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Home Bases and Outposts – How I use Social Media in My Blogging

Lately I’ve been pondering the part that social media plays in my blogging business.

This post is an attempt to make some sense of it. I’d value your thoughts in comments to help me take these half thought through ideas to something more concrete.

Those who have been following me for a while know that I not only spend a lot of time on my blogs but also invest significant time on sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn…. (the list could go on).

What’s my strategy? Why invest so much time into sites that I don’t actually own?

To be honest there are days when i wonder if I have a strategy at all. There’s so much I don’t know about social media and how it fits into what I do – some days it just feels messy. However in the midst of it all there are moments of clarity.

Home Bases and Outposts

Home-Base-Outposts
Today I was watching a video of a presentation by Chris Brogan and a short segment of it resonated strongly and put words to the way I use social media. He talked about:

  • Home Bases
  • Outposts
  • Passports

He’s used these concepts numerous times on his blog before (here and here for example) but today it got my attention a little more than previously – particularly the idea of the ‘Home Base’ and that of the ‘Outpost’.

A home base is a place online that you own, that is your online ‘home’. For me I have two home bases – ProBlogger and Digital Photography School. For me my home bases are blogs but for others they will be other types of websites.

Outposts are places that you have an online presence out in other parts of the web that you might not ‘own’. I’d previously being using the word ‘satellites’ to describe this but I think ‘outposts’ works better.

Outposts will mean different things to different people and businesses. Here’s how it looks for me as I think about my home base of ProBlogger.

Problogger-Home-Base-Outposts

As you’ll see, most of my ‘outposts’ are social media sites – however for others an outpost could also include forums, other community sites and even the comments sections of other blogs.

Each of the outposts that you see above are places that I have accounts and am attempting to grow my online presence (some better than others). These ‘outposts’ are sites where I:

  • add content
  • build relationships
  • test ideas
  • grow a profile
  • listen
  • experiment
  • make connections
  • try to be useful
  • play

Out of this combination of activities many things come. Relationships, ideas, traffic, resources, partnerships, community and much more emerge from the outposts – much of it making my home base stronger.

Two Way Streams and Outposts Taking on a Life of Their Own

The outposts do drive some traffic back to the home base, but many of the benefits are less tangible and have more to do with building the brand and influences of my blogs.

Also worth noting is that the outposts don’t just feed the homebase (it isn’t just a one way thing)- but the homebase feeds the outposts and sometimes the outpost seems to take on a life of its own and becomes the real place of action where without really trying a community emerges.

For example this week I discovered that a small (but growing) group of ProBlogger readers had been interacting with my content and one another on my Facebook Profile – despite the fact that I’d not spent more than 20 minutes on Facebook in the previous three months. Just the fact that I link to Facebook and pull in my Twitter activity means that the ‘community’ there has sprung up (now that I’m aware of what’s going on I can participate and feed the community.

This Post is Half Finished

I laugh when people occasionally refer to me as a social media expert.

You see while I’ve managed to grow a reasonable social media presence over the last few years there is still much to learn. As a result I’d love to here your thoughts on what I’ve written and how you see and use social media in your blogging and business. Your comments will take this post a step closer to completion – looking forward to how it ends!

How To Get Free Books To Give Away On Your Blog

One of the most successful ways to bring in new subscribers to your blog is to give away a bonus when people sign up.

In this post Brian Armstrong from StartBreakingFree.com shares some tips on getting free books to give away on your blog.

signupbonus.gif

If you’re like most people, you haven’t had time to write a great book to give away as a sign-up bonus. Well, today I’m going to show you two very easy ways to get such a book:

  • Create your own with an e-book template
  • Use someone else’s book that is in the public domain (you’d be amazed how many great books are out there for free!)

Create Your Own eBook In 48 Hours With An E-book Template

About a year ago I stumbled across these excellent e-book templates which were being given away by Eben Pagan (he is a successful internet marketer and deserves all the credit for these, I didn’t create them!)

