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12 Ways to Be a More Interactive and Accessible Blogger

image by Jeff Bauche

Yesterday I wrote about being a ruthless blogger and named a number of areas that I find helpful to have more harsh boundaries in with the hope of it helping me become more productive and focused as a blogger (and as a result provide a better resource for readers).

There is a problem with ruthlessness though. It arises when you become so ruthless and focused that you end up becoming inaccessible and stop engaging with readers. Put up too many boundaries and you could end up alienating readers.

This is a problem that I hear many medium to larger sized blogs face. The bigger they grow the greater the demands on the time of bloggers and the harder it becomes to stay accessible.

Today I want to share a few tips on how to remain accessible to readers even when your blog is growing and the demands on your time become greater. By no means am I an expert in this – but here are a few things I’ve learned.

1. Set aside time to interact

make-time.jpgPerhaps one of the best tips that I can give is to be proactive in setting aside time to be accessible to readers. Almost everything else that I mention in this post will not work at all unless you DECIDE to be an accessible and engaging blogger and then put your money where your mouth is and actually set aside the time to BE accessible and engaging.

I personally find that I can have all the great intentions in the world to interact with people but that unless I block out time to do it that other ‘urgent’ things crowd out this time. Diarize time for some of the activities that I mention below – or you may never do them.

Clock Image by Mike9Alive

2. Give Readers an Appropriate Way to Contact You

respond-email.jpgThe fastest way to cut off the interaction that you might have with readers is to fail to provide them with any way to get in touch with you. Conversely – the more obvious a way you have for people to contact you the more likely they are to use it.

You’ll notice in the title of this section that I included the word ‘Appropriate’. This is important. Why you ask?

In the early days of this blog my contact page contained so many ways to contact me that it actually became a bit of a nightmare to manage. I had email address, a contact form, my cell phone number (later changed to a SkypedIn number), 4 instant messaging options, profile pages on numerous social media sites… and more. The problem is that I had so many people getting in touch with so many mediums that I spent half my day switching from one medium to another to check if people had been in touch and to respond. It totally destroyed my productivity and ended up being frustrating to those trying to get in touch.

These days my contact page attempts to funnel people into the direction of email via my contact form. It gives people the ability to connect with me via Mail and Social Media sites but makes it obvious that the contact form is the most effective method of getting in touch.

3. Interact in Comments

comments.jpgI don’t believe that you need to reply to every comment on your blog (I personally try to develop blogs where the community helps each other) but I think it’s important to have a presence in your own comments section. This is not easy when you have hundreds of posts and thousands of comments a month – but it is one way to keep yourself accessible to readers.

4. Reply to Emails

contact.jpgReaders leaving a comment on your blog is one way that they reach out to you, but when they email you they are taking an extra step towards interaction with you and wherever possible I’d encourage you to respond to these readers as a priority. Again – it’s not easy, but if you have an effective email system like I described yesterday you can drastically improve your response rate. I personally have room to improve in my comments section but am finally getting on top of replying to emails and have noticed a real impact as a result.

5. Get help to manage your communications

virtualassistant.jpgIf the above two points are too hard for you (ie replying to comments and emails) then you might need to get some help. In the last few months I’ve had Lara helping me with my own comment moderation here at ProBlogger and have found this really helpful. She’s able to answer some comment concerns herself (particularly while I’m asleep or away) and emails me important comments that I need to be aware of that she moderates. Some bloggers also have people help them with emails (something I don’t do at this point). In a sense outsourcing in these areas or hiring a virtual assistant is all about ‘triage’ – ie filtering comments and email that you don’t need to see/be aware of (for example comments that say ‘great post’ or emails that are FAQs and that can be answered with a quick link) and pulling out those that are more important.

I’d be very wary of completely outsourcing this area of your blogging as it’s important to be aware of what’s going on in your comments section and emails – however it can take some of the load off and help you become more effective.

6. Video/Streaming

streaming.pngOne of the most effective things that I’ve done in the last year in terms of becoming more accessible to readers is to do more video and to do the occasional streaming video chat session. Video adds something very powerful to a blog. It gives you a voice and personality in a way that text cannot. While it’s a strange feeling at first I’m coming to love the video component of ProBlogger. Streaming chats are particularly good as they are live, fully interactive, give you a sense of what is on the mind of readers and is much more conversational than writing a post and then interacting in comments as it’s real time.

