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Importance of Community

I had originally titled this post “Why I Comment” but decided there was more to it than just leaving a note on other blogs. Instead, I want to speak of the importance of the community, in particular, the importance of the online hobby community.

Importance of the Hobby Community

As this blog is nearing its 10th birthday, I’ve had a lot of up and downs with both the hobby as well as the blog. The thing that has sustained me through so many low times is the fantastic community of online hobbyists.

Shortly after starting the blog (named 14th Grand Company at the time) I joined an online group doing the Tale of Even More Painters. We had a monthly challenge to paint a particular type of unit for our armies. It was a productive time, but more importantly, it was a chance to build roots into the community.

What got me thinking about all of this, and finally write this post, was one of the responses to a survey I sent to all the Dreadtober participants.

“People not helping other projects along with comments or enthusiasm” – Dreadtober survey participant

This person was disappointed in how little comments and interactions there were on the posts. You could write this off as someone complaining about not getting enough attention, but the truth was, many of the Dreadtober posts I read had zero comments.

Now, I don’t want this post to be a shaming, or even looking for comments myself. Rather, the idea sparked from a post by the famous Greg (greggles). He is famous because he is a prolific commenter. But his reason was simple: he was sad to see so much work being put into posts with no one leaving a comment.

Not leaving it to “somebody else’s problem,” Greg wanted to let as many people know as he could that their work was valued.

Commenting

But why bother? Greg is clearly an amazing individual for taking so much time help people, even through commenting. But for those who think commenting on blogs is dead, not sure why people even bother with it, or maybe even what to say, I’ve put a list together of why I comment and why I love comments on my posts.

0. Congratulate Their Success

When I see a model that has been beautifully put together and painting, I wish I could give them an award (perhaps someday I’ll create the Golden Paintbrush just for that!). The closest I can come instead is to leave them a heartfelt comment on their work.

Even if the model is far from award winning, I love to celebrate each hobbyist’s growth or bravery in trying something new. It’s scary putting your work out there for the world to see, even scarier if you know it looks awful (yes, I’ve deleted many of my old posts for this reason!). Celebrating their success motivates them to continue on.

1. Builds a Community

As with Greg, I try and comment on blogs that I follow. Sometimes it’s as simple as “great work” – though I try to add a bit more depth than that. Other times, I am asking questions or giving tips (usually only if asked for!).

Many of those bloggers reply back (see below), comment on other blogs, or leave comments on mine. As simple as that is, it builds a connected community of people who share a common passion: building and painting miniatures.

You could argue that social media, which I get to later on, is replacing this. And in some ways it is. But when you send a tweet, it disappears in minutes. A comment, on the other hand, is there for others to see when they come across the post years later.

2. Add to the Conversation

Building off of that, a good comment adds to the post and creates a conversation. New readers see the conversation which may help them understand the post even more, or they may add their own voice.

3. Sustain Motivation

When I get comments on posts, especially WIP posts, it helps me maintain motivation to finish it. It’s even better when someone who knows me gives a little prod to finish a project that has been lingering too long.

I look at commenting as a way to pay this forward. Especially if someone is talking about how tough a project is or how real life is draining them. Life happens, but we as a community can support each other to get through those moments.

4. Promotes creativity

Feeling down in your hobby muse? Browsing other hobby blogs is great for finding some inspiration, but I find that if I take the time to leave the person a comment, I look at the models that much more.

What was so eye-catching about that blue? How did they achieve that metal look? What bits are those from? As I said earlier, I don’t like leaving shallow comments, so I really look at the models and find something unique or exceptional that the hobbyist did to comment on.

For me, this sparks some level of creative thoughts for my own projects. Something I can tuck away for later.

5. Build Worldwide friendships

Similar to building a community above, though blog comments I have grown friendships all over the world. Even though we have never met in person, I know that if I find myself in Ireland or Australia there are friends I could call upon to introduce me to the country.

It’s also fun to see what other parts of the world find interesting or when a cultural reference becomes the topic of discussion (what is that nasty pasty thing Aussies eat anyway?).

