Connecting with blog readers

Over the years, we’ve talked a lot about building communities around our blogs—connecting one on one with our readers, and encouraging them to connect to one another. I went back through some of the best posts we’ve had on those topics and gathered up the best advice.

From Michelle at Scribbit:

  • Commenting on other’s posts is the best way to build community–but beyond that choosing topics is the most important.
  • Choose topics that are relevant to your readers. Put yourself in their shoes and think about what you’d want to read.
  • Paying attention to other people’s posts and then responding to them in a post of your own is a good way to promote discussion and build community.

From MommyZabs:

  • I believe that if you desire people to comment on your blog and see your comment numbers going down (over a period of time, not just one post) you need to make sure you haven’t given off signals that you don’t want others’ input. The easiest way to remedy that is to invite opinions, comments.
  1. Pay attention to the types of post content that gets people talking, make sure to commit to that type of post regularly.
  2. Write posts relevant to your readership.
  3. Talk back, respond. No one likes to talk to someone who just stares back. That is what it can feel like when you put yourself out there on a blog comment and know one acknowledges you.
  4. Post on a regular basis. This is important for 2 major reasons.
    • The more people see something the more it is on the front of their mind. If they are coming to read your blog daily because you post daily, it is less likely to creep toward the back of their mind.
    • Let’s face it, though feed readers are an excellent way to track the blogs you read, there are still those that don’t use it! If they click day after day and barely see a post, chances are they will stop coming.

From me:
I think it’s also good to let your readers know how they can connect with you. A blog community doesn’t just have to stay on one site—and neither do your friends!

Guest blogging is another way to find new readers who might like to join your blog community—people who are interested in what you’re writing about.

Finally, you can help to encourage more comments on your blog by asking questions in your posts.

And now I will: what bloggers do you think have great communities? What have you seen those bloggers do to reach out to their readers?

Photo credits: plug—Rennett Stowe; clasp—Bao Ngo

Blog comments and you

At the blog conference I attended yesterday, there was a lot of discussion about blog comments. I want to know how you interact with blog comments. Please take this poll (and you can choose multiple answers!)

Thank you! And of course, feel free to leave your comments below!

Meeting Wendy Piersall and my second blog conference!

Today I got to meet Wendy Piersall of eMoms at Home! Woot! Oh yeah, there was a conference on blogging, too, somewhere in between conversations with Wendy.

If you’ve never met Wendy, in person or online, run (don’t walk) on over to eMoms. It’s the ultimate resource for WAHMs (and WAHDs)—especially for information on starting your own business, entrepreneurship, overcoming fear (and life’s hardships) and more. Plus, Wendy is a total sweetie! (This never, EVER hurts!)

Wendy Piersall and me at the blogging for business conference
Not sure why we’re so red . . . maybe we were just laughing?

Okay, so the Blogging for Business conference was fun (although it made me feel bad for not making very much money off my blog. Now where is that old monetization strategy?).

Okay, enough buzz words about blogging—you guys are going to get to hear plenty more about that. For my full write up of Wendy’s excellent keynote, see my post on Marketing Pilgrim today.

But if you don’t feel like reading all that, I’ll pluck out the parts that are most pertinent to personal bloggers. (The brackets are there because I’ve rephrased it to take out language about your business and your customers.)

Let’s get personal: Why did you . . . start this [blog]?

  • To pursue a dream (passion)
  • To make a difference in people’s lives
  • To fill a need in an under-served market

In other words, you were passionate and/or you wanted to help!

Blogs don’t benefit business unless they BENEFIT YOUR [READER]. You have to have that passion, the cause—what’s in it for your [reader]? What are they looking for? What do they really need? Why did you go into [blogging] in the first place? Because that’s why your [readers] will come to you, spend more with you, and seek you out.

Questions to answer for yourself

  • How can I help my [readers]? What do they need?
  • What personal stories, ideas or experience an I share on my blog that will encourage people to connect with [me]?
  • How can my . . . blog be a true reflection of [its] founding inspiration (passion, making a difference, filling a need)?

Blogging is about community—it’s about connecting with other people. I started this blog (on MamaBlogga.com, at least) to help connect with mothers who are struggling to feel fulfilled in motherhood to help them (and me!) find fulfillment.

So why did you start to blog? And is there anything I can do to help you feel fulfilled in motherhood?

