Thursday, 2 August 2012

Blogging Etiquette

What?! You mean there's actually an etiquette around this whole blogging thing?

 Etiquette? Does that come with chips?

Well, yes, there certainly is, although you wouldn't always know it.  A lot of it is commonsense, common courtesy and good old-fashioned politeness, so bear those in mind and you might not need any advice at all.

Where it gets compicated is that blogging is a (relatively) new concept.  It's not been around as long as any of us have, and very few of us have actually grown up with it.  Heck, some of us grew up before the internet was even a twinkle in cyberspace.

People also sometimes forget that behind each blog is a real, living person with feelings and problems and ... well, stuff to do besides blogging.  Real life takes over sometimes for all of us and we'd all do well to remember that.  None of us is perfect!

So, just for clarity, these are a few of my pointers.  You may disagree (feel free to let me know in the comments!).  Etiquette of any sort usually centres on politeness and consideration for others, so let this be central to what you do.  Here we go then...

My Blogging Etiquette Tips

Blog Comments

People who leave comments have taken time out of their day to communicate with you (unless they're spammers and just comment to get you clicking links to often dodgy websites - you can spot them by their generic comments: "great article, I've shown this to my friends and we all think the same...").  Thank your genuine commenters, respond to them, visit their blog and look round.  Maybe even leave them a comment on their blog.  You might not be able to do this all the time - especially when you're busy - but do engage with your readers as much as possible.

And spam?  Most of it gets caught in your spam filter, but if any gets through, delete it as soon as possible - a blog with spam looks uncared for.  Like junkmail cluttering up a letterbox.

Reading Blogs

Be a blog reader.  Seriously, reading other people's blogs will help you form opinions about your own writing (as well as other topics) and hopefully help you improve your own writing skills.  That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with your writing - but we can all improve and develop our skills (and therefore our readers' experiences) over time.  Reading (and commenting on) other blogs helps you become part of a community, too.

 Read blogs

Don't Beg!

Don't go asking for visitors in someone else's comments box.  Nothing makes me cringe more than people saying: this is great, please check out my blog. It doesn't make me want to visit, it really doesn't.  It's the internet equivalent of inviting strangers off the street round for dinner.  Leaving a comment that's interesting or conversational will pique a blog owner's interest enough to make them want to check your blog out (and maybe interest some of their other visitors too) and maybe kick-start a blogging relationship.

In the same vein, don't go asking (begging!) on Twitter or forums or Facebook or anywhere for followers, readers or visitors.  By all means, tell them you've written a new post about X, Y or Z but leave it at that.  If they're interested and have a spare five minutes, they'll click your link.  You get followers by writing about things that people want to read - it's as simple as that!

 Don't beg - and definitely don't get aggressive! It doesn't work, even for seagulls

Contacting a Blogger

If a blog welcomes features (on here, I'm more than happy to feature small businesses in the form of an interview, with links back to shops and blogs) then contact them personally if you'd like to be featured and - please - treat them as if they're a real person (because - newsflash! - they are).  I am much happier to receive an email that begins "Hi Wendy" than one which begins "to whom it may concern" (yes, I get them!).  I would guess the latter has been sent to hundreds of blog owners - who knows?  In any case, it's not difficult to work out who the blog writer is in almost every case, which leads me on to...

Be Open ...

Be open and honest.  Intersperse your posts with a little bit of the real you.  Have an "about" page to address your visitors' natural curiosity about you:
  • Who are you?  
  • What interests you?  
  • Why should I read what you've written?  
  • Do I have anything in common with you? 
The about page is where I head to whenever I find a new blog (or website) which interests me.  People want to connect with you, so make it easier for them.

... But Not Too Open

It's all well and good being open and honest, but you do need to know how far to take it.  A certain amount of personal stuff in a craft or business blog is good - it can help connect you to your reader and can liven the place up a bit.  But do people really want to read intimate details you really wouldn't be happy discussing on a bus with a stranger?  OK, this is different for everyone - and I'm British with that famous reserve we have - but I have cringed when reading some blogs.  It doesn't make me want to go back!