6. Builds Traffic

I would be amiss if I didn’t at least hit this reason for commenting (Thor and I have written about blogging after all). But notice I put it at the bottom of the list for a reason: if this is the primary focus of commenting, you are spamming.  When I look at my analytics, I find that every day I get traffic from Blogger or Disqus. These are direct links from people looking at my profile on these commenting systems.

Secondary traffic comes from others seeing my comment, recognizing the name and later visiting my site. It is building my “brand” if you will. If anything else, this is a great reason to leave great comments: they may be other’s first impression of you and how you treat others.

Side Note: It’s Important to Reply

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shared a site with someone and had them say “oh I like that site, too bad they never reply to comments.” The author has taken all that time to write the post, add in some pictures, and put it out there for everyone to see, but then ignore their visitors.

When you look at all the reasons people could leave comments, it’s just as important to them that they feel heard. Even a simple “thanks” or “cheers” acknowledges you heard their voice and appreciate their time in leaving a comment.

Alternatively, if you don’t want comments at all (there are reasons) turn them off. You could instead point people to your social media profile that you are active on.

Social Networks

And that leads into social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and lately, Instagram.

Social is why I changed the name of this post to the importance of community overall. leaving comments is a nice, direct way to interact with the hobby bloggers, but there are many more hobbyists that don’t blog at all.

Signing up for the different networks and getting involved may seem like just one more thing to do, but I have found that you can put as much effort into it as you want to get out of it.

Just as with why I think leaving comments is important, I put together my list of the importance of interacting with the community on social media.

1. See New Things

Too often in life, we get stuck in our own little bubble. Even in our niche of the world of miniature wargaming and miniature painting it can be easy to miss out on new things happening.

One of the great things about the Twitter community is that everyone has unique aspects into the hobby and its branches. If they see something cool, they can retweet it and their followers can see it too. Because of this I have found tons of new blogs to follow, miniature lines with fantastic models, and new painting styles.

The growth of Instagram for our hobby is thanks in part to GW’s #paintingwarhammer tag. My favorite thing about this social media is that it is only pictures, and  most people that post hobby related pictures usually keep it to that. This means that my Instagram feed is full of amazing miniatures.

2. Get or Give Quick Feedback

When you get stuck on something or would like the consensus of the community on a particular topic, it’s super easy to post it to social and see responses roll in. People see it instantly and can respond just as quick, as compared to a blog post which may take days before someone sees it.

3. Ripple Effects

Another cool thing about Twitter is the ability to jump into conversations with your own thoughts. There is an openness there that invites quick and easy interactions. Someone retweets someone’s question and you could jump in with your answer.

This conversation then ripples on as others jump in, retweet your post, or look through the conversation. This again is building your online reputation with people you have never spoken to, but may return the favor and answer one of your questions.

4. Promote

Again, social media is notorious for internet marketers attempting to get your eyeballs and shares. It’s no surprise as it is easy to do and gets results. But it’s also easy to do too much and push people away.

I do use social media to promote my posts, and I follow some of the marketing tips to share each post a few times. But I always try to respect those who follow me and not spam them with endless “CLICK HERE” posts.

5. Share Awesome Things

Which leads me into the other way I use social network: to promote other people’s work.

Let’s say you saw an awesome movie over the weekend, do you share that with all your coworkers on Monday? Then why not do the same with awesome hobby things you find?

This does two things: people who follow you may have never seen it before either and will thank you for showing to them. And the original author get’s additional exposure – building a relationship with them.

Be a Builder

So if I could sum up this entire post, it’s this: be a builder in the community.

Leaving comments is easy, especially on Disqus as you can use Google or Facebook to sign in. But it can do so much for the author, the community, and your own online reputation.

Jump into social media. Thanks to hashtags, it is pretty easy to join into the hobby conversations and get to know others. Share what you are up to and share amazing things with others.

Your Thoughts

I would be remiss if I didn’t finish this post without asking you for your thoughts. Why do you comment, or perhaps, why don’t you comment? What are your favorite comment to receive, what are you least favorite (besides trolls of course)?

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