OFFICIAL BLOGHER '10 LIVEBLOG: How to Build A Community Around Your Cause

BlogHer Original Post

Change Agents: Feeding the Conversation: How to Build a Community Around Your Cause featuring Nancy Watzman, Katherine Mancuso, Maggie Dammit and Denise Tanton

Nancy Watzman: Katherine Mancuso, what is it about the Gimpgirl site that makes women comfortable to come there and talk about their disabilities?

Katherine Mancuso : It’s a private community we’re not entirely blocked out from the world, but there are barriers.

Nancy: Any examples or experiences working with these kinds of online communities

Erica: I’ve created a non-judgmental safe space for women who have had abortions.

Joanna : I’m a child obesity doctor – online weight loss program for kids. I get a ton of hits on my blog. Nobody ever comments, they read it, open it. I try asking questions. That’s been a real struggle for me.

Katherine: We’re basically a community of women with disabilities driven by women with disabilities – people seem to comment less on our blog posts. People who are less familiar with blogging don’t feel Forum or something that encourages short engagements. We don’t but we’ve seen people do giveaways. You could try giveaways for most insightful comment.

Maggie of ViolenceUnsilenced: I post two stories a week – people write their personal stories and I publish them. People write something and they are kind of speechless, so just saying thank you can mean the world to them. I also moderate all comments so it’s a safe space.

Katherine: Why do you moderate the comments? (Open to the room)

Maggie: In my case, it’s not a forum, it’s not a topic up for discussion. This is just a safe space to share your story and get support. Period. I think you set the tone. I try to seem safe

Gina Carroll of I’ve been blogging by myself for years without anybody saying anything. I have one reader who likes to email me his comments and finally I said to him, would you put this on my site? And he agreed and it did start a conversation. So maybe staging a conversation, or commenting yourself can start. The great thing on Facebook is that Like button.

Danielle – Sold Celebrity Baby Blog to People magazine. If you ask a question, people will respond.

Barbara Feldman – When I post a poll or a survey, I’ll say “please post a comment about why.”

Katherine – We try to welcome every commenter by name.

Nancy – Sunlight Foundation – We premiered Sunlight Live – a video live feed that we had of the Summit people could make comments as they were speaking. We had enormous

Denise Tanton – I am trying to fill in for the beloved Erin Kotecki Vest. We tried to get everyone from congress to talk to women about health care. We set up these phone calls and women came. Women are passionate about all kinds of topics