If you're blogging about other people, especially those you know offline, it makes sense to ask them how much they're happy to share.  Not everyone will want to feature in your blog!

 Be open but not too open

Join in

One of the great things about blogs is the community aspect.  You see it right here every week on Handmade Monday.  It's a lovely, warm, friendly feel - but there are rules that every week someone breaks.  Like every community, there are people who don't seem to care, although it's more likely that they just don't realise.

If you're joining in with something on someone else's blog, then check out those rules before you take part.  It means you won't annoy anyone, you'll play fair and you'll make more friends.  If in doubt, ask.  We all like more traffic, but we don't like people taking advantage by not playing fair.

If someone is offering you something which benefits you in some way (links, etc) then it's only fair that you should reciprocate in some way (usually a link in return).

It's Not Just a Promotion Tool

Your blog is a superb way to promote your business.  But if that's all it is to you, people will soon switch off.  Blogging just for keyword promotion is the online equivalent of the pushy salesperson - and we all know how wide a berth we give those!

However, it's ok to occasionally have a post which points people to your new product, your new website, your new range - because people are interested in what you do.  Don't be frightened of talking about what you sell, but don't be too "in your face" either.  Think about how you might talk offline - you would tell people about new things, but it wouldn't be all you talk about.  Well, hopfully not!

Be Nice

Being nice sums up the whole etiquette thing.  It goes back to the playground, doesn't it?  Be nice, and people will be nice back.  Be helpful, be kind, be generous, share - and you'll get it all back in bucketloads.

There's an old saying: What goes around, comes around.  It's as true online as it ever was offline.


The main thing is - enjoy your blogging experience and help others to do the same, whether they're readers, followers or fellow bloggers.  Your blog will be a better place for it.

Have I left anything out?  Feel free to add more to this list by leaving me a comment.

I'm listening!


Christmas Pie Crafts said...

A good post, Wendy, thank you. Blogging and subsequent commenting is an area that creates a lot of comment :). To me blogging is rather like an open diary - that may not be other's intepretation of a blog, but it works for me. About a month ago I began responding to all comments left on my blog. It may seem time-consuming, but it really does't take long and my feeling is that the person who has left a comment knows I have read it and it has meant something to me. I appreciate that if the time comes when I receive a high volume of comments, responding regularly may not be possible, but for the time being I think it is the right thing to do.

The undomesticated scientist said...

i'm not convinced the seagull is listening. i think he's checking if you have chips (or any other food) and how its going to swipe them!

Cocoa & Heart said...

Yes, I quite agree and my friends thing the same....(only joking...)

I have always love writing diaries when I was growing up, so to have a blog has been a really good thing for me. I completely agree with your article, I don't like when for example I get people on Facebook promoting their own businesses and wanting me to 'like' them. (when I actually don't) (I know, I can turn this function off, but want to allow the genuine people commenting).

Unknown said...

I really agree with the comment about reading other people's blogs and since reading the Problogger book, I have committed to reading one new blog per day and to leave a comment. It really is a good thing to do, it provides you with lots of new ideas and widens your network considerably. Take a look at who other people follow, there are usually some great gems out there. And finally make it into a conversation and move it on, whilst "great blog post" is a nice message, "have you thought about...' or "I am so pleased you posted this, always wondered how it was done..." makes you feel like your post make a difference.

Thanks for a really useful post, which I am going to re-read again.

Ali said...

Hi Wendy,

I'm conscious at times, like this past week, that I haven't had time to read other people's blogs as much as I'd like.
I really like Ros's comment about trying to read a new blog each day. I recently did a 'swap' and have come across two blogs that I may never have looked at. It has meant I have visited people that they follow.
Ali x

Anonymous said...

Excellent post for referring to!

