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Run a Town Hall Meeting on Your Blog and Increase Reader Engagement

Town_Hall.jpgHere’s a quick tip that I think a lot of bloggers could learn from – run a ‘town hall’ meeting on your blog.

The inspiration from this comes from Digg who are periodically run a ‘Town Hall’ webcast for their members.

The idea is simple – Kevin Rose and Jay Adelson from Digg periodically do a webcast for their members that gives information on the latest news at Digg as well as answering questions from their members. They’ve been running these on a quarterly basis at Digg for over a year now – you can see them all here.

OK – so what’s this got to do with your blog?

Here’s the thing – while Digg are obviously a lot bigger than your average blog and they have more resources to throw at creating these types of Town Hall webcasts – I think bloggers can learn from the idea.

While I’ve never used the term ‘town hall’ meeting on my blogs I have periodically done similar types of things for readers where I product updates on how the blogs are going, talk about new directions and take questions.

Benefits of Town Hall Type Meetings with Blog Readers

What I’ve found is that when you communicate these types of things it can have a real impact upon your reader community in a variety of ways:

  • Reader Morale – every time I do this type of exercise I see signs of reader morale lifting.
  • Reader Involvement – perhaps tied to the morale of your readers is that when you communicate with them about how your blog is going I’ve noticed that they often will get more involved with it.
  • Gives Your Blog a ‘Face’ – one of the main benefits that I’ve noticed about these sorts of sessions when I’ve done them on video using Ustream is that it gives your blog a more personal edge. Readers get to see and hear what you’re like and come away feeling a different kind of connection than they get just reading your content.
  • Clearing up Misconceptions – giving readers a chance to tell you what they think of your blog and to listen to your response can help clear up misconceptions that they might have about you or your site.
  • Reader Involvement – getting readers involved in your blog in any way (even if it’s just asking a question or watching a video/web cast) means that they’re investing something of themselves into your blog. What comes out of these interactions can be all kinds of great ideas that they can give you – not to mention the things you might ask them to DO in promoting your community to their own network.
  • Readers Using Your Blog Better – these sorts of ‘town hall’ meetings give you an opportunity to point out features of your blog that readers might not be aware of to help them to use it better. For example, pointing out the social media bookmarking buttons on your blog, explaining how to subscribe via RSS, showing off a newsletter you produce – all of these things can deepen reader engagement/satisfaction and help you grow your blog.

While not all of your readers will be interested on the behind the scenes goings on of your blog – some will.

How do you run a TownHall meeting?

There will be many variations on doing this type of thing and I encourage bloggers to find a medium and method that works best for them. Some that come straight to mind include:

  • Live Video Web Cast – a live video streaming session like the guys at Digg do. They have a pretty professional set up that will be beyond most of us but it’s pretty easy to set up a video streaming session with a site like Ustream – then all you need to do is publicize it.
  • Recorded Video Session – feeling nervous about a live call? Why not ask readers to submit questions ahead of time and then record your answers on video at your own time. Edit it up and put the video on YouTube (or your favorite video hosting site) and embed it on your blog.
  • Live or Recorded Audio Sessions – the same two things can be done via audio. This is perhaps a little more accessible for your audience if they don’t have bandwidth for video – or is good for those who don’t like to see themselves on camera.
  • Q&A Posts – a simpler option is to call for questions in a blog post and then to write another one with your answers.
  • Chat Sessions – I know a few bloggers who have weekly times that they tell their readers they’ll be in a chat room attached to their blog. These sessions are for general chat but often have a Q&A section where readers ask about the topic of the blog as well as questions about the site.

Have you ever run a town hall type meeting for the readers of your blog? How did you do it? What were the challenges and benefits?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Hi Darren,

    This is a very interesting concept – thanks for suggesting! Everyone appreciates transparency, and such a “twon hall” would be a big step in that direction.

    I guess a recorded session would be good to begin with, and you can then move gradually towards a live session once you are comfortable.

    (Note: Darren, the formatting of this post is a little mixed up, and needs your attention… Please have a look)

  2. Nowadays a lot of blogger is using video to blog, like Yaro. I think using video to interact is really a great boost to readers and visitors to blogs, and I think I should do so soon.

