How To Bring Interactivity to Your Blog

This post was guest blogged by Jamie Harrop, a blogger of five years who at Jamie Harrop Dot Com writes about blogging, life as a young entrepreneur, self improvement and travel.

Blogs can often be two dimensional. The author writes a post. The reader writes a comment.

That’s all well and good, but it’s now very cliche and old.

Over the last six months the blogosphere has seen a huge influx of new media interactivity. Video and audio has been at the forefront of that effort, with John quite often leading by example with his videos around Vancouver.

Going Beyond Video and Audio

John and others have spoken at length about the ever growing importance of video and audio in blogs and Web sites in general, so today I want to go beyond that. Today, I want to find new ways to bring interactivity to your blog. New ways to entertain your readers. New ways to ensure your readers feel an integral part of the community you are building. Here are four Ways to make your blog more interactive

1 – Polls

Polls are the obvious starting point. John and many other bloggers have started to make more use of them. Some contain the polls to their sidebar. Others add the poll to a new post once per week. In the short time that I’ve been using polls, I’ve found them to be an excellent, occasional, alternative to readers writing comments. Although my poll posts still receive plenty of comments, I find that the commentators are often different than normal posts. Polls bring in a whole new crowd and allow people to voice their opinion very quickly and purposefully. They’re also ideal for allowing readers to learn very quickly. Nobody wants to read through 30 comments to find tidbits of useful information, so a poll allows users to quickly see trends and crowd opinion.

Polls are used in a variety of ways, but I like to post one new poll per week on a specific day. My readers are now accustomed to the weekly schedule of a Monday poll. I then post the poll results and an analysis on the weekend. Before I knew it, polls had given me two days worth of useful content per week for my blog.

There are many poll plugins for WordPress, but by far the most popular is WP-Polls.

2 – Guest Blogger Central

This is something I’ve recently seen in increasing popularity. Open up a specific category or a separate sub-blog for guest posts and have those posts display within a user-generated area of your Web site. Allow everybody to register as an author and publish their articles, much like a wiki. Don’t publish them on your main blog yet. Just link to the “Reader Generated Blog” from your main blog. Then each week choose one post from the published list and publish it as a guest post on your main blog.

By allowing your readers to add their articles to a community driven blog with your audience looking on, they’re able to become an integral part of your community. And with the weekly reward of one post being re-published on your main blog, you’ll soon find your readers competing with each other to write the best post.

3 – Live Video Streaming

I said I wanted to go beyond video and audio, and although this does involve video, it does go beyond the basic pre-recorded ‘talking to the camera’ effort. The only time I’ve seen live video streaming used by a blogger is when the previous owner of John Cow used it to communicate with his readers. Bob setup a camera in his office and had a regular chat with his readers as he worked. His readers could communicate with him via a chat room, and he would respond to their questions on the live video stream. I was one of the lucky few who was able to chat with Bob in this way and it proved to be an excellent method of interacting and making connections with readers.

In the constant effort to make online communication more personal and inviting, live video streaming is as close to face to face contact as you can come on the Internet.

There are Web sites out there that allow you to easily setup a live streaming feed. UStream TV and are the most popular.

4 – Live Comment Conversations

This idea comes straight from Liz Strauss. Every week Liz sets a topic and her readers come in droves to chat about the topic in her comments section. Liz transforms her comment area in to an instant message conversation. Not only does Liz reply to comments, but other commentators reply to comments. This is a fantastic way to give a new dimension to blog comments and help form relationships between you and your readers, and between the readers themselves.

Set a time of the week. Set a topic. Get the conversation flowing. Your readers will be on your blog for hours are they chat back and fourth.

How do you allow your readers to interact with you and your blog? Is your blog a two dimensional time-piece, of a three dimensional trendsetter?