They have a professional design in nine different colors, come with instructions, and make it super easy to get a book done quickly.

ebook.png

Here are the steps which I’ve personally used to create an eBook in less than 48 hours:

  • Use a “top 10″ formula. Writing a book from scratch sounds hard but anybody can come up with 10 tips in their niche. Even if it ends up being only 20 or 30 pages that’s ok for an eBook.
  • Create a catchy title based on the top 10 theme, such as “10 Ways To Raise Your Grades By Studying Smarter, Not Harder” or “10 Secrets To Making Money Online”
  • Come up with the 10 tips by brainstorming and looking at the best posts on your blog.
  • Put the tips in a logical order and include several sub-points under each one.
  • Now plug your tips and sub-points into the template and write a paragraph or two under each one (copy and paste text from blog posts you’ve already written when appropriate).
  • Summarize your main points in an introduction and conclusion and you’ve got a book!
  • Use Adobe Reader to convert it to a PDF for distrbution.

bookcover.png

You should also familiarize yourself with Microsoft Word’s “styles” to keep your formatting consistent. If you want to change how a subheading looks, for example, you shouldn’t change it manually. Instead, you should edit the “subheading style” and it will apply your changes to all the subheadings. This will save you a lot of time down the road.

Finally, upload your PDF to your server and find a way to automatically send your eBook to new subscribers. In Feedburner you can include this link in the confirmation email (login to Feedburner and go to Publicize -> Email Subscriptions -> Communication Preferences). Similar options exist for Aweber and other newsletter providers. Some people also include the link in the bottom of every RSS post.

Second Option: Get Free Books To Give Away!

The second, and perhaps easier, method is to use a book that someone else has already written.

There are an amazing number of books in the public domain (and also under the creative commons license, more on this later) which you can give away on your site. For example, in my niche of entrepreneurship, I paid good money for three books years ago that I heard were excellent: Think and Grow Rich, The Richest Man In Babylon, and The Way To Wealth.

Imagine how surprised I was to discover that all three of these books were now available online for free! I found PDF copies using the method I describe below and started giving them away on my website. My subscribers started going up immediately!

So how do you find these books? Well, according to Wikipedia

In the United States, all books and other works published before 1923 have expired copyrights and are in the public domain. In addition, works published before 1964 that did not have their copyrights renewed 28 years after first publication year also are in the public domain…

Many books which are not in the public domain can still be found under the creative commons license. The Creative Commons license is somewhere in between a full copyright and a public domain work. Many times, the work can still be given away for free, but you are not allowed to sell it and you must pay attribution to the original author. This still works fine for our sign-up bonus however.

c-cc-pd.png

I’ve had the most success finding public domain and creative commons works at a site called Scribd.com.

They have tons of PDF’s of various works. And it’s easy to see the the copyright at the bottom of each page. Many of them use the creative commons terms like “attribution” (meaning you must keep the original author’s name in there) or “non-commercial” (meaning you can’t sell it). It’s probably a good idea to familiarize yourself with these terms by visiting the creative commons definitions page.

example.gif

Once you’d found a PDF you like, you can download it directly from Scribd.com and use it in the same way described above.

Conclusion

Now you have no excuse NOT to give away a great sign-up bonus for your new subscribers! Set aside some time this week to get this together, and start watching your subscriber numbers climb!

To get more tips like these, check out Brian Armstrong’s blog at StartBreakingFree.com. It’s full of great advice on how to quit your 9-to-5, start your own business, and achieve financial freedom. He’ll even send you 3 of the top 10 books ever written on building wealth for FREE when you subscribe, instantly delivered to your inbox!

How to Get Featured on the New York Times, CNN, CNET and Newsweek

In this post Kim Roach from BuzzBlogger shares three techniques for getting featured on mainstream media news sites.

Did you know that you can get your site featured on major news sites like CNN, CNET, Newsweek, USA Today, and even the Wall Street Journal. It’s one of the best kept secrets in the blogosphere and I’m going to reveal it in this article.

There are actually three ways you can get your blog articles published on major news sites.

1. BlogBurst

BlogBurstThe first technique uses a site called BlogBust. BlogBurst is a blog syndication network that places the best blogs on mainstream media sites like Reuters, USA Today, Fox News, and the Houston Chronicle.

Join the BlogBurst network and start getting picked up by some of the world’s most popular media sites. Keep in mind that they only accept full text feeds. No partial RSS feeds are allowed.

Once your blog has been accepted, you’ll gain increased visibility, branding, and traffic. This is an easy and automated way to increase your exposure. Plus, you’ll be associated with some of the best websites online and you’ll be able to tell your readers that you’ve been published on USA Today, Fox News, and other high-profile websites. Just think how much more credibility this will give you.

2. Blogrunner

BlogRunnerMy second strategy allows you to get links from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. You do so with a service known as Blogrunner.

