Blogs are generally considered social media. But not all blogs are social. Last December, I wrote a post about how to connect with other bloggers. Today, let's explore the idea a little more and talk about how we can make our blogs more social.

As I wrote in December, if your blog is floating around the universe by itself, trying to suck in readers without building connections with other blogs, you're asking for frustration. Over at ProBlogger a few weeks ago, Chris "the Traffic Blogger" was writing about his mom's less than successful foray into blogging:

My mother didn't fail because she couldn't write, or because she didn't have a revenue stream. She was an excellent writer and had AdSense/affiliate links on her site in good locations. She failed because she lacked connections and social interaction with her potential audience.

Near the end of the article, he gives this formula for improving his mom's blog:

Let's say my Mom can spend three hours per week blogging. Here's how I would change her schedule from 100% writing to a different setup, and get her on the path towards blogging success.

  1. Spend one hour emailing and responding to emails.
  2. Spend one hour commenting on blogs and participating on forums.
  3. Spend one hour writing posts.

Chris' comments caused a small, but important, shift in my thinking about Blog Riffing.

If I had to choose between Blog Riffing and commenting, I'd choose Riffing because, as I wrote in December, it:

  1. ...establishes you as a blogger "” as more of an equal, both in their [ie. other bloggers'] eyes, and (especially as they respond to your posts) in the eyes of readers.
  2. ...builds reciprocity by giving not just a comment, but a link from your blog to theirs. A post on your blog shows that you're willing to share your credibility, your readers, and your PageRank with them.
  3. like inviting them to your home.
  4. ...builds content on your own site.

But unless you simply don't have an extra moment to spare, commenting is also important, and can multiply the value of your Riffs -- particularly when someone Riffs on one of your blog posts.

Completing the Connection

When I Riff on someone's blog, I'm inviting them into my home. If they give me a Riffback, they're inviting me to theirs. But until one of us leaves a comment on the others' blog, it's almost as if the invitation hasn't been accepted. It's like our social secretaries have opened negotiations, but we've never met in person.

Have you ever written about a Name Brand person on your blog and gotten a comment from them in return? If you have, you know what it feels like. It's a credibility boost it is for your blog. A Riffback is better, since it promotes you to their readers, but a comment is also a powerful gift, because it validates you in the eyes of anyone who visits your blog.

Now flip that around. When someone mentions you on their blog, as long as it's not a blog that you find objectionable, and as long as it's not just a lazy scraper who's leaching off your content, leave a comment, even if just to say "thanks for the mention." How do you think that will make them feel? How much more of a fan and advocate will they be for you when you've shown that you're not just another snob, sitting on your private mountain and ignoring the rest of the world.

Do it even if it's not a blog you'd give a testimonial or Riffback to -- that's not what this is. A simple "thanks" isn't a commitment to a lifelong friendship. It doesn't mean you've accepted the other person as your professional equal. It's just good manners -- good social blogging. It's an acknowledgement of them as your human equal.

Blogs Without Comments

A sad side effect of comment spam is that some bloggers turn comments off completely, so their blogs are no longer social. Other bloggers never turn comments on at all, because they see their blogs as publishing tools rather than communication tools.

And that's fine, if that's their goal.

But if you want your blog to be social, which most bloggers do, you've got to keep comments on. And if you want to pay due respect to Riffers who link to your blog, you've got to keep pingbacks and trackbacks on too.

Moderate if you wish. Use anti-spam plugins. There's nothing antisocial about using Caller ID screen your calls and ignore telemarketers. But if you cancel your phone service completely, you cut off the social calls too.