7. Write Conversationally

conversational.jpgThe way that you write has a massive impact upon the way that you’re perceived. Some bloggers write in a very closed and ‘distant’ voice while others are incredibly engaging and conversational. Some of this is difficult to define but a few tips on becoming more conversational in your writing include:

  • asking questions of your readers – invite them to interact
  • asking questions of yourself – asking a question in your post and then proceeding to answer it
  • sharing experiences – tell your readers how you apply what you write about
  • sharing mistakes – showing you are human and fail makes you relatable
  • share questions that readers ask – this beds your posts down in reality but also shows that you interact with readers

8. Twitter

twitter.gifOne of the things I love about Twitter is that it has opened up a whole new arena for me to interact with readers. Many ProBlogger readers now follow me on Twitter and have reflected back to me that they enjoy our interactions there. Part of the reason that I love Twitter is that it’s so concise. Interactions are 140 characters long so people don’t expect too much of you but the interactions can be very conversational, personal and effective.

9. Other Social Media

social-media.jpgNot into Twitter? Have readers that don’t get into it? That’s ok, what about another social media site that is more suited to you and your niche? I was a amazed a few months back how many of the members of Digital Photography School’s Forum use Facebook. It shouldn’t have surprised me really but Facebook is a much more accessible place for non Web 2.0 savvy readers to connect with you. Why not start a group for your blog there?

10. Interviews

interview.jpgNot every blogger will have the profile to be interviewed by others but if you get the chance it can be very worthwhile. For starters it’s a good way to find new readers but it is also good at putting you in front of your current readers in a new setting where they see a different side of you. For example, you wouldn’t believe the response that I’ve had over the last few months from doing this interview on work life balance and being a Dad. The interview touches on blogging but its really on a topic that I don’t regularly write on and it opened up a different side of me that for some reason people found very engaging.

11. Conferences

conference-shoemoney-copyblogger-problogger.jpgI wish I could do more conferences and meetups than I do because it is perhaps the most effective way of engaging with readers. It is amazing way of growing relationships with readers and other bloggers in your niche.

The face to face networking interactions that you have are priceless and the opportunities that you might be able to take to speak or participate in panels or workshops put you in front of people and add to the perception that you’re ‘out there’ and interacting in your niche.

Image by Tris

12. Vanity Watch

vanity.pngOne last tip that can help you have the appearance of being much more interactive on other blogs than you actually are. Set up a vanity watchlist to monitor what people are saying about you and your blog. In this way you can be notified when someone else mentions you and can drop by their post and leave a comment either thanking them for the link, responding to a criticism or answering a question that they might have. Leaving this type of comment shows other bloggers that you care about how they view you, that you’re willing to interact not only on your own blog but theirs and it can help you sort out misconceptions or other problems that could potentially hurt your brand.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Great post
    I have been trying to be more interactive in order to market my blog better so this post helps me heaps. A lot of this stuff I need to do

  2. There are some great hints and I really need to implement them immediately. Social networking sites like Twitter have given a great two-way conversation that never existed before.

    Now readers of blogs can talk with a writer almost like a chat, and not have to wonder if they got the person’s email, and it limits the question length since it has to be 140 characters or less (which is amazing for answering a lot of questions). Bloggers can also answer several questions with a single reply which can be great for saving time as well. Great post :)

  3. Thanks Darren for the tips on building more interaction. I agree your videos are interesting and allow the reader to get to know you better.

    I will have to check out Twitter!

    Jessica Bond

  4. This post is certainly highly informative, they are all extremely valid points. I found it a bit difficult to pick out the most important ones, but I think replying to comments is very important and a conversational tone certainly helps to lighten the mood, it is one of those things I’ve been trying to get into for a while over at my blog.

    Interviews are another great idea, for both the interview and interviewee, both parties have something that they can show to readers in order to boost credibility and strengthen a reader write relationship further. Point 1 has been placed there for a reason, as it can be difficult to find valuable time to communicate with the readership.