Building a community around your blog: Mommy Zabs

Table of contents for Blog community building

Another of my blogging friends that has built a great community around her blog is Mommy Zabs. She’s even made lasting friends out of her commenters. Like, I don’t know, me. So here are her thoughts on building a community around your blog.

What do you consider a “community” built around a blog (yours or anyone else’s)?

Great question!

Communities look as different as neighborhoods in real life do. Your blog attracts community either by common interest, a desire to have some common interest, or because they gain something by visiting it.

For example. The Mommy Zabs community draws some because of the political ideals we share others because of the stage of motherhood we are in and how we execute it, and still others because of shared faith in Christ. While Mommy Zabs has a diverse community, it is one that has a bond. They like coming to my site for some reason!

Still as other neighborhoods in real life are different, some blogs center around a more specific goal. For Example, Pro Blog Design draws people that love to learn more about designing blogs..

Online communities come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They are as diverse as the people in them.

What do I consider a community around a blog? The people that commune around it! Those who both spectate and join in.

What have you done to encourage visitors to your blog to comment on your blog? To come back to your blog?

I believe that if you desire people to comment on your blog and see your comment numbers going down (over a period of time, not just one post) you need to make sure you haven’t given off signals that you don’t want others’ input. The easiest way to remedy that is to invite opinions, comments. Let your readers know their slant on the topic adds something. I think at times people are shy to comment, the same way they may have been in school to raise their hand and answer a question. Make your blog and posts inviting and always leave the doors open on your post if having a relational blog is what you desire.

What have I done to get people back? I can say for sure; I don’t bat .300 on this. But I think that the people that do continue to come back time after time feel like they are welcome. I respond to as many emails and comments as I fell I can. Even if it is a simple “thank you” or “Yes, I agree completely!” I used to respond IN the comments. Sometimes I still get around to that, but at very least I email the commenter back.

I also use a plugin called comment relish on my mom blog. It automatically sends an email to first time commenter and let’s them know I appreciate them participating.

What have you done to foster a sense of community around your blog?

I believe that I have maintained a level of transparency… maybe more translucence :) I tell stories about my life, and some are funny, some are sad, some are raw, some are downright hard to tell. I share ups and downs. While I don’t think it would be wise to put absolutely everything out on the ‘net, I think for the most part I have found a healthy balance.

I also really enjoy the people that come to my blog. I have built many solid relationships from blogging. As busy as I get and as little as I may bet around to reading peoples blogs anymore, I never want to lose the relating. I will always do my best to keep the conversations going. To try to email those I haven’t heard from in awhile, and appreciate those who have come to mean a lot to me. I am blessed to have so many great people find my blog, decide to read, and some even decide to participate, and I cannot take that for granted!

What’s the best thing a newer (or more well established!) blogger can do to help encourage visitors to come back to their blog and comment?

Hm. That’s a good question. It would vary from blog to blog depending on the type of people the blog attracts. Some blogs actually are more news oriented and don’t require as much crowd participation but still see large stat numbers! But for the blogs that do want the comment threads, I suggest some basic things.

  1. Pay attention to the types of post content that gets people talking, make sure to commit to that type of post regularly.
  2. Write posts relevant to your readership.
  3. Talk back, respond. No one likes to talk to someone who just stares back. That is what it can feel like when you put yourself out there on a blog comment and know one acknowledges you.
  4. Post on a regular basis. This is important for 2 major reasons.
    • The more people see something the more it is on the front of their mind. If they are coming to read your blog daily because you post daily, it is less likely to creep toward the back of their mind.
    • Let’s face it, though feed readers are an excellent way to track the blogs you read, there are still those that don’t use it! If they click day after day and barely see a post, chances are they will stop coming.

Thanks so much, Mommy Zabs! These tips are all excellent, specific and pretty easy to follow. I agree that it’s important to look at what topics matter to your readers and to post regularly (and everything else you’ve said!).

Building a community around your blog: scribbit

Table of contents for Blog community building

Have you ever been to one of those blogs where there are always 10,000 comments on each post? Where readers are so loyal that they’ve actually become friends through the blog’s comments? I think my first personal encounter with a momblogger who’d really hit it big in developing a community around her blog was with the famed Michelle of scribbit.

Michelle’s blog offers awesome, entertaining posts on everything from childrearing decisions to crafts to books to fitness to blogging. Recently, she wrote about Five Ways to Promote Your Blog Niche, or ways to spread the love and help all blogs in your niche grow (and hopefully your own blog with it!).

