I'm covering the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco for the work blog, and I've written a recap of a blogging panel that I attended that you might be interested in. Here's a piece:
Facilitating community" is much easier said than done, but you must make those who visit your site feel welcome. That doesn't mean sparkly icons and overly friendly chit chat with commenters, but make your blog hospitable. Make it easy for them to comment by making sure they don't have to take unnecessary steps to leave feedback. Making someone log in each time, provide a CAPTCHA or other (seemingly) minor requirements can make someone abandon a comment pretty quick like. Encourage commenting both editorially and technically.
Number two in that list should be number one. It is absolutely paramount that you comment and read other people's blogs if you want a community to grow in your own. This may seem to take a lot of time and energy, but I assure you that the most organic way to improve traffic to your blog is to be an active participant in someone else's. Never underestimate the power of the blogger ego. Getting comment feedback is like mainlining crack for many a new media writer. It's what you want! Why not spread the love and comment like crazy? Let people know you are out there, and that you like what they do. Don't fake it! Only comment on that which inspires you, but rather than think to yourself, "That was funny," tell him. Chances are he's gonna wanna see where you came from, click on your name, and if you've got quality content the chances you've gained yourself a reader have gone way up.
The free stuff is great advice if you are a pro organization, but this isn't the best tack for independent bloggers, simply for monetary reasons. However, that bit about promoting your fans is GOLD. If a comment is truly funny or provocative, why not highlight it in a post of its own with your response? Knowing that a blogger respects his readers, values them and even promotes them is big incentive for people to stick around.
Read the rest.