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A blog is usually a place where individuals or groups publish thoughts and ideas on niche topics, current affairs or daily occurrences. But how do you make a WordPress blog more social and attractive to people wanting to interact and bring it to life?
Can you turn your shy, introverted blog into a bubbling, web socialite? WordPress, the popular blogging platform, has a number of solutions that you can use.
Here are six ideas that really work:
1. Enhance user commenting
Start off by allowing users to login and comment with their Facebook or Twitter accounts. The Janrain Engage (formerly RPX) plug-in aims to handle this. This allows users to use their established online identity to air their views, while remaining on your platform where you can share other articles, promote products or services, and attempt to lead the user to whichever conversion goals you may have in place.
Another comment enhancement, Disqus, is a full comments system replacement, keeping comments within the Disqus system. What this system lacks in customisation and control, it makes up for with its advanced comment features, built in comment “Like” buttons and the ability for users to register with the system, enabling user tracking and management through a single Disqus profile. It also tracks Twitter mentions, which is a great way of gauging social engagement with a particular blog post.
2. Share the comments
A simple comment is what gets the conversation started on a blog post. If a user has taken the time to comment on your post, why not thank them for their time by giving a little back and making the comment accessible to your wider community? The “Comment Luv” system takes the most recent blog post from the web address entered by the commenting user and links back to it below their comment. If another user enjoyed or agreed with the commenter, they now have a facility to visit the comment author’s blog and connect with that user.
3. Allow users to subscribe to post comments
If a user makes a comment, they may forget and not return to the blog post, possibly missing an answer to a question asked in their comment, or missing out on interaction with other users in the comments. The “Subscribe to Comments” plugin for WordPress allows users to subscribe (and to unsubscribe, don’t worry) to the comments on a particular blog post. When other users comment on the post, the subscribed users will be emailed a notification of the comment. Useful if you comment on many blogs or are interested in reading further comments in a discussion.
Aside from these examples, here are some of the standard social plugins:
4. Social bookmarking plugins
Social bookmarking plugins add buttons, links or icons to each of your blog posts (commonly at the bottom). They allow visitors to share your blog posts on their desired social networks with a single click.
There is a wealth of social sharing WordPress plugins available on WordPress Extend. I would recommend the popular Sociable plugin or AddtoAny, both of which are feature-rich and allow features such as sending of blog posts via email, as well as social sharing and bookmarking options. Be sure to check that the plugins are compatible with your version of WordPress before activating though.
5. Facebook and Twitter widgets
Linking your Twitter and Facebook streams to your website can provide an additional platform for users to view your content from these social networks, as well as notifying users who organically find your website that you are present on those networks, driving the conversation to familiar platforms. There are many plugins available that achieve this integration. Twitter Tools, a uniquely robust Twitter integration plugin by Alex King and Crowd Favourite, achieves this with remarkable ease.
Optional features include:
- setting up a daily digest blog post of your tweets
- posting each time you tweet
- tweeting from your blog’s sidebar
- shortening URLs for sending to Twitter and, of course,
- a Twitter widget, listing your tweets in one of your blog’s sidebars.
Don’t worry, all the features are optional and made available through a concise control panel.
As we know, Facebook has a vast array of features and content types available to users. This means there are a wide range of plugins available that integrate with Facebook in one way or another. Two worth mentioning as effective in engaging with users and integrating your Facebook account would be the Facebook Status for WordPress and Add to Facebook plugins, allowing for the display of status updates and adding of your posts or pages to Facebook, respectively.
6. Specialised social sharing options
In addition to the above-mentioned social bookmarking options, there are many specialised services aimed at social sharing, such as Tweetmeme (retweeting of blog posts), Facebook Share (similar to Tweetmeme, but for Facebook) as well as Digg & Google Buzz buttons and WP-Email for emailing a blog post to a friend. While the majority of the above are already implemented in popular social bookmarking plugins, they are especially useful when a specialised button is required for a particular network or feature.
These are just some of the ways you can help your blog get out there, “work the room” and become the socialite you’ve always dreamed it could be.
If you’ve got other ideas, please share in the (Disqus-powered) comments below.