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Ten Innovative Ways to Connect with Your Community

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I don’t know about you, but when I hear the words “blog community,” I think of comments on blog posts and forums, maybe interaction between the blogger and readers on Facebook or Twitter. Really, though, how many of us truly have a community? We might have fans and regular readers, but it’s extremely hard to build an actual community of people who feel like they’re part of a group. It takes dedication and hard work to build that kind of following.

So how can you take things to the next level? Get innovative! I’ve brainstormed ten innovative ways to connect with your community, and I hold everyone out there reading this will pitch in and add at least one comment with your own innovative connection method.

In fact, that’s my challenge to you: Leave a comment with one innovative way to help build a sense of community on your blog. Here are ten from me to get you started:

1. Host a “family game night.”

When I was a kid, about once a week or so, we would have family game night, when we played board games and card games together (usually Yahtzee). With the power of the Internet and online gaming, you can host a family game night for your community. Wiis, Xbox 360s, and PlayStation 3s all allow you to play with friends online, and you can also encourage people to all log onto Facebook at the same time to play an interactive game there (just pair off and meet new people).

2. Host a movie night.

Along the same lines as a game night, consider hosting a movie night. If you have an Xbox 360 (and Gold membership), you can actually watch Netflix with anyone who is your friend (i.e., the move starts at the same time for everyone and you can text or voice chat if you want), but you don’t need to be a geeky gamer like me to do movie night. You could also start all at the same time and create a Twitter hashtag for everyone to use. I recommend choosing something that’s streaming on Netflix (a lot of people use that service) and something that is related to your blog in some way (documentaries are a great choice, for example).

3. Run an interactive comment contest.

Nick Cardot of Site Sketch 101 did this a few weeks back, and it was a really cool idea. A lot of people in his community got involved, and it became more about the fun and less about the prize money (though I’m sure people started commenting in order to win). When you’re encouraged to interact, you’re more likely to do so – and a prize is a gerat motivator to get people started.

4. Host a Twitter chat.

Every week, I participate in my favorite Twitter chat, #blogchat, but there are tons of others online as well. Participating in chats is an awesome way to find new readers (and new blogs), and if you can’t find one for your niche that you like, consider starting your own. Check out my post on Twitter chats if you’re going this route!

5. Make your readers part of the post.

People always feel like they’re a part of something when you recognize them. Use a tweet from one of your readers as a jumping off point for a post. Turn a comment into a post. Answer reader email (with permission) in a post. Once, I even posted part of a Skype chat as a post. It just helps people take more ownership in the blog if you’ve used a contribution they’ve made in some way.

6. Plan a Tweet Up.

If there’s a conference for your niche coming up (or if you write a blog that is based in something local), try hosting a tweet up (i.e., meet up coordinated on Twitter). It doesn’t have to cost anything – just name a place and time – people will come. (And yes, BlogWorld is an AWESOME place to do this.) When you meet readers in real life, it strengthens the community.

7. Hand out the perks.

Prizes are great for contests, but how about some perks instead. Because they’re a member of your community, they get something with real or perceived value. Give away an ebook, offer a discount on a course you’ve created, and other perks. Maybe if they come to your site every day, there will be something special on your sidebar (such as a deal you’ve found for a product related to your niche). Maybe they get a newsletter if they’re part of your mailing list. Maybe mailing list members get to know one of your secrets first (Benny from Fluent in 3 Months, for example, announces to his list where he’ll be traveling next, so you have to sign up if you want to be in the know).

8. Give them a name.

It doesn’t work for every community, but it might for yours. Giving them a name of some sort can help them feel like they’re part of something. A good example? Lady Gaga’s “Little Monsters.” It really just means “Lady Gaga fans” but then name makes it a little more special.

9. Set up a time to chat on Skype, Ustream, or another service.

If Twitter chats aren’t your think, you can also set up time to chat with your readers using some other service. The BlogcastFM guys, for example, do Ustream chats. Do what works for your community.

