Blogging for Interaction

Interaction is critical to every business. No interactions and you have no business. Sometimes it really is that simple.

Other times it is complicated.

With the web everything seems to always be both simple and complicated at the same time and “interaction” is no exception.

Blog Related Interaction

Hold on tight because in this post we are about to cover a great deal of ground!

There are a number of different ways to measure how well a blog is performing including a focus on interaction. In this post, we begin by defining the process and then moving forward we’ll get into different ways to measure interaction and then we’ll get into the nitty grity and start to explore a number of ways in which you can encourage more interaction on your site and also reward your best fans.

Defining A Blog In Terms of Interaction

When considering interaction directly related to your blog, the conversation is fairly straight forward as your blog is built to be the most interactive part of your site.

At a fundamental level a blog is intended to work on an ongoing basis. It is dynamic. Meaning that it is constantly changing.

A typical blog involves a blog owner creating content on a regular (or semi-regular) basis.  This alone is an interactive endeavor between the blog owner and their site.  And throughout this entire series on Better Business Blogging we have discussed a number of benefits for why a business can benefit from blogging including the idea that by blogging you are in essence saying to your incoming audience that your lights are on and that you are open for business.  You visitors can call you.  They can email you.  They can get on your Facebook Page.  They can even in many instances meet with you in person.  And they can also comment on your blog.  You are open for business!  That in itself is a wonderful starting point for interactivity but it actually gets better.

The modern blog has evolved in large part due to how the audience has moved. As we have all moved beyond what was our traditional way of consuming media by being passive (watching the television, reading the newspaper, listening to the radio) and become more comfortable with the idea of participating with our media, the modern blog has become something considerably more dynamic and vibrant. What used to be a lecture is now a dialogue. Conversation has actually become conversation.

The Power of Blogging. What used to be a lecture is now a dialogue. Conversation has actually become conversation. Tweet This

Think about how powerful that is, and how big an impact that can have on your business.

Evolving Interaction Into Communication

Another critical aspect of blogging is focused on the idea of pure interaction. Fact is interaction as we’ve already covered at the very top is a critical component of any business but interaction for the sake of interaction really does not move your goalposts forward in anyway – moving forward as a business owner you should be focusing on is the idea that interaction is a form of communication rather than a pure numbers game.

This is mentioned because one of the early measurements (we will be discussing measurement in more detail shortly) that every blog uses to determine the weight of interaction is total number of comments. And while the total number of comments is certainly one way to measure, a deeper more bottom line focused measurement might come from the total quality of comments.

Quality comments speak to a much richer environment where you as a business blog writer are actually connecting with real customers that could perhaps lead to real business.  Communication.  And with communication you are now beginning to focus on the rich interactions you will need in order to move from a passive comment to someone with a good potential to become a cust

Defining Interaction for Web?

As we briefly touched on one of the easiest ways to determine how best to measure interaction is by focusing on the number of comments. This  makes tremendous sense as with every blog one of the key criteria is based on not only the material you are producing but also the responses back you are getting from that material.

Going further, another rich place to focus might be to instead focus on quality comments as those types of comments indicate that not only are you creating meaningful content, but that content is also finding the right audience.

Today we are also all grappling with the new “social web” and are all trying to find meaningful ways to measure how our performance is been the social arena. Needless to say interactivity within the social realm is a critical form of measurement and is an area that all business blogs need to pay attention to as the number of social shares and social comments are also big factors in determining the success of a blog.

And with some commenting systems not only is the social web a factor, but the social web is directly tied into the commenting platform as well meaning that when a visitor comments on your site they might also be simultaneously making that same comment from their social networking profile(s).

Suddenly not only are posts potentially viral, but so too for comments.  Talk about a massive potential for an extended dialogue resulting from your blog.

The Interaction Dashboard

As you are beginning the process of building out you are interaction framework it is also very important to make sure that you are measuring your performance on an ongoing basis and that you are creating some kind of methodology that which you can compare your results over time.

Some of these comparisons are obviously going to be quantitative (meaning numbers focused) but other aspects of your dashboard should also be focused on qualitative inputs that allow you to take notes and to register if certain blog posts drive more meaningful engagements versus other blog posts that might perhaps gain more traction in the form of social sharing, but not necessarily help your business and your bottom line.

How to Encourage Interaction

Moving past the framework ideas, lets take a quick look at tactics that might help encourage greater engagement within your blog.  And if we are going to be tactical, naturally that means we also need to be strategic. And if we’re going to be strategic that means we will need to plan.

While there are plenty of tools out there to help you generate and chronicle ideas focused on a large variety of topics, for the purpose of this conversation let’s just say that a paper and pad are plenty but if you have a different method that you prefer than go for. The main point is that you take the time to begin to outline and document your strategy.

When looking to outline your strategy you are of course already intimately familiar with your audience, and you have a great deal of insight into what is of interest to them. You also are very well aware of many of their pain points, and likely even very aware of many of their key resistant points to your particular offering.

With this in mind a good place to start might be to put together a list of blog post titles that you know from personal experience tend to garner outsized in person responses. Another idea might be to focus on a few posts that you know are controversial within your space as these types of posts tend to generate a large amount of activity as well. Perhaps another idea might be to instead convey personal stories of your’s and of your staff’s – these stories tend to bring out entirely different responses from your audience.

A few other ideas that tend to work very well are the creation of “list” posts where the focus of the posters “top 10 reasons why” or “5 ways to” – with a list post you might see that with some minimal additional marketing push on your part you will be able to achieve a very large “social velocity” as these types of posts as they tend to get shared a great deal on places like Twitter, Facebook and StumbleUpon. Just remember with your list posts to bring it back to the dashboard that you are going to be creating, and while these momentary big bumps and traffic light do wonders for your ego just make sure your customers are within the reach of these types of posts otherwise…

Calls to action can also have a huge impact on how your audience might respond to a particular post. The simple act of encouraging feedback sometimes is enough to draw your visitors out of the protective shell of their laptop.

