There are many ways to problogging gold and glory, such as writing great content that keeps people coming back for more, being patient with SEO, getting the ad placements right, and so on. I’ll remind you of another one: your willingness to interact with your readers — fans and detractors alike.
Let me explain.
Before I was a blogger, I was a creative writer first. For the early part of my writing days, I kept all my works to myself and a handful of friends. As with all people who mature oh-so-slowly over time, I realized something: to take writing to another level, a writer should be ready to receive both solicited and unsolicited advice, to bravely participate in literary workshops (where one’s art might get criticized and manhandled), to readily admit his mistakes while reminding himself not to repeat them. Basically, to interact with fellow writers and a wider reach of readers. Depending on the writer’s persona, all of these things might be big steps out of the writer’s “shell”…but he needs to take them, nonetheless.
In my opinion, the same principle applies to blogging. To take your blogging a step further — professional blogging — you’ll need to:
- Open your blog to reader interaction,
- Engage the reader when he does interact, and
- Be sure of yourself when you engage the reader.
Item number one is easy to check off — open your blog posts for comments. If you can’t for one reason or another, leave a contact form or your email address. Yet, I’ve seen bloggers who are ‘experts’ of this-and-that industry (as claimed by their header or sidebar text) whose blogs don’t have any of the above-mentioned.
I’m not saying the lack of reader interaction undermines a blogger’s credibility; rather, it would be better if the readers’ reactions and thoughts could give the blogger much-needed feedback if he 1) is doing a fine job sharing his expertise and helping others a great deal, thus affirming his being an expert, or 2) needs improvement, which might be an understatement or not.
Item two — here’s where the going gets tough for some. I’ve dropped by some blogs with commenting on, all right, but where the blogger is absolutely picky as when to reply, or never replies at all.
It’s possible that the blogger replies to each comment by email instead; still, the other visitors would like to see the discussions between the blogger and the past commenters. (You can email and place the reply on the blog, too, though that will eat more of your time.) During a seminar’s Q&A section, whom do you prefer, the speaker who answers questions via the microphone for all the audience to hear, or the speaker who writes down his answers on pieces of paper to be handed discreetly to the inquirer?
Finally, item three. Every blog post of yours is a product of your pen (or your keyboard). It is yours*, and you better show that you care for it. If someone likes it or finds it helpful, express gratitude. If someone ridicules it, take a stance and whip up a response worthy of true statesmen (a witty retort might also do!). If someone points out a mistake, give the reader the benefit of the doubt, analyze his points, and admit the error if indeed it is. If someone seeks advice, be as helpful as you can be. Don’t discriminate among real-life friends, long-time blog-mates, or new visitors. Engage everyone with the same enthusiasm.
*On a side note, if a monetized blog’s thousand or so entries are all merely public domain articles or echoes of news feeds/other blog posts, then I believe that the blog owner practically doesn’t own his posts. He has no business as a ‘professional blogger’. Rather, he is a professional waster of bandwidth and server space.