10. Come together for a cause.

One of the best things you can do as a community is come together for a cause. The best example I have of this is the crazy outpouring of love on The Bloggess’ blog back in December. What happened was nothing short of amazing. Also, I’ve bookmarked that link to read whenever I’ve lost faith in humanity. It works every time. (And I cry every time. Y’all done been warned.)

Okay – your turn! What are some innovative ways you can help connect with your community?

Oprah: “Know Your Viewer”

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This morning, MSNBC was on the television in the background as I was doing some work, and Oprah was one of the guests on Morning Joe. I wasn’t really paying attention to the interview, but I did catch something that she said that made me want to shout, “YES!” She was talking about why she became so successful and why she has been so successful for so long. I didn’t jot it down word for word, but it essentially boiled down to this:

Oprah is her audience. More so than even her produces or other staff members, she is able to put herself in the shoes of her audience members, so she can give them what they want. Above all, if you want to be successful, you have to know your viewer.

Pretty good advice, right? I would go a step farther and say that you have to be your viewer (or, in the case of bloggers, reader). If you wouldn’t read your content, if you find it boring and repetitive, if you are left with feelings of “meh,” why should anyone else care?

For a long time, one of the mistakes I made as a blogger was that I tried to emulate other successful blogs, even though these were blogs that I didn’t necessarily read for whatever reason. I wrote posts that were certainly informative and sometimes even interesting, but they lacked passion and style – and that showed. I wasn’t interested in being a member of my own community, so others weren’t really interested either.

So I took a good look at my blog and thought, “What would I want to read if I came to this blog?” And I started writing that, even though it was personal and goofy and unlike what a lot of the more successful blogs in my niche were doing, I’ve seen more growth since taking this approach in a month than I had in the six months prior combined. I became a member of my audience, and suddenly, I actually had an audience.

I think this can be difficult to do, since what is most relevant in our own lives is…well…our own lives. Sometimes, bloggers tend to get too personal. This is where I think Oprah reigns it in well where other talk show hosts *cough*Tyra-Banks*cough* fail. Oprah does tell her personal story when relevant, but she doesn’t lose site of the point of her show – to help the viewer and guests. She doesn’t just get up on a stage every day and talk about her herself. If you want to do that, have a hobby blog. But on your tech blog or your political blog or your fashion blog, we don’t need to know that your kid is sick and you’re planning on having tuna for lunch. Otherwise, you may be a member of your own audience, but you’ll be the only member!

Still, it pays to take some time to read your own blog and ask yourself this question: “If I didn’t write this, would I be a regular reader?” It’s a hard question to answer sometimes, because we don’t want to admit that the answer is no. Think about how successful Oprah has become, though. She might not be a blogger, but she certainly understands community and building a following. If her biggest piece of advice for success is “become a member of your own audience,” I’m going to take it!

Photo: Alan Light

Crowdsourcing to Find Interviewees for Your Blog

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Crowdsourcing is a term I’m seeing creep up more and more among bloggers. Basically, it means going to your community to solve a problem or complete a task of some sort, making your job easier. It also allows you to do a better job, in many cases, since you’re drawing from the experiences and opinions of an entire group, rather than yourself.

One of the best ways you can crowdsource is to find people to interview for your blog.

Most people love to be interviewed. It’s human nature to want to give your opinion, and by agreeing to be interviewed, you’re getting free promotion for your own blog or projects. Win-win.

But, as a busy blogger, it can be time-consuming to find people to interview. The most popular bloggers in your niche are often too busy to respond to interview requests and although new bloggers typically readily respond to interview requests, you also want to make sure that the person is actually doing something that is interesting to your readers.

This is where crowdsourcing comes into play. The inspiration for this post was something my friend Andy told me was going on at the Matador Network – a call for nominations for their new series, Breaking Free. It’s an awesome opportunity for people who have quit their 9-to-5 jobs to move overseas and do something new and interesting, and there are certainly tons of people in this world who qualify. But rather than spending hundreds or even thousands of hours looking for these people, Matador turned to there community. Not only are they going to get some awesome nominations, but they’re probably going to find people they would otherwise have never found. (Including you? Go apply!)