  5. I would add podcasting to this list.

    Since starting my podcast (The Drone Bay) I’ve found that a whole new audience has started interacting with me – on my blog, through email, etc. The podcast acts as a beacon.

    They have a chance to have their emails/comments/questions read during the podcasts and that creates a better interaction with my readers.


  6. Excellent post as usual I’m sure a lot of these will come in handy while i start to get my blog up on its way thanks.

  7. Interaction within comments has been key to my blog’s growth in the last few weeks. I keep the conversation rolling and they keep coming back to add their 2 cents.

    Its been said before but sometimes the real post and information is in the comments. I believe that this is true. Comments allow me to see a side I might not have when I was drafting the post.

    And yes filtering your contact information is crucial to maintain consistency with eyeball interaction. Switching from Facebook to Myspace to Twitter to e-mail and IM and back again is right there in the time sucking bus. I am looking to get off that bus!

  8. You are one of the most accessible bloggers I know Darren, and we value you for it. Thanks for sharing some of the ways that it’s done, but more than that, thanks for putting your money where your mouth is.


  9. Blogging is really attention demanding. And unless we really enjoy it, it will always be work work work all the time. Sometimes there may be some bloggers who think being accesible will take too much of their time and productivity.

    I personally think blogging is all about communicating your idea to others. And in doing so, you must be both interactive and accesible. If not, it is better we kept a journal or a diary.

    My point is that no blogger should be unreachable :)

  10. For a blog that gets the kind of traffic you do I am surprised to see a post like this. I did a few posts on the importance of responding to emails, even if you are gigantic, and it was shot down.

    I have to say, #2, #3, and #4 are pretty much put aside (it seems to me anyway) when you get to a certain size blog or site, and at that point the blog or information becomes cold. Much of it is good, but has no life breathing behind it.

    Great post.

  11. Some great advice there. Thanks for sharing. I agree totally with most of your points above. After all, blogging is all about the conversation, if you make yourself inaccessible, you’re only stunting the growth of your online presence and popularity

  12. #12 is a great one. I’ve created some loyal subscribers by taking the time to visit their blog and thanking them for linking to me. To take it a step further, I try to personalize the comment with something related to their own blog. This way they know I am there because I am interested learning more about them, not just to thank them for being interested in me.

  13. Great post Darren! I have been using Twitter for just 2 weeks and have interacted not only with potential readers of my blog but so many really cool people that I probably wouldn’t have met with other methods.

    Twitter is like a ‘real life’ social networking event and you get to choose with who you want to chat with and who you want to ignore…lol.

    Don’t abuse it, add value to conversations, and it’ll be very rewarding – I promise!

  14. video:
    “One of the most effective things that I’ve done in the last year in terms of becoming more accessible to readers”

    Uhm … that’s probably one of the most INaccessible things you’ve done. Unless you’re using caption for the deaf.

  15. Commenting on blogs has been a joy. I continue to learn a lot and make valuable connections. It took me a while to set up Google Reader and set-aside time to comment but I’m rolling now.

  16. Excellent new points on being accessible while reminding us of the core accessibility points. It’s easy to lose track, even when you’re not medium to huge. Being open and accessible now helps build reputation and credibility which is a great foundation for moving forward with a larger blogging community.

  17. Love twitter even though i’m new to it.. :)

  18. Darren,

    I like your first tip about setting time to interact. I just started becoming more active on Twitter, but I realized that you can really get caught up in socializing! Also, I have now set time aside to answer email – instead of checking it every hour.

  19. I just recently started Twittering, and I need to allocate some time for all of my pals and their communities. Any tips on that?

  20. 13. Could be FriendFeed ??

  21. Darren,

    Great post once again! Thank you for the thoughts and suggestions.

    You could have elaborated a little more on Twitter, perhaps. Several of your commenters refer to it.

    You are right, of course, it is a great way to build interactivity and accessibility for your readers, but it can help in other ways. I’m sure you thought of these, and wanted to keep the post brief.

    So, what kinds of conversations can take place?

    Besides responding to readers, a blogger can reverse the information flow, for example, notify when a post is up, solicit for new ideas or direction (as well as comments), poll readers on interesting questions, refer the reader to similar blogs or resources and more.

