WordPress Discover featured a recent post about Life Lessons I learned while hiking the Appalachian Trail. The dizzying trill of overlapping notifications gave me a brief glimpse of what life must be like for superstars of the blogging world. A few (OK… hundreds) clicked the follow button. But what interested me most were the new comments. I’ve learned that comments are gifts, and these gifts form the foundation for building my blog community.
I scanned through comments waiting to be approved. Blogging friends congratulating me on my newfound fame triggered involuntary smiles. If you’re willing to let me call it a mild lacrimal event (or allergies), then I’m not ashamed to admit that one beautiful blogger even forced out a few tears. And new visitors expressed stunned disbelief that anyone would just give away this much awesomeness for free. It was Christmas in July!
But a surprising number of comments were simple commands: “visit my blog,” or “follow me back” and “check out my post at www.randomwords.com/plagerized-content-that-still-isnt-very-interesting”
Kinda feels like getting used socks from one hand while the other is held out waiting for me to deposit a family heirloom. I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t how holidays work (unless you consider Tax Day a holiday, then it’s exactly the same).
I’m not completely ungrateful though. After all, my spam monster has a voracious appetite.
I’m also not a blogging expert. I have only been blogging in earnest for about 6 months (prior to this, blogging was a means of keeping friends and family in the loop while I hiked the Appalachian Trail). If I’ve learned anything during these 6 months, it’s this: The comment section is where the magic happens.
How do I make the magic happen on the comment section of my blog?
I want your blogging community to grow. This means more subscribers, but more importantly, this also means more people that actually read what you write (and enjoy the images you share). The following tools have been tried and tested. They work for me, and other bloggers far more successful than myself. I’m looking forward to seeing how well they work for you too.
The 80/20 rule applies to blogging
If you’re familiar with Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, you may have heard about the 80/20 rule. This rule implies that successful users spend 80% of their time on OTHER people’s accounts, and the remaining 20% on their own. Seems counterintuitive, right? Wouldn’t it be better to devote most of my limited time and energy to my own blog, and the rest for others?
Nope. Not unless you want the soothing sound of crickets to be a permanent theme song for your blog.
I initially thought of my time on other’s blogs as an “expense” in terms of time and energy. Now I see it as an investment. This is where I learn how to blog. What works, what doesn’t. Sometimes, a “comment conversation” with another blogger will trigger ideas for a future post. And many of my recent sketches were inspired by (or requested by) bloggers who shared something that had a powerful impact on me.
This is also where blogger relationships blossom into genuine friendships. A blogger’s blog is their virtual home. This is true whether we are professional bloggers on a mission to convert stats into cash, or humble personal bloggers journaling about our multi-faceted lives. When you welcome me to your blog, I am walking through your front door. And by the time I’ve finished reading your blog post, we’re hanging out together in the living room, ready to have a real conversation. That’s not an investment, it’s friggin fun!
How do I find the right blogs to visit?
The most successful approach for me is what I call “link frogging.” After visiting a blog that I love and leaving a meaningful comment, I read through the comments left by other bloggers. When I find interesting comments, I click on their names, which takes me straight to their site. I’ll repeat until my head starts spinning or Monica makes me stop so I can wash the dirty dishes.
Feel free to start here if you’d like, or go back through my prior posts. You’ll find hundreds of wonderful bloggers that are ready to have a “comment conversation” with you.
Pro-Tip: In my experience, Facebook blogger groups are a horrible place to meet future engaged followers. Most are only interested in your participation on their blog and will grudgingly visit yours when forced. However, I recently wrote a post highlighting a few that are remarkable exceptions.
Pro-Tip #2: Every Monday at 12PM Eastern Standard Time, WordPress hosts a Community Pool where you can leave a link and/or solicit feedback on a recent post. You’re much more likely to get a great response rate if you can leave your link early AND take the time to comment on several other blogs that interest you. (Usually several hundred to choose from each week.)
What is a meaningful comment?
Something specific that not only demonstrates that I really did read the post, but that I also appreciated it. I try to write 3 sentences. Avoid clichés. (“Great post! Thanks for sharing” is the comment version of a booger your potential new blogger friend is embarrassed to point out before awkwardly leaving you to wonder what just happened.)
I only remember 2 “rules” from a writing workshop that didn’t teach me much about writing. The first is that a gun introduced in the first act must be fired before the end of the next act, and “show don’t tell.” This post is already long enough to have multiple “acts,” but I can’t think of a way to bring guns into it so we don’t need to talk about the first rule. The second however, (“show don’t tell”) deserves some elaboration. Rather than tell a blogger that they will enjoy a visit to your blog, a good comment will showcase your talent and pique their interest. And remember, other bloggers that are “link frogging” can see your amazing comment too.
Pro-Tip: I try to leave a thoughtful and engaging comment on featured articles from WordPress Discover. For those of you interested in your Domain Authority, your comment serves as a free premium backlink. I also suspect that my comment on a featured article (which was seen and liked by the editors that choose posts featured in WordPress Discover) prompted them to promote my post.
Pro-Tip #2: I also try to leave a funny comment on theBloggess.com. Not only is this another free premium backlink, JetPack also tells me theBloggess sent an extra 200 visitors my way.
You control the conversation in your comment section
I have a difficult time remembering this, but I still think it’s good advice: The comment section is not about you. Try to respond to their comment rather than answer as an extension to your post. Just like conversations in the real world, the engaged listener who knows when to stop talking about “this one time in band camp…” is the one that gets the invite to the afterparty.
Pro-Tip: Promote other bloggers in your comment section. When a blogger asks about something that was addressed in a post you recently enjoyed, share the link with them. Becoming a Connector is ultra-awesome-Ninja-level mastery in the blogging community.
Pro-Tip #2: Change the discussion settings on your WordPress dashboard. You can elect to manually approve comments before they appear in your comment section. Also, if those awesome comments with profanity get lost in your spam folder even though you don’t want them to, you can increase the “rating” for comments. All these options and more are available from your WordPress Dashboard. (Look for Setting Tab à Discussion)
This should be enough to get you started.
(Even if it’s not, this is my best stuff. Did I leave anything out?)
For those of you that have recently joined the (Almost) Unsalvageables and are back for another helping: YOU ROCK! and I’m really looking forward to getting to know you better.
For those of you that have been following along for a while and haven’t gotten sick of me yet, you totally deserve a Snickers!