Do you have a way for your blog readers to contact you?
I’ve just spent a frustrating 15 minutes looking for a way to contact a write on CNET’s Alpha Blog and am left quite frustrated by the distance that they seem to have put between their bloggers and readers.
Perhaps there is a way to contact their authors that I’m yet to find (it’s probably staring me in the face) but it’s actually an example of a problem that is increasingly common in the blogosphere – inaccessible bloggers.
Why would you want to be contacted by readers? Isn’t having comments enough?
I find that having a way to be contacted is beneficial on a number of fronts.
- Firstly it gives your readers a way to privately contact you – having comments is a very public way of communicating with a blogger and there are some things that are just not appropriate for public comment. Having an email address or contact form allows you to keep unnecessary communications out of comments.
- It gives readers a sense of power – having a direct line to a blogger might not seem like a lot but I’ve found it does mean quite a lot to some readers. For them to be able to quickly and easily let you know their thoughts, pitch you an idea, vent a little or just say hi is an empowering and personal thing that many readers enjoy. It helps create a sense of ownership and interactivity.
- It’s about accountability - giving readers a way to get in touch shows that you’re willing to be held accountable for your blog and that you’re not hiding from criticism. The most common type of blog that doesn’t have contact details is the spam blog who hides the identity of the blogger for obvious reasons. While I’m not accusing bloggers without contact details of being spam bloggers it does send a message to readers if you’re inaccessible.
- It identifies problems – while I don’t enjoy getting emails telling me what’s wrong with my blog it’s important to know it. Whether it is when features are not working, I have server issues that mean loading is slow, an image isn’t loading or when I have a spelling mistake (often) – it’s the emails from readers that help me improve my blog.
- It opens opportunities – everyday my inbox has opportunities in it from my contact form here at ProBlogger. It’s like a treasure trove some days with questions that lead to post, potential partnerships, pitches for stories, anonymous scoops etc. While it does take a little time to filter them all it’s well worth the effort.
I do understand why some bloggers feel the need to put some distance between themselves and readers (issues of privacy, the distraction of loads of emails from readers etc) but I think that giving readers an avenue to give you feedback that goes beyond public comments is essential for a blog and that there are ways to implement it that mean privacy can be ensured and that the blogger is not swamped.
If you’re worried about your email getting out into the public domain then I’d recommend using a contact form for users to contact you with (like the one I have here). There are plenty of scripts around the web that will help you make one and if you’re a WordPress user you can even get a plugin to do it for you.
If you’re worried about being swamped by emails then you might want to put a disclaimer on the contact for along the lines of ‘I read all email but due to numbers can’t respond individually to everything’. At least this way you give your readers a chance to privately contact you. I know that the bloggers behind highly trafficked blogs would worry about the numbers of emails that they’d get but as someone who has a number of blogs with decent traffic I can say that it’s not really out of control.
Also – before people say that it’s just an example of how big media companies blog and that all are like this – take a look at the way Yahoo’s tech blogs are set up. Each one has a bio page with information about the blogger but also a contact form. In fact I’ve contacted each of their bloggers over the past few months and have enjoyed the interactions I’ve had with their bloggers who have been the recipients of the news that I’d wanted to send to CNET’s bloggers (Yahoo’s gain and CNET’s loss in my opinion).
This post is not one designed to criticize CNET or their bloggers – but instead is written in the hope that bloggers will consider making themselves accessible to their readers. After-all – that’s one of the things that blogging was built on wasn’t it?