YA fantasy/paranormal romance author Theresa Milstein of Substitute Teacher's Saga is here today to talk about how to get blog comments to really work for you.
The two of us met earlier this month during Deana Barnhart's Gearin' Up to Get an Agent blogfest, and from the very first Theresa has been an inspiration. She not only responds to her comments with a personalized note, she sends an e-mail message letting her followers know they have a follow-up response.
I am delighted Theresa is kicking off the new series of guest posts held every other Thursday on Bird's-eye View. And if you haven't had a chance to meet one another yet, I hope you'll stop by her blog when you get a chance. And now for the interview ...
Why are comments important? Can they help bloggers grow their online presence?
There are bloggers who don't comment on other blogs. They often have low follower counts/comments or do a lot of giveaways.
Many wonderful bloggers don't comment back on their own blog but leave thoughtful comments on other blogs. (Hello, Old Kitty!)
My philosophy is that if people take the time to comment, the least I can do is visit their blogs and comment back. I, and a few other bloggers, take it a step further by answering comments on our own posts. One, it creates a dialogue. And two, it shows I read and care about what they have to say on my blog.
What is the most effective way to respond to someone's comment? Is it possible to inspire a one-time commenter to be a subscriber of your blog?
When I first blogged, I did return comments on my blog and the commenters' blogs. But I didn't always follow. And neither did they. (Surprise!) At some point, I realized I wanted to be in a community of writers. That meant following. When I have a new commenter, I leave a thoughtful comment on their blog and follow. And I try to visit that blog a few times during that week. I'm setting up a new relationship.
Are there any techniques for keeping a dialogue going, other than relying on commenters having time to return to your blog to see if you left a reply?
I suspected few people returned to my blog to view my comments, so several months ago (clearly during a bout of insanity), I started sending e-mails for the commenters who had e-mail addresses linked to their Blogger account. Now the commenter knows exactly what I said, and sometimes I wind up with a separate e-mail relationship that's more like a friendship than poster/commenter.
The downside is it takes a little bit more time. I respond to about 10 comments at a time. I cut and paste to the person's e-mail, keeping only the comment that applies and deleting the rest. Although it makes the conversation continue via e-mail instead of the blog, it's the conversation that's the point rather than a comment tally. (Blogger, is there a chance you can make e-mails easily accessible from comments?)
Should you respond to everyone's comments? Can you keep doing this as your following grows?
Since I accrued more than 400 followers, my comment count has grown considerably. Now that it's more than 500, I'm a little slower to respond. (Sorry!) But I've adjusted by posting less-one to two times per week. How much time do people have to visit my blog anyway? If I post daily, each post will have fewer readers. I do and will continue to respond to all comments. That's my priority.
Is it better to concentrate on growing the number of comments your blog is receiving or to comment on others' blog?
I do both. That's why I post less. If I had to choose, I'd comment on the commenters' blog posts instead of mine. Most of my followers are writers. We writers like to know we have readers.
How much time do you spend blogging and viewing and commenting on other blogs compared to how much time you spend writing?
It depends. If I'm in a writing frenzy, blogging gets less priority. I try to invest an hour a day. Because it's summer, I'm willing to devote more time. When I work in the fall, I'll post only once a week and spend most of my hour reading and commenting on other blogs. There's also nothing wrong with taking periodic blog vacations when there are more pressing matters. Just post a notice.
Do you think it's important for writers at all stages of their careers to have an online presence?
If you are blogging just for platform, don't do it. Blogging is about relationships first and platform second. I hope my posts make people laugh, cry, learn. For now, I like to use my online presence to help other bloggers. And my readers have been wonderful when I raised funds for a rare cancer last August and when I had a short story in 100 Stories for Queensland to promote this past May. If I have a book to promote in the future, then I'll worry about platform.
That said, you are at a disadvantage by not blogging. The writing and reading community has become mostly an online community. But you have to be willing to take time and effort to do it.
Talli Roland and Elana Johnson are my blogging inspirations. They're helpful. They're generous. Their genuineness shines through their posts and comments. I started following them before they had book deals. When they did, I wanted to help them sell books because of who they are.
It's no coincidence that both authors set a certain time aside for social networking/blogging. It's part of the life of a writer. I, for one, am glad I'm not alone in this crazy writing endeavor. I've been provided with remarkable support and opportunities through my blogging buddies. When I look at it that way, it's not much time spent at all.
Thank you for inviting me for the interview, Michelle. I enjoyed it! Good luck with your writing and blogging.
Thank you, Theresa!
If you’d like to be a guest blogger on Bird’s-eye View or participate in a book review/author interview, I hope you’ll let me know. My e-mail address is mefayard(at)yahoo(dot)com.