I’ve had plenty of blogs on and off over the years, but in most of those cases, I stuck to the communities in which I made my bloggery home (Efx2, Efx3, tumblr, etc.). When I started this book blog last year, I knew I wanted to dive deeper into the community. There are many amazing book blogs all over the internet, so keeping strictly to those I found and got to know on WordPress wasn’t going to cut it.
Past the 6-month mark, I feel like I’m finally forging my own little piece of this giant, exciting community. But in that time, I’ve come across several problems and questions that have made things difficult or confusing for me. I thought I’d share some of these observations — both the good and the frustrating. Most of these aren’t specific to book blogging, but you know.
The Good and The Helpful
First, I’ll start with the things I’ve learned that have helped me make friends in the community and helped bring people to my blog. I hope these observations will be helpful for any new-ish book bloggers, too!
1. The best way to make friends is to seek them out.
When I made this blog, I didn’t really know where to start networking, so I just searched for book blogs in the WordPress community that I could +Follow and see in my WordPress Reader. Some of those blogs have now become my favorites, and some of those bloggers are my most consistent visitors — I made friends!
From there, I reached further. I followed a few authors on twitter who would often retweet or link to giveaways. It is actually by following many of those blogs that I began finding the larger community. Subscribing to blogs via email, for the requirement of a giveaway, has led to me finding several more of my favorite book blogs.
But the most important thing? Commenting! Taking the time to read the new posts on these blogs and leave thoughtful comments on them has created familiarity and relationships between me and other bloggers. Talk to people and they’ll talk back.
Oh.. and my favorite blogs? I like to link to them in my sidebar, so I can share the love. :)
2. Memes are a fun way to get involved in the community.
In the beginning, I didn’t have a lot of content for this blog; I don’t have a ton of reading time, and writing reviews was hard. So in order to keep myself motivated, and to get to know other bloggers in the community, I started participating in some weekly memes. I’d seen this Waiting on Wednesday meme all over twitter, so I decided to start with that one. I also quickly found another one called Teaser Tuesday, which has been a lot of fun.
Participating in these memes each week has not only opened my eyes to so many amazing new books, but it’s also introduced me to dozens of other bloggers. I love the give and take that goes on with these memes. Visit the other participants and comment on their posts, and they come by to visit yours! I’ve seen some bloggers admonish memes, as if they are a waste of a blog post or “not real content.” I think the point, though, is that these memes shouldn’t be your ONLY content.
3. The more places you visit, the more opportunities you find.
At first, I really was resistant to following book bloggers on twitter. Many of the ones I’d come across in my early days were kinda… spammers. And I just didn’t want my feed cluttered with a bunch of nonsense. But then I realized I could pick and choose the people I want to follow on twitter (instead of blindly following random people for giveaways), and things began to open up.
I now follow quite a few book bloggers and authors who post interesting things, and it’s opened up my world to new books, new blogs, and new ideas.
Subscribing to blogs, following people on twitter, and making friends on sites like Goodreads have all done great things for my blogging. I’ve been inspired by other people’s posts, I’ve made new friends, and I’ve found a ton of new books, memes, events, and techniques!
The Frustrating and The Confusing
As I said before, not all of my experiences have been great. There’s been some roadblocks to my networking and friend-making attempts, and there’s been things I’ve felt uncertain about. I hope that some more experienced bloggers might be able to look at these and offer some suggestions to help remedy them.
1. There is no good standard for following & networking with other bloggers.
Ever found a new blog you like and want to subscribe, or wanted to enter a giveaway and you’re required to subscribe? Of course you have! And do you have a default method you use for that subscription? Maybe? Because I sure can’t find one. Everyone uses something different. I love the easy-to-use +Follow feature on WordPress, but that only works for me because I’m on WordPress, and it only works for other blogs in the WordPress community.
Google Friend Connect (GFC) refuses to work for me. Ever. I see a lot of people using Linky. Or Networked Blogs. Or Google+. But there’s not one that EVERYONE uses. And does anyone actually DO anything with those sites? I’ve signed up for Linky and Networked Blogs, and supposedly GFC, but beyond that, I don’t ever DO anything with them. They don’t actually help me get a blog feed (or… do they, somehow?), so are they just used to amass followers? I just don’t know.
There’s not one consistent method that everyone uses. There’s not one go-to for this. There’s not one that seems to do it better than the others. I’ve pretty much resorted to subscribing by email to blogs I’m interested in, that aren’t in the WordPress network. But still. Why can’t I have a place to collect them all?
2. There is no good standard for commenting systems & logins.
Along those same lines, there is no consistent way for me to login and comment on various blogs. Yes, it is easy for me to comment on any blog using WordPress, but that’s about it. Some sites use comment systems like Disqus, Intense Debate, or LiveFyre, and those are okay because they are internet-wide and I can use those accounts on many blogs — but they all require me to sign up or sign in to them using whatever options are allowed by the system or blog owner.
And every one of them seems to give me different ways in which I may login. Some let me login via Facebook (I don’t use Facebook), or twitter, or simply by typing my name/email/url. Still others — namely Blogger — want me to login using Open ID, WordPress, or a few other options that AREN’T any of the previously-mentioned. In some (good) systems I show up just how I want: with my avatar, and my name (Kelley) linking to this blog. But with many other systems, I show up as “anothernovelread” with no avatar, or worse, as “Anonymous”, even though I’ve told it who I am.
Am I being too picky? Maybe. But I still don’t think it should be that difficult for blogs to simply offer an option to comment using my name/email/url. Maybe part of the problem is that many bloggers don’t realize what options their site offers visitors (since they’re always logged in to their own blog).
2b. There is no good method for comment follow-up.
Along those same lines, when I comment, I want/expect responses (I respond to every comment I get on my blog – don’t you?), but there isn’t always a good or clear way to find out if/when I’ve received a reply. Again, with the WordPress community, it’s easy because I get a notification. Some systems, like Disqus and Livefyre will send me an email when someone responds to one of my comments. Yet still others (Blogger, I’m looking at you) have no way of letting me know! It’s frustrating and disappointing, because one of my favorite aspects of blogging is the discussion!
3. Likes vs. Comments
WordPress, along with some other commenting systems, allows visitors to “Like” a blog post. I’ve also seen blogs that ask visitors to rate blog posts on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. How do bloggers feel about this? I include the Like option on my blog, but I’m just unsure how I feel about it.
As a blog visitor, I like having the option to “like” a blog post. It lets me tell the blogger that I enjoyed their post, even if I can’t think of anything clever or interesting to say in a comment. So instead of saying the boring “I like this post!” I get to click Like. (I also enjoy that WordPress gives me a shortcut to all of my Liked posts, so I can find them easily if I want to read them again later.)
As a blogger, I kind of want to turn the Like option off. There are some folks who basically Like every single one of my blog posts, but have never left a comment, and when I visit their sites, they don’t even seem like they’d be interested in my blog. Are these just spammers? In this regard, I really don’t like the Likes. I do see some of my friends Liking my posts now and again, and I can tell those are genuine, but a lot of the others just seem kind of pointless.
How do you feel about them? What do you do on your blog? I’d much rather have (and leave) a comment than a Like.