Community is what keeps me coming back to the March Slice of Life Challenge. I love reading slices and discovering new voices. I love writing comments. Commenting feels like this wonderful gift we give to each other this month. It’s such a treat to open your blog and find five or six thoughtful new comments connecting to your words and praising your craft.
Since community is what I love so much about the challenge, I was sad to discover this morning that Sonja, one of my favorite slicers, doesn’t plan to participate in the challenge anymore because her posts just aren’t being read. With over 300 slicers participating, it’s not surprising that it’s hard for writers to find their readers!
I know from my visits to other blogs that Sonja’s experience isn’t unique. Even with the Welcome Wagon to ensure that new slicers get feedback and encouragement, not all slicers are experiencing the amazing community that encourages me to slice every March. I’ve noticed a real disparity in the number of comments slicers receive. Some slicers (me included) routinely receive 10 or 20 comments on each slice. But others may receive only 1 or 2. Or none!
I think it was largely through the generosity of established slicers and bloggers that my blog found its audience, and I am going to try to do more to promote the blogs I enjoy.
Sonja’s post also got me wondering what the individual slicer can do to get more feedback and build an audience. I thought about how I stumbled into readers when I first started blogging, and I thought about what new readers to my blog do to get me to reciprocate. Here’s what I came up with:
Cultivate your tribe within the tribe. Whose slices do you love to read? Who writes like you (or like how you aspire to write)? Who writes about the same topics that interest you? Who inspires you? Follow those blogs, comment on multiple slices, maybe even find those bloggers on other social media sites like Twitter. I might not notice a new reader who comments once, but I do notice and reciprocate when I see a new name show up a few times.
Write alongside other slices. I routinely use other slices for mentor texts and make sure I link to the original post. I’ve noticed that the original slicer almost always visits my post and comments, and I try to do the same when slicers find inspiration in my posts.
Invite feedback. I know a blog post is already an implicit invitation for feedback, but why not try asking explicitly? Fran McVeigh often ends her posts with a question to her readers, and I have to confess, I usually want to answer—and I’m clearly not the only one!
Respond to the comments you receive. This is a lesson I learned from the wonderful bloggers who participate in the It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? community. Responding to comments makes it clear you’re reading and that the comments you receive really matter to you. When I see a blogger engaging with his or her readers through comments, I feel more encouraged to comment myself.
Comment on other slices. And think lavish comments. The community standard of three comments may not be enough to grow your own audience. See what happens to traffic on your blog once you’re leaving 10 or 20 comments each day. It doesn’t take as long as you might think to read 10 or 15 slices and write a short comment. Even if you can’t do it daily, try for extra commenting a few days a week.
Comment thoughtfully. There is an art to writing a blog comment. I do appreciate the brief “Love this piece! Thanks!” but I’m more likely to follow up on a comment that connects meaningfully with my content or craft or makes it clear that I have something in common with the commenter.
Make sure you can be found. Be sure to include a link to your blog or even your Twitter handle in your comment so that I can find you.
Figure out the right time of day to publish. I get far more comments if I publish my slice before 10 a.m., but that’s not always feasible. Still, if I post later in the day I know to expect fewer comments.
Share the correct and full link to your post. I still see incorrect or incomplete links posted at Two Writing Teachers. If you aren’t getting comments, make sure that you’re posting the right link.
Provide a teaser with your link. If I don’t know what your post is about, I’m probably not going to click. Consider crafting a headline-like hook that will make it hard for me to scroll past your slice.
Publicize your post. Are you sharing your posts on Twitter or other social media sites you use professionally? Have you included the #sol18 hashtag so that your post can be found? It’s easy to set up automatic sharing on different social media platforms. Just Google a tutorial for your blogging platform.
Maintain your blog year-round. A smaller group of slicers participate on Tuesdays throughout the year, so it’s easier to find your audience. And the audience you build throughout the year will feel invested in your March success. Many slicers participate in other weekly blogging challenges as well, such as It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? or Celebrate. Those communities are also very supportive (and much smaller!), and they are a great way to find committed and enthusiastic regular readers.
What tips have helped you build an audience for your blog? Please share additional ideas!