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Tit for Tat: The Importance of Interaction Within a Blogging Community
Whether you like it or not, the instant you started your blog, you became a member of a writers’ community. Sure, people who don’t write also read blogs, but other bloggers are an important resource to you on your quest for virtual fame. Gone are the days when writers could successfully live hermetic lives, composing content for the masses to read without actively interacting with other writers. It could be argued that those days never existed, but my point here is that no blogger can thrive apart from the blogging community.
In the Beginning
You have to start somewhere. You have great ideas to share with the world. Maybe you’ve composed works of fiction or poetry. Perhaps you’ve written some how-to articles that could help others. No one will discover you if you keep all that creativity and know-how secured on your laptop or on hard copies carefully preserved in a bureau drawer. So you start blogging.
Even with a good grasp of SEO (search engine optimization), you will probably experience less-than-impressive traffic flow when you first launch your blog. A few Facebook friends might click on links that you post there, and you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting your mom or an adoring younger sibling to stop by on occasion. Even if some of those friends and family members share links to your posts, your traffic from these sources will be limited. How can you drive more traffic to your blog?
Tell Me About Your Experience
Do you interact with other bloggers?
One of the best ways to drive traffic to your blog is by getting involved in the blogging community. This means following, reading and commenting on posts by other bloggers. Introduce yourself to other bloggers this way. Remember that all bloggers, like yourself, are creative people who want to share their own work with the world. At this point, driving traffic will not involve overt self-promotion.
Instead, interact by leaving relevant comments on pictures, blogs and other posts throughout the community. Featured blogs may be good places to start, but don’t limit your interactions to these. Many bloggers who already have 1,000 or more followers are past the tit-for-tat community project. While they may be kind people who are willing to interact with others, they might not have room on their dance cards for beginners. Don’t take it personally.
Instead, read these featured blogs for information on how to become successful. Then read comment threads where you’ll find more interesting bloggers. Browse their pages. When you find someone whose work interests you, follow that person.
Another great way to get involved in a blogging community is by joining a group that provides regular prompts or challenges. In addition to challenging and inspiring your blog entries, this will help you meet others. If a group you choose has a community page, drop by to briefly introduce yourself, but don’t leave links for them to follow in order to buy your latest book. If you manage to engage readers, they will find those links later. Do take time to read the responses other bloggers create for challenges and prompts. As other bloggers discover a shared interest, they will likely visit your page to read or comment.
Responding to Others
Observation has led me to believe that some bloggers must keep a detailed spreadsheet of online interactions and use this as a tool to guide their online activity. These folks follow everyone who follows them, respond to comments with comments, and only read bloggers they know will return the favor. Who has time for this?
I follow bloggers who don’t follow me, and I have followers that I don’t follow. The tit-for-tat equation simply doesn’t fit into real life, even online. However, playing nice will get you far. If someone follows your blog, check out theirs and see if you might be interested in following them. When someone comments on one of your entries, especially as you are first beginning, do your best to acknowledge the comment in some way. While a strict “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” policy will become burdensome, playing well with others requires that you engage them on their pages as well as on your own.
Resources for Bloggers
All That Reading
Some of you may be compulsive readers who don’t have any trouble spending time reading the blogs of others. I am not like that, and I assume there are a lot of people like myself who blog. I enjoy reading some things, but I do not enjoy wasting my time reading something I find boring or poorly written. My first job out of college was as a proofreader for a mid-sized publishing company. After years of reading eight to ten hours a day, whatever the company required, I now choose to be more selective, but I still play well with others.
In order to remain engaged within the writing community, I read others’ work, but I don’t always read every word. If flash fiction doesn’t engage me within the first two sentences, I skip to the end to see if there might be some redeeming quality there. I use this technique in light critique forums also. Because I am a slow reader, I often find it difficult to read every story posted in forums where I am active. I only read in their entirety the pieces that engage me. I read a few sentences of the other works. Usually, this will give me something on which to comment in the forum. Often there is a specific reason that I find it difficult to read an entire piece. If the work begins slowly or in passive voice, I’ll make a comment to that effect. If the topic is interesting but the piece includes distracting grammatical errors, I’ll compliment the author on topic choice and recommend a careful proofread.
These principles also apply to the way in which I choose what fellow bloggers to follow. If another blogger follows me and I haven’t been engaged by their work, I won’t follow them. I will, however, welcome them and show appreciation for their interest in my work. I do my best to never insult another blogger for any reason, and I also focus on remaining engaged within the community because one of the worst insults to a blogger is for another blogger to ignore their input.
More About the Process
It takes time to grow a following on any blog. Following the tips here will help you get more hits, but you might not see an enormous change overnight. In fact, you probably won’t. If, however, you consistently create quality content and interact with other bloggers, engagement on your blog will increase. Keep posting links to your creative work on Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media sites, and be sure to maintain the quality of your blog entries. No matter how well you play with others, it’s difficult to engage them on your blog if you aren’t producing quality material.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Blogger
Of course, you can follow me here on HubPages, which I know a few of you have already done, but the majority of my creative work can be found here. If you want to read flash fiction, the occasional short essay and a bit of poetry from yours truly, pop by sometime. Comments and critiques are always welcome. If you have a blog, I’ll be happy to visit you as well. My dance card is getting pretty full these days, so don’t be offended if I don’t follow you, but there’s a good chance that I will.
© 2014 Marie Gail Stratford