Angela’s Note: I was trying to remember when I met Danny Brown and I couldn’t. I’m sure it was through Twitter so it must have been through a #journchat chat or one of the other chats I like to sit in on. Regardless of the when, I have found his advice and input to be engaging, challenging, informative and helpful. I hope you do too. Danny Brown encourages conversations about building community around emerging media. He is also founder of 12for12k, a social media-led charity initiative to connect globally and help locally. Follow Danny on Twitter at @DannyBrown.
Remember high school and the awkwardness that came at end of year dances? If you weren’t part of the “in crowd”, you were the wilderness wallflowers – stood in the corner, nodding out of time to the DJ, and trying not to look like the lost, hopeless soul you were?
Are your blogging habits like that? It doesn’t matter if you’re a blogger or blog reader; are you the equivalent of a wilderness wallflower? Do you just write and forget, or read and move on? Are you drive-by blogging?
Don’t worry; we’ve all done it. Written without encouraging follow-up interaction, or left a blog behind that deserved our comments. But just because we have done it doesn’t mean we need to continue doing it.
Imagine if someone at the school dance had come up to you and asked you to dance. Or simply said you looked good. Imagine how much of a difference that would have made to you. So why not transfer that “would have” to “does” when it comes to your blogging habits?
Blogger Still Equals Reader
When you blog, the first person you should write for is you. This is the only way that true passion will come across, and the best blogs are the ones that are raw and true. Writing for you will keep it real, and your readers will appreciate it more.
Yet you also need to write with your readers in mind, to change them from wilderness wallflowers to budding oases. One of the biggest complaints that bloggers have is that they don’t receive enough comments; but are you encouraging them?
- Make your post open-ended.
- Tell a story, offer an opinion but don’t close the topic.
- Leave room for further discussion.
- End with a question or a call-to-action from your readers.
Thinking from a commenter’s point of view makes it more likely that you’ll begin to write posts in a way that encourages commenting. And the best ideas for new posts often come from the comments, not to mention the fact that comments build community.
From Lurker to Local
The other side of the wallflower coin is the drive-by commenter. Now, there’s nothing wrong per se with reading a blog and moving onto pastures new. But let’s step back for a minute and look at what happened when you read that blog.
Did you learn something new? Did it open your eyes to new possibilities? Did it touch you emotionally? Did it make you question your points of view?
The best bloggers instill a reaction from their readers. They make us question, and think, and react. They make us want to share our points of view and why theirs might not actually be the right one.
So why stay quiet? Why not open up and let the blogger know what you’re thinking? Be the person that goes up to the wallflower at the dance and tells them they look good. Ask for the dance. But make it a great dance.
- Don’t just say “Great post.”
- Don’t be afraid to disagree. No-one is right all the time. Not even Batman.
- Leave questions of your own to encourage further dialogue.
- Offer views on other comments.
- Share resources to back up your views.
Bloggers write for themselves first, but they also write with their readers in mind. They want to culture community. They want to hear your views. They want you to have a voice, to challenge them. So do it.
The best blogs are the ones that have a vibrant community of disparate voices. They’re disparate because the blogger encourages discussion, and the reader is happy to open up.
So. Next time you’re finishing a post, either from a writing or a reading angle, think of the next step. Think of how the conversation can be extended. And think of all the benefits that this new openness can bring.
You might not get that dance with your high school crush, but you sure as heck can (and will) make the next dance better. Ready to stop being a wallflower?