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All About Blogging: Building a Community

Cus­tomer in Train­ing, NY State, August 2011

One of the main dif­fer­ences between a blog and a sta­tic web­site is the inter­ac­tion with the com­mu­nity. But this kind of inter­ac­tion takes months or even years to build and must be con­stantly addressed and redefined.

The inter­ac­tion mostly takes place around three actions: com­ment­ing on arti­cles, shar­ing the con­tent and con­tact­ing the author.

Com­ment­ing on arti­cles is the eas­i­est and most com­mon way for read­ers to pro­vide feed­back. Blog man­agers must make com­ment­ing as easy and straight­for­ward as they can. This is why I per­son­ally don’t think users should have to reg­is­ter or jump through hoops to leave a com­ment. I stopped com­ment­ing on some blogs because the com­ment sys­tem requires users to log onto Facebook—I don’t have a Face­book account and I’m cer­tainly not going to cre­ate one for that. On the other side, threaded com­ments sys­tems are now widely avail­able and make dis­cus­sion easy because com­menters can reply to each other.

Spam is always an issue but I don’t think users should have to prove there are legit com­menters by solv­ing a captcha. Some are very hard to read and noth­ing is more annoy­ing than spend­ing a minute or two try­ing to get them right. Spam plu­g­ins like Akismet do a great job of block­ing spam anyway.

Finally, authors should take a minute to reply to com­ments. I know I haven’t always been good with that and I apol­o­gize. I now reply to each per­son indi­vid­u­ally directly from the Word­Press dash­board. I must admit I get slightly annoyed when I leave com­ments that are never addressed or answered, I feel ignored as a reader. So I assume my read­ers feel the same and I’m work­ing hard to let them know I appre­ci­ate they take the time to comment!

All blog­gers hope that read­ers will be shar­ing the blog con­tent on social media such as Twit­ter, Red­dit, Stum­ble­Upon etc. because it can really boost traf­fic. Most sin­gle post pages fea­ture some kind of social media but­tons to share con­tent eas­ily. Just make sure it’s not one of these annoy­ing float­ing boxes that will fol­low read­ers every­where basi­cally demand­ing them to share the content!

Finally, read­ers should have an easy way to con­tact the author. Most peo­ple don’t want to leave their emails because it can be eas­ily har­vested by spam bots. There are sev­eral workaround to pro­tect your email address from spam: you can put an image of your email address or you can use a con­tact form plu­gin. Just don’t bother using old tricks such as spelling it out (“user at gmail dot com”) because they don’t work anymore!

I set up a ded­i­cated Con­tact page and I use Con­tact Form 7, a Word­Press plu­gin. Because I receive a lot of immigration-related ques­tions, I also set up a Com­ing to Canada page explain­ing my immi­gra­tion story and offer­ing resources. It’s an easy way to answer ques­tions that always come up—I just send peo­ple to this ref­er­ence page.

How do you inter­act with the com­mu­nity around your blog? What works best for you?

16 comments

  1. I stopped com­ment­ing on some blogs because the com­ment sys­tem requires users to log onto Facebook—I don’t have a Face­book account and I’m cer­tainly not going to cre­ate one for that.”

    I hate that too! There are some fan­tas­tic blogs who I would have left a coment but you need a frickin’ Google account just to leave a com­ment! (It’s a new thing that Blog­ger does)

    Why can’t you just fill out your name, email and link what­ever that may be?

    • I know, I don’t under­stand why peo­ple make it com­pli­cated to leave a com­ment. I’m not reg­is­ter­ing with yet another ser­vice to say something!

    • Hey Zhu.. I’m still alive. Any­how I’m glad to hear that you don’t have Face­book. I don’t either. Frankly I hate it. The main news­pa­per here in Lon­don requires a Face­book account for you to com­ment on arti­cles. I think that’s retarded and lim­it­ing. Not every­one uses or likes it. Any­how… I am check­ing in from time to time to see what you’re up to.

      Hope all is well.

      All the best,

      Rick

      • I’m not a huge fan of Face­book, I just don’t see the point of it. It seems to be a huge time-waster and frankly, this blog and pho­tog­ra­phy takes me enough time. At least I feel pro­duc­tive when I write here!

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