The point is that by crowdsourcing, you can find tons of interesting people that you would have never found otherwise – and at least one member of your community is already raising his/her hand and saying “I want to see an interview with this person. I would read it and likely promote the post via social media.” As an added bonus, you spent next to no time finding these interesting people for your blog.

Another great example of crowdsourcing? Recently, right here at the BlogWorld blog, our own Deb Ng wrote a post asking for your BlogWorld 2011 speak recommendations. As of right now, there are over 60 comments on that post, most with 5+ recommendations, and I expect we’ll see even more recommendations in the coming weeks. Of course, BlogWorld goes out there to find people who would make great speakers that may have been missed in the comments session, but just look at all those awesome people! There were people not on BlogWorld’s radar, and it also confirms what the community wants for the people who were.

The moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to ask your community for recommendations. Interviews are an awesome addition not matter what your niche, and crowdsourcing is definitely one of the best ways to find new contacts.

How to Be a Fly on the Wall: Three Ways to Find Out What Your Readers Really Think

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Given the name of this post, I wanted to have a picture of a fly. But ew, close up pictures of flies are nasty. Butterfly instead!

I think it is part of the human experience to wonder what other people think about us. For bloggers, keeping a finger on the pulse of  your readers is important if you’re trying to make money or increase your readership. If you get few comments, however, it is hard to know what people really think about you. Even if your community is vocal, its often the most violently upset or emotionally moved that comment, so you may only be seeing the extremes.

Figuring out what your readers really think about you and your blog is essential to community management, though. You can only best serve your readers if you know what they like and dislike. Here are some ways that I’ve found you can be a fly on the wall and get a bit of honest information about what your readers are thinking:

1. Set up a Google Alert for your name.

People mention other people all the time, but just because someone talks about you doesn’t mean that they link back to your site. Or, they could link to your homepage, so you don’t get the ping, but they don’t send a ton of traffic your way, so you don’t notice a spike and figure out where it’s coming from either. Google Alerts isn’t a perfect method, but it will help you see where people are mentioning you. Often, if they aren’t talking about you on your site, such as they would in the comments section of a post, they speak more freely about their thoughts about you be prepared for both positive and negative comments!

Also, avoid telling people that you found out something they said because you were googling yourself. It still sounds creepy, even if we all do it.

2. Check out what Twitter lists you’re on.

One of my favorite things to do is to see how other people have me categorized on Twitter. You’ll likely see a ton of people listing you according to your niche (such as on a list called “food bloggers” or “writers”), but you’ll be amazed with just how creative people can get with list names – and those names are telling. Are people calling you a teacher or guru or expert? That’s an awesome sign. Are people constantly listing you as something you’re not? You might be giving off the wrong impression. For example, it would be awesome to be on a list called “blogging authorities” if you blog about blogging. Not so awesome to be on that same list if you talk more about social media than you do about blogging tips. And if lots of people have you listed as someone who blogs about blogging, but your site is mainly about pets or dating or fashion or gardening or whatever? Well, perhaps you should reevaluate the links you’re sharing on Twitter and your tweets, because you might not be reaching the right audience.

As of right now, here are some of my favorite names for lists I’m on: “keepers” (D’awwwww), “too-legit-2-quit” (word.), “geeky-girls-like-me” (sad, but true), “boobbrigade” (love it), “midnight-snack” (no idea…but I’ll take it.)

3. When you comment somewhere, subscribe to follow-ups.

People are often more vocal about your opinions when it isn’t on your site, and if you don’t have a ton of traffic, leaving comments on others’ sites is a great way to get some feedback about your ideas (as long as you’re actually adding to the conversation in a relevant way, not just spamming a popular site because you want attention). But often, we leave passionate comments and forget to actually check if there were any responses! Don’t be afraid to subscribe to follow-up comments on websites if you say something passionate. Worried about getting too many emails? Bookmark the site. I keep a bookmark folder of the last ten places I left comments. When I comment somewhere new, I bump the oldest one so the list always stays manageable, and at the end of the day, I check over these posts to see if I got any responses.

