The meteoric rise of the Internet coupled with social media has created an amazing medium that is enabling people who are separated by vast distances and disparate cultures to come together, communicate, and collaborate in ways few would have thought possible just a few decades ago. Blogging, especially when effectively integrated with social networking, can be one of the most powerful aspects of social media.
The great advantage to blogging as a medium, as opposed to books, newspapers, magazines, and even presentations, is that blogging is not just about broadcasting a message.
This is not to say that books, newspapers, and magazines aren't useful (they certainly can be) or that presentations lack an interactive component (they certainly should not). I simply believe that, when done well, blogging better facilities effective communication by starting a conversation, encouraging collaboration, and fostering a true sense of community.
Mashing together the words collaboration, blog, and community, I use the term collablogaunity — which is pronounced “Call a Blog a Unity” — to describe how remarkable blogs do this remarkably well.
Blogging is a conversation — with your readers.
I love the sound of my own voice and I talk to myself all the time (even in public). However, the two-way conversation that blogging provides via comments from my readers greatly improves the quality of my blog content — because it helps me better appreciate the difference between what I know and what I only think I know.
Without comments, the conversation is only one way. Engaging readers in dialogue and discussion allows some of your points to be made for you by those who take the time to comment as opposed to you just telling everyone how you see the world.
“Turn the bullhorn around: stop talking, start listening, and create continuous conversations.”
Respond to the comments you receive (but never feed the troll). You don't have to respond immediately. Sometimes, the conversation will go more smoothly without your involvement as your readers talk amongst themselves. Other times, your response will help continue the conversation and encourage participation from others.
Always demonstrate that feedback is both welcome and appreciated. Make sure to never talk down to your readers (either in your blog post or your comment responses). It is perfectly fine to disagree and debate, just don't denigrate.
“If instead, you are all the time only seeking praise and approval from everyone, then there is nothing solid, consistent or certain about your blog and so ultimately it will never gather a sizeable core of die hard fans. Only drive by readers who scan a post and never look back.”
Blogging is a collaboration — with other bloggers.
While conversation is primarily between you and your readers, collaboration is primarily between you and other bloggers. Although you may be inclined to view other bloggers as “the competition,” especially those within your own niche, this would be a mistake. Yes, it is true that blogs are competing with each other for readers. However, sustainable success is achieved through collaboration and friendly competition with your peers.
Brian Clark has explained in the past and continues to exemplify that strategic collaboration is the secret to 21st century success. Clark has stated that if he had to reduce his recipe for success to just three ingredients, it would be content, copywriting, and collaboration. And if he had to give up two of those, then he'd keep collaboration.
In their terrific book Trust Agents, Chris Brogan and Julien Smith explain that although people in most cultures view themselves as the central hero in their life's story, the reality is that you need to build an army because you can't do it all alone.
Collaboration between bloggers is mainly about networking and cross-promotion. You should network with other bloggers, especially those within your own niche. This can be accomplished a number of ways including e-mail introductions, Twitter direct messages (if the other blogger is following you), LinkedIn connection requests, or Facebook friend requests.
As with any networking, the most important thing is being genuine. As Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett explained in their highly recommended ProBlogger book, when you network with other bloggers, keep it real, be specific, keep it brief without being rude, and explain why you are interested in connecting. They rightfully emphasize the importance of that last point.
As we all know, although content may be king, marketing is queen. Networking with other bloggers can help you get the word out about your brilliant blog and its penchant for publishing posts that everyone must read. Adding other bloggers to your blogroll, linking to their posts when applicable to your content, and leaving meaningful comments on their posts are not only recommended best practices of netiquette, they are also just the right thing to do.
Too many bloggers have a selfish networking and marketing strategy. They only promote their own content and then wonder why nobody reads their blog. I am fond of referring to all social media as Social Karma. Focus on helping other bloggers promote their content and they will likely be more willing to return the favor. However, don't misunderstand this technique to be a pathetic peer pressure tactic – in other words, I re-tweeted your blog post, why didn't you re-tweet my blog post?
One last point on collaboration is to set realistic expectations — for others and for yourself. You should definitely try to help others when you can. However, you simply can't help everyone. Don't let people take advantage of your generosity.
Politely, but firmly, say no when you need to say no. Also extend the same courtesy to other people when they turn you down (or simply ignore you) when you try to connect with them or when you ask them for their help.
Mean and selfish people definitely suck. But let's face it, nobody's perfect — we all have bad days, we all occasionally say and do stupid things, and we all occasionally treat people worse than they deserve to be treated. So don't be too hard on people when they disappoint you, because tomorrow it will probably be your turn to have a bad day.
Blogging is a community service.
If you truly believe and actually practice the principles of both conversation and collaboration, then viewing blogging as a community service comes naturally. You will truly be more interested in actually listening to what your readers have to say, and less interested in just broadcasting your message. You will see your words as simply the catalyst that gets the conversation started, and when necessary, helps continue the discussion.
You will see friends not foes when encountering your blogging peers. You will help them celebrate their successes and quickly recover from their failures. You will help others when you can and without worrying about what's in it for you.
As James Chartrand says, you will welcome people to your blog because you view blogging as a festival of people, a community strengthened by people, where everyone can speak up with great care and attention, sharing thoughts and views while openly accepting differing opinions. Blogging is a community service providing a wealth of experience, thoughts and knowledge being shared by all sorts of participants.
“Make it about them. Stop looking at this as a cult of me.
It has to be about your audience. Turn them into a community.
The difference between an audience and a community is the way you face the chairs.
The difference between an audience and a community:
One will fall on its sword for you and the other will watch you fall.”
Pronounced: “Call a Blog a Unity”
There are literally millions of blogs on the Internet today. Your blog (to quote Seth Godin) is “either remarkable or invisible.”
Remarkable blogs primarily do three things:
- Start conversations
- Encourage collaboration
- Foster a true sense of community
Remarkable blogs are collablogaunities. Is your blog a collablogaunity?