Well, hello! Surely you’re here because you couldn’t resist the corniness of my presentation title for the Catholic New Media Conference! You’re probably wondering if I will be driving an actual chuck wagon into the conference room, and my answer is: wait and see.
Here’s my original proposal, although I might just change it up to involve more pyrotechnics if I get a last-minute spark of inspiration. (GET IT? SPARK!)
Gather Round the Combox, Y’all!: Building a Blog Community
The Holy Father’s call to evangelization on the digital continent rests on an understanding of the online world as part of “an authentic search for personal encounters with others.” Yet many find social media to be overwhelming due to its scope and the constant stream of information, much of it superficial. In this presentation, we will examine how bloggers can provide welcoming environments for their readers by cultivating a digital community.
Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Tumblr, Pinterest, Posterous, Disqus, and some 750 trillion other social media applications, the digital continent has become quite the crowded landscape. Navigating through the many outposts and foraging the stream of information can leave a traveler exhausted and drained after an afternoon of “plugging in.” But the Internet is inextricably part of modern life, and the journey itself can be rewarding if we can make connections with other like-minded travelers along the way.
As bloggers, particularly when writer’s block strikes, it’s tempting to feel like “everything worth saying has already been said by someone with more readers.” And while it may be true that there are times when blogging should take a back seat to doing the dishes, the fact is that new readers happen upon the Catholic blogging world every day, and there is value in providing a welcoming environment for them. Whether we are writing about the latest headlines in Catholicism and culture or exploring another niche from a Catholic perspective, our role as leaders of our blog communities is an opportunity for evangelization.
In this presentation, we will examine both the various roles that bloggers can play as discussion leaders and the specific strategies that can help us to grow and nurture our community of readers. We’ll take a brief tour of various “personalities” that bloggers may have (in real life or via their digital personae) and how each of these personalities might succeed in reaching out to readers. We will then move on to some specific recommendations for tools that bloggers can utilize to build their readership and create an environment conducive to discussion, including:
- Techniques that spark discussion in your comment box and to encourage your readers to return and to share your content with others
- Crafting a comment policy, with examples of different styles of comment disclaimers and attitudes towards moderating discussion
- Why email newsletters still work despite being “so last millennium,” technology-wise
- When it’s a good idea to launch a Facebook page for your blog and how to use it successfully
- Deciding on other platforms to use to connect with your readers
- Reaching out to the Invisible Readers who lurk but never comment
The presentation will have companion tips and resources online that attendees can utilize after the conference. The goal of this presentation is for bloggers to leave with concrete strategies for developing their readership and a renewed commitment to adding their unique voices to the digital discussions happening all around us.
Dorian Speed has blogged on various platforms, under various names, since 2005. A writer and web designer, she is currently the Web Editor of Dappled Things literary magazine and blogs about faith, culture, education, and miscellany at her personal blog, Scrutinies.net. She is a former classroom teacher whose “Catechist Chat” series is featured at AmazingCatechists.com, and she reviews books and other Catholic media for Tiber River. Along with several of her fellow bloggers from Korrektiv Press, she spoke at the inaugural conference of the Walker Percy Center for Writing and Publishing on the topic of “Social Media and the Search.” She contributes a weekly column on apps and software to CatholicMom.com. She never, ever polishes furniture and isn’t sure what a “baseboard” is.
Dorian’s writing has been featured on the popular blogs Conversion Diary and Snoring Scholar, and she has worked with several prominent Catholic bloggers in designing their websites to engage and uplift readers. Her current focus is on examining the role of Catholic patronage of the arts through blog interviews with Catholic artists, writers, and musicians.