Writers@Work: Building Reader Engagement on Your Blog by Nina Badzin
I’m delighted to welcome fellow blogger Nina Badzin to the blog. I met her through the blogging community and was immediately captivated by her enthusiasm and social media savvy. When we spoke (virtually, of course!), I learned that we share a passion for improving our habits. Nina Badzin joins us today to talk about how to build reader engagement on your blog. Welcome, Nina!
Building Reader Engagement on Your Blog by Nina Badzin
The one blogging question I get consistently is this: “How do you get comments on your blog?”
What I think people mean when they ask that question is “How do you get people to read your blog?”
Bloggers love comments first and foremost because it’s a thrill to interact with readers. Furthermore, comments are solid evidence that someone has read your post. Blog stats are less trustworthy since they do a good job telling you how many people clicked on the link, but not how many people read the words on the screen.
Aside from comments there are a few other ways we know someone has read our work:
- We receive social media shares with specific reasons to recommend the post (via Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and so on).
- We receive comments about the post on our Facebook pages and other social media accounts instead of (or in addition to) on our websites.
- We hear from non-virtual friends and family about their thoughts on an article in casual conversation, emails, and texts.
Part of feeling satisfied with the level of reader engagement on your blog is learning to recognize and appreciate these others signs of a readership. That said, we bloggers still love classic blog comments, which is why I have some thoughts to share on how to get more of them.
I don’t believe in formal rules for blogging or for any of the social media venues. This may sound like heresy coming from someone with an entire section of her blog dedicated to Twitter etiquette, but trust me, I know that my Twitter “rules” are merely suggestions. The etiquette I stick to (and advocate) for Twitter is the same concept I follow on my blog. I operate under a not-very-precise but effective formula that looks something like this:
PEOPLE CAN ONLY TAKE SO MUCH OF ME (+) PEOPLE REALLY WANT SUPPORT OF THEIR OWN WORK = CONSISTENT READERS FOR MY BLOG POSTS
Here it is another way:
TOO MUCH OF ME (-) NOT ENOUGH SUPPORT OF OTHERS = LESS READERS FOR MY BLOG
My formula assumes a truth that bloggers would do well to accept: Most blog readers are fellow bloggers. At the very least I think it’s fair to say that most blog commenters are fellow bloggers. And we bloggers can only read and comment on so much, right? If you post every day or even three times a week, that’s great for your writing habit, your blog stats, and probably for other reasons, too. But if you’re expecting massive amounts of comments on three posts a week, that is probably asking too much of your fellow bloggers. Three to five posts a week also requires many tweets and Facebook updates about you and your blog. It can get tiresome for anyone following you to see so much of YOU all of the time.
Some important questions to ask yourself when you’re thinking about the way readers visit your blog (or not):
- How many blog posts do you read in a week?
- How often do you comment on other blogs?
- How often do you share others’ posts on social media sites?
- How many posts from one blogger are you willing to read and/or share in a week?
I believe the answer to each of the above questions will give you a good idea of how you should approach increasing your reader engagement. If you would not be willing to read five posts in a week from any given blogger, then maybe five posts a week on your blog is too much to ask of your readership as well. We need to have realistic expectations of ourselves and of the internet readers out there.
If you rarely leave comments on blogs, then it should come as no surprise that few bloggers leave comments for you. I also believe the opposite is true, which is good news for bloggers. When we leave comments elsewhere and show a genuine interest in others’ work, then people become interested in what we have to say. “Genuine” is key though. Find bloggers who write in a style you enjoy reading. Find bloggers who explore topics that you’re passionate about, or are at least interested in learning more about.
With the countless blogs out there, you shouldn’t find reading other bloggers’ work a horrendous chore. There’s something for everyone, and hopefully some like-minded folks will find their way to your blog in the process.
Happy reading, commenting, and sharing! And thanks for having me today, Rochelle.
About the author: Nina Badzin is a freelance writer and blogger living in Minneapolis with her husband and four children. Her articles have appeared in Huffington Post, Brain, Child Magazine’s site, The Jewish Daily Forward, and numerous other sites. She co-leads the book review site GreatNewBooks.org and was a cast member of Listen to Your Mother in the Twin Cities. You can find her here and on Twitter and Facebook.