If you go to the New York Times website, you’ll see the Blogrunner widget integrated into almost every page. This is a news aggregator that collects related headlines from news sources and blogs. Each of the news stories in the Blogrunner widget is ranked by its popularity.

Sources are selected based on an automated process so you won’t be able to submit your blog directly. However, they currently monitor thousands of blogs and media sources, so it’s likely that your blog is already indexed.

Now you simply need to write on topics related to those published in the New York Times and get some extra buzz to get linked.

3. Sphere

SphereThere is a third and final way to get your blog featured in major news sites like CNN, The Wall Street Journal, and Newsweek.

All you have to do is link to a story on one of these major news sites and they will link back to you at the end of the article.

This is all automated by a site called Sphere.com, which matches mainstream news items with related articles in the blogosphere. For example, you can go to the bottom of any CNN story and see a drop-down box that says: “From the Blogs”. This box includes stories that have linked to this article. You can get hundreds of extra visitors by positioning yourself to show up here. All you have to do is link to a CNN story and you’ll get your own spot of fame.

The mainstream media is really starting to embrace the blogosphere and you can join in on the fun with these simple strategies.

Sphere is also being used by TechCrunch, Time, Reuters, CBS, AOL, the Washington Post, WordPress, GigaOm, Newsweek, and ZDNet, allowing you to get your blog featured on any of these prestigious sites. In fact, there are over 100,000 web sites using Sphere, providing you with almost unlimited link opportunities…

The key to getting picked up is to write content that adds to the conversation on partner sites. Your articles need to be highly relevant and add value to the article your linking to.

All you have to do is make a post to your blog, include a link to one of the stories on a site that uses the Sphere plug in, get a link inside the sphere widget, and watch the traffic roll in.

Kim Roach is the hip marketing gal at BuzzBlogger.com. Grab Front Page Rankings in 24 hours with her Free Google Domination Videos.

Timothy Ferriss vs Gary Vaynerchuk – Two Approaches to Successful Blogging

One of the things I love about the blogging community is how there’s such a diversity of approaches being tried by successful bloggers in their pursuits.

Take for instance two well known bloggers – Timothy Ferriss and Gary Vaynerchuk. Both take different approaches but both have been very successful in building strong online presence.

Timothy is famous for his book The 4-Hour Workweek a book looking at the simplification of life, outsourcing and focusing upon the important tasks at hand. Tim certainly works hard for his money but his approach is certainly a little different to Gary’s.

For example Tim has written here at ProBlogger about how he finds that posting every 4-6 days on his blog is enough (and actually beneficial).

On the other hand Gary Vaynerchuck’s inspirational keynote at Blog World Expo showed a different approach with a guy working massive hours, arguing that you should respond to every single email you get and that you need to be producing content every day.

Both of these guys have built successful businesses and great online presences through their blogging and social media (and I’m sure that there are some similarities between them also ) but both have done it differently.

To me this is encouraging. There are not ‘formulas’ and there is room for a diversity of approaches!

Which bloggers approach do you resonate with most – Gary or Tim?

How to Choose Categories for Your Blog

“How do I choose categories for my blog?” This is a question I’m asked a lot so when Ali Hale from Alpha Student asked if he could write a post on the topic of choosing categories I was all ears!

Before you start reading this, take a quick look at something very important: your own blog. What do you see when you glance at the Categories list? If you’re anything like most bloggers, it will include categories which:

  • You used a couple of years ago but don’t use any more
  • Have only one or two posts in
  • Have names that aren’t self-explanatory
  • Seemed like a good idea at the time, when you added them for one specific post

There’s plenty of blogging advice about how to craft posts, how to gain readers, and how to start your first blog – but surprisingly little has been written about how to choose your categories. The only advice I could find was from Lorelle on WordPress:

Most people add categories on the fly or list everything they want to talk about in their categories and then work to fill them up as they go. I made a plan for this blog’s articles and I wanted to keep the focus narrow and the structure clean. I believe working from a very specific plan helps keep a blog on track and more successful. Plans can change over time, but start your journey with a good map.

I’ve just launched a new blog (Alpha Student), which has meant a lot of planning, brainstorming and head-scratching. One of the biggest puzzles has been how to choose suitable categories – which has led me to think hard about how I use categories as a reader, and how categories are typically used in the blogosphere.