Ok, those are my best three tricks for finding out what people really think of you and your blog so you can better manage your own community – what are your best tricks?

30 Days to a Better Blog: End With a Question

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30 Days to a Better Blog: End With a Question

Today’s tip is surprisingly simple. Want to know the best and fastest way to encourage readers to leave a comment and start a dialogue? Ask them a question (or series of questions) at the bottom of the post!

People love to talk about themselves, so by giving them an open invitation to write, they’ll probably do it. As long as the question is personable and easy to answer. Sample questions include:

  • Have you ever had this experience?
  • Do you have any other tips?
  • Do you share the same opinion?
  • Did you try the steps above, and how did it work out?
  • Do you have a story to share?
  • Have you … read the book? tried the recipe? worn this style?

As always, I’ll remind you to respond to your comments and thank them for writing!

What kind of questions do you ask your readers?

Image Source: SXC

Controlling the Chatter: Why Moderation is Okay with Me

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If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a million times: “You can’t please everyone.” Most blog have a wide range of readers, and that advice becomes especially pertinent when handing out some kind of blogging award, writing an emotionally-charged post, or responding to a comment or blog post with an opposite opinion. Soon, the community starts to do what I call “chattering.” Some people bicker, most people are respectful, and a lot of great discussion happens.

Chatter is awesome. It’s more than just comments. It’s conversation. When your readers start responding to one another, sharing ideas, and checking back to reply to new comments, that’s chatter. You’ve engaged your audience to the point where they’ve not only felt the need to leave a comment, but they want to have a discussion about it. When this happens, people start to take more possession in the post and tend to tweet it or spread it through other means. Like I said, chatter is awesome.

But that chatter needs to be controlled.

I know that some bloggers take the approach that any comment, as long as it isn’t spam, will get published on their site. I respect that approach to blogging, but it’s one that I don’t always use on my own blog. I definitely depends on your niche and on your readers, but no matter what, I think that this approach on a blog can get out of hand in a hurry.

I’ve seen it happen before. One time, I read a post that was highlighting a major problem in the writing industry. The author called out a particular company that hires a lot of freelancers, and of course workers who were fans of that company flocked to the blog post to defend it. On the other side of things, people who felt they had been wronged in some way by this company, as the author had, were leaving comments that were just as emotional. The chatter slowly took a turn for the worst, and what was productive conversation devolved into name-calling and snark.

Even before that point, though, I believe that the conversation needed some control.

See, the people weren’t really saying anything new anymore. It was just this exchange of “yah huh!” and “nuh uh!” back and forth, which led to the more belligerent comments. By the time I read the post for the first time, there were over 50 comments, and while the first several made good points, I had to force myself to keep reading after a point. As a reader, it got boring to me.

And that’s lesson number one. You can’t control what people say, but you can stop the conversation from getting boring. When people start to say the same things over and over again, jump in there! Ask questions via replies, encouraging the comments to take a new spin and evolve, rather than plateauing. I think Jade Craven is doing a fabulous job at this on her 40 Bloggers to Watch in 2011 post – she’s jumping into the comments and responding to people to encourage the conversation to evolve beyond “your post is awesome” or “your post is crap.”

In the particular comments section that I mentioned, the comments got mean. At that point, the blogger chose to close the comments, which I’m not sure was the right decision. People still wanted to discuss. There were just a few bad apples who forgot how to act like like adults. Before she closed the comments, I did have something to say, but I was too intimidated because I saw others being attacked, and the blogger just let it happen.

That’s lesson number two. Don’t let members of your community get attacked! I don’t just mean people who comment often or follow you on Twitter or something. Every reader, even the lurker, is a member of your community, and when they leave a comment, even one that disagrees with you, they deserve respect. And that’s your job – to ensure that they get it.

