So, now you have a blog. What do you want to do with it? You can use it as an online publishing tool to create a website and put content on the internet. But you would be missing the wonderful potential that blogs have to connect people and ideas.
Most of us use blogs as a social and networking tool. We want others to see and hear what we’ve created. We enjoy finding other people who share our passions and see the world in the same way we do—or perhaps in a completely different way. We want to find people who say interesting things and discuss topics we care about.
If you too belong to the second category, you should learn something about blog networking. Find people you like and would like to connect with; go out and let other people know that you have a blog, are interested in what they say, and would like to start a conversation with them.
You can’t just be pretty and wait for people to discover you. The web is a big big place, and there are so many blogs out there. According to the latest data from Technorati’s CEO and founder David Sifry, as of July 31, 2006 there were about 50 millions blogs; and these are only the blogs that Technorati tracks, which is just a part of all existing blogs. If you want your blog to be found and read, you have to create personal connections.
As in all human relationships, creating a blog network is a give-and-take process. Give—in the form of comments, links, contributions to the discussion—and you will receive. Comments and links are what keeps your blog alive.
You can think of blog networking as a simple 3-step process:
- Step 1: Create your blog community
- Step 2: Visit blogs and leave comments
- Step 3: Talk about what you read in other blogs and link to them
Let’s discuss each step in greater detail.
Step 1: Create your blog community
Do you already have a list of blogs you like and read often? if yes, they are a great place to start. Blogs link to other blogs either in their posts or in their blogroll—the list of links that is usually displayed on the blog sidebar. You can follow links from one blog to the other for hours (warning! this activity can be addictive) and usually you will be rewarded with some great discovery.
Keep track of the sites you find. Add them to your blogroll. Bookmark them. Add them to our RSS feed aggregator such as MyYahoo!, Google personalized page, Bloglines, or Rojo (RSS feed aggregators are the topic of a future How to blog post). It’s not hard to find new blogs; but it may be very hard to find them again if you don’t keep track of them.
If you are still looking for interesting new blogs, use a search engine. There are several search engines that specialize in blog search. A good site for bloggers is Technorati, which offers several blog searching and tracking tools. On Tecnorati, you can search blogs or posts using keywords (words that appear in the text of the post), tags (words that the author used to categorize the blog or the post) or directories (keywords that Technorati used to categorize the blog).
Other Technorati tools are Discover or Popular. These are the serendipitous ways of finding blogs: just look around and see what catches your eye. You can register for Technorati and create a profile, claim your blog (that is, link your blog to your profile), create a list of favorite blogs (another way to keep track of blogs you visit frequently). If you claim your blog, Technorati will keep track of the blogs that link to yours. It’s good blog etiquette to visit blogs that link to you, leave a comment, and link back.
You can learn more about Technorati in this post by Liz Dunn on the Technorati blog.
Step 2: Visit blogs and leave comments
Now that you have a nice list of blogs to visit and to connect with, spend some time going around and reading what they say. You can initially lurk—just watch without participating in the discussion—but good blog networking requires that you start participating. Don’t comment if you don’t have anything to say, but do contribute if you have thoughts about the topic or even if you want to say “Hi” and let the blog authors know that you are reading and enjoying what they publish on their bog. Bloggers love to read comments from their readers.
You can write a supportive comment: “I love what you write,” or “I agree with you.” Or you can contribute to the discussion: “Here is what I think about this topic,” “Have you considered …?” “I don’t agree with this point,” and so on.
One nice thing about comments (or a really bad thing when it comes to comment spam) is that you can enter the URL of your blog in the comment form, so people reading the comment can visit your website if they find the comment interesting. If you trust the blog, you can also leave your email address; the email address doesn’t show up in the comment, but can be used by the blog author to reach you privately. Post authors will often respond to comments, either with another comment or privately, using your email. Here is where most blog connections and friendships start.
Step 3: Talk about other blogs and link to them
Now you have a blog community, and you are participating in the discussion. It’s time to create your own discussions. When you talk about something, mention other blogs that have discussed that topic, comment on their point, and, most important of all, link to their posts.
Linking to other blogs is one of the most important networking tool. By linking you are creating a net of interconnected discussions, you are giving credit to other people, and increasing the chance that those blogs will be found. As in all relationships, blog networking is a balance of giving and taking.
A final comment
You may be thinking: “Hey, this is a lot of work!” Yes, it is. Good networking is always a lot of work. You can do just a little bit, but you will find that the more networking you do the more people will visit your blog and will engage in interesting conversations with you. If you feel that nobody reads your blog or leaves comment, it’s time to go out and network.