I thought a good place to start was my first blog, The Office Diet, where I followed a similar process to most bloggers:

  • I entered the categories that I thought I might write on when I launched the blog without putting much thought into it.
  • I added more categories as I went along (for series, or any post which didn’t fit an existing category).

In doing so, I unwittingly made a number of common mistakes. I’m going to go through four big ones – and bring in some examples from other blogs where I think the categories list could have been more effectively planned.

And once I’ve shown you some of the mistakes, I’ll explain how you can choose your categories effectively in order to avoid making them.

Mistake 1: Failing to Plan

The mistake which most bloggers make is failing to plan at all – and, if they do plan, failing to adjust that plan to fit reality!

With The Office Diet, I knew I wanted to create a few downloadable resources for readers in the first month (January) – such as a food diary template. So I had a category called “Resources” which was supposed to hold this sort of posts. In practice, though, I’ve only written a handful of these.

I suspect some other bloggers have met similar problems, when they’ve either not planned ahead (ask yourself “Will I use this category frequently?” if you add one for a specific post) or where their plans haven’t quite matched up with what really happens.

For example, on The Simple Dollar, Trent has the categories “Décor” and “S&P 500” which only have one post in each. “Sunday Conversation” only has three posts. Although this is conjecture, I think Trent probably added those categories on a day when he wrote on those specific topics – and didn’t plan ahead for whether he’d use them again.

Mistake 2: Using Categories for Series

Lots of big blogs, including ProBlogger, Daily Blog Tips and many more use categories for series. I did the same on The Office Diet, when I wrote the “Basics”, “Healthy Mind” and “Excuse-Busting” series. I now think that this was a mistake.

Readers who come to a blog for the first time are likely to use your categories to navigate to posts that they’re interested in. Category names often aren’t self-explanatory, and if the series ran a year ago, all the posts in that category will be old. If you run a lot of series, your category list will quickly become cluttered up. And navigating through a series by clicking on a category often means scrolling through multiple pages of posts – often a pain for readers.

I would suggest that, for the majority of blogs, posts in a series should be categorised “normally” just like any other posts. Each post in the series should have a link at the top and bottom going to an index post (or even a page) which holds links to the whole series. You might also want to include a link to the previous and next posts in the series from each.

For a shortish series (under 10 posts), you could even put the index at the top of every post – the Men with Pens do this to great effect on their Guest Posting series (as an aside, this is a great read for any blogger thinking about writing guest posts). Or put it at the bottom of every post, like Sonia on Remarkable Communication is doing with her Objection Blaster Series.

Mistake 3: Categories at Different Granularities

A very common problem with categories is not keeping your categories at the same level of granularity. By that, I mean that some of your categories are probably very broad and others are very narrow. This is often caused by failing to plan: it’s a good idea to sit down for an hour or two and decide roughly how many categories you want, and how broad or detailed that means they’ll be.

Blogs which are narrowly focused on a niche will probably have narrow, specific topics as readers are likely to be looking for expert advice in particular areas. Blogs with a very wide remit need broad categories to help readers weed out the areas that aren’t interesting to them.

On Problogger, I would suggest that the categories list has some items which cover too narrow an area. For example, “Yahoo Publishing Network” is very specific when compared with categories like “Advertising” and “Blog Networks”.

Mistake 4: Inconsistent Category Naming

I’d bet good money that, at some point, you’ve come across a categories list on a blog and wondered what the heck some of the categories meant. Perhaps most were self explanatory, like “Reader Questions” or “Content Writing” but then you came across “Special”. Special what? Try to make sure your category names can be understood without the reader having to click on them to figure out what they might mean.

Or maybe you see a blog which has a nice neat list of one-word categories, then one which is five words long so gets a disproportionate amount of space compared to its importance. (Usually, the shorter the name of a category, the broader its remit and the larger the number of posts it contains.)

This is a tiny point – but be consistent with capitalisation. One of my favourite blogs, The Change Blog, capitalises all the categories except two (“blog carnival” and “personal growth”) – to me, this looks a little odd.

Another problem is when some of the categories have quite formal names (“Finances, Frugality, Investment”) and others are slangy or chatty (“Quick tips”, “Easy wins”). The way in which you name your categories is important in setting the tone for your whole blog. On most blog templates, the categories list displays on the front page: that means you need to put at least as much thought into the wording of your categories as you do into the wording of your headlines.

Doing It Right

Now that I’ve been through the common mistakes people make with categories, you might be looking at your own blog in dismay – or rethinking your plans for the one you’re about to launch.