Something that we forget: Freedom of speech does not mean that you have to allow anyone to leave a comment on your site. I actual advocate having a comment policy and then editing any comment that does not adhere to your policy. For example, you could say in your policy, “Disagreeing is encouraged, but name-calling is not.” Then, simply edit the bad comment to have “This comment was removed due to its language. Check out our comment policy and feel free to leave a second comment that adheres to these community rules! -Editor”

A message like that tells me that the blogger cares about me and wants everyone to feel comfortable leaving a comment on the post.

Lastly, keep in mind that you can reach out to commenters via email. I do this when one of the long-term members of my community leaves a comment that is emotionally charged or gets attacked by other commenters. I don’t want one post where we disagree or another commenter to mean that the person stops coming to my blog. Reaching out shows that person that you’ve noticed them and that you care about their opinion. Individual attention is awesome!

Are Spammy Comments Inevitable?

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Hang on, I’m not going to talk about the spam and junk comments we get on our blogs because that’s long since been discussed to death and while it’s managed by Akismet and such, it’s just a fact of life. Even with those tools, I still get 5-10 clearly spam comments on AskDaveTaylor every night (usually between 1-5am, when I imagine that it’s mid-day in India or China?), all easily deleted.

Instead, I’m going to ask whether these sort of comments are just part of being online and a natural outgrowth of any commercial or economic system where there are bottom-feeders trying to exploit and trick both the system and its users for a fast buck?

What made me wonder this, btw, is when I was looking at the app reviews on iTunes for a game and noticed that they’re starting to be overrun by spammers. Yup, those little two-sentence reviews are a brave new outpost for this sort of thing, as shown here:

In case it’s not obvious, I’m not encouraging you to check out either of the apps (or Web sites) mentioned. Like email spam, like blog comment spam, encouraging these guys is like feeding cockroaches in a tenement, a really bad idea.

What really strikes me about this after being in the blogging world for eight years and being online for a lot longer than that is that there’s a sort of inevitability to this sort of thing, a sense that everyone who designs any sort of user feedback or user generated content system, any Web-based app or even standalone app that lets people share their own opinions must take this junk into account and design the system to limit — or, better, prevent — these sort of abuses.

On the blogging front, it amazes me that I see similar sort of daft spam comments on all of my blog articles, from film reviews on my film blog to parenting discussions on my parenting blog. I know, much of it’s automated, but it’s not, really, because the automated stuff is what Akismet is so darn good at catching. This is actually a human being spending the time and effort to attempt to leave a comment that starts out more or less related to the topic (“good review, I love Jolie!”) followed by those pesky links to their scams, hustles and rip-offs.

Is this just the way of things?  Should we all finally buckle down and just assume spam is going to spread and ooze into every corner of our online lives?  What do you think?

Overheard on #Blogchat: Spamming Yourself (@OneGiantStep)

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Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: Blog Comments

There’s one issue relating to blog comments that I debate with people more than others – whether or not to answer comments on your own blog. A number of people brought up this topic during #blogchat this week, and this one sums up how I feel about the topic:

OneGiantStep: I worry that if I respond to EVERY comment that I’m just spamming myself

I’m firmly on the side of “not every blog comment needs a response.” Some bloggers disagree with me. A number of the comments that I highly respect respond to every comment and encourage new bloggers to do the same. I don’t, because I think it can get out of hand. Like OneGiantStep noted, it starts to look like spam on your own site.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t reply to any comment. I know bloggers who do that as well. Some are just lazy. Others are misguided (in my opinion) and believe that its best to remain silent while they let their community engage with one another. I personally believe that you need to be somewhere in the middle. As a professional blogger, it’s part of your job to respond to your community.

Here’s when I don’t respond to a comment, though:

When I Don’t have Anything to Say

What, you were expecting a long list? :-p

Sometimes, comments fall through the cracks. There are only so many hours in a day, and occasionally I miss comments that require a response. I think we all do. No one is perfect. Even if you have a VA, you’re going to miss some comments.

But just because I haven’t answered a comment doesn’t mean that i missed it. Sometimes, I just have no further comment.