Nina, I love how you broke this down into a formula.
Your suggestions are great, and they DO work. It just takes commitment and some time investment.
Alison, I think you might be the MASTER at building reader engagement. All bloggers could learn a lot from you!
This is so true, and wonderful advice! It took me two years (at a crummy blog platform that made commenting difficult) to catch on to this. When I moved to WordPress and started commenting on others’ blogs, everything changed. I especially think the frequency thing is important. More than once a week is too much for me to keep up with as a reader/commenter; I end up just picking the most relevant post to visit.
Thanks for the comment, Annie! I think for some writers and bloggers there’s some irritation in realizing they have to read other blogs. It’s no different than authors supporting other authors by buying others’ books and mentioning books other than your own on social media. We have to support the industry that we hope stays strong!
Pingback : How to Get People to Read Your Blog Posts | Nina Badzin
Nina, this is great! I totally agree with your “formula”: I have tried to put this “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” blog etiquette mentality into words several times, and you did it perfectly! I once jokingly said that bloggers crave comments like a vampire craves blood, but there is a lot of truth to it. We find validation, support, and gain energy from receiving comments from other bloggers. But if we blog in a self-absorbed vacuum, those bloggers are going to stop coming by. I agree that most (all?) of my comments are from other bloggers. This is such a helpful article- thanks!
Sometimes it’s hard advice to discuss because it sounds unseemly (I’ll scratch your back, etc.). But to pretend that’s not a big part of the blogging world is to live in denial. Right!?
Awesome post. I’ve cut back to posting (mostly) once a week, sometimes less. The people who post 3-5 times a week (or more) begin coming across as *noise* to me, and I’m sorry if that’s your “thing,” but I’m not interested in giveaway posts, foodie posts, or some of the more specialized blogs, like handmade girl-baby headbands. Y’all have fun without me. I do prefer blogs that use systems like CommentLuv, because that makes it easier to find other interesting blogs out there if you like someone’s comment.
I like Comment Luv too for the same reason. Thanks for the reading the post and for the support here!
Such great information for a new blogger like me. Thank you for putting this out there- very helpful!
Oh! I’m so glad to help!
I’ve had this open all day and keep going back to it, finding other things I agree with, nodding. The blogging community means a huge amount to me, as you know, and I agree with everything you say about what it values and what matters for active participation in it. I’m so grateful that, years ago, I found your blog. xox
I feel the same way about finding yours!
I think you are right on, Nina. We bloggers love comments and I might read someone’s blog but won’t write a comment multiple times a week. There is also the intrigue factor and coming back to a blog because they can do something for me – whether it’s writing or health or family…nice work!
The value of the content you produce always has a direct correlation to whether people will want a lot or a little.
Write about things people are interested in and they’ll be willing to spend more time with you.
It is also important to understand what metrics are of value to you. Comments aren’t currency to me so I place less value on them.
You’re absolutely right about good content. I didn’t even focus on that because in my mind that is the given. The writing and the message has to connect with people. And you make a great point about currency. Comments do not matter to everyone. My point is that IF they do, you must leave comments for others unless you’re one of the BIG bloggers out there. Those bloggers are the exception though, not the general reality.
Thanks for your two cents!
I think my naiveté about not needing to read and support other people’s blogs in order to have people read mine lasted about a week. 🙂
Ha! Love that. And you know what . . . it can be easy to forget from time to time as we go along but the reminder comes quickly. At least for me!
This is just so sensible. I think, particularly with blogging, we can get caught up in over-thinking things. Thank you for a great breath of fresh air!
Nina, as always, your advice is genuine and practical. I think finding your niche and and reaching out to like-minded bloggers is the best recipe for “success” if by success you mean genuine engagement.
What I love, Nina, about your tips is they are always so practical, but also human. Your posts are like a blueprint for living in the social world. Period.
What sane and sage advice – thank you Nina!
I am new to blogging and LOVE it when people leave comments, and I definitely have started leaving more comments for others now that I see how encouraging it can be.
(So be encouraged! This was one more comment for you!)