One of the best things about blogging is being able to make real connections and experience a vibrant online community. But how do we do that? Is it possible to make real connections AND grow our blog?
You have probably heard that success in business is based on the genuine relationships you build. I would add that success in anything is based on the genuine relationships you build. And blogging is no exception; if you have not started building real relationships with your readers and other bloggers, it’s time to start!
I’m no expert on this, but I wanted to start the discussion and hopefully you all will chime in. So this post is less of a broad “how-to” and more of a “how I,” and it will hopefully be a “how we” once YOU share your thoughts too!
Making Real Connections And Experiencing Community
1. Leave genuine, thoughtful comments. I cannot stress this enough. A comment does not need to be a paragraph in order to be thoughtful, but it does need to engage with the content presented. Don’t just look at the photos! Someone might be spilling some heartfelt words; you don’t want to be the one who writes, “Pretty leaves!” and sign your name. Demonstrate appreciation, give feedback, answer questions, and engage the writer on as deep a level as you can.
2. That said, write genuine, thoughtful posts with excellent content. Whether your blog is about fashion, food, blogging, life, transitions, relationships, or anything else, write posts that can be easily understood and engaged. Write clearly. Ask questions. Keep your readers in mind as you’re constructing a post. How will the reader take this? What kind of response am I looking for?
3. Straighten out your social media priorities. Lots of blogging tips will just say, “Be active on social media,” and leave it at that. But if you’re constantly tweeting and retweeting yourself or posting selfies on Instagram, then there’s not much engagement going on there. Instead, my approach to social media is to think of it as a snapshot of what I’m all about. So I promote my own posts, respond to friends and promote others’ posts too. Promote things you find genuinely exciting. When you read a post you like, share it and be sure to tag the author so she knows that you did. She’ll probably thank you for it!
4. Respond to commenters and reach out to them. Back to the commenting thing. If you receive comments on a post, be sure to thank that person and respond to their thoughts! And beware that unless the commenter subscribed to followup comments, it’s likely that she/he did not receive your reply. Whoops! Instead, try installing Disqus, or stop by the commenter’s blog to see if you can respond on a similar topic. The more interactions you can have, the better.
5. Speak your (kind) mind. This is an extension of the classic tip you’ve probably heard already: be your true self. But what does that mean? Well, it does not mean you should write a post titled “Stuff I HATE” and expect a resounding applause. What it does mean is that your voice comes through in your post. Speak your mind– kindly. Invite people in, instead of pushing them away. While it’s important to take a stand, the more openminded you sound, the more likely people will engage with your ideas. Not everyone has to agree with you. Your online space should be a safe place for your readers to express their (kind) thoughts too.
6. Go out of your way to encourage and affirm. This was a hard one for me, as it doesn’t always come naturally. But because blogging interactions are virtual, it is hard to get a handle on how you’re doing as a blogger. So be a source of reassurance! Email a blogger and tell her how much you love her blog. Tell her that you resonated with x, y or z. Share your favorite post on social media or your own blog. And then keep up with that blog, leave comments and continue to engage.
7. Make sure you can be found. Some people like to comment as (Name) @ (Blog); others will sign their blog name at the bottom of a comment. Still others will link to their blog in the comment. There are a variety of opinions surrounding this: leaving a link can seem promotional and spammy, but it can also make it easier for bloggers to click over to your blog (instead of clicking on your profile and looking for a URL). Whatever you do, refrain from leaving multiple links in a comment, and never ever ask people to follow you. And more importantly, make sure your social media and contact info are available on your blog where someone can find it!
Finally, remember that building community and genuine relationships takes time. Contrary to everything else about the Internet, developing a captive audience is a slow and gradual process. With so many giveaways, it’s easy for a blog to grow a numerical following without gaining many regular readers. The hard work lies in actually engaging your readers in such a way that makes them want to come back. And when you do gain that blog friend, you’ll have a supporter who cheers on your work for months and hopefully years to come. That’s the kind of growth you really want.
Now it’s your turn! What kinds of genuine interactions have you had through your blog? How do you build and experience community? What are your favorite methods for making blog friends? I would love to know!