This month’s theme is “Grow Your Garden”. I would love to write a post about gardening as a meditation tool, the joy of eating your own produce and how to organically keep weeds out of the garden. I can’t. I know my limitations and gardening is not in the cards for me right now. Instead, I’m going to talk about growing your blog community.
I wish there was a magic formula when it came to growing your blog community and readership. There isn’t and unfortunately the old adage slow and steady wins the race is most applicable. It takes a long time and a lot of effort.
1. Write from the heart
You’ve probably already heard this but I’ll say it again: Content is King. Whether you have a particular niche or have a lifestyle blog where you cover a variety of topics, take time to craft posts that are well written (that includes proper grammar and spell check). If you don’t write from your heart, find your voice and write authentically, readers will eventually become disinterested. If you are copying another blogger thinking that can piggyback on their success or style, readers will smell a copy cat. When I first started blogging I had no idea how many “mom blogs” there were out there until I started searching to see what other bloggers were about. There are tons of them. No, tons squared. It was discouraging because it felt like this market was more than saturated and I would get lost in the shuffle. Over time I realized that if I’m going to be in this for the long haul I had to forget about how huge the blogging ocean was and just do it because I enjoyed it. I had something to say and knew that what I had to say was important to me regardless of how many people were reading it that particular day.
“You is kind, you is smart, you is important”
2. Find a community of support
Blogging is an interesting beast in that there are so many bloggers out there but it can be a solitary job. Even though, online, I’m surrounded by people with similar goals as myself, most of my real life friends don’t understand it. It’s difficult for me to talk to my real life friends about my blogging goals, frustrations, projects. They don’t understand what a blog hop is and are baffled by the concept of Google +. Many of my real life friends read my blog and enjoy it but the support stops there. They don’t know the work that goes into it and quit frankly I don’t want to go to the effort to explain it to them. We support each other in other ways. When it come to the ins and outs of blogging I need friends who already know the ups and downs.
Places like Oklahoma Women Bloggers, SITs and blogging conferences are a good way to find other bloggers you click with. Not all blogging conferences are huge productions with hundreds of bloggers in attendance. Smaller conferences like Bloggy Boot Camp, Arkansas Women Blogger Conference and Blog U are more affordable than the mega conferences and designed to foster relationship building. It’s really hard to walk into a room full of strangers, I get it, but these are the times to put on your big girl panties and talk to someone new. Remember that most of those women are feeling the exact same fear and insecurity you are.
3. Comment comment comment
Treat others the way you would want to be treated. The golden rule applies in both real life and online life. If you want bloggers to comment on your blog you must first venture out into the bloggosphere and comment. However, don’t just pepper the internet with “great post” “pinning” or “love this post, thanks for sharing”. That’s not very authentic even if that is what you are really thinking. Show the blogger that you love that you really appreciate what they had to say by leaving them a message that has a little meat to it. You don’t have to write a novel, but a few thoughtful sentences go a long way. Imagine how good you feel when someone comments authentically on your blog then leave them a comment that would give them that same warm and fuzzy feeling.
I’ll admit, spending time reading lots of blogs can be time consuming and frustrating when you think about how you should be working on your own posts. I have about 30 blogs in my blog roll but I don’t visit each of those blogs every single day. It’s just impossible. In addition to blogging I have a real life and responsibilities. I have found between 5 and 10 blogs that I really love and I try to visit most of them once a week and leave a comment.
Return the favor. When someone comments on your blog, take the time to reply. Show them that you appreciate that they took the time to read your post and comment on it.
4. Make commenting easy and engaging
If you want people to comment on your blog, for the love, make it easy for them to do it. There are a few plugins that help make commenting easier and more engaging.
CommentLuv I love it when a blogger has CommentLuv attached to their comment section. As I start to type it pulls my most recent post and then will display the link with my post. You never know who will see a link to your post under your comment and click through because they thought it sounded interesting. Having CommentLuv on your blog shows your commenters that you value what they have written too.
ReplyMe What is the point to replying to your commenters if they have no idea you did so? ReplyMe automatically sends them an email to let them know you replied to their comment.
Growmap Anti Spambot Nobody wants spam comments, seeing them on my site makes me feel gross and violated. Make sure your commenters are real people but don’t make them jump through hoops to leave a comment. I prefer Growmap Anti Spambot over Captcha because it asks the commenter to prove they are a real person with just one click rather than making them decipher hard to read letters and numbers.
5. Let go of the jealousy
I’ll admit it, I get a little jealous when I see other bloggers receive some sort of legit recognition. When I see Huffington Post pick up someone’s post or when BlogHer releases their really awesome bloggers so everybody in the world should read them list or bloggers excitingly share that they made Babble’s Top 100 Voices; I can’t help but feel a little pang of jealousy and wonder why not me?
When doubt and insecurity give you that ugly little tickle in your brain, stop it dead in it’s tracks. Think about the good things you have done, the accomplishments you have made. Reread one of your favorite posts and pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Revisit your blogging goals and revise them. Once you are sure you’re not going to have a pity party think about how excited and happy that other blogger must be for being recognized for their hard work. Remember that they have probably been working on their blog for a long time too and they have felt insecure at times as well.
There you have it. 5 tips to help you in growing your blogging community. But beware this is a s-l-o-w growing plant that needs a lot of love and tlc. Don’t expect anything to happen overnight.
What advice do you have?
Stephanie Clinton is a SAHM to two boys ages 9 and 4. She loves their hugs and kisses but does not love wiping their snotty noses. In her past life she has been a Gymboree teacher, an activity director at a retirement home, a business manager and a celebrity sighter. She likes to think of herself as a pretty decent cook, artistic, crafty and sort of okay with a sewing machine. She is a free lance writer, administrator for Oklahoma Women Bloggers and contributor to Metro Family Magazine. In her free time (if there ever is any) she can be found reading, volunteering in her community, singing, avoiding housework but most of all blogging about her stay-at-home adventures. Visit her at www.hugskissesandsnot.com