Most of us start blogs both because we want to write and we want to connect to others — if you weren’t interested in the connection piece, you’d just keep a private diary. But unlike other online communities like Facebook, where we go to connect to friends and family, most of us hope our blogs will reach beyond those immediate circles to the wider world.
While I like to cultivate the secret fantasy that the sheer force of my genius will propel my blog to viral fame, a three-book deal, and a recurring correspondent role on The Daily Show, my realistic blogger self knows that it takes time and effort to build an engaged readership. (Some genius doesn’t hurt.) (Also: Jon Stewart, call me. I’m totally available.)
The most effective way is to engage with others; being part of the blogosphere is being part of a community, which means you need to do more than just publish in your little blogular corner. If the scope of the blogosphere is a little overwhelming, break it down into manageable chunks: Five a Day.
Five whats a day? Five comments. Whenever you sit down at the computer to bang out a post or spend 15 minutes futzing on Twitter, commit to leaving five substantive comments on five different blogs. You can find them in a number of ways:
- Spend a few minutes serendipitously surfing the Reader, clicking on whatever looks interesting, or take a look at some offbeat topics.
- Click through the blogrolls or visit the commenters of bloggers you already enjoy, or of bloggers who’ve been featured on Discover.
- Encourage your readers to leave links to their favorites in your comments, so you can broaden your horizons.
Once you find a post that sucks you in from beginning to end, leave the blogger a real comment. Toss out a “Thanks!” or “Great post!” if you’d like, but be sure to take it further. Be specific about what you enjoyed, ask a question, offer a counterpoint, or share a related experience — anything that moves the conversation along.
The beauty of the blogosphere is that others are doing the same thing, and they’ll see and click on your interesting/witty/erudite comment, ultimately bringing you more traffic and more readers. If five a day feels like too much, then try four a day, or two a day. Heck, even one a day spreads your searing insights across seven new blogs a week.
The Five a Day method is not a path to overnight success; only an Oprah endorsement can do that. But it is the best way to build a community of engaged and loyal readers, commenters, and ultimately, friends.