Monday, July 20, 2009

Ask Me Questions: Tracking Readers & Encouraging Comments

Last week I suggested that readers Ask Me Questions. BeckyJoie at Leaders in Learning wanted to know:

1. How do you, as a blogger track readership and elicit comments from your readers?
2. Do you have a mission statement for your writing? I have goals and a vision for mine but am curious about others. I'm thinking about blogging on this and wondered about your views on the idea since you come across as very focussed.

1a) Tracking Readership:

On client sites, I use statcounter tool to monitor monthly, weekly, daily traffic, and my top 10 referral sites, top 10 entry pages, top 10 downloads, top phrases used to find the site from each of the major search engines.

The tool tells me who visits the sites, why they came and what they want to talk about (among the topics already covered).

1b)How I elicit comments:

  • Asking questions on topics people want to talk about. I make the question as interesting/controversial as possible. Sometimes it’s a hit and miss situation, but I find that people are more inclined to comment when we talk about something that affects them directly, or if they find info they can use in your post.
  • Asking people to comment in the body of the post. I usually prompt them by asking them a specific question related to the topic, though they can also add their own angle to the discussion.
  • Including bloggers you know in your conversation. For example, mention other bloggers in your post if an idea for a post came from them, or if they gave an interesting comment to your post.
  • Publishing links to selected posts on Facebook, Twitter, other social networks, and forums and discussion groups if it’s relevant for them.
  • Email certain people directly because they have expressed interest before in the topic. Rule No.1, 2, 3.. 350 - Do not spam people. Send emails to people who you know welcome your emails and where you trully provide a service. A friend of a friend doesn't get included in my list, no matter how close the friend is.
  • Search out blogs that deal with a similar topic and try to make new friends.
  • Send links to certain stories to my clients, and ask them to forward the links to their own contact base. This introduces people I would normally not have connected with.
  • Hold a blog party. Last Friday I held my first blog party, where I gave out a theme and ask bloggers I know and those who visit this site to write a post about the topic. The posts elicited discussions in other people’s blogs. I then highlighted the posts on the client blog. The helped me to expand the conversation on my theme beyond the blog and audience, to other people’s audience. Obviously, the ultimate aim is that the communities of bloggers who participated in the party would get curious about the origin of the party, visit my client site, comment there and also discover new bloggers who took part in my party. That helps to expand the conversation.
  • Respond to people’s comments. Answer their questions. Find the answer for them if you don’t know it. Be a resource.

2. My mission statement

Gosh BeckyJoie, I’m glad to hear I come across as focussed. But my creative process is less structured.

At the beginning of 2008, I did write down my writing mission statement: “I write what I like.”

This was inspired by Steve Biko, a South African activist who was killed during the apartheid era. He meant it in a political way.

I meant that I would look for writing opportunities that inspire me to enthusiastic and passionate and speak from the heart.

I have found that when my personal interest in engaged, I can give more than just billable hours to the project, and the writing actually sparkles. When my heart is not engaged, I do my job.

Do I think writers should have a mission statement for their writing?

I think it depends on the personality of the writer. I’ve been in this business for more than a decade, and for a very long time, a mission statement scared me silly.

A mission statement seemed to me to mean committing to a plan-driven way of doing things, and even though you say I come across as focussed, my creative process is more driven by gut /intuition than a rigid plan.

4 comments:

Ms Lona Lee Hart said...

I LOVE the idea of a blog network called WE WRITE WHAT WE LIKE. Your mission is short, sweet and specific - perfect! You really are my inspiration and I can only hope to be as prolific and skilled as you are at connecting people because isn't that what communication is really about?

Ms Lona Lee Hart said...

I missed your comment about the mission before I responded initially. I also go by the gut and I'm intimidated by writers who plaster notes on the walls and plot the chapters of their books so carefully. I can see the value in it, but I work more on instinct and 'feel'. The problem is that I think maybe I'm doing it 'wrong' since I'm not doing it like other writers are. It would be great to hear how other writers approach their writing. Are they terribly organised, fly by the seat of their pants, etc.

Damaria Senne said...

In my view, going by "feel" has worked very well for you, considering the work that you've published. So if it ain't broken, maybe you shouldn't fix it.
And like you, I'd be curious about how other writers approach their writing:-)

BeckyJoie at Leaders in Learning said...

Thanks for answering my questions. I just wanted to know what other writers do since it interests me. I don't have a formal mission statement myself, but I have goals, things I want to accomplish. I don't have a totally mapped out plan but shoot from the gut too. I think that is a writer. For me, being a middle brainer with a right brain leaning, I have a bit of both the planning and the instinctive approach. I just wondered because someone asked me that question and it occurred to me that I would like to know what other writers do.

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