Be an Accessible Blogger: Community is Content Strategy!

[This is part of the Developing Great Blog Content Series. Check out the other posts!]

One of the neatest things about a blogger that seriously gets it is his blog is not completely his own – their community has a significant impact on the continued success and growth of their blog and their engagement both directly on the blog (via comments) and interactions out on Facebook and Twitter are just as equally important.

This blog wouldn’t be anything without the community and that’s why I’m so seriously thankful for all of you! It’s one of the reasons why I love doing giveaways and fun stuff like that – I can’t thank you guys enough!

The point here is that part of your content strategy, so to speak, is outside of your direct control – there’s nothing forcing your community to engage with you and create that community of content that keeps your blog of high value.

But that’s not to say that you can’t shepherd and guide your community to engage more deeply – so here are some suggestions about making sure that your community can feel like you’re accessible and present:

  1. Allow Comments – There is definitely more than a few bloggers who think it’s best not to have comments but I feel that blogs, especially ones that are starting to get off the ground, need to enable comments so that the blogger can engage their commenters directly.
  2. Respond to Comments – One of my top strategies for the first year of my blog is to respond to nearly 100% of all comments if I can. It’s a hard task but I believe it pays off. You see, it’s not enough to just enable comments; you have to respond to them! It’s sad to see some blogs that don’t have any author replies at all. At some point some of those readers might not return.
  3. Comment Workflow – This might be a new one for many but if you have a good comment workflow then you can directly engage new visitors as they make their first jump into the comment stream! Check this strategy out here.
  4. Engage Them on Their Properties - This seems obvious again but some people spend too much time on their own properties to care much about their own reader’s content! What if you were to spend some time commenting on other people’s blogs? How would that make them feel? You don’t have to comment on every single person’s blog every single day but make it a point to engage them where they are. This includes Facebook and Twitter. I’ve been trying to do this more and more and even writing this is a good reminder for myself!
  5. About Page – I think you should make it pretty obvious on your About Page that you are accessible. If you look at mine at the very bottom you’ll see that I’ve offered a few ways in which people can get in contact with me.
  6. Sidebar, Header – I think that every blogger should have easily understandable links to their other properties and ways to connect and communicate with them. There are a few icons on the top of my header that give people direct access to my Twitter and Facebook. It’s a no-brainer but I see enough blogs without them to know it’s obviously something people forget to do!
  7. Email – Some people think offering your email directly to people is unwise or dangerous.  I think you could argue the case both ways fairly equally but I’ve decided to make myself available via email directly. I try to respond to most of the emails and try to be fair when ignoring obvious emails that are nothing but self-serving, but I make it a priority to help bloggers up their game. I know how it feels to have my emails answered directly and I want to return that favor if I can!
  8. Snail Mail – Now this is something that I don’t do but it’s something that some bloggers like to do: Offer their address (or a PO Box) for people to send stuff. I’ll let you marinate on that if you’ve never thought about it!
  9. Phone Number – This goes with #7 and you can do this if you want. I’ve had too many people abuse this when I first offered my phone number publicly and so I’ve pulled it.
  10. Policies – This might seem weird but I feel that part of your responsibility with good community interaction is to provide good policies that are easily understandable. For example, providing expectations for your comment policy and even your disclosure policy can be a place to ease conversation and engagement. By establishing these baselines of communication you do everyone a favor!

Those are the first 10 that came to my head. Am I missing something? Feel free to add to it via the comments!

I hope this community never feels that I’m so “out there” (or “up there”) that I’m inaccessible. I’m just another blogger like you and all I have is a bit more years under my belt!

[This is part of the Developing Great Blog Content Series. Check out the other posts!]

  • Joe Chavez

    I will definitely vouch and confirm that you do all these.

    I was amazed a few weeks ago at the amount of email interaction we had about a SQL problem I was having and how you took time out to offer some pointers to me.

    That was huge. I can’t imagine how you manage to stay on top of everything so I felt really honored at how much time you spent with me on my issue.

    Thanks again, brother!

    • http://www.bensayin.com Ben

      Joe, one thing I’ve learned in troubleshooting with John and the 8bit guys, they’ve definitely set the bar high.

      This is one thing I appreciate so much about them.

      • http://john.do John Saddington

        we like high bars… like gymnastics… but not… or something… #random

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      ah, sure thing bro!

