|Portrait of Two Friends By Pontormo (photo credit: Wikipedia).|
Since it's the first of the month, I'm again writing from the Catholic Bloggers' School (aka my home office) about how we can better spread the Gospel through our blogs. This month, we're discussing building a community, particularly through using the comments box.
Invite your readers to comment
Community requires two-way communication. If you want your readers to feel a connection with you and your blog so that they keep visiting and tell others about it, you should encourage them to voice their opinions.
Try to ask your readers a question related to your post. When a reader asks you for advice in the comments box, invite the rest of your audience to respond. That way, readers begin interacting with each other, as well as with you.
Reply to every comment
When I first started blogging, I frequented some of the most popular Catholic blogs. Since those bloggers rarely responded to comments, I had the same practice. Of course, some of them receive hundreds of comments a day, whereas I was lucky to get one or two per post at that time.
After a few months, I discovered some of the wonderful blogs written by (future) CSBN members. I was surprised to see that they responded to each comment. I started doing the same. Not only has this encouraged more people to chime in, I feel much more connected to those readers I have never met in person. I am getting to know a bit about some of them that I would never have known otherwise. I feel like less of a teacher and more of a friend.
Always be charitable
Not every Catholic blogger gives a good example of charity in the comments box. That's a shame. We are trying to spread the Gospel, so we should live it. If someone's comments anger you, take time to calm down and pray before you reply. You might be surprised at the result.
A few weeks ago, I had a comment from someone who blogs on the "errors" of the Catholic Church. I did not try to persuade him of the truth of Church teaching, but looked for what we had in common, and emphasized that. We had a few exchanges, before ending very charitably. He even said, "God bless you!" at the end. I could have made this into an argument that turned us against each other. Thank God for the grace to do things right!
Learn from your readers
Twice I have made the mistake of forgetting the question I had asked readers to comment on. Both times I misinterpreted what my reader said, because I wasn't looking back at the question. I was taking her words out of context. And, yes, it was the same reader both times! She still follows me, God bless her, and I hope I've learned my lesson.
Last week a reader wrote "LOTH" in the comments box. It took me a few moments to translate that into Liturgy of the Hours. When I responded, I also wrote "LOTH." Then another reader had to ask me what the acronym meant. Oops! I should have realized that if I didn't understand it right away (and I pray from the LOTH daily), other readers wouldn't either. The comments are not just for the blogger's benefit, but for all your readers. Make sure you are clear.
I am going to make a point of explaining any terms that may be unfamiliar in my or a reader's comments. I realized that some of them might not be familiar with the Liturgy of the Hours at all, so I briefly explained what it is. Then another reader provided information about the Divine Office app.
Ask readers for clarification
I recently read that to make the comments box more interesting, you should ask your readers for more information about their comment. Could they explain themselves further? Give an example? Recommend a resource? When you ask a specific question of an individual, you begin learning about the person, not just his or her view of your blog post. You are likely to have a longer, more memorable conversation. You show you care about their lives. This forms a stronger bond. It can also give you ideas for future posts, as you discover what your readers really care about.
Do you have any more tips on interacting with your readers? Can you give us an example of a particularly interesting or fruitful exchange?
Connie Rossini is the administrator of Catholic Spiritual Blogs Network. Her personal blog is Contemplative Homeschool.