I mentioned earlier that I’ve just launched a new blog which took a considerable amount of planning. You can see the categories page at www.alphastudent.com/categories (I chose not to list the categories on the front page).

Rule 1: As Few Categories As Possible

Due to my blog design, I needed to keep the number of categories down to make sure they fitted comfortably in the list. I also wanted room to show the latest post from each category.

Most bloggers would benefit from using as few categories as possible. This avoids blog clutter in your sidebar, and avoids presenting readers with a forbidding list of dozens of different topics.

Alpha Student has a wide remit – “Helping you make the most of your time at university” – and covers everything from advice on exam technique to lists of flash games to play when you need a break. I decided on the categories:

Academic
Career
Financial
Personal
Practical
Social

When you’re planning your blog, think about how many categories you really need … can two of your topics be conflated into one?

If you’ve got an existing blog, take a look at your categories list and note any which are superfluous.

Rule 2: Don’t Be too Specific

Try not to be too specific, at least to start with. I deliberately kept my topics very broad. I could have broken down “Academic” into “Essays”, “Exams”, “Lectures”, “Seminars” and so on. When your blog is new, having dozens of categories means that lots of them will only contain one or two posts for a while.

Even if your blog’s been going for a while, you’ll find that some categories are too narrow – anything which contains under 5% of the total posts on your blog can probably be ditched.

Rule 3: Think Ahead

I know that with Alpha Student, I’ll want to run some series. For example, I’m going to do a series on essay writing with posts on topics like “Planning your essay”, “The first line of your essay”, and so on. But I don’t want to introduce a category just for a short series.

So I’m planning to categorize all those posts under “Academic”, which means readers browsing the academic section can find them easily. (Bear in mind that the majority of your readers won’t sit down and follow a whole series from beginning to end – they might only read one post from the middle.)

I’ll also have a single post announcing the series which will contain a list of the posts in the series, linking to each one. The individual posts in the series will link back to this index post.

How do you (or how will you) manage series on your blog?

What about competitions, giveaways and other one-offs? Think about how you can make these easy for readers to follow without using a category.

Over to You

As I said at the start of this article, little has been written about choosing categories for your blog. I’d love us to start remedying that here!

What are your thoughts on this topic – do you have a particular plan behind the categories on your blog? Do you think that categories aren’t really that important? Is there anything you wish you’d done differently with the way you’ve used categories?

Ali has just launched Alpha Student, a blog aimed at helping students make the most of their time at university.

1 Man Blog Sells for $15 Million Dollars

I’ve had four people email me this news in the last 10 minutes. PaidContent is reporting that a WP blog by the name of Bankaholic has just been acquired by BankRate For Up To $15 Million.

Bankaholic has a staff of 1 (Johns Wu) who will remain on at the blog.

If this price is true it’s a fairly decent sale for Mr Wu (understatement of the year) – the blog has an Alexa ranking of 42,168 and averages less than 20 comments per post. The blog does seem to rank very well for a lot of bank terms and I’m sure drives targeted traffic and would convert well with affiliate products – but this is still a fairly inspiring sale!

Here’s the Google Trends chart of the blog showing a steady growth over the last year.

Hat tip to Patrick who was first to let me know of this.

updated for accuracy

Google BlogSearch Adds Meme Tracking

Today Google released an update to their BlogSearch service – and it isn’t just cosmetic.

Google Blog Search

The update is all about tracking what’s hot around the blogosphere and presenting stories ranked in 11 different categories according to how many other blogs are linking to those stories. You can then drill down and see the blogs that link to the story and a chart of how many did over time.

Blogsearch-Drill-Down

It isn’t a new concept – TechMeme, Technorati, Blogs.com and others have been doing it for years – however what strikes me here is just how comprehensive Google’s results are. While TechMeme only indexes a limited number of blogs Google’s BlogSearch has been indexing millions (?) of blogs for some time now and will be able to provide a different perspective to what is happening in the wider blogosphere (instead of just the cool gang).

It’ll be interesting to see how their results compare over the longer term and how they’ll deal with spammers and those trying to manipulate the service – but at a first impression I like what I see. I just wish there was a way to subscribe to the top stories in each category (I’m surprised that there is not… or am I missing it?).

