Listening as a blogger is just as crucial to growth as listening out in your every day, away-from-the-computer life. We have to learn to listen as children, as parents, as students, as teachers, as friends, as spouses, and in every other role we play throughout life. When we listen, we grow. When we listen to our readers, our blogs grow.
Blogs are virtual microphones, and if not used well, they can become soapboxes from which we shout out our thoughts and feelings and opinions with no need to be answered back. Or, they can become dusty encyclopedias or reference blogs with information that gets outdated so fast there is no conversation to be had.
For those of us who want to develop highly interactive, community-like blogs, going down either of those paths would be a big mistake. Part of creating a community is learning to listen to those who become part of it.
Planning is one part of a successful endeavor, and the other part is adapting to changes as they come. As a blogger, try gauging the responsiveness of your readers to what you are putting out. You might want to change your game plan if your visitors are dwindling, and you're seeing no action. Action doesn't necessarily mean comments. If your goal is to get readers to buy something, measure success in that way. Or, use a service like Postrank.com to determine whether or not readers are interacting with or sharing your content outside of your blog.
Being resilient and able to change in order to see success is something that will take you far in life, well beyond blogging.
When a reader leaves a comment that has a question in it, you should probably take the time to answer the question! Surely you will want to use good judgment, but the idea here is that in order to foster good relationships, you should encourage a two-way conversation.
The truth is that your blog is yours and you can do with it what you want, but if your goal is an active, engaged environment full of readers who share your content and interact with you, you have to be willing to speak when spoken to.
Do you ever ask your readers real questions, or only rhetorical ones? There is a difference. If you want people to be part of the conversation, try inviting them to speak up. That's just one idea of reader engagement.
Engaging readers includes things like asking direct questions, putting together contests, leaving a place for feedback, allowing email subscriptions as well as RSS subscriptions, and letting people know that if they have a question, they can ask you and you will respond. A good FAQ is another way to engage readers.
Essentially, you are letting them know that the blog is not just your soapbox; that you are willing to pass the mic every now and then!
What do you think about listening? Is it important?
Image Credit: Emli Bendixen