Recently someone asked me, “What keeps you blogging? Especially after the initial novelty of setting up a blog has worn off?” and I was able to respond with one word: conversation.
Speak Of Me? Or Speak Of Thee?
What do I mean by that? For me, and I think this applies to most genealogy bloggers, blogging is not about getting up on a soap box and spouting off about certain aspects of genealogy or my family history. To me that is not just self-centered but it also seems like shouting out into a universe that may or may not be receptive to the message.
Blogging is about the conversation for many of us and for me it is the conversation that keeps me going and buoys my spirits each day.
Components of a Blog As A Conversation
So how can you carry on a conversation with others through your blog? There are three main areas:
- Comments: most blogs have comments enabled and for many this is the main area of conversation between the blogger and the reader. Not only is the comments section good for leaving feedback or your opinion, but it helps to see what others think about a particular post or idea.
- Linkbacks and attribution: even when a conversation is rolling along with great ideas being tossed about, we need recognition and validation. In blogs this is done by linking back to blogs and posts you find helpful and attributing ideas and concepts back to the originator.
- Yielding the floor: this means having the ability to post open-ended questions as well as hosting guest posts from other bloggers in your area of expertise. Not only does it demonstrate that the blog is more about the conversation than you, it allows readers to feel a sense of participation in the conversation.
Ways To Be A Good Conversationalist
There are various ways you can keep the conversation rolling and build a reputation as a blogger of someone who engages their readers instead of merely speaking to them.
- Enable comments. The easiest way to foster conversation is to allow your readers to leave comments. This is not an easy feat for many of us – the Internet can be a wide open frontier with some not-so-nice people. This is why you should always moderate your comments (meaning you review them before letting them appear on your blog) and most blogging platforms allow you to do this. Also, make sure you have a comment moderation policy so commenters are aware of what is and isn’t permitted in the conversation.
- Link back to good content and good bloggers. When discussing a concept in a post, don’t forget to link back to content that can support your argument. Seek out those blogging colleagues who you respect – even if you don’t always agree with them. Not only will you help recognize their contribution (and send traffic their way), but you’ll also build your reputation as a blogger who can see an issue from various angles and perspectives.
- Give proper attribution. If you are participating in a carnival or a meme, don’t just mention the original post and the blogger who created the concept, link back to it and let your readers know how the idea started. Colleagues who create online events often put quite a bit of work into them and even a simple “thank you” and a link back will let them know the value of their contribution to the community.
- Encourage guest posts. Not only do guest posts give you a “break” in not having to come up with a post, but it also shows your readers that you are part of a larger community. Seek out those blogging colleagues that have specific areas of expertise and drop them an email asking if they’d like to guest post on a certain topic. And remember to link back to the guest blogger’s site when their post goes up!
- Respect an exclusive story. Face it, the genealogy world is not often “rocked” with “breaking news.” But if a fellow blogger appears to have an exclusive on a story (and they may have worked hard to get that exclusive), make sure you link back to their original post. This is different than being the first one to post about a press release that was sent to all genealogy bloggers – this does not constitute an “exclusive story.” But an “exclusive” does not mean you can’t post about the story – you can discuss how you feel about the story, what it means to the community etc. Just respect and recognize the blogger who broke the story.
Do you have any tips especially for those new to the world of blogging in terms of holding a conversation with readers?
© 2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee