Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: The Golden Rule For Bloggers

"Don't judge each day by the harvest you receive but by the seeds that you plant." - Robert Louis Stevenson

Thanks so much for all the feedback for our blogging habits series featured this month. I hope we are all giving little tweaks to our blogging vision to make what we do with our blogs the best ever for 2012. If this is your first time popping in, here’s the series line-up so you can get on the same page:

Part 1 – Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: 4 Ways To Define Your Audience

Part 2 – Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: 7 Keys To Blogging On A Consistent Basis

Part 3 – Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: 14 Actions To Take To Amplify Your Blog’s Voice

There’s a local health foods store I frequent to buy my vitamins. It’s a little mom-pop operation. Actually a mom-daughter-niece operation where ‘everybody knows your name’. One day I noticed a blurb in their newspaper ad about the store’s blog. I checked it out. It was a ‘just-beginning-to-bud-and-dying-from-the-frost-of-being-unread’ blog. Only one post made a couple months earlier with no comments on it. The post was well-written and happened to mention a new natural face soap the store had begun carrying. It’s a wonderful goat’s milk soap made locally that up until that time had only been sold during the farmer’s market season.

Excited to be able to get my beloved soap in the winter, I ran by the health foods store to snatch up all the bars I could. When I paid for my purchase, I shared my excitement with the owner and thanked her for posting about it in her blog. Her mouth kind of fell open, then she smiled and said, “I didn’t know anyone was reading it. I guess I’m going to have to put some more things on there.” She didn’t think anyone was reading or getting value out of her blog until someone told her.

Blog Habit #4: Encourage Other Bloggers

Whether you call it sowing seeds, karma, doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, or good vibrations, when you take the time to encourage others it will pay big dividends in your personal attitude as well as your blogging mojo.

Sometimes we’re so caught up in building our own blog, we forget it really does ‘take a village’ to create a strong blog presence. Readers are the lifeblood of a blog, and a large portion of readers are fellow bloggers. If you happen to have a niche blog, bloggers in that niche are even more important to help you gain a readership by spreading the news about your blog in that niche community.

Interaction in social media usually comes in the form of participating in the community conversation in some way. Sounds simple enough, right? So why aren’t readers naturally interacting on blogs? Why do we have to ‘work’ for their involvement?

A 2006 study by Jakob Nielsen cites that 90% of online community users are lurkers who never contribute or interact, 9% contribute a little and only 1% are vocally active. This is a fact of life that many ministries and non-profit groups have always dealt with. The 20/80 rule, as in, 20% of the same volunteers do 80% of the volunteer work. While we’re not going to make a major societal impact, we can put a tiny dent in whether people stand on the sidelines of our blog or become more interactive by modeling interactive encouragement to others.

How can you be an encouragement to other bloggers without draining your already precious social media time? Here are a few simple ways:

  • Make a comment on someone else’s blog.

Did you enjoy a post you read? Learn something? Completely disagree? Stumbled on the post during a search? Take the time to make a comment to let the blogger know. You don’t have to write a dissertation, but you can also do better than ‘Great post!’ One sentence can make the difference to a writer who’s feeling like their words are floating into the internet ether without notice.

  • Click a social media sharing button.

Are you skimming blogs while on your coffee break or between toddler duties at home? Don’t have time to think about and write out a comment? It only takes a second to click a ‘like’ button on WordPress blogs and about the same amount of time to click a Google 1+, Facebook, Twitter, or social bookmarking button like StumbleUpon or Reddit and you’ve done double duty by letting the blogger know their post has not only been read but shared with others.

  • Tweet or retweet blog links on Twitter.

Become known for showcasing valuable information by taking the time to tweet and retweet post links on Twitter. Folks will appreciate it and be more likely to check out your blog posts when you tweet your own links.

  • Make a Pinterest board for your favorite blog posts.

Once you are on Pinterest, it’s easy to add a photo from one of your favorite blog posts with a simple click of the  ‘Pin it!’ button. The ‘pin’ will link back to the blog to help get more traffic to your fellow bloggers’ sites.

  • Have a blog round-up or showcase.

Some people enjoy writing a post highlighting a weekly round-up of quality blog post links. This has the double benefit of helping others while you get readers who show up just for your great lists!  It doesn’t have to be a long list. Here are some examples:

Read The 12 Best Blogs You May (Almost) Have Never Heard Of

Read Adventures in YA and Children’s Publishing’s ‘This Week For Writers

  • Ask someone to write a guest post for your blog.

Be discriminating about this, but if you see a quality blogger who hasn’t built a large readership yet and may need encouragement, nothing helps like a request for their writing skills! You have the mutual benefit of being exposed to the other blogger’s readership.

  • Stay positive in your online interaction.

