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?