Your Comment Here

Last week I wrote about picking good blog topics. Today, let's talk about commenting on blogs. Kipp Bodnar has a great post today (read it here) on how to do it. But you may wonder if there's any value in commenting on others' posts. Is it worth your already tight time? I think so, for two big reasons:

1. Exposure: Bloggers and the people who follow them do read comments. That makes them a great way to connect with like-minded (or thoughtfully dissenting) folks. It's also a way for potential employers and partners to discover you.

2. Reputation: If your thoughts add to the community, you'll begin to establish a reputation as a smart, thoughtful person. Maybe even a thought leader. This is a great way to build your public personae and, again, get the attention of recruiters, headhunters and others.

I know this is true because I've seen it work up close and personal. My husband, Steve Peha, began commenting on the top education blogs in the nation about 18 months ago. This enabled him to get into discussions with state, regional and national education reform leaders -- people it would be very hard to get in front of on a regular basis. He frequently emailed these folks off the blogs to connect more formally, and as a result, now has an entirely new network of contacts on a very high level.

His commenting also led to some great opportunities to share his ideas more prominently. He was "discovered" by an editor at the National Journal, who enlisted him to become a contributor to the Education Experts blog. That blog helped him expand his network further and led to invitations to write for the Drop Out Nation blog and The Washington Post's Answer Sheet blog. It's gotten him a number of interviews with various traditional media, too -- and some consulting offers. Now he's seen as a leading voice on education reform, teacher quality and literacy instruction.

Steve had all the chops before he started commenting. But by sharing his thoughts with a broader audience, he was able to increase his network, raise his profile on the national level, be considered for big consulting gigs and get his ideas in front of policymakers and others who can help him achieve his goals. That's not for nothing. And it's all from commenting.

I'm not saying you'll get the same results, but I encourage you to find the leading blogs in your industry or area and get to know them. Once you feel comfortable with the dialog, jump in with your own comments. But proceed with caution: nobody likes a blog-jacker.

Steve and I came up with this list of tips for comment-writing:

•    Be strategic. Find the two or three most influential blogs in your industry and become a regular commenter.
•    Know your audience. Make sure guest posts support your career goals and are relevant to the audience.
•    Use your real name. For maximum value, use your actual name for your user name. If it’s not available, use the closest thing you can find, like your name plus your ZIP code.
•    Go for quality, not quantity. A few high-quality posts will do more to establish your reputation as a person with good ideas and solutions.
•    Engage with others. Since you’re trying to build a following among other visitors to the site, email them off the blog to establish a relationship. Then ask if they can help you in your search.
•    Leave your contact info behind. Make sure interested parties can contact you directly by closing with your e-mail and the URL of your blog, website, or Linkedin profile.
•    Use a word processor. Don’t compose in those tiny comment fields. You’ll make too many mistakes. Use spell check, but read your comment out loud, too, so you don’t miss anything. Edit closely. Then copy and paste into the blog.
•    Strive to be the best (or at least the most interesting). Even though you’re just commenting, work hard at what you write.
•    Take crystal-clear positions. Many commenters don’t really have positions, they just rant and rave. You can be different and better by knowing ahead of time what your positions are. And you can move all your comments in that direction.
•    Give credit where credit is due. When the blog owner or other commenters make a good point, acknowledge it. Be generous with your praise because at various points you may want to be generous with your criticism, too.
•    Bring the thread around to your ideas. No matter what people are talking about, bring the discussion around to your ideas. Every post you make should contain at least one of your key positions.

Go get 'em!


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