Finding New Readers

photo by woodleywonderworks

The students in my blogging class (no, that’s not them in the photo) seem to enjoy the social aspect of blogging — at least, while we are in the computer lab. They look over each other’s shoulders, recommend posts or links to read, and wait eagerly to comment on a friend’s post as soon as it’s published. I assign homework of reading and commenting on classmate blogs during the week, but they rarely get around to that, which makes me wonder whether the community we’ve built will last beyond the semester.

In the “real world,” bloggers work in isolation, each of us typing away at our own desk at home or on a laptop at the coffee shop. Still, blogging is a social game. The interaction between a blogger and his/her readers is what makes it all worthwhile.

This week’s blogging class lesson: How can we draw new readers into the game? And how can we keep them coming back for more?

Family First

If you’ve been keeping up with our lessons, you should have an email subscription widget near the top of your sidebar. Encourage Grandma and Grandpa, aunts and uncles, cousins and other family members to subscribe to your blog so they don’t miss a single post.

  • Keep them coming back: Family members, especially those who live far away, like to hear about what you’ve been doing. As long as you keep the Internet safety rules in mind, you can share interesting or funny things about your day, highlights of an outing or field trip, and other family news.

Friends Indeed

Make sure all your friends know about your blog, and then tell them again whenever you post something they might find interesting. If you have a Facebook or other social networking account, make sure your home page shows a link to your blog. You don’t want to “nag” about every post, but do mention your blog occasionally — for instance, after you post a really great article.

  • Keep them coming back: Friends love to see their names in print. (But remember, nicknames or first names only!) Post about a joke or story your friend told you or something fun you did together.

Comment Give and Take

Participate in the world-wide blogging conversation by commenting on other blogs and by responding to comments on your own blog. Go out and find new blogs that you think are interesting, then leave a comment for the blogger. When you find a blog you enjoy, add it to your Blogroll — and subscribe to it, too, so you will know whenever the blogger posts something new that you might want to comment on. Be sure to visit the blogs of people who leave you a comment, and try to find something on their blog to comment on in return. Don’t be spammy! Make sure your comments add to the discussion.

  • Keep them coming back: Bloggers like to see their names in print, and they especially like having links to their blog posts. When a blogger sees your link on the Stats page, he or she will almost always come to check out your blog. Therefore, if you find something that interests you on another blog — and you think your readers will like it, too — write a quick post about it and share the link.

Party with a Blog Carnival

A blog carnival is like a magazine table of contents, listing a lot of different articles by different writers that are all held together by some theme. There are carnivals for homeschoolers, for artists, for people who read books, for cat owners, for people who like to make things from scratch, and for almost any other group you can imagine. The great thing about carnivals is that they give your blog a wider audience than you could ever find on your own.

This week, we will each submit a post to the Homeschool Kids Blog Carnival, which will be published at the end of this month.

To find other blog carnivals you might be interested in, check out this list at the blog carnival website. Click on any carnival that looks interesting. That will take you to the carnival’s home page, where you can see if there is an upcoming edition planned. Click the “past posts” tab to check out the last few editions of the carnival — if you enjoy the posts the carnival has carried in the past, then they will probably be interested in your posts, too. Go back to the carnival’s home page and click the “Submit your Blog Article to this Carnival” link to join in the fun.

  • Keep them coming back: The key to attracting blog carnival readers is to submit your very best post to the carnival. Make sure the post has a catchy title that will draw the reader’s attention, and make sure your writing is top notch. Proofread! And then write more of the things that readers like to see: book or movie reviews, hands-on project ideas, your favorite homeschooling resource, practical tips and advice, “best of” link lists, or creative humor posts.

Blogging etiquette: When the blog carnival is published, be sure to write a short post on your blog linking to it! This is how blog carnivals reach so many people: While your readers go to check out the carnival, all the other bloggers’ readers are coming in, too, and the net result is a big pool of new readers for everyone.

Be Patient

It takes time for a blog to grow, and most of us will never hit the numbers that the big-time bloggers boast about. That’s okay. We each have our niche, the little part of the blogging world where we contribute to the conversation. Continue to build relationships with family, friends, and other bloggers, and gradually you will see the evidence of growth in your stats.

And most important of all, enjoy your blogging journey!

  • Homework: Write a blog post. Read and comment on your classmates’ blogs.
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