    I expect some of Problogger’s regular audience would appreciate a post on this topic!

    Thanks again.

  22. You know, I’ve got to say, there are a whole lotta people out there who absolutely hate it when people Twitter about updating their blogs. That’s what RSS readers are for. I don’t need or want 2 notifications about your blog post. I stopped following Darren because he does this, even though I love ProBlogger and enjoyed reading his other Tweets.

  23. I always send people emails when they comment on my blog.

    I know a thing or two about working with people, and I know that one of the biggest things that make people feel important and special is for them to know that they are needed.

    Even just a small email that says thank you for the comment, does well.

    I love it myself when people from other blogs email me to say thanx. I immediately head back to their blog to see what else they have for me.

    I agree with what you say 100% Darren.

    People also love it when they are Involved in what you do. They are 9 out of 10 times prepared to give their 2 cents.

  24. I have added Chess on my website. Chess addicts may get glued to site when bored

  25. One thing I’m proud of is that I receive great feedback from my readers about how I interact with them. Currently I do make it a mission to answer each comment, but I also don’t receive as many comments as you do.

    I also receive emails often since some folks don’t want to publicly post their question, due to the nature of my blog topic (weight loss, emotional eating, food addiction), and that’s cool with me. I’m happy to be able to offer some motivation and inspiration when I can, whether that’s on my blog or through private email.

    I guess we know we’re really doing great when we need to schedule time to interact like you mentioned – I’ll remember this post when I get there. ;)

  26. Fabien – the most important ones will probably vary a bit depending upon your style but replying to comments and email are right up there. The way I look at it is that people reach out to you in these ways and you can do damage by ignoring them. Many of the rest are more you being proactive.

    Crazykinux – good idea, podcasting is another great way to add a personal voice to a blog.

    Joanna – I really do try. Some days I’m better than others at it but I am constantly feeling guilty about not being able to do more!

    Roger – if you want more on how Twitter can be used check out 9 Benefits of Twitter for Bloggers, How to Use Twitter – Tips for Bloggers and how I use twitter to promote my blog. Hope those links help.

    Shaun – sorry you didn’t appreciate having my posts update in Tweets. Yes I do do this but most days these days they make up the minority of my Tweets as I’m trying to add more value than just that. On the flip side though I have others who prefer to follow my posts via twitter – one of those no win situations.

    Robert – good idea!

  27. Thanks for your reply Darren, it is always very much appreciated. I must agree with you about doing damage by ignoring people who are reaching out; speaking from experience I can say that it definitely makes people feel very happy to get a reply back from a blog owner with a big, medium or small sized blog.

    It just gives them that reassurance that there is actually a human doing the blogging, and that he or she is not some mighty power that is unreachable. I used to think getting a reply from Joel Comm would be difficult, but I discovered that it was not difficult and when I tried contacting him…guess what? He replied and answered a few questions I had.

    Despite the fact that the following may seem a bit off topic, I just want to remind everyone that negative thinking is bad; and many people in today’s society have difficulty or do not want to self analyze and make changes to change their ways of thinking, to become a more positive person. I think it would be great if you posted about this aspect of the ‘personal development’ topic sometime Darren, thank you very much :)

  28. April 27, 2008 is Darren’s birthday. Ha I am the first one to say.

    Happy Birthday

  29. Interaction with the readers of my blog is really the fun part of blogging.

    Live From Las Vegas
    The Masked Millionaire

  30. The part about Twitter was dead on. I’ve been using Twitter for about a month now and I’ve noticed a lot more traffic coming to my blog and I’ve been able to easily interact with my readers.

    Video Streams and podcasts are also a great way to add a human voice and face to the blog. I’m personally a podcasting newbie, but I plan on making a podcast for my blog sometime in the future.

    Anyway, thanks for the great post! Keep it up.

  31. Darren –

    I think this is a great list to work from. I do think it is difficult to judge how much time to devote daily and in what priority to work in especially if you are a one person operation.

  32. Thanks Darren,

    I appreciate your wilingness to share like you do. I am especially keen about learning how to use video as an effective tool on my site.

    And your point about having a community here that helps one another is really true. There are many great commenters here regularly that I learn from.