Also I try not to write about negative things to keep the subject matter of your blog up tempo and also it's probably obvious, but when people ask a question in the comments, I always answer it on the post for other people to read and also email the commenter to make sure they definitely see it and feel more engaged.

BTW I'm now adding you to my blog reader- I have about 300 on there but I do try and read all new posts daily if I can.

Unknown said...

I spend my lunch breaks reading other blogs (as I am now). Totally agree with Ros Made Me.

Thanks for sharing; useful post.


Lisa Lisa said...

I just recently started reading/following your blog. You made some great points in this post. Thanks for sharing. I try to read the posts from all of the blogs I follow. I might not read them every day but I do read them....sometimes playing catch-up on the weekend. I haven't been commenting (or posting) as much lately, but I do try to comment on posts that really impress me (like this one). And I always reply to those who take the time to comment, although I never really thought about them potentially being spammers!! Thanks for the tip!

Ginx Craft said...

I found your article very interesting. I don't reply to everyone personally who leaves a comment on my blog. I don't mean to be rude, I just think that it may start a never ending thank you chain. (You don't need to reply to this!!)

Getting the balance is quite difficult. It is quite hard, as you don't want to be someone who links up, and never comments on anyone else's blog. But I do try and only leave a comment on things I genuinely like or am interested in. I think it is often quite obvious when comments are being made a bit indiscriminately.

I agree with you about putting on just a bit of personal stuff, but not too much. I think it probably is just English reserve.

Helen said...

Great post Wendy.
Must admit I don't aleays have time to comment on blogs that I read, altho I read a lot (i usually spend a free few minutes reading a blog for instance) sometimes i wish there was a 'i read this and liked it' button
I also never thought about leaving comments on my own blog, but have recently started doing that too.
Handmade Monday is great, keep it gping :)

Martha said...

great read Wendy, straight to the point, very thorough and well thought over. however it can provoke some contrary opinions :P

my turn to speak my mind :)
i'll be forthright with my answer as much as i can be.

i myself, do admit, i am sometimes late with commenting on hand-made mondays as i either link up late at sunday night and then need to go to bed and try catching up on the next day or later during the week or i am away for a few days and try to come back and post some comments especially on those blogs whose owners took their time and visited mine. i feel grateful for all the left comments, i read them all thoroughly, sometimes many times ;) and pay the visits back. i do not always have time to reply to them although id love to. i would spend all my life sitting in front of the pc, reading all blogs, writing and replying to ppl's comments while there are also other things to do in life ;) i'm definitely not commiting myself to visiting and reading all blogs as i know it's physically impossible for me.

i think it's worth mentioning that with the growing number of hand-made monday participants it is gradually getting difficult to visit every single blog taking part in HMM. i find myself sometimes sitting for hours, wondering from one blog to the other, reading through the stuff and posting comments.

personally i would appreciate if people tried to get to the point about their hand-made mondays and wrote about true crafty content rather than about their moving the house or shopping or trips to some places or other non-crafty topics. i come to a blog expecting to see some nice crafty stuff, and instead i have to read through some long essays about (lets put it honestly) not always interesting stuff and then at the end i am trying to come up with a comment that would match the content of the blog post and i struggle with that. i feel like i am forcing myself to comment on somebody's blog just because they also take pare in HMM. so people, please keep it short, simple and to the point - that what works best, i think :)

another thing - blogger verification - i do understand its purpose is protecting blogs from spammers but if you have to comment on many blogs and go through the comment verification every single time, it is immensely annoying. i am sure some of you also find it irritating.
so please do turn it off, it helps your commentators :)

i dont do "like me and i like you" facebook thing - it's hopeless and it doesnt really work and it's just a superficial way of getting to know someone and to get your statistics high. i ignore this sort of attitude.

well, this is more or less what i have on my mind :) thanks for the opportunity to share my opinion.
off to bed now.

Wendy said...

Wow - some excellent and thought-provoking comments here, thanks everyone.

