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|This is not your blog.|
I do a lot of blog and conversational media coaching, and one of the most common laments I hear is “no one visits / links to / comments on my blog!”
The solution is simple once you wrap your brain around the concept of conversational media.
If you view your blog as part of a public conversation, rather than a mere publication, then an easy way to attract more interest and interaction becomes obvious. I call it “strategic commenting.”
Here’s how it works…
THE BIG PICTURE: MAKE CONNECTIONS
If your weblog currently doesn’t have much of an audience, then an easy way to build an audience is to constructively leverage audiences already fostered by more established bloggers in your field. This means being proactive about building new connections.
Strategic commenting is all about taking the initiative.
First, ask yourself:
WHO’S YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE?
(UPDATE MAY 10: After some discussion, I’ve rethought the “target audience” phrase. See: Are “target audiences” a problem?)
That is, who has the power to help you achieve your goals for your weblog? Define this audience as precisely as possible.
For instance, if you blog about yoga in order to promote your yoga workshops, books, and videos, then your target audience might include beginning to intermediate yoga practitioners, people interested in stress reduction, seniors interested in exercise, etc.
Similarly, if you wish to share your interest and expertise in raising llamas, then your target audience might include fellow breeders, hiking enthusiasts, spinners and weavers, 4H members, etc.
WHICH BLOGS ARE THEY CURRENTLY READING?
If you haven’t done so already, find a few (just a few, like 3-5) established weblogs that are already covering your chosen topics well and are likely to appeal to the same readers you want to attract.
Read these blogs regularly, and even read back through the archives a bit, to get a sense of each blogger’s perspective and personality.
Pay especially close attention to comments on these blogs. Generally, it’s a good idea to identify bloggers whose postings are already regularly attracting thoughtful comments from a variety of readers, and who respond to those comments. The more constructive, engaging exchanges in the comments, the better.
Subscribe to the feeds for these complementary blogs, so you can find out immediately about fresh postings.
SPOT YOUR OPPORTUNITY
After you’ve gotten familiar with these complementary blogs, watch for a new posting that inspires you to respond. Ideally, you’ll have a unique, valuable angle or new bit of information or context to offer on that topic.
WRITE A POSTING IN RESPONSE
In your own blog, immediately write a quick posting that mentions and links to the posting in the complementary blog that intrigues you. Be sure to mention the blogger by name.
Go into your unique take on that topic in some detail, at least for three paragraphs or so. Make sure you have something substantive and compelling to offer.
LEAVE A COMMENT THAT POINTS TO YOUR POSTING
Finally, return to the posting that inspired you to write and leave a flattering comment there that also links to your new posting. You should include the direct link to your new posting in the body of the comment. (Put the address for your blog’s home page in the URL field in the comment form.)
Make sure your comment mentions, in just a sentence or so, what your latest posting adds to the conversation that the established blogger started. This provides significant incentive for readers to check out what you wrote. A link alone, without context, usually won’t draw much interest.
Do this quickly, since you want to be the very first person who posts a comment to the blog.
For instance, you might write something like:
“Thanks for mentioning that people should periodically check their spare tire, Jane. That can be a lifesaver if you get a flat in a remote location. I also write about auto maintenance and safety issues. After I read this posting of yours, I decided to post a short set of step-by-step instructions in my blog explaining how to check your spare tire. You can find that posting at: http://autosafety.com/….“
This accomplishes several goals:
- It alerts the established blogger that you exist, and that you view him/her as a colleague, not as a competitor.
- You’re fostering a positive relationship with that blogger. Everyone likes to be complimented, and to hear that they inspired someone to constructive, complementary action.
- You’re encouraging further conversation, both with the established blogger and with his/her audience.
- You’re alerting the established bloggers audience that you exist, and that you also offer content that might interest them. They’re especially likely to notice you if your comment is at the top of the comment thread (which is why you want to be the first commenter.)
- You’re providing a direct link to your site, which can drive traffic to you.
- You’re expanding the public conversation in a useful way, which serves
everyone well and pleases audiences. (This is not spamming because you
are adding to the conversation, not just saying “Read me too!”)
When you comment strategically in this way, here are some possible — even likely — outcomes:
- You’ll probably attract some new readers each time you do this, even if the established blogger offers no response.
- You may get some valuable cross-blog conversation going with the established blogger — either through comments to your blog and theirs, or through successive postings in both blogs
- The search engines will notice the new inbound links to your blogs, which could improve your rankings
- You’ll gain a reputation as a constructive, engaging, helpful participant in the public conversation — and possibly as an expert in your field.
- The established blogger may start reading your blog and linking to you more.
- You’ll have built a valuable relationship with an influential colleague that you could leverage in any number of mutually beneficial ways in the future.
- You’ll have fun — it’s always more fun to have a conversation than to simply publish. This can inspire you to blog more, and to read and comment on other blogs more.
Granted — as with any strategy, strategic commenting won’t work every time. Often you’ll get no acknowledgment or response, and sometimes it may even backfire a bit. Just roll with it. If you keep it up, it WILL succeed, and it will definitely build your audience — and your relationship — over time.
Try it out. See what happens. I do it all the time, it works great!
Have you tried strategic commenting? Then comment below about your experiences with it!
(NOTE: I originally posted this article April 9, 2006 on The Right Conversation, a blog which I am folding back into Contentious. All comments below were Jan 2007 and earlier were originally received on The Right Conversation. I’ve transferred them over here.)