AAM 2012: Blogging Basics 101

Building blogs in Wordpress

Put Yourself Out There

The blogging community is like AAM. You’re here, with 4500 other people who work in the same industry as you, even if they’re not all in the same field. You want to get to know them, and you want them to get to know you.

So there you are, standing in a crowded room, listening to the various conversations going on around you, wondering how you’re going to connect with all these people. You hear one group talking about your favorite topic. You love this topic, you’re passionate about this topic, and oh wow, you even wrote a blog post about this very topic just two days ago. You ease yourself into the sidelines of the group. Do you:

  1. Hand each of them your business card with your blog URL, then walk away, hoping they’ll call?
  2. Wait for the first opening and say, “That’s interesting, I was saying something similar just yesterday in my blog, you should check it out”?
  3. Introduce yourself, make an observation about what the last person said, maybe agree or disagree, perhaps mention an article you’d read last week?

Now imagine you’re one of the people already chatting merrily along when someone you’ve never met joins the group. Which conversational attempt are you more likely to respond positively to? Which will make you roll your eyes and turn away? Which will encourage you to ask more about the new person, maybe check out the website for their latest project when you go back to your hotel room?

Social media is no different. Bloggers, Twitterers, Facebook users all form an online community just like AAM, just like your institution, just like your hometown. They’re made up of people like you, and they want the same thing you do–for someone to read them, to converse with them, to care about what they have to share with the world. If you want them to engage in your conversation, you have to engage in theirs. Find people you like to read, who share similar interests and opinions, who share similar interests and the opposite opinions, and talk to them, debate with them, engage with them. Check out their blogroll and follow their links to find out who they like to read, and then engage with them. Become a part of the community, add value to their online experience, and the community will embrace you and return the favor.

I can’t tell you how to be interesting–you know as well as I that different things interest different people. Oddly, though, the things that annoy people tend to be the same. So, things to NOT do when you’re commenting on blogs and Twitters:

  • Do not be generic. If the best you have to say is “Great post!”, then by all means, post it, but don’t expect much in response.
  • Do not be insincere. For instance, this is the type of comment that appears frequently from comment spammers: “Howdy! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a team of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us useful information to work on. You have done a outstanding job!” It’s pretty obvious no one even read the blog before posting this.
  • Do not spam. Posting a comment every five minutes; posting the same comment in ten different blogs; posting a short comment with a link to your blog–all of these are considered spamming. It will be recognized as such and the community will never take you seriously. Remember, the memory of the internet is forever.
  • Do not be insulting, patronizing, or dismissive.
  • If you disagree, disagree with the post and not the poster. Always treat all online users with respect, even if they are obviously lunatics who believe the jet streams from passing planes is poison the military is using to subdue the populace.
  • Do not use sockpuppets. These are multiple identities that you create to post in the same place, usually for the purpose of proving “other people” agree with you. You will get caught, and then you will lose all credibility.

Do not be the person standing on the corner in a sandwich board, handing out leaflets and hoping to attract one in 100 passersby into your store.

Do be the person you hear on the train that’s so interesting you miss your stop because you want to hear more.

It’s work, don’t get me wrong. There’s no magic button you can hit, and then sit back and watch the readers pour into your blog. You have to work every day to maintain these connections. But if you keep at it, and keep adding value to the community, you’ll attract not only the bloggers, but also your fellow commenters, and with luck, their readers too. And maybe you’ll make some friends along the way.


  1. Work with a neighbor and come up with five things you want to talk about with other people. Be as generic or specific as you’d like. Be truly interested in these topics–it’s hard to be engaging when you’re bored by the subject.
  2. Using the tools below (or others, if you have your own favorites), find a blog post and/or a Tweet that talks about one of these topics. Craft a reply intended to invite further conversation.

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