Monday, January 28, 2013

Crafting a brilliant blog, 1: Giving readers reasons to return

Last night my Web wanderings led me to "The Brilliant Blog," authored by one +Annie Murphy Paul . The name is a bit of a trick - what sounds at first like a boast is actually a description of the blog's subject matter. It's not that the blog itself is brilliant, but that the blog is about how to be brilliant. Or at least closer to it. Here's the header from her homepage:


New research on learning can help us all expand our intelligence

I like that idea very much.

Anyway, I landed at a blog entry titled, "Thinking About History The Way Historians Do" - a title that caught my eye because I noticed long ago, as a history minor at the University of Pittsburgh, that different instructors taught history in wildly different ways (everyone should take a history class taught by a Marxist, just once).

In accordance with widely accepted best practice, Ms. Paul ends the blog post with a questions: "Was there a moment when history came alive for you? What made it happen?"

I was glad to answer, because doing so gave me chance to talk about one of my favorite books, Frederic Morton's A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888-1889.

Commenting on the Brilliant Blog, as on many others, requires giving a name and email address in order to post, and offers the option of providing a website address. I filled out the info, giving this blog's address as my website address, posted my comment, and left. The blog's comment section is moderated, so I planned to return to see if my comment had been posted.

Today I learned that in providing that info in order to post, I had opted in to receive stuff from Ms. Paul. I'm ok with that; it's not unusual.

What is unusual is what I saw when I opened my first email from Ms. Paul. My Gmail is set up so that information about a sender often shows up in the right margin alongside an email, including that sender's Twitter feed. So when I opened Ms. Paul's email, her info appeared, with this at the top of her Twitter feed:

This delighted me in a couple of ways. First, I don't remember ever seeing a blog owner tweet a user's comment before. In doing that, Ms. Paul told her 24,510 followers that she thinks that my comment is worth reading. Second, I love the way that using the name of her blog to describe readers plays as a compliment to them: "Brilliant reader..." Even if it's something of a joke, it's fun.

I clicked the link just to see what would happen; it took me to the blog post with my comment. And when I checked on how the comment actually appeared, I discovered that my name links to the website URL I provided, bringing people here. Given how many comment areas forbid commenters from even posting their website URLs, it was quite a shock.

That, of course, does two things. 1) It gives a possible 24,510 people the opportunity to visit "ReVisions," and 2) it gives me a huge incentive to comment on Ms. Paul's blog again - because that will give 24,510 people the opportunity to visit here again.

I've never had so much incentive to become a regular commenter on someone else's blog.


What other things have blog owners done that made you want to comment repeatedly on their blogs? If you're a blogger, what tricks and tips have worked best to generate repeat visits to your blog?
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