  • http://melindatodd.com Mel @ Trailing After God

    AMEN! I hadn’t thought about giving a PO Box. I’m marinading on that thought. I try to comment on every comment that is left, it’s so important to me! I did just create a comment policy after a pedophile group decided to target my site. I need to get the disclosure done. Thanks for the great content and the fact that you make your readers feel like we matter! :)

    Blessings,
    Mel
    Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      awesome! considering your audience it might be amazing if you did. hmm.

  • Brandon

    Great list! I don’t provide my personal email, address, or phone because I think it would get abused. The people who are on my site now would be fine with it, but I am more afraid of random people coming to steal that info.

    As far as comments, I love getting tons of comments and responding to them. One thing I am trying to do is to have a community discussion. Rarely will others respond to each other. It is usually me doing the responding.

    How do you get your comments to move into a community discussion?

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      it really has to happen organically. there’s nothign forcing each of you to interact with each other… some just do it because they like doing it!

      • Brandon

        Gotcha! I guess it takes time…

        • http://lifexpresseddigitally.me/blog Brian Alexander

          It does. I think it’s easier to respond to each other in the comments when there are a lot of comments being posted. For me though, right now that isn’t happening. I don’t mind it though. I am just thankful for the comments that I am getting. As few as they might be. I respond to all of them.

          • http://john.do John Saddington

            that’s where i started… for 5 or 6 years.

        • http://john.do John Saddington
  • http://www.bensayin.com Ben

    Nothing to add here, just an emphasis on comments. Replying to ones on your site and commenting (engaging on others) was the big ones for me, I think everybody actually.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      thanks ben!

  • http://jamesbrooks.me.uk James Brooks

    Awesome stuff. I agree that it is SO important to be accessible. You want to become an authority in your niche and as you are doing that people will look up to you and feel blessed that you have taken the time to speak to them. It’s sad when you see bloggers who completely shut themselves away and are totally uncontactable!

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      you are a social media guru. ;)

  • http://www.frugalouis.com Susan

    Thanks for the tips! I’m really wanting to increase the community feel of my blog, and I think one good way to do that would be for the commenter to be automatically notified via email when I (or someone else) replies to his/her comment. As of right now, I reply to most comments, but people don’t ever really know unless they go back and look at the post…a big drawback! Any tips on how to incorporate this in WP? Thanks!

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      susan,

      i have a comment workflow here:

      http://john.do/comment-workflow

      have you seen that?

      • http://www.frugalouis.com Susan

        I have seen it, and plan to come back to it when I have time (when will that be?! but I want to return to it!). I don’t think it directly addresses what I’m aiming for, however.

  • http://laceyraewilcox@gmail.com Lacey Wilcox

    This is nothing new from what you said, I would just add emphasis upon how great it can be to establish community if you ask for feedback/suggestions/etc and then actually ACT upon them. It’s a clear message that you’re there, listening, and wanting to engage with your audience.
    Granted, there are going to be suggestions your audience make that you can’t act upon–but just being willing to dialogue with them through that still shows you’re there and you hear them.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      haha! yes, there are tons of great options… but it’s our choice to decide on the best things to execute on…!

  • http://lifexpresseddigitally.me/blog Brian Alexander

    As far as #9 goes. I wouldn’t personally list my phone number. John, i’ve got yours saved on my phone. It’s listed on your resume site. http://john.ly. Is there a reason why you have it there and not on this site?

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      oh snap. … whoops. that’s not supposed to be there.

      i’m taking that down!

  • http://thewebatom.net Shane Gowland

    At the risk of sounding like a spammer, I need to say that I really enjoy all your “good blogging practices” posts. Keep up the great work!

    *Just as an aside, I couldn’t get the “comment” button work in Chrome 13-dev build.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      huh. sad. i think you are a spammer.

  • http://www.queenofthecastlerecipes.com lynn

    Nice ideas. I agree, some of them seem like no brainers but are easy to forget to do. I think the whole fun of blogging is interacting with commenters, and commenting on their blogs. If you’re not going to interact, then why blog?

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      there are some big bloggers who do not have comments enabled though.

  • http://micksgrill.wordpress.com Mike Elliott

    I’m a big one for replying to the comments. It shows people I’m interested in what they’re saying. I’ll also visit their website if they’ve left a link and thank them personally for visiting my blog.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      love this! for sure!

  • http://livinginthereign.wordpress.com Mac Dumcum

    Dude,

    Your blog is absolutely amazing. The amount of great information you post on the subject of blogging is beyond comprehension. Thank you for all your hard work! Your blog is definitely one I will happily recommend to others.

    Keep it coming, Brother!

    Mac

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      mac,

      this is the best compliment that I get! thanks for sharing it! that means the world to me!