Now, it’s important to not leave questions unanswered. That’s a given. Even if you don’t know the answer, acknowledge the question and try to help the reader. Leaving the question unanswered just looks like you don’t care about your readers. Email the answer? Still, leave a comment. Other commenters don’t know that you emailed the person who asked the question, so to them, it just looks like you snubbed the reader.

But what about other comments? Should you respond? It’s a judgement call. Here’s the rule of thumb I use: If someone adds something to the conversation, I should try to respond with my thoughts. If they don’t really add much, but are instead thanking you or saying what others have said, I don’t always reply. Don’t get me wrong – those comments are important to me too! I just don’t want to respond to “great article” with “thanks.” That means there are two comments now that don’t add anything for future readers.

Here’s an example of my thought process. Let’s say I write a post about my favorite kind of cake. Because I like cake. Reader #1 leaves a comment asking if anyone knows where they can find a gluten-free recipe for that kind of cake. Reader #2 leaves a comment saying that they once ate a version of that cake while on vacation that used chocolate frosting instead of peanut butter frosting and it was also really good. Reader #3 leaves a comment that thanks me for the article because they had been looking for a good cake recipe.

I would 100% reply to Reader #1 with links to some gluten-free resources. I would also reply to Reader #2, thanking them for the suggestion and noting that not only would chocolate frosting be good, but readers should try mixing and matching other recipes as well to find new flavors. I would probably not respond to Reader #3. What do I have to say? Nothing.

Of course, there are a lot of other issues to consider here as well. How do you comment in a way that doesn’t dominate the conversation? Should you respond to troll comments? What about comments left on older posts – should you answer them too or spend your time focused on comments on new posts? Is it ethical to hire someone to answer comments for you, under your name?

But for now, I hope that I’ve simply given you some food for thought about the general concept of replying to every comment. Thanks OneGiantStep and everyone at #blogchat this week for inspiring this conversation!

Overheard on #Blogchat: Customer Need (@BeckyMcCray)

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Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: how small businesses can use blogs with co-host @BeckyMcCray

Though tonight’s co-host, the fabulous Beck McCray (who I met at BlogWorld for a hot minute), had a bunch of awesome tips for bloggers, one in particular that I wanted to highlight is this:

@BeckyMcCray: Huge key for small biz blogs: Focus on what customers want to know, not what you want to tell them about your business.

This is so important, and not just for small business blogs. It’s important for all of us as bloggers to ask ourselves, “What does the reader want?”

Blogs can be a great promotional tool, but where I see so many go wrong is in being too much about the writer and not enough about the reader. Being a bit self-indulgent is fine, but if you have twenty posts in a row about events your company has held, chances are that your reader is going to start to get a bit board. We get it. Your business is awesome and likes to support causes and organizations in the community. We don’t need yet another post about your Relay for Life team or the Girl Scout troop camping trip you’re sponsoring.

Instead, what problems can you fix for your readers (who are your customers – or at least have that potential to be your customers)? If you run a hair salon, could you teach me ten tips for de-frizzing my hair? If you run a bakery could you teach me a new recipe I can use at home? If you run a retail store, could you teach me which television best fits my family’s needs?

Remember, this isn’t just for the small business. Go a step further and actually ask your readers what they want. Maybe they don’t need tips on de-frizzing hair. Maybe they’re more interested in prom updo trends for next season. You can poll your readers, respond to comments you receive, or even add an “ask a question” function on your blog. Just because you like to write about a certain topic doesn’t mean that’s what your readers want to read from you.

At least…not every day. It is still your blog, so it makes sense to write when you feel passionate about a topic. If your blog is a business of its own or you’re using a blog to help promote your business, though, remember that your readers/customers need to have a little possession in your blog’s content. Otherwise, they’ll never truly be a part of your community.

A Word About Blog Email Management

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Of course, you know that I’m going to have more than a word about anything…but today, I just wanted to do a quick post on something that really bothers me – and hopefully, you’ll weigh in with your experiences and opinions.

