It’s almost impossible to keep track of all the latest widgets, gadgets, plugins and features available for bloggers. New stuff is coming out daily, which is understandable, there are millions and millions of bloggers, and many of them are very dedicated to blogging — that’s a nice market with interesting opportunities.
Few companies have really capitalized on bloggers (except those helping them generate revenue). I expect a lot of those that offer “nice add-ons” will fall off the radar eventually. But some will survive, do well, and ultimately get acquired.
Blogs are meant to be social things. (Just ask folks like Chris Brogan and Liz Strauss.) Blog success can be measured by many things (and it varies for each blog owner) but the social nature and social quality of a blog is certainly one measure. I would measure the social nature of a blog through a few things — including comments and content sharing.
With that in mind, I’ve added two features to improve Instigator Blog’s “socialness”:
- Disqus: Disqus is a commenting system. As you can see below this post, Disqus powers my comments. Others in this space, who offer commenting and other related features, include SezWho, Intense Debate and JS-Kit. I chose Disqus because of the recent buzz around it (and the fact that I’m a fan of Fred Wilson, of Union Square Ventures, who invested in Disqus).
I like some of the things Disqus brings to the table — threaded comments, comment management, community, etc. I haven’t really explored the value of my Instigator Blog Disqus Community page, but I know that people who are Disqus members will enjoy the ability to track comments for themselves across multiple blogs more easily.
Disqus isn’t perfect. It’s not easy enough to edit the CSS (it’d be easier if I could host the Disqus CSS file myself), and because they just launched a new WordPress plugin it’s going to be missing things and have some hiccups.
I’ll be looking (anecdotally) at whether comments increase (especially repeat commentors), discussions are more interesting and the management of comments is more efficient and better.
- AddThis: AddThis provides a small button at the bottom of each post that encourages people to share your blog content with others through email, social bookmarking services, etc. I picked it because TechCrunch uses it. I realize that’s not the best reason, but it’s not easy to discern significant differences between the competitors, which include: Add To Any and ShareThis. I know there are differences, I’m just not sure they really matter.
I’ve always hesitated to use this kind of button, thinking that it would add clicks for someone that’s trying to share the content, and not be totally clear. You’ll notice at the bottom of this post I’ve added a snippet of text explaining the use of the button.
A few things motivated me to give it a try, including the fact that these buttons are becoming more prevalent, and the ability for people to share via email. I read a blog post recently saying that most people still share content via email. And Dan Zarrella has his own report on content sharing, which shows that email is used quite frequently (especially by non-heavy social media users / readers). That makes sense.
AddThis has the potential to make Instigator Blog more social if it increases the amount of content that people share. AddThis has some very nice statistics that track what’s being shared and through which service.
Blogs are social animals. They shouldn’t just be about spitting out content, driving mindless traffic and making $0.02 CPM on crappy ads. Granted, lots of people make serious money that way, but it’s not really the point. And while I’m generally overwhelmed by the widgets, features and doodads available (and some blogs overload themselves with “stuff”), I am willing to try new things out in an effort to enhance this blog’s value proposition as a community for people interested in startups, entrepreneurship and social media.