  3. No. I have never run a town meeting on my blog but now that you have brought up that option, I will consider doing that maybe once each month. The audio format may be better than video, especially if I have to be hosting these town halls. I’m not interested in becoming some kind of famous person so the video thing is out…for now at least.

    I plan on turning my blog into a more educational or instructional resource so the town halls may very well benefit that type of format.

  4. Tim says:

    Darren,

    Thanks for the awesome idea. I have been kicking around the idea of holding a live chat session, but didn’t know what direction to take the chat…Holding a “Town Hall Meeting” will give me a little direction… I blog in the handmade scene…. thanks again for the great post!

  5. Salman says:

    Hi Darren
    Superb post
    Nice wonderful tips on running a townhall meeting

    Regards
    Salman
    http://www.tips4blogging.co.cc

  6. I think shoemoney dose something similar to this in his blog. I think it is really cool. It encourages your readers and give them chance to get involved with your blog. I think the best way to do it is dedicate a day for questions. Just let the readers throw the questions at you. The following day either type questions and answers in the post or make a video. i think the video is the coolest and effective way.

  7. Jaky Astik says:

    Well, when it comes to my blog, I just love offline marketing. People are actually interested when they find that I am obsessed not only being online but even with them. And my blog is running really great due to this concept I am using since days.

  8. Asswass says:

    Q&A seems to work fine. Especially if done by video. My blog or website doesn’t have the size for a Q&A yet but when the time comes, I will prefer to do it with a video, It feels more personal.

  9. I think doing this depends on your focus – how much you are writing for readers and how much for yourself. I don’t think it would suit all blogs – only big ones that have a solid community.

    However, I think the concept of a ‘general blog board meeting’ is good. Then you’d only need to invite ‘me, myself and I’. Addressing some of the points above can help make your focus more directional and therefore you blogging experience more fulfilling.

  10. Rohit says:

    I had this idea in the pipeline and this post has given me some Resources I didn’t know about earlier. Thanks..

  11. Zemalf says:

    I wish more blogs would do these kind of activities, boost the social aspect of blogging and all.

    Questions and answers kinda post is something I’ve been thinking about to put in my blog. Two kind of benefits from doing that, solid content and answering to the real worries and problems readers might have.

  12. Rohit says:

    I had this idea in the pipeline and this post has given me some resources

  13. Cool Idea Darren.. I never thought about it. I am willing to do something like to increase readers’ involvement with my blog.

    Actually my blog is just growing, so it is only me who needs to think of any questions of the readers. I almost write posts like questions but I can try an article with only question and answers. Thanks for sharing this article.

  14. Great idea for getting readers involved . i think a blog is the creation of both blogger and the readership.

  15. I really like this idea. Reader involvement and fostering a sense of community are two of the things I value most about blogging. The few times I’ve encouraged involvement that’s above and beyond the typical, people have really responded, by telling me more about themselves and asking good questions.

    I really DO care what my readers think—I should probably tell them that more directly, more often. This is a great way to go about it.

  16. myddnetwork says:

    Another great tool for a Q&A session is Google Moderator:

    http://moderator.appspot.com/

    Even Matt Cutts use that for your Q&A sessions. It is great…. people can help you to select the questions in case there are a lot of questions to answer.

  17. bobby says:

    nice tips for growth our website. I think there’s completely ways. However, our feedback for readers really-really important. because, they always for latest news in our web site.

  18. Free SMS Fan says:

    Hi Dareen,

    Great idea with Town Hall meeting.
    I think i will try it out and hope to get more readers for my blog.

    Thank you.

  19. Frank Sweets says:

    Reader involvement is crucial in my opinion. One of the better ways of getting readers to come back to your blog.

  20. Eric Uhlir says:

    This is something I plan to do, but it’s still a little early for my blog because I’m growing my readership base right now.

  21. Stan says:

    Great tips, thanks as always.

    And one more tip – always check formatting of your post after you hit publish :)

  22. Vivian Love says:

    Dave Ramsey has this kind of Town Hall Meeting too, but I thought it’s like a kind of normal meeting where fans or readers actually being there. How stupid am I. But now I know why people are buzzing about his Town Hall meeting for his shows about personal finance. Learn something new everyday. Funny.