Here are more of her thoughts on building up a community around your blog:

Commenting on other’s posts is the best way to build community–but beyond that choosing topics is the most important.

Honestly? It’s difficult to get excited when reading about someone being sick or having writer’s block. We all have those times and unless there is something to make your experience catastrophically unusual (contracting ebola, being laid up with sextuplets or having altitude sickness from your latest Everest expedition for example) it probably should be ignored. At least as the main topic for a post.

Choose topics that are relevant to your readers. Put yourself in their shoes and think about what you’d want to read. If your readers are primarily other bloggers then post about how to blog but if your readers are low-tech moms who have stumbled across your blog during their first foray into the blogosphere posting about blogging will alienate them.

Paying attention to other people’s posts and then responding to them in a post of your own is a good way to promote discussion and build community. It’s also appropriate to email them and let them know you’ve done so or to leave a comment with the permalink to your post. One of the few instances when leaving your link is acceptable. [Note: if you blog with Type Pad or WordPress, trackbacks and pingbacks notify other bloggers of links to their posts.]

I get concerned that there isn’t enough disagreement among women bloggers. I don’t mean that what the world needs is more cat fights, what I mean is that women bloggers are too quick to say “Oh yes, I agree” rather than respectfully saying, “Well, have you thought of this?”

It’s scary to disagree with another blogger because without the benefit of body language and an accompanying tone it is easy to have a comment mistaken as harsh or belligerent. I never thought I’d actually use a smiley face in my writing, it’s something I swore I’d never do but I found myself quickly picking it up and dropping smiley faces everywhere so that my comments would not be taken as critical when I only meant them as friendly. But I think the momblogging community would be taken a little more seriously if we had more discussion and less “me too’s.” But then someone could disagree with me and say that that’s what makes women bloggers great fun–their
kindness, generosity and compassion and who needs more negativity?


Thanks for your thoughts, Michelle! Some of those same points have been on my mind a lot this week. I can also attest that commenting on other blogs helped MamaBlogga grow tremendously—it seems like one of my biggest growth weeks was the week I commented on 50 other mom blogs.

Four Ways to Encourage Comments on Your Blog

Most visitors won’t stick around for long at a blog that just talks at them. People want to be involved in a conversation, so get people involved in your blog. They want to feel that their thoughts matter just as much as yours do.

  1. Ask a question at the end of your posts. Ask if people feel the same way, have more suggestions in the area or what’s working for them. Once you have people interested, you can even admit that you don’t know everything—or even anything—about the topic in question. Ask for help.
  2. Remove barriers to commenting. How many times have you read a great blog post, got all excited about the comment you were going to add, got to the end and found this:
    forcing people to login to comment is just mean
    I don’t think I’m the only one who will either a.) turn away disappointed or b.) go through the stupid sign up process, give away all my personal information and then have forgotten what I was going to say.

    As a blogger, you should try to make it easy for readers to join the conversation. If you really want people to say something, don’t force them to sign in or leave your site or do long division (simple addition or typing a word as a spam catcher is okay, though).

  3. Respond to comments to keep the conversation going. Again, don’t just talk at your readers, talk with them. In my own experience, I’ve received more comments when I respond to comments on my blog as well as commenting on others’ blogs.

    You certainly don’t have to respond to every random spammer or troll who happens by your blog. But it’s always nice to show your appreciation for commenters. It’s especially important (not to mention only polite!) to respond to commenters who ask questions.

  4. Write about something interesting and universal. As obvious as this sounds, it’s important not to just write about yourself and your family. Of course, your life will be the main source for your blog, but take your posts to the next level by appealing to something that applies to more than just you and your spouse.

    For example, don’t just say “I had Kix for breakfast,” say, “I had Kix for breakfast. What’s your favorite cereal or breakfast food?” You could even end a post about your kids with “What’s the cutest things your kids have done this week?” or “Did your kids do this at this age?”

By making it clear that you pay attention to what people say on your blog and that you value their input, you’re subtly encouraging others to add their 2¢ to the conversation. You show that you’re interested in what others have to say on the topic. By seeing that you are willing to continue the conversation in the comments or via email, your visitors will form an individual relationship with you. That is the strongest reason why people will continue to comment on your blog.

Another bonus: you might get more post ideas from that conversation with your readers!

Adapted from my free guide to increasing your blog’s stickiness, “Get Your Visitors to Stick!

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