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Give Your Readers Room to Participate in Your Blog

Posted By Darren Rowse 3rd of January 2008 Featured Posts, Writing Content 0 Comments

One compositional technique that I teach in Digital Photography is to give your portrait subject space to look into when framing your shot.

You can see it in the image below – but the basic principle is that if your subject is looking to one side of the frame – position their head so there is more space on that side of the frame – giving them ‘space to look into’.

Here’s an example (source image):


OK – now the reason for this ‘rule’ (and remember rules are meant to be broken) is that when you leave space like this you not only give the subject space to look into (which gives an image compositional balance) – but you also give the viewer of the image room to participate in the shot.

When a subject looks out of frame like this the viewer of the image is left wondering what they’re looking at, it adds a little intrigue to the image and it can add an unseen point of interest to the photo. Don’t you just wonder who or what the old guy in the shot above is looking at?

In a sense this technique draws the viewer of an image into it – evoking their imagination – engaging them in the photo.

OK – so what’s this got to do with blogging? Have I finally published a post for his photography blog on the wrong blog?

Leaving ‘space’ in your Blog posts for Readers to ‘look into’

As I pondered the way that including ‘space’ in an image can draw those who see it into that image I realized that a similar principle can apply in writing a blog post.

In my first year or two of blogging I worked under the assumption that the more comprehensive my blog posts were the better they would do. As a result I worked hard on providing my readers with every single piece of information that I could come up with on a topic before I hit publish. This resulted in very comprehensive (and often long) posts.

However in time I began to notice that it wasn’t these longer and comprehensive posts that got the most interaction from readers – sometimes it was the quick, half baked ideas and less comprehensive posts that actually seemed to engage readers the most in terms of generating comments and incoming links from other blogs.

In a sense what I was finding was that more comprehensive posts left less room for readers to add something to the conversation – so they didn’t – whereas posts that left room for others to add from their experience and knowledge drew readers to do so.

How to Add Space for Readers to Participate in Your Blog

Now I’m not suggesting that we all only write posts that are rushed, ‘half baked’, not thought through and second rate simply to get more comments – but I do think that there are ways that you can be more intentional about creating space for readers to participate. Here’s a few methods to try:

Reveal What you Don’t Know – sometimes as a blogger it is easy to fall into the temptation of presenting yourself as someone who knows everything there is to know on your topic. While expertise is a good thing to have – I find that readers actually respect you when you admit what you don’t know on your topic. This makes you more relatable and enables your readers to feel that there’s room for their own experiences and expertise on the areas you’re not so good on.

Ask a Question – the simplest way to create space for readers to interact with your posts is to ask them a direct question. This can be tied to something you don’t know (see above) or be a question that focuses upon their experiences, asking them for examples of what you’re talking about, asking them to add points that you’ve missed etc. We’re all wired to answer questions – so include them regularly in your posts and you’ll find you end up with a more dialogical blog.

Run a Poll – polls are a great way to get reader interaction because they allow readers to respond and participate – without having to really put themselves out there in a public way. I find that the polls here on ProBlogger are responded to by a larger number of people than those who comment and I suspect this is because many readers do want to have a say – but like their anonymity.

Invite a Response – there are other ways that you can engage readers than questions and polls. Call your readers to some other type of action including to write a post on their own blog, submit a guest post or to enter a competition and you involve your readers in the activities of your blog. Every time they participate they become a little more loyal to your blog – having invested something of themselves into it.

Create a Space for Interaction – one of the lessons that I’ve learned over the last year or two at Digital Photography School is that sometimes your readers are just waiting for you to create a space for them to take their participation in your blog to the next level. I discovered this when I added a forum to the blog. In adding it I found that a community sprang up almost overnight. I didn’t need to promote it heavily, people just wanted to connect, share and have a say. They could have done this in comments – but they wanted more and when I gave it to them they responded.

As you’ll see from the above – none of these things mean you can’t write comprehensive posts that show off your expertise. To me it is more of an attitude or an issue of the ‘voice’ that you use in blogging. Some bloggers come across as being more closed and unapproachable than others.

I’d be interested to hear examples of how you’ve worked at creating room for readers to participate in your blog.

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. I often do this in y blogs, ening the post with a question or asking the readers to complete a List or something like that, but sometimes, that doesn’t work well. And it is sad when you have a post where you finish with a “and what do you think about it?” and have no response.

    You can use that when you already have some few loyal readers that comment often and you know that you will have at least some 2 or 3 initial comments that will trigger the rest of the people to comment to.

    If not you run the risk of being seen as someone without an audience since no one answers you.

  2. This is a terrific analogy that ties photography to blogging. Essentially what you are saying is that the “composition” of both is very important.

    Thanks for another great suggestion and one more thing for me to think about as I frame my posts in the new year.

  3. I think, as bloggers, we often forget the value that our readers possess. We often make the mistake of thinking all our readers are here to learn from me, so they obviously know nothing.

    But when we give our readers a nudge in the right direction to help them participate, we see a sense of community and a great deal of knowledge and wisdom.

    I always make a point of asking several questions at the end of my posts. It’s a simple tactic that has been used on blogs for a long time, but it still helps to start discussion and spark thought from my readers.

    Some people say that talking about what you don’t know, or asking for reader feedback about your blog, is a sign of weakness. That couldn’t be further from the truth, in my opinion. It’s a sign you’re human, and a sign that you value you readers as more than just ‘readers’, but you value them as community members who should have a voice.

