I came across an Active Rain network blog the other day of someone who is in a similar line of work as me, working for a major real estate website. Funny, I thought, I haven't heard of this person before nor ever seen their blog. I checked out the blog and found some interesting content and nicely written posts. When I clicked to find out more about this person, turns out they have written 128 posts! So why haven't I heard of this person before?
I think the answer lies in "social" aspect of blogging.
I have written 138 posts, so about the same amount of content. Let's compare the activity around our blogs:
Other blog: Comments received, 463 My blog: Comments received, 1758
Other blog: Number of subscriptions, 16 My blog: Subscriptions, 122
Other blog: Number of associations, 8 My blog: Associations, 90
Here is why I think the reason for the difference in numbers exists:
Other blog: Comments made, 30 My blog: Comments I have made, 485
Commenting is something I made a conscience effort to get better at this year, and when I did, I saw the traffic to my blog increase. (and when I say "comments" I mean actually saying something interesting that makes other people want to find out more about you, not just "nice post".)
In fact, when I comment, I can often see the traffic to my profile increase.
What I have learned is that when you participate in a social community or network, like Active Rain, it is important to engage others just as you would like to be engaged. To not do so is similar to watching an ad on TV where there is no interaction between the source and the viewer. There is no personal attachment.
This is why I think it was smart for Active Rain to create the position of "community builders". When Rich Jacobson leaves a comment on my blog, I don't feel like I am just giving Active Rain content, but I feel like Active Rain is also engaging me on personal level. This builds an emotional connection with the product. When there is an emotion connection, this leads to creating passion, which leads to me spending more time on the site than I care to admit.
So what communities would you like to engage you? Personally, I would like to engage real estate agents, which is why I am here. Another example- I own an investment condo in FL. About a year ago the condo board set up a website for owners to communicate about the property and with each other. On the website is a forum. There is one owner who is a local Realtor, he engages every single question involving anything to do with the value of the property or what is going on with local real estate (there aren't too many, can't take more than 1-2 hours a month). I will use him when I sell the unit.
Think about engaging the community you want to engage you. If it is other Realtors, than Active Rain is the place for you. If it is local home buyers, Localism. You can even carve out a niche by getting involved with Groups. Maybe you want to engage other parents in your child's school, find out where they hang out online and be there too. Maybe the group you want to reach doesn't have an online social network, start one by using ning.
The last part of this "socialness" is extending these relationships beyond the computer screen. When you see something interesting, send a personal note or pick up the phone. If your network organizes themselves offline, get involved. For me, this means attending Inman Blogger Connect, Active Rain Chicago gathering or other real estate conferences. If no one else initiates the get together, be the one to do so with evite, twitter or meetup.com.
Blogging is great way to get started with social media, just make sure you are actually being "social" when doing it to achieve the maximum benefit.