If something someone says on their blog rubs you the wrong way, think twice before you rattle off that rant that accuses them of being a no-talent hack. Some people support getting as controversial as you can to stir up buzz so people will come check out your blog.

That’s also what they do with reality shows, Jerry Springer and 24/7 news channels. Think about it.

When you are posting something negative, ask yourself these questions: Is this negativity really necessary? Can I make my point without tearing another person down? Of course, life is not a box of fuzzy kittens (if only!) and stuff happens and we like to talk about it. It’s fine to disagree, but be cautious about being disagreeable and attacking others’ personally. It’s bad karma and may come back to haunt you.

  • Answer the question posed in a blog post.

If the specific post asks a question, try to answer it. If you go on and on about your mother’s cat or some other rabbit trail, the blog writer may be frustrated thinking their post/question was poorly written or unclear. That can be discouraging. Answer the question, even if it’s “I don’t know” then tell everyone about your mother’s cat.

If you read a lot of blogs  it’s usually not possible to devote time to commenting on every one. However, you can give yourself a goal. For example: ‘I’ll comment on 3 blogs per day’, or’ I’ll ‘like’ 5 blogs today’, or ‘I’ll write one thoughtful comment per week’. Again, don’t overload yourself with added pressures. But you need to look at encouraging others as an investment. Interacting and sharing in the blogging community not only gives out good vibes, it teaches you to step out of yourself. When you do that, the seeds you plant will come back as a good harvest.

Question: What makes you want to take the time to comment on a blog post?

Start Your Week Off Write: How Applying for a Job Taught Me About Blogging

image, U.S. National Archives

I was a bit of a slacker last week as far as blogging is concerned. I offer apologies for missing two scheduled posts. Since my writing career so far has not materialized my lottery winner-sized salary, current economic circumstances require me to get a paying job. This has been cutting into my daydreaming writing. How dare real life horn in on my writing time? But I do enjoy a roof over my head and food in my belly, so a day job is priority at the moment.

I had an interesting experience on one job-hunting foray. The classified ad looked promising enough: (I am not listing it verbatim for obvious reasons but it is very close.)

Receptionist/vet assistant looking for dependable person for vet hospital. Computer knowledge a plus. Apply in person, no phone calls

I met the qualifications so I went to apply. When I walked into the office and informed them I was there about the job, I was given an application to fill out, no questions asked. I dutifully filled it out and offered my resume as well. The gatekeeper behind the desk scanned my resume and asked “What veterinary experience do you have?” I smiled and said, ‘None’. Her demeanor made a 180 degree turn. “Do you have ANY medical experience?” She didn’t try to hide her annoyance. “No m’aam” I replied, as my hope for a job deflated. She proceeded to give me a five-minute lecture about how I needed certification in this office’s specialty that takes three years to obtain, know very specific surgical procedures and be able to discuss medical terminology with the customers. “This is much more than just a receptionist job. You need to have years of experience doing this sort of thing.” Then she plastered on a smile and added “We’ll keep your application on file in case anything comes up.”

If the classified ad in my situation had been written listing the specific skills needed, it would have easily eliminated many possible candidates, myself included, before they got in the door. A second qualifier would have been in place with a contact number. By the office manager’s response to me, she had given this speech several times that day. With a clearly worded ad her time as well as the time of many job seekers would not have been wasted.

How does this relate to blogging?

When you write a blog post have these points in mind when writing so your readers aren’t wasting their time trying to figure out what they are going to get out of your post.

  • Have a clear goal in mind – What are you trying to say? State what your goal is, either in the headline or at the beginning of the post.
  • Assume your reader is not an insider or expert on your subject – Cover the bases so they can understand what you are talking about without getting too wordy or talking over readers’ heads.
  • Be concise – Say it in as clear a way as possible – think bullet points.
  • Don’t assume people can read your mind – Sometimes as writers we have such a vivid picture in our minds of what we want to write, we think everyone else can see it, too. They can’t. Be thorough.
  • Be real – Readers want to connect with you and your writing and can spot insincerity and fakery. “We’ll keep your application on file in case anything comes up.”
  • Have a conduit for questions and clarification – Make commenting on a post as easy as possible. Have an email address on your blog in an easy-to-find place. Follow up when people comment or have questions – you should be your biggest commenter.
  • Don’t take things personally – When people don’t agree with your point of view or make snarky comments have confidence in your own ability. A thick skin will ward off many a pity party.

On the job front I’m hopeful I will find the right fit. But I learned a good lesson about communicating effectively. You can find the positives in any experience if you look for them. Follow these steps when blogging and your readers will have a positive experience. When they don’t feel like they are wasting their time, they will come back for more.

Question: What’s the most unusual job you ever had/applied for?