I will now be taking multi-purpose blog posting to a new level as I make this post serve three purposes-- as an update on my progress in the Building a Better Blog challenge, a way to accomplish one of my Challenge tasks and a meaningful post on my normal blogging topics. Let's see if I can manage all three. (And I see as write this that another task has been posted, so I'll be behind again before I even get this up!)
Day 20--Run a Reader Survey
If there's one thing I've learned in this process (besides the fact that not everyone sees things my way) it's that your readers have a tremendous amount to tell you about your blog and that you should be regularly engaging with them to obtain their ideas and feedback. In this tradition, the task for Day 20 is to run a reader survey. As Darren points out, reader surveys will help you improve your blog, while also engaging them in conversation and encouraging their participation. He has a lot of great ideas on what questions to ask, too.
I could argue that I ran a survey when I went through my site re-do and asked my readers to respond, which they did--with a huge amount of useful information. But I'm an over-achieving sort, so I did go ahead and create another survey that is now waiting in the wings. I'm holding onto it, though, because my fellow challenge participants and I have all agreed that we've been asking a lot of readers in the past few weeks, and we don't want to put anyone on overload. Plus it's always nice to be in a position to DO something about reader feedback, which I decidedly am not right now.
Day 21--Make a Reader Famous
Now here's a particularly fun task. One of the beauties of blogging, as opposed to just running a website, is the sense of community that develops from interacting with your readers. The best blogs have active reader communities and it only makes sense that you'd recognize your readers from time to time.
In looking through Darren's suggestions for showcasing readers, I was happy to see that I regularly do at least one of them--promoting a comment to a post. Often my readers will give me a nugget that I want to make sure is included in the post, so I'll pull it up in an update, as I did here with something from Sue Waters. On other occasions, such a great conversation has gone on in comments, I've created another post on it just to summarize and make sure people see what was said, as I did here in my "Why Face to Face Still Rules" post. And in comments on this post, Frances McLean reminds me that I made her famous with a headline.
But of course there are several other activities I haven't done before, including writing an "unpaid review" of a reader's blog, highlighting what I like best about them, sending my readers to comment on someone else's blog or giving readers an opportunity to promote themselves. So I need to pick it up there.
Let me say, though, that I think "making readers famous" is probably a really essential key to blogging, particularly if you're an organization. People like to read about themselves and feel recognized. When you put them front and center, they're more likely to come back again. This is an element that's usually missing in organizational sites (blogs or otherwise) as most organizations are so busy talking about themselves and getting you to hear their message, they miss out on the opportunity to have readers do the talking for them. So I think this task should definitely go high on the list of "most useful" pieces of work to do on our blog or website.
Reader Shout-Outs to Get Me Back to Business
So here's where I try to combine giving some recognition to readers, while also highlighting some of the "normal" business of The Bamboo Project.
First, over the weekend I saw that Tim Davies is running some draft principles for his blog to help him get focused on what he's doing, why he's doing it and how he intends to blog. I think this is a really great idea and one I'm adding to my "To do" list as I think that even the act of writing out your principles can help you gain a lot of clarity. I actually see this as both a good blogging practice, as well as a good personal or organizational practice. It's always a good idea to revisit your purpose and I think that's where Tim is headed with this. I highly encourage a visit to his post to see what he's doing and to give him some feedback. Might give you some of your own ideas, too.
I also wanted to send you over for a visit to Rosetta Thurman at Perspectives from the Pipeline who is a frequent visitor and commenter here at Bamboo. Over at her place she consistently produces incredibly thoughtful and insightful posts on nonprofit leadership and staff development. She's also willing to give some tough love when necessary, which I admire in anyone. Today she does both with a great post on why we need to stop rewarding nonprofit leaders for the wrong behavior.
And Finally--Some Challenge Updates
Lucky Laura Whitehead is heading out for a nice vacation, but she's managed to persuade Paul Webster to continue following her part of the challenge on his blog. She'll pick up when she returns, but in the meantime, you can continue to follow along with Paul.
Also joining us for the final stretch (although he's actually starting at the beginning) is Mike Nolan from Web Services at Edge Hill University.
And finally, Al Upton reports to our group via email that his 8-9 year old miniLegends are keeping him on his toes, pushing hard on going through the tasks and loving the work of making decisions together to build their blog. For anyone who thinks that kids can't handle IT, a trip to visit the miniLegends is in order.