    Good post, Darren. :-)

  4. we as bloggers always forget to lets other talk on our blog and by using techniques like polls, or even asking a simple question can provoke some great responses

  5. I think forum is still the great way to connect to readers and encourage participation.

  6. Great Post!! I have noticed that some of my favorite blogs and also some very successful blogs are very concise. I think it’s a great concept that you’re mentioning here. However, I believe it’s effectiveness varies on the subject matter of the blog. Some categories like tech or politics, might attract readers who are more prone to sift through large amounts of information. Other categories like celebrity gossip might attract readers who are looking for a quick fix of info.

  7. If you can figure out the balance (as you obviously have) and create a community feeling by allowing “Your Readers Room to Participate in Your Blog” then you will most assuredly be successful.

  8. Looks good Darren,
    Have you ever asked wrong question in Poll?

  9. In terms of contributing actual content, we run a pretty tight spaceship.

    Where we do give our readers room to roam is in exploring the particular meaning of a post.

    When this “works”, it is tremendous for driving interest in the blog and engaging the community. Unfortunately, our posts are often misinterpreted, which can quickly have people reaching for the eject button.

    I suppose that is the “price we pay” for our very unique delivery.

  10. Thanks for the tips, now I know how to add some interactions on my site. Cool!


  11. I could write a whole blog on things I don’t know. Hmm, that’s an idea.

  12. Very nice article, had never even thought about half of this.

  13. Good stuff. It’s actually one of my blogging goals for ’08 to invite some guest bloggers to ReadScott.com.

    Do you have ideas of techniques that blatantly don’t work?

  14. Sorry, didn’t read the final question. Here’s how I’ve helped myself to create some participation lately. I’ve been replying to comments on my own blog. I don’t have the resources or knowledge to get a forum onto my blog, so I try to create that atmosphere through comments. It’s worked nicely, but not as good as a real forum, probably.

  15. I also would try to give the readers of my blog more room to participate so that they become regulars to my blog as well spread the word of my blog as well to others too.

  16. Although Comprehensive Posts do not require much input from readers – they may be referenced more by others looking for complete information.

    It may also get that post higher on the search engines.

    The theory about generating links from other blogs should in fact work both ways. Complete posts are referenced, and controversial posts and comments are also referenced.

    So perhaps some of the incomplete posts were controversial, and THAT is what got some of them linked to.

  17. A simple way would be – in addition to the 3 boxes of name, mail and website – would be to add a 4th box called “send this page to XXX – which could be either 1 or several email addresses.

  18. Good idea and I think you are right.

  19. Similar to a rule I learned long ago about custom programming – always leave an obvious feature out. If the customer spots it, he;ll feel good about his participation in the design.. if there isn’t anything obvious, he’ll find something to pick and complain over..

  20. Good tips..absolutely agree!! I’m really sure that it will work on the blog with huge readers like yours. But do you think it will work with a new blog with only less than 20 readers subscribers?

  21. I wrote a piece on Apple Inc. (link on my name) focusing on a very particular aspect of their marketing efforts and how it is working. Because it is a popularly debated subject and I only touched on it; it caused quite a stir in comments. It was also the second most viewed post and the most linked to and commented post for my first month of blogging.

  22. Interesting post Darren. But one thing is confusing me. Where is this forum and how long have you had it? I haven’t noticed any links to it.

    Am now beginning to feel like I was the only one who wasn’t invited to the party.

  23. I wondered where you were going with the photo lesson, but you brought it together beautifully. Great Info!

  24. Wow, Darren. You’ve done it again. I am a very new subscriber but in the short time I’ve been on your site, I am very impressed by the great analogies you make. This post is yet another example. I am just getting into blogging after owning a pretty successful site over the past 5 years and your tips continue to help me improve. Great post!

  25. Thanks for this Darren – I sometimes leave out the ‘engage the reader’ question at the end of posts because it usually is something lame like, ‘Please add your suggestions in the comments’. But your concepts in this post allow for a lot more scope than that and make reader engagement go beyond a token tagline.
    Good food for thought.

  26. Very interesting reading Darren. I must admit that not many people leave their comments on my blog, but then I don’t often leave comments on other people’s either. Perhaps that needs to be my New Year’s resolution for 2008

  27. This post is a real mind-opener, and the example of the portrait is just right. As a new blogger, I’m clearly taking up all the space and only creating a small opening for the reader at the end. I think what I’ve been doing is more like writing parts of a book than a blog. I’m just beginning to get a sense of what people are looking for when they search on terms that might take them to my site (about experience with mental health issues), and it’s just a faithful few who read in depth. I’m sure a lot who bounce are looking for something easier to get into and participate. Thanks for this advice.

  28. This is something I need to try. I want comments even if they are negative. I’m new at this and the comments are hidden maybe this is my problem. I’ll go into my dashboard and see what I can do. Love your last sentence, it put your post into practice.

  29. Thanks for the info, I think presenting your self as a open minded person, who is willing to learn is great quality, which human being can posses. I totally agree with you Darren. Even the masters were once students.

  30. Hmm this is probably why not many people write comments on my blog even though there are quite a number of hits a day

  31. This was really a very good information.

  32. Thanks for the great post, i continue to learn from your advice!

    Cheers Darren

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