Why should I bother joining in?
You should bother, because you respect your readers. This is more important in trade journalism than most other forms of our profession. Our readers are also the people we write about. We are the intruders in their business, not the other way around. And collectively, they know more about their industry than the most expert journalist we have.
The second reason is that joining the conversation drives multiple visits from the readers. You read an article once. You revisit blog posts many times, to see what further comments have been left. If we link to them, and respond to their posts, people will come from other blogs to ours, to see what we have to say on the subject. How long can you spend listening to lectures? And how long can you enjoy a conversation for? For most of us, conversations are enjoyable for much, much longer than lectures.
What happens if I don’t?
Good question. One result is that people find it harder to discover your blog. If you’re not part of the conversation, you get less links, and so less web traffic to your blog. Your search engine ranking is less good. And if people should stumble across your words of wisdom, they will judge you – and come back or not – solely based on the quality of content they see in that visit. Are you confident that what you write is so very good that a socially isolated blog will be as compelling as one that mixes it up with others? Will your readers stay readers if you have so little respect for them that you never respond to comments? Some people can pull this off, but we’re in the trade journalism business – and so we’re closer to the “I ought to know this” rather than the “I want to read this” end of the scale for our readers. You need to produce something so compelling that they’ll come to you instead of their favourite hobby, gossip or news sites. Best of luck.
The Holy Trinity of Joining the Conversation
This is the equivalent of “listening” in a normal conversation. If you’re not actually listening to what the other people have to say, are you in a conversation? No. You’re talking at them.
The first step to joining in the conversation is to look around the blogosphere, and understand what people are saying around the key issues in your area of expertise. There are various tools you can use to do this, including Google Blog Search, Technorati and Icerocket. Find intelligent, interesting blogs which are talking about your subject. Read them for a while. Figure out what’s being said, and who the most interesting bloggers are.
This is the first of the “talking” steps in joining the conversation. Leaving comments on other people’s blogs – joining the conversation there – is one way of getting a feel for how these discussions work and what you have to contribute. You can also start to build your reputation amongst bloggers through these comments.
The other benefit of this is that almost all blogging platforms allow you to leave your blog URL as part of your comment – that way people can click on your name to visit your website – if your comment was interesting enough to spark their curiosity.
However, whatever you do, don’t just leave a comment for the sake of putting in a link to your site – that’s considered spamming by most bloggers and will damage your reputations.
I know that this feel counter-intuitive to us. We don’t mention competitive publications in our magazine, and many of us were indoctrinated years ago with the idea of “sticky content” – getting readers to our sites and keeping them there at all costs.
If you link to the best and most interesting stuff around the web, you can become a trusted source for your readers. Many of them don’t have the time to read through all the relevant blogs themselves. If you send them to good material elsewhere, as well as providing well-written, thoughtful posts on your own blog, then they’re more likely to make you one of their first ports of call on their regular web travels.