Further Reading

10 Prolific Bloggers Share Tips on Generating Conversation on Blogs

Yesterday I gave 13 tips for having great conversations on a blog. As a followup to that I shot an email to a number of bloggers that have a habit of having active comment sections to ask them how they make their blogs more conversational.

As expected – their responses were rich and full of goodness! Here are their responses.

Leo Babauta

Leo.jpg

“Conversation on Zen Habits is as important or more important than the posts themselves. The readers on my blog have really formed a positive community and I am deeply grateful for such a great readership.

A few things I’ve done to foster conversation at Zen Habits:

1. Write posts that go beyond the usual and provoke a little thought and some sort of response from readers. If your post doesn’t generate some kind of emotion in your readers — whether that’s inspiration, motivation, anger, laughter, whatever — you need to look at ways of being a bit bolder while still being true to yourself and your readers.

2. Ask for thoughts at the end of the post. Ask them to post their ideas, thoughts, experiences in the comments.

3. Always, always be grateful for comments, and don’t attack commenters. This is huge for me. Even if a commenter is negative or even a bit rude, I thank the commenter. I try to find the nugget of truth or wisdom in the comment and ignore the rudeness. I never reply in anger. I try to be grateful for the feedback, because it helps me to get better. And I try to learn from my readers instead of thinking I have all the answers.

4. Sometimes it’s better to step back and let readers converse. Conversations don’t always have to be between the reader and the blogger. Conversations between readers can be lively and enlightening. Don’t feel you have to respond to every comment — let others handle things sometimes, and only step in when you have something valuable to contribute that others couldn’t contribute themselves.”

Gala Darling

Gala.jpg “People always say that you need to start conversations on your blog in order to foster community, but one of the main problems is that some people try to do it just because they think they should — out of some sense of “blogger obligation” (blogligation?!), rather than an authentic desire.

The most important thing in blogging, I think, is to be genuine. This applies to getting people to comment, too. If you don’t actually care about what your readers have to say on a given topic, that comes through pretty clearly, & you’re not going to get the response you’re hoping for. People can smell your lack of sincerity, & they won’t bother!

All that aside, I find that the best tactics for stimulating conversation are to…
a) talk about something which everyone has an opinion on
b) ask for people’s real life experiences
c) share something personal & invite others to do the same
d) request advice or help — people love to help others!

Of course, the more positive energy you put into your writing, the more likely it is that people will bounce that back at you… So if you make an effort to write with a sense of fun & delight, your readers will respond positively in their own charming, utterly individual way!”

Duncan Riley

Duncan.jpg “By making commenting as easy as possible, and by facilitating conversations where people want to have them. We use the commenting 2.0 service Disqus (although there are a number of players you can use), and the first advantage is that Disqus users can immediately leave a comment without having to enter their personal details, encouraging more spontaneous commenting. Further to that, they can track comments they’ve left on Disqus and easily comment again on the same post in response to other comments left where as in the past, a comment may have been a one off without followup. We’ve found that using a service such as Disqus delivers more comments, and increases the levels of engagement and repeat traffic, and it’s why I’ve been more than happy to evangelize the commenting 2.0 space.

On the broader conversation front, we also incorporate comments from FriendFeed, both in importing FriendFeed comments in, and allowing people to make comments using their FriendFeed account on the site itself. We often see far more discussion on FriendFeed than directly through comments on the site. People are going to have those conversations anyway, so if you can incorporate FriendFeed comments on your site and give people a choice to use their FriendFeed account as well, its a win/win: a win for your site, and a win for your readers.”

Liz Strauss

Liz.jpg “I do a few things to keep the conversation going. I try to write my blog posts complete, but not too thorough so that readers can add something to what I’ve started. I also try to learn rather than teach — that’s a hard one. When I end a blog post with a question, I make sure that it’s one that can be answered and that I’d be able to answer it myself. In the comment box, I look at who’s talking and answer to that individual. I’ll often continue the dialogue by ending my comment with another question. Sometimes it makes sense to stay back and let readers talk with each other. They discover and uncover even more ideas if I’m not in there talking all of the time.

Mostly though, I make sure that everyone knows that their ideas are respected and protected. There’s one rule on my blog, “disagree all you want, but be nice.” Saying “thanks,” doesn’t hurt either. “

Timothy Ferriss

Tim.jpg“-Ask questions at the end of the post — ideally ask for not just facts but opinions. Few people feel qualified to offer facts but everyone has opinions.

-Do not try and be comprehensive on a topic. Offer your strongest position and don’t hedge or steal others’ thunder; let readers add their perspectives.

