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Tips for Better Blogging

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I’ve discovered three ways to get people to comment at a blog site.

Use controversy. Bring up a controversial topic and, if you have any followers at all, you will get comments. People will take sides; they’ll criticize you, and they’ll criticize some of the other people who comment. They will rant, thank you for bringing up the subject, lambaste you for bringing up the subject, and take every position in between. And some of their comments might become fodder for future blog posts.

Of course, most people are not going to comment no matter how controversial your topic is. Heck, some don’t even acknowledge your personal emails to them when you have responded to their questions or concerns. And many people no longer RSVP when it is requested. (I had to call nearly half the guests invited to my mother’s recent 90th birthday party to find out if they were coming. We needed a head count because we were footing the bill for the meal.) 

We neglect to contact colleagues or friends when we change our plans, even when those changes will affect the other people. Many of us show up to engagements and meetings late—and with no other excuse than, “Time just got away from me,” or “Something came up.” And what about the person who holds up a meeting and has no excuse?

I am firmly against waiting for latecomers. If a meeting is slated to start at 7:00, it should start at 7:00. I never understood why we cater to those who are irresponsibly (or even justifiably) late, when we should show more consideration for those who are prompt.

But I digress—I’m ranting on a topic that may evoke responses. Did you find yourself responding at some level even if you weren’t thinking of sending a written response to be posted for strangers to read (and comment on)? 

Make it personal. Post on topics close to your heart and the hearts of your visitors. If a post resonates with them at an emotional level, they are more apt to respond. 

Involve them. Challenge them to engage in exercises or to talk about their own experiences with the subject of your post, making sure it represents something that moves them. I notice that bloggers who post about the writer’s muse and discuss writing as an emotional experience receive many more comments than I do when I blog about the reality of book promotion. At Small Publishers, Artists, and Writers Network, we have a discussion group. But we don’t get nearly the participation that the Cat Writers Association (CWA) discussion group gets. Why? CWA members have bonded through their passion for cats and for writing. Members of this group are connected at a more emotional level.

Dig up dirt. Sometimes, when I yearn to see a string of comments at my blog site coming from a variety of people living all over the world, I think about how I could search the Internet looking for negative press on the subject of my blog—writing and publishing. 

It wouldn’t be difficult to come up with publishing horror stories or industry scandals. A good number of people would probably be attracted to the blog posts. And some would be motivated to comment with their own stories, pro and con. 

I don’t know about you, but I think it is more important to provide valid news, information, tips, and resources on a blog. Followers can find scandals and horror stories elsewhere if that’s what they want.

Learning About Followers

If you don’t get a flurry of comments at your blog site every single day, this may not mean that you have no followers—that you’re blogging into the ether, that you’re not being read, that your voice is not being heard. I think it is more likely that you have appreciative visitors who just haven’t been moved to comment. 

I get very few comments at my blog site. This week, two people did comment on one of my posts, but they emailed me directly to tell me they thought the post was a good one.And when I was at a book festival recently, I had a handful of people come to my booth and say things such as, “I love your blog”; “You give so much good information. Keep it up.” 

If what people get from your blog is valid information, new ideas, useful resources and a fresh perspective on a topic they care about, you’ve done your job as a blogger. If they are entertained along the way, all the better, and if they’re moved to respond with comments, better still.

Counting on feedback through constant comments may be expecting too much. But you can learn something about who is reading your blog, and maybe stimulate some comments, by offering a freebie. Ask your blog visitors to email you or to leave a comment (complete with email address) at your blog site in order to receive a free report on a topic you blog about. Or ask them to go to your Web site and request the free report. 

Given the focus of my blog, my visitors are usually authors, hopeful authors, and freelance writers. Whenever I mention my free e-booklet “50 Reasons Why You Should Write That Book” in a post, I get lots of people signing up at my Web site to receive it.The many signups give me a good indication of the number of people who are reading my blog, and I also get contact information for them.  

Sure, you can use status programs to find out how many hits you are getting on your blog, but which ones are legitimate and which ones are robots? I just checked my stats and discovered that over the years I’ve been blogging, I have had 4,703 comments. All but 235 of them were spam.

Using the suggestions I’ve offered here doesn’t tell me everything I’d like to know about the people I’m reaching through my blog, but it sure gives me a sense that I am not out there blogging to myself.

Patricia Fry, executive director of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists, and Writers Network), is a writer/blogger and the author of 34 books including, most recently, Promote Your Book: Over 250 Proven, Low-Cost Tips and Techniques for the Enterprising Author (Allworth Press). To learn more:  matilijapress.com/PromoteYourBook.html; spawn.org; matilijapress.com/publishingblog. 



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