  33. I truly enjoy comments, and answer each one. I also visit the blogs of anyone who comments on mine. Some I can identify with, others I can’t, but I do take the time to leave them a comment as well, as a common courtesy.

    I love the community that has formed in my comment section and often link to posts my commenters have written to gain them even more exposure. I especially like helping new bloggers and showcase a new one each week.

  34. “2. Give Readers an Appropriate Way to Contact You”

    Please can we have pingback back? Problogger’s a blog about blogging that gets mentioned in other blogs – a blog notification system seems appropriate…

  35. Cool, if all senior blogger doing a same thing like this it will help people who need urgent information. sometimes i feel that they dont care,by this article i know that its not the problem..thanks,nice article.

  36. I think every blogger must have good interaction with his readers. Great post and it touched upon almost every little thing.

  37. Unfortunately, it seems that if traffic isn’t high enough (or the topic not provocative enough) the number of comments will be very low.

    I’d really enjoy contacting my readers but it happens too rarely. I usually urge comments and thoughts and at times it works but when readers visit my blog for information and education comments tend to be on the low side.

  38. MJ Ray – I gave up on trackbacks a year or more ago – too many people abused it – I was getting hundreds of trackback spams a day so it had to go.

  39. @Darren Rowse – Pingbacks not trackbacks! I’ve given up on trackbacks too, but the pingback target in WordPress bothers to check that the source actually links to you and it doesn’t seem to get gamed any more than commenter’s homepage links. You can disable wp-trackback.php to stop trackbacks while still allowing pingbacks.

  40. I absolutely agree about the replying back to emails and interacting with users through the comments.

    I know even though you are busy you were the fastest blogger who responded to my questions. One of the reasons why I come to problogger :)

  41. Thank you very much for the tips Darren. Quite helpful.

  42. TRACKBACKS and PINGBACKS…I wish I understood that.

    I think Trackbacks are what you intentionally send to a website to let them know you have used some of their copy or referred to them, or borrowed a photo or something….

    Pingbacks – done automatically when you post anything on your site.

    Am I finally getting it?

  43. Darren, thanks for the response. I certainly don’t intend to tell you what to do with your Twitter. The interesting thing is that a lot of people actually seem to use Twitter like a feed reader and appreciate it when the people they follow announce their posts on Twitter. That said, do a google search on “twitter spam” or “twitter etiquette” and you’ll find that a lot of people don’t like it and won’t follow you if you do. I guess my point (which was really related more to some of the comments than the post itself) is that “post your links to your twitter every time” should be a decision you make after weighing the costs and benefits and exactly what you want to get out of your Twitter feed, rather than a standard best practice.

    Of course I will still be coming back every time your posts show up in Google Reader.

    I’d probably write a post about this if I had a blog about blogging.

  44. @Harmony – close. Both can be automated, but pingbacks almost always are. The main differences are that trackbacks were created by Moveable Type and contain about the same information as a comment (so spammers stuff the trackback text with links and so on); while pingbacks were created by several developers and just contains the URL that links to you, which lets your site check it out and decide what text from it to use.

  45. great post darren. thanks for this. hopefully after applying all those we can be more accessible to our readers

  46. I’ll have to check out twitter, sounds great. I need work on the other tips you mentioned. Happy Almost Birthday.

  47. This is great information and I find it to be very true. One can be TOO agressive at blogging and should take time to interact with people who take the time to comment and leave messages or contact you for some reason.

    “When you can’t be there…bVisual”


    Another great post with good tips. I check my comments daily and just signed up for a Twitter account.

    VOTED for this post at:

  49. Excellent post Darren – one of the most useful and informative I have read – should be in every bloggers bookmarks.

    Direct communication with my visitors has been far more effective in turning them into return readers than any other method as well as being more worthwhile and enjoyable. We can get caught up to much with social networking sites and neglect the more important aspect of building your own community via your blog.

    I am beginning to appreciate Twitter far more as a way of keeping up with my favorite bloggers. I know it takes conversation away from the blog but I now find that I visit certain blogs much more frequently because of it. (responding to this post is a case in point as I read your tweet about it).

    Is it just me becoming more Twitter aware or do you think it is now being used more effectively?

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