Interaction Spurs More Interaction

Another nice aspect of interaction is that in the event that your audience is in some way motivated enough to reach out to you and reply or share your content, take the time to thank them for doing so. As new visitors arrive, having seen the nice reception and the quality conversation you are already developing, they in turn will be more likely to follow suit and engage.

What Interaction Looks Like To Outsiders

Building on the above idea of interaction leading to more interaction, another aspect to consider is what interaction looks like to an outsider. Obviously not every site is going to have a rich array of comments and social shares to help support their claim that they are relevant to their space, but for those sites that do, the impact on incoming visitors is powerful and palpable.

While comments are not necessarily going to be top of mind for the visitor in every space, for some spaces commenting is certainly a legitimate goal to set. In other space perhaps comments might not be as prolific and instead the focus might be to utilize a contact form in close proximity to great content. Obviously you are going to have to make a determination for yourself about what you think makes the most sense.

The Value of Interaction

While it might be a challenge to put a cash value directly attributable to interaction there is no doubt that when as a site owner you are able to develop and nurture a passionate and informed audience, this audience is also delivering massive value to your blog in the form of very insightful comments.

The result is your blog can become so much more than purely your own efforts – it can suddenly become a repository for thoughts within your space.  This in turn leads even more people to visit your site for now they are coming not only for your amazing blog posts, but they are also coming to see what your community has to say about your posts – talk about using your blog to be an authority!

Interaction Combined with Other Ideas

Interaction is wonderful. What is even better than interaction for the sake of interaction is receiving interaction from your audience when putting together content that also covers other aspects of your better business blogging goals.

So, if the goal of the particular post is focused on your desire to convey expertise by providing a detailed explanation about a particular issue within your space, and you suddenly are also engaging with your audience as a result of their interaction, you are quickly in a best case scenario.

If the goal of particular post is focused on injecting personality within your business, and again your audience is interacting with this particular post, the benefits are multi-faced.

Speaking to a much larger point, and something we have touched on before in this post, interaction should not be focused purely on interaction for the sake of interaction. Instead, interaction should be the direct results of doing something really well. When you as a business blogger are creating outstanding content your likelihood for your audience to respond back to you goes up considerably. Whereas if you are doing only the bare minimum the likelihood of audience interaction will go down.

Don’t Forget the Competition!

Always remember that within a very competitive marketplace your content really needs to shine through. In addition there is a great likelihood that your audience is also spending time on a number of other sites and the result is that they are considerably more educated about your space than you might be inclined to believe. So again keep this in mind and also keep in mind that by leveraging some of your other better business blogging goals you are more likely to create an environment that also fosters interactivity.

Responding to Negative Interactions

Often a big resistance point for blogging of any kind is focused on a fear of negative comments.

Negative comments are a real concern. But negative comments can also be a great opportunity on a number of different levels.

Negative comments can provide you with very actionable points by which you can improve your business.  It might hurt to hear it, but sometimes it is those negative comments that can really spur you to take action for the better.

Negative comments can also provide you with very meaningful interactions with potential customers. Often a courteous and very timely response in a very human and honest voice can turn a critic into a raving advocate.

While there might be a quick impulse to quickly delete a negative comment, instead perhaps by addressing the comment head on you can also use this as a great opportunity to show all future incoming visitors how you handle customers, how you and your entire team are very committed to customer service and how important a good customer experience is to your operation. Talk about setting things right.

A few other words of wisdom with regard to negative comments:

  • Do not engage in a flame war. At a certain point early if you have not yet moved into a constructive area  you are possibly already at the point where you cannot “win” with this person so move on.
  • Do not feel the need to coddle every negative comment.
  • Do not feel that every negative comment needs to remain on your site.
  • At a certain point in the thread suggest that that perhaps solving this problem outside of the comments might be more effective – suggest they call or email you directly as this will move the conversation off site while also displaying your own willingness as a business to go that extra mile

A Call to Action

One item that often gets overlooked, particularly by new blog writers is the value of a call to action to finish off your post.  This is particularly relevant if you are looking to help foster interaction with a particular post.  Consider ending your posts by inviting audience feedback is a great way to help foster dialogue and to encourage your readers to respond.

A call to action inviting responses can be particularly effective for posts that might already be very opinionated to begin with.  By encouraging your readers to offer up alternate opinions you are now moving from talking to communicating and further you are creating an environment that will hopefully evolve into something of an online parlor that is focused on your particular area of business expertise, that also happens to be held in your own “business garden.”

Interaction Takes Time

Interaction often takes time.Sometimes going as far out as years. So if you are just launching your blog and you have an expectation that there will be a massive crowd filling your comment box with all sorts of wonderful dialogue you might be in for a rude awakening. But, over time as the weight of your business blog begins to grow, and as you yourself become a much stronger blogger an expectation of some level of interaction is not unreasonable.

Closing Thoughts

Always remember to keep things positive and to encourage.  With interaction this is critical as likely someone is coming into your sandbox, with an understanding that you are an expert in your field.  If the opportunity to add something further to the conversation is there than certainly take it but much in the same way as your staff presents to customers on-premise, you should also demonstrate a similar amount of respect to your audience online.  This might even be more true for digital where there is always a possibility of someone misconstruing a comment.

Further, as always put the needs of your customers first.  When interacting online, going the extra mile and really letting people know you care through your actions and your comments can be a big area by which you can really drive home the passion and enthusiasm for your business.