Undomesticated Scientist: you're so right, the seagull was actually after the contents of our lunchboxes! Egg on wholemeal was his preference and he dive-bombed my Other Half just after this photo was taken!

Wendy said...

Martha: there's no rule that you have to comment on, or even visit, all the other HM blogs - as many as you feel comfortable with is great. I'm with you on the captcha code - so annoying - and the "like for like" is a complete waste of time, I think it defeats the whole purpose of what you're doing.

Pennydog: yes to upbeat! And answering in another post is a great idea.

I think the feeling that only commenting on certain posts is something we all do, and quite rightly. Not everthing resonates so much that we have something to say after reading it.

Carolee Crafts said...

A good post Wendy, I now temper my blog commenting to those that have commented on mine in the past, I sounds mean but sorry my time is just as precious. It does not take long to see who comment regularly and it is the regulars so they are worthy of my time. Notice a lot of newbies don't bother put it down to being new but after the 3rd week that is it.

This may all sound sour grapes but sorry I have other things to do reading and commenting on 35+ blogs each week and only getting 15 comments back. Maybe my blogs are so boring. I like to add a bit of detail and think just pictures with no content smacks too much of self promotion.

Agree with the captcha codes, have taken mine off and now moderate the comments, this also puts them in an area easier to read. I sometimes cannot read the captcha codes and after the 3rd try of entering them give up, so please bloggers remove the captcha codes you do not need them use moderation instead, if you do not have time to moderate why are you blogging?

I hate the please follow, like me etc but think sometimes the new entrants do not know how to get followers so go down this route, perhaps they should be given some leeway as they soon learn how to pick up followers.

Wendy said...

Thanks Carol! I think we all have other things to do and commenting on 35+ blogs a week can turn into quite a commitment, which is why it's not a requirement of HM to leave comments.

We all need to manage these things in the best way to suit ourselves.

Lynne said...

Brilliant post, Wendy, with lots to take on board.

Re answering your comments. At the moment I get only a handful and I always reply to every single one....I really enjoy the 'conversation' which can develop, and would love this to eveolve into a real debating forum....even if it's only about small things! However, I can see that if you are one of the 'Big Girls' whose posts attract dozens, sometims hundreds of comments, there's no way you'd be able to reply to it becomes self limiting I guess.

Also I am always SO grateful not to be having to faff around with the captcha codes....why do they make them so darned unreadable?? Some of the numbers are totally illegible, and you have to keep trying. No need for them at all. Get rid! PLEASE!!

I do read the blog list I follow as often as possible, and try to leave a commetn on all of them at least nce a week....after all, they supported me when I got going, also, I like to support really new bloggers, it is so dispiriting blogging along to an empty room!

Thanks again for a great post,

Wendy said...

Lynne, it's lovely that you can reply to all comments - it can open up debate and friendships. I don't consider myself one of the "big girls" but I do get a lot of comments, and have two blogs (as well as writing for someone else's blog sometimes). You really could let it take up all your day, so a line has to be drawn and sometimes the decision is made by your other commitments.

I love the idea of commenting on newbie blogs that you follow - it's so exciting to get comments when you first start blogging!

Anonymous said...

Very useful (and common sense!) tips.
As in 'real life, If only people would just treat others as they would like to be treated we would all be fine wouldn't we?!
Love the seagull pics. We don't get much in the way of sea gulls in Cypress and I miss them!

Wendy said...

Exactly, Zoe, it's simply about treating people nicely. Oh, there are things about seagulls you probably don't miss...this one divebombed us for the chance of stealing our sandwiches! (he failed in his mission though!)

Unknown said...

A very good post,thanks Wendy. Ive just discovered your blog today and its very enjoyable. Ive blovged on and off for a few years now but only just started up a blog co nected to my new creative business. Im learning how to balance the business side with the personal! Xx

Wendy said...

Thanks Maxine, glad you're enjoying it! It can be quite hard, that balance between personal and business - and it's different for everyone. Good luck x