There have been several blog posts and discussions online lately about the state and value of having and reading quilting blogs. I believe that the conversation has actually been going on for some time, and recently I realized that I have some thoughts and insights that were finally worth writing down. So, forgive me for not linking to some of the earlier discussions, but I think that what I have to say here is slightly different.
In one way or another, I have been a part of the New Quilt Bloggers blog hop for the past 3 years (2014-2016). There were significantly fewer “new bloggers” this year compared to the two previous years, but participation was still great among those who signed up. Suggestions as to the timing of the hop have been noted (although time will tell if schedule adjustments will be possible and improve participation in the future). (Note: The number of participants this year was still more than in many years prior to my involvement.)
I have also noticed a decline in the number of blog posts in my reader feed each morning. Now, that is carefully worded: I tend to wake up and go through my feed first thing in the morning, but I do also check in several times during the day. Overall, some bloggers that I follow have definitely had some life circumstances arise which have lead to them blogging less, but in general I think the biggest trend I see is that there is less consistency on when blogs are being published. If I take a break for a day or two, it is still overwhelming how fast I can get to 99+ unread blog posts in my feed.
I will also say that over the years I have unfollowed blogs. Content changes (I am fine with blog posts about other topics, but I am primarily a quilter and interested in reading about quilts. If a blog becomes more about bag making or garment sewing, I will eventually lose interest.) and lack of responsiveness from the blogger (if I leave comments but never hear back, I will stop commenting, then stop reading, and then unfollow) are the biggest two reasons I will unfollow a blog.
Also, I am an active blogger and I continue to add blogs to follow. Clearly the new quilt bloggers blog hop is one great way for me to find and follow blogs, and as some of the older blogs I follow become less active (life happens!), I still have plenty of blog reading to do because I am continuing to add new blogs to read.
Which leads me to another observation: some of the weekly link parties that used to be active social interactions have been discontinued and/or are being posted less consistently. When I started blogging, I had a weekly goal to post for WIP Wednesday, or a post to share a finish for one on the Friday finish link ups, or linking up new purchases with Sunday Stash. I completely understand the amount of hard work that Lee @Freshly Pieced put into running WIP Wednesday for 5 years, but there are other active and thriving link ups like Let’s Bee Social by Lorna @Sew Fresh Quilts, the Friday link ups are still going strong, and so is Molli Sparkles’ Sunday Stash.
Linking up to link up parties does not seem to generate more comments on my blog posts, though. Honestly, it never really did. I almost always seem to get a bump in traffic to my blog, but what I am interested in is the interaction, which comes from comments. Which brings me to the heart of what I want to talk about today: blog comments.
I think that the heart and soul of a blog is the community that is found, formed, and cultivated in a blog’s comments. It is what keeps me blogging, and interacting with other bloggers is what keeps me visiting their blogs. I know that when first starting out it can seem confusing, overwhelming, and lonely. Will anyone ever read my blog? Will anyone ever leave a comment? So here are my thoughts on how to have good blog comment etiquette which will help cultivate your own community.
- If you enjoy a blog post, leave a comment. Learning to leave comments is hard, but even just acknowledging that you think their quilt is pretty or that you like the fabric they used is a place to start. The more you practice leaving comments, the easier it becomes. If you value a blog and want to see it continue, your best support will be leaving a comment. You don’t have to comment on every post, but occasionally checking in means a lot. You don’t have to have a blog to leave a comment, either.
- When you receive a comment on your blog, reply via email. Yes, email. I am never going to go back to your blog to see if you respond to my comment on your blog post. There is nothing that will cause readership to stop leaving comments and then stop visiting a blog faster than never getting a reply. Yes, email the response even if you just say thank you. (And yes, send an email to just say thank you.)
- To level up your email comment reply (aka to earn bonus points or gold stars or whatever motivates you), use the person’s name in the reply. Most comment forms require that they leave their name anyway: “Thank you, Sue!” You never know when a touch of personalization will make a connection or spark a deeper response.
- Be nice. This should be fairly self-evident, but there are definitely ways of approaching topics (like this post) respectfully while offering a counter point. I do not want to discourage free speech and different view points; in fact, I think it is important to have that! But my motto and suggestion is still: be nice; be respectful.
- If you join a link up party, visit and comment on others who have linked up, and don’t forget to comment on the blog post of the host. They are doing work providing a forum for connection. Again, you don’t have to comment every time you link up, but letting the host know you appreciate them is a good idea if you like the link party and want to see it continued! (And if you host or want to host a link party: visit and comment on those who link up and check out my Tips for Hosting a Successful Link Party post.)
- If someone visits your blog and leaves a comment, consider visiting them back and leaving a comment on their blog.
- It is OK to choose a core group of blogs that you comment and interact with. Don’t take on more than you can follow through with, and the amount of time you have for online activities will fluctuate over time. That is completely normal. You can and will find your “tribe” by following this process, and they will understand and help you when you come across the inevitable life/quilting hurdle. You can’t say yes to everything, still have time for yourself, your quilting, your family, and sleep.
- Have grace for yourself and others: these are suggestions and not laws or things to be used to berate yourself. Vacations, social media breaks, and general life happenings can (and will) disrupt your best intentions at times.
- Consider how long you have been blogging. Be consistent and stick with it. It took bigger blogs years to cultivate their communities. It does not happen over night.
- Be timely in your email comment responses. Sometimes I will not publish a particular blog post until I know I will be able to respond in a timely fashion. You get to set the rule for what timely means to you and your blog, but the internet and social media move quickly these days: I would suggest a time period closer to a day or two and not a week.
- Cultivate your photography and thumbnail pictures you use for link up parties. The better the image, the more enticing it will be for someone to click through to see what you are doing.
- Look at your blog posts: which type of posts get the most comments? Think about how to write or schedule more posts like them.
- Have you written any tutorials? Personally, when I focused on writing tutorials for a year, that is when I saw the largest growth in my comments and community.
- Consider sharing your ups and downs, lessons learned, behind the scenes, and process. I don’t even like writing a “ta da” finished post without sharing details. How long did it take you? Do you know how much thread you used for quilting (1 large spool of 50wt Aurifil thread is equivalent to 0.89 miles!)?
- Tag manufacturers and designers if you used their thread / fabric / quilt pattern and share your posts on other social media platforms. I would love to share finishes of people who make quilts using my patterns, which can be a great way for you to get exposure to other readership (be sure to comment and interact in return to engage that readership! The same comment etiquette goes for Instagram and Facebook and…).
All this being said: I have a wonderful community here, and I am thankful to be continuing to find my tribe, my voice, and my quilting style. Thanks for coming along with me on the journey.
So what do you think? Is this total hogwash? Does something else work even better for you? Leave a comment and let’s have a discussion!