I’ve often emailed another blogger and never received a reply. It’s a pet peeve of mine for a number of reasons:

  • I’m a blogger myself. I’m pretty good at estimating the number of emails you get, based on the popularity of your blog
  • I’ve taken the time to put thought into emailing you, often with an idea or suggestion that can help you. You can at least take five seconds acknowledge me.
  • Often, I’m waiting for your reply because it affects something in my life, like a blog post I want to write or a project I’m working on for a client.

The main reason bloggers give for not replying to emails is this: “It’s just not scalable for me to reply to every email.” I see your argument and raise you a hearty, “You’re an idiot.” Here’s why:

  1. As a blogger, replying to emails is part of your job description. I mean, if you care about your community, that is. I don’t expect to receive a reply from you within the hour, but I do expect that if you “blog for a living” you answer your emails within three or four business days – or at least provide an automated email reply that tells me when I can expect to hear back.
  2. If you’ve reached the blogging popularity level where you’re receiving too many emails on a daily basis to keep up and also write posts, then you’re also at the level where you should be able to afford a virtual assistant to help you manage your inbox. If you can’t afford that, something is terribly awry. Namely, you’re not doing a good job with monetization. Don’t want to monetize? Hey, more power to you. But just because you say, “I don’t want to make money with my blog” doesn’t mean that you are justified in being cheap. As your blog gets more popular, you have to spend more money on it if you want it to grow, whether you’re making money or not.
  3. Bloggers who get an abnormally high volume of email often have one simple problem: they don’t address questions on their blog at all. On your contact page, you should have a short list of FAQs that people can read before emailing you. Adding that is guaranteed to cut your emails down significantly. If you’re too lazy to create an FAQ page, don’t complain that your email isn’t scalable.
  4. Every email matters. Something that bugs me more than anything else are bloggers who only respond to names they recognize, even though small-name bloggers or readers without blogs may send more thoughtful, interesting emails. I get it – your blog is a business and you need to make wise decisions about how to spend your time. It’s just funny how you forget how it feels to be “the little guy” when more popular bloggers are suddenly noticing you. You have the power to be someone’s break, just like certain people helped you when you were first getting started.
  5. Don’t confuse scalability with laziness. I know some bloggers who say that email isn’t scalable anymore, but turn around and preach how blogging is such an awesome job because they only have to work five or six hours per say. That means it isn’t that you don’t have time to answer emails. You just don’t want to. It goes back to my first point – email is part of a blogger’s job description.

I’m guilty of allowing emails to slip through the cracks. Sometimes, an email requires some thought before responding, and then it gets lost in the shuffle. I try not to let that happen.

I don’t always reply if the email is a comment that doesn’t necessitate a reply. I like to at least respond with “thanks for reading,” but it isn’t a top priority for me because I know the person isn’t waiting for a response.

I also don’t always reply if the person clearly hasn’t read my site and is so off-base that the email is comical. For example, I once got an email from someone asking to guest post on my video game blog about horse racing. 1) Obviously, they hadn’t even looked at the site to know that “gaming” did not mean casinos/betting. 2) Obviously, they had not read our clearly-marked guest post page which gave directions for submissions, along with an email address (not mine) where submissions should be sent. But even then, it really only takes one second to reply with “no thank you” or a link to the submission page. It has to be a really bad or rude email for me not to reply at all.

Important to also note is that I know that in the middle of a project or exchange of ideas, people sometimes need to put something on a back burner. I might say to someone, “Let me put it on the back burner, I’ll get back to you when I have time” – and I don’t even mind when I haven’t heard from someone I’m working with for a week or so, because I know people get busy. As long as they’ve acknowledged the initial email, so I at least know whether they’re interested or not, that’s all I ask.

Of course, writing this post is dangerous, because I know that I’ve missed emails, avoided my inbox when I wanted to do something else, etc. I’ve been a jerk. No one is perfect. But I think we all need to work toward being better at it.

I’m interested in your thoughts on email management. What are your biggest pet peeves? What are your least favorite email-related tasks? How do you feel about email scalability?

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