-Identify and thank commenters on occasion in main blog posts. Make them famous (even for one post) and make it clear that you’re reading the comments, especially to those who have never left one b/c they assume you don’t.”


Jason Falls

Jason.jpg “I foster conversation on my blog by taking a stand on issues. Sure, that can be polarizing, but that’s the point. Nothing gets people either yelling, “Amen,” or, “You S-O-B,” better than drawing a line and saying, you’re either with me or against me. Pick one.

But I would caution you to make sure you’re ready for it. Thick skin, a healthy dose of humility, a sense of humor and the ability to disagree without being disagreeable are required.”

Jeremy Schoemaker

Jeremy.jpg “I try to inspire conversation on my blog by asking a questions throughout the post.”


Chris Garrett

Chris.jpg “There are three types of conversation that I see on blogs.

1) Inter-blogger conversation – Bloggers talking to each other through their blogs

2) Blogger-Reader conversation – Bloggers and their readers discussing topics through posts and comments

3) Reader-Reader conversation – Readers creating conversations in the comment area

The last one is the least common and for those who want to build community, it’s the holy grail.

To foster the first, you have to get into a link bait state of mind. Which approach is going to get a reaction, how can you press topical or emotional hot-buttons? Many bloggers drift into snark territory with those. It could, though, be as simple as linking to other bloggers with an interesting and unusual question that you would like to see answered.

Most people know what to do with the second. Getting readers to comment is about leaving the opening, inviting a response, and creating the appropriate environment. In marketing terms this would be a “call to action”. At the end of your post ask for comments in a way that anyone can answer without fear of looking stupid.

For readers to comment to each other takes that commenting environment to a new level, and also requires that you get out of the way a bit. So while you answering comments encourages more comments, answering too often discourages readers answering each other. You have to balance the need to make commenters feel valued and welcome, with the need to open up the floor for other readers to jump in and respond to another comment.”

John Chow

John.jpg “The best way I’ve found to foster conversation on my blog is to ask for feedback from my readers. If you want something, you have to ask for it. I got a free Macbook Air at IZEA Fest because I asked for it. You’ll be amazed at what you can get if you simply ask.

Once you get the feedback, the next thing you need to do is to reply to it. Fostering conversation is a two way street. If your reader took the time out to make a comment on your blog, please reply to it.”

Lorelle VanFossen

Lorelle.jpg “While I believe conversation and interactivity is the key to the definition of a blog, I find the issue of blog conversations fascinating. Not all blogs need comments. Not all of my blog posts need comments either. The conversation can happen on the blog or in someone’s head and I’m still happy. But when I want to get the conversation rolling, it rolls because of the community created by the blog’s overall theme, content, purpose, history, and historical climate of trust.

While many will tell you the basics of opening up the blog conversation by writing open ended blog posts, asking questions of your readers, and leaving room for them to enter the conversation, I believe that people contribute their thoughts to my blog because they already feel like I’m their friend. They trust me. We’ve created a relationship. They feel like they know me, thus feel safe leaving a comment. We’re family.

Creating a safe space for comments doesn’t happen with your first blog post. It might not even happen with your 1000th. It begins with trust. Your blog showcases your history and expertise in the subject matter. Your blog post publishing history speaks for your passion for the subject, enthusiasm, and consistency – you’ve been there and you will continue to be there. When you show you care about the readers, and you are blogging for them and their needs, they tend to open up the conversation with you more than you open it up for them.

The synergy of like-minds keeps the conversation going. You don’t have to respond to every comment, but you must let your community think that you do. When you show you care, they care back, and together you create the content on your blog.”

Blog Tips from Blog World Expo [VIDEO]

Last week at Blog World Expo I had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of bloggers of all topics, backgrounds and levels of experience. One of the things that quickly became evident as I spoke with these bloggers was that collectively the bloggers who had gathered together in Vegas for those few days had a vast amount of knowledge.

I decided to do my best to capture some of this on video and used my new Flip Mino Series Camcorder to interview 15 or so of them. Here are the first 3 interviews – Chris Brogan, Patsi Krakoff and Denise Wakeman and David Peralty.

Thanks to Business Week Exchange for sponsoring this video.

For a larger version of this video see it on YouTube, MySpace, Revver, Blip.tv, Facebook and Viddler.

Get more tips on blogging in our Blog Tips for Beginners series of post.