to get *crickets chirping* NO REPLY. This has also happened when someone has emailed me for advice or assistance, but never bothered to thank me for my reply. *shakes head in disgust*
Listen people. It’s rude not to reply to emails. If you don’t have time, then reply back and say, “Hey, I’m so swamped right now, I’m sorry I can’t reply right away, but when I get a chance, I will, kthnxbai!”
(If you think I’m talking about you, well….) Speaking of replying…
6. Reply to comments left on your blog
Replying to comments lets your readers know that 1) you actually read your comments and 2) appreciate each comment left. Before learning about the greatest comment plugin ever that emails my reply to the commenter, I would just reply via email. Most of us don’t have time and it also isn’t necessary to respond to every single comment on your site. Some comments don’t require replies, but those comments that ask a question or that just make your day, SHOULD GET A REPLY.
The ability to respond to comments is also a point of contention between different blogging platforms. In fact the whole replying to comments issue is one reason I switched from Blogger to WordPress. I think that Blogger’s key flaw is that you don’t have to include your email address when you comment. Tsk, tsk.
6. Show your readers you care about them by linking to them
The greatest way in the world of blogs to let someone know that you admire their work, besides commenting!, is to link to their site. If a post of someone’s inspired you to write your own, LINK TO THEM!
7. Link to your own posts to help explain the backstory to new readers
Have you ever walked up to a group of people who are all laughing about some situation and people that you’re clueless about? You stand their feeling awkward and left out… This happens on blogs all the time. I regularly read new-to-me blogs and don’t understand what they’re referring to, then in the comments section I realize I’m the only one who doesn’t know the back story.
Remember that many people just randomly happen upon your blog and do not know your life story. If you want to make your new readers feel welcome and you’re talking about something that has a backstory or could be clarified by something you’ve already posted about, then LINK TO THOSE POSTS! Don’t let new readers feel like the new kid who doesn’t get the joke.
So basically what I’m trying to say…Building relationships in blogging is exactly like building relationships in real life. Be nice to others, return favors, and make others feel welcome. The goal should be to develop meaningful relationships with those to whom you relate.
I also think it’s important to mention that the size of your blogging community is only as important as YOU make it. If you have 10 loyal readers, that is AWESOME! If you have 1,000 loyal readers, that’s AWESOME, too…not awesome-er. When a blogging community becomes very large, it’s hard to maintain those readers through reciprocity in comments, replying to comments, or linking to new sites.
PS. There will be no class next Saturday. I’ll be drunk.