Communication is the second pillar to my philosophy on the social web. As my content grew, I decided to make a concerted effort, attempting to write at least three times a week. I could see that the more I wrote, the more comments I would get. There was a genuine reaction to what I was doing. At this time I would get ten comments on a blog and thought that it was earth shattering that ten people actually felt it was worth their time to take a couple of minutes out and reply to what I had written.
I had such a high regard for the fact that people were taking time out to comment that I would let the comment stand on its own. MySpace offered the ability for people to reply to comments and have your follow up comment nested below the original comment. I never would reply to comments in my blog because I thought it was taking away from their response. Instead I would write a personal message to people that I felt wanted a response. At this point I didn’t understand the idea of public communication on the web, I figured people would want their own comments to stand out and have their own place within my blog. I thought they didn’t want me to upstage them by focusing the attention back on me with a reply comment. Little did I know that I should have been participating in the conversation instead of ignoring it.
Lorelle VanFossen, expresses the true value of comments and how it changed how she used the web, “Comments change how you write and what you write. I suddenly wasn’t writing static information. People could question what I said. They could make me think and reconsider my point of view. They could offer more information to add value to my words. And most of all, they could inspire me to write more. Comments made writing come alive.”
As I continued to blog on MySpace, I began to examine the most successful blogs according to MySpace’s blog rankings chart. The one thing I did notice about these successful blogs is that the writer would engage the readers in the comment section and create conversations away from the post. The post was the jumping off point for a larger discussion. This interactive use of the comment section was a phenomenon occurring across different blog genres; it showed up in political blogs, relationship blogs, and comedy blogs. The only real exception to this, were the celebrity blogs, where the comments were not the beginning of a conversation insofar as they were fan letters. The content was the spearhead of the conversation, while the conversation that took place after it was a huge drawing card.
By participating in the conversation, I would retain the readers a lot longer and many times they would revisit the page during the day to see what other comments were made and participate in the discussion. Joining in the conversation added another attractive level to my content. Communication, and more specifically public communication, had a large impact on my blogging career. Directly participating in the conversation on my own blog increased my popularity and also increased people’s attachment to what I was doing.
Public communication helped my readers feel personally connected to me. This resulted in a drastic change in my blog. VanFossen writes of her blog, “My site isn’t about “me” or “my opinion” any more. It’s about what I have to say and you say back and I say, and then she says, and he says, and he says to her, and she reconsiders, and I jump in with my two shekels, and then he responds with another view…and it keeps going on. Some of these conversations never end. I’m still having discussions on topics I wrote 11 months ago.”
At this point I had come to a major realization. If I had grown this far this fast with just word of mouth if I did some promotion I could probably really build a sizeable audience. However I wasn’t sure really how to promote without coming off as a nuisance. Logically I looked at the growth of my blog and felt that the comments and my response to them played a really large part in what I was achieving. I decided to apply this to other blogs, I would go there and be part of the discussion.
By choosing blogs that were slightly similar to mine I could draw attention to myself with a witty comment but also be part of the larger blogging community beyond just my page. Early on this really worked and it was great; not only was I building a readership but I was part of a larger community as a whole, people started linking to other people and writers were sharing information with other writers. MySpace had a budding blogging community that was growing holistically.
Understanding the social in social web was vital in my success. People are using the read/write web as a major mode of communication. The communication aspect of my blog and others plays into the overall conversation that is going on, a conversation that can get started by an article, which is covered in a blog, the blog is followed by comments, and then those comments or that blog spur a response blog that has its own set of comments. Having a grasp on this concept and seeing how it operates not only brings you better success on the social web but makes you a better participant. Having an approach where you only want to take from the social web will leave you ultimately unsuccessful, no matter how great your content is you need to have a level of participation and make people feel that you are communicating with them and not just speaking at them.
Tomorrow: Part 3 the final chapter… or something