  23. I would love to hold a town hall meeting but I am just not that kind of person like to speak in the public. I guess a teaching professional like you will find it mush easier to do

  24. You’d have to have a significant critical mass of readership before doing this. I doubt more than 1% of your readers do.

  25. I did my first free group guitar lesson/webinar/town hall today via Ustream. How timely! It will likely become a regular feature from the initial feedback.

    BTW, thanks for the 31DBBB series. Quite awesome.

  26. Tech Slice says:

    Nice post. Reader engagement is important.

  27. I would love to hold a town hall meeting but I am just not that kind of person like to speak in the public. I guess a teaching professional like you will find it mush easier to do

  28. I’ve learned that with my blog, most readers prefer to read and not interact and I’m quite happy with that. I get enough messages telling me that I’m doing the right thing, so I’ve decided that I don’t need to try to build up more reader involvement.

    If they want to contribute they have plenty of ways and if they don’t then that’s fine too – I won’t try to push or guilt them into it.

    But that’s just the way my blog works – likely because my topics address very personal issues and people are shy to share. I’m certain, however, that a Town Hall Meeting could do really well for other blogs with different topics.

  29. jan says:

    I’m all about getting readers engaged with my blog. I have stage fright using videos and even podcasts, but I’m comfortable with the Q & A format. I’ll see what I can do – I can’t seem to decide what to post tonight. Maybe I’d do this and see how it sits with my readers. “,)

  30. This is not something i have tried, but the idea of a podcast like meeting would be a great experience and possible chance to interact further with your readers.

  31. ITrush says:

    Another interesting idea to consider.. thanks Darren for opening this to us.

  32. jan says:

    Ah, well, I’ve just written my first Q and A at my 6-month old blog WritingToExhale. I’m a little excited about it. Just rushed here to tell you I’ve bounced off this post. Besides, I can’t stand staring at my dashboard, wondering what kind of questions I’d get. And thanks, Darren, for constantly inspiring us newbie bloggers to do better. Cheers.

  33. iW2K says:

    I foresee established bloggers benefit from the “town hall’ meetings. There should be less that the newbie would capitalize from the concept.

  34. jan says:

    @iW2K: There’s merit in what you say. But my point is: if I don’t start now laying the foundation of my own blog community I will never reach that stage when I will have become truly established.

    I have to start somewhere, right? Engaging the attention of a few lost souls who strayed into my blog? Good enough for me. The matter of cost-benefit has never entered into my consideration at this point.

    While a few readers seem not a good way to start a town hall meeting of sort, I will not despair. I’d stay at it till they grown in number. Anyway, these few straggling individuals? They have their own network of friends and online buddies. It pays to give them warm welcome at any stage of my blog development. Just saying. “,)

  35. fas says:

    Nice tip there. But easier said then done. This will require lots of planning and good video editing to cut the abrupt bits out and keep the video short and sweet.

  36. BloggerDaily says:

    Wow. This town hall meeting gives me some idea! Thanks! =)

    I had done some tutorial videos but this town hall could benefit more than interacting with the readers =)

  37. Dave Doolin says:

    I would love to do something like this… what’s the yield for attendance for something like this with respect to total number of blog readers?

    That is, I’m curious how many regular blog readers you need to make this successful.

  38. Nice tip there. But easier said then done. This will require lots of planning and good video editing to cut the abrupt bits out and keep the video short and sweet.

  39. Hey Darren,

    Thanks for the great idea. Nice tips.

  40. JohniLouise says:

    Hi Darren yes I agree great idea and it got me thinking beyond just what is going on with my blogging. You could also use this to talk about a particular subject,,, by posting a blog that many got to shout out what they thought of the subject.

    Aside from getting feedback on my blog, I think that if people could actually be heard more often on subjects that they would happily participate! I like the idea greatly and see it as an opportunity to deepen connections with my readers.

    Thanks as always Darren for helping us be better Bloggers :)

    @JohniLouise

  41. Nice wonderful tips on running a townhall meeting