Dear Michelle: How do you find time to comment on other people's blogs? How often do you comment and how do you decide who to visit?
This is something I'm asked frequently, most recently by Maddy from Whitterer on Autism. Fabulous question, very tricky, and the short answers are: "It's the hardest part of blogging for me," "Not enough," and "I try to visit everyone."
The first comment I made on a blog was at Chookooloonks and I had no idea that it was a "biggie" blog, I just liked Karen's beautiful photographs and her personal voice. I left a comment to that effect, asked her what she thought of Scribbit and sat, too terrified to hit the "post comment" button. I re-read my comment, worried at how it would sound, second-guessed myself, then sent it. It was about 5:30 am in Anchorage and within five minutes there was a reply waiting in my email box. Karen had responded graciously and I was instantly hooked. I couldn't believe someone on the other side of the world had been nice enough to respond to me and I read her blog in faithful devotion.
That experience made me take a little vow to always be as gracious and responsive to people as Karen was to me. I've been to a few blogs (no names, we're being nice, right?) where I've felt that my comment or my blog was ignored and I have to say it hurts a bit. I don't ever want to make anyone feel ignored here but I do understand too that it's hard to find time to comment on blogs--even the blogs you love the most.
If you've just started a blog getting out into the community and visiting other blogs is critical--second only in importance to writing good content--you must get out there and you must make yourself known.
But once you've established yourself and created an image or reputation though you still need to be active in the community it becomes much harder to find time to visit others. If there are lots of people at your house you're so busy cleaning, cooking and playing the hostess that it makes it hard to get out and visit other people's homes, you know what I mean?
To give you an idea of how I spend my daily four or five hours of blogging here is how it breaks down by largest percentage to smallest:
* Writing posts, including editing and photography.
* Answering emails, questions and comments.
* Finding advertisers.
* Setting up giveaways and reviews.
* Organizing posts, backing up posts and planning posts.
* Reading RSS Feeds.
The amount of time it takes to do all these things properly is the equivalent of a part-time job (some times more) and the highest priorities need to be met first. So this means that you need to decide what your goals are with your blog. If close associations with other bloggers are your highest goal then by all means, make time to visit everyone every day--you'll enjoy the community and the on-line friendships regardless of how many hits you have a day. But if your goal is to produce a product that draws readers, improves your writing skills and earns income then you'll need to focus your limited time on the activities that most contribute to this goal.
For me this means I've had to make a few decisions:
1. I always find time to answer an email. If someone takes the time to comment and makes their email visible in their profile then I will always answer their comment via email. This is completely doable--I have seen very few blogs that have so many comments that they can't answer them this way. The only exception might be contest posts that inspire hundreds of comments as entries. At least half of commentators don't make their email public anyway so I can't respond and that cuts the job in half right there.
2. I read my RSS feeds regularly. When someone comments at Scribbit (especially more than once) I usually find my way back to their blog at some point and if I like what I see then I add it to my RSS feeds. I read almost all blogs this way because I can scan them quickly and be aware of what others are doing and what the hot topics are. Sidenote: if they don't have their full feed posted then I don't read it nearly as often because it takes extra time to click through and a partial feed usually doesn't include a picture which I find necessary. Not sure why, I'm just a visual person and need a picture to lure me in. But all this means that just because I'm not commenting on your blog regularly doesn't mean I'm not still reading it, I'm just lurking in the shadows ready to pounce on any great post that I see coming through. If I do see something that I really want to comment on I will or I might bookmark a post to link to later.
3. I respond to links with a comment. If I see that someone has linked to me in a post I will always leave a comment to show I've noticed and say thanks. It's hard to pick up all of them but I try--depending on how busy things are. I also try to do this when people add me to their blogrolls but that can be much harder to keep up with.
4. I comment on any blog that participates in the Winter Bazaar or Write-Away Contest. If someone takes the time to enter one of my carnivals or contests then I figure I can at least comment on their entry, seems to be an issue of common courtesy.
5. I use awards, memes and my "Site of the Week" to say thanks. When someone has been kind and linked to me repeatedly or done other nice things I like to try and repay some of the favor by giving them one of the many awards floating around or passing a meme to them or highlighting them as "Site of the Week" on my sidebar. I may not be able to make it around to comment everywhere but a little thanks can go a long way.
There you are, for what it's worth--my thoughts on commenting and visiting other blogs. And the first draft took me just over three hours to write, including but not limited to: writing the post, making the graph, handling five phone calls, picking up kids at school, answering the doorbell and eating lunch.
Do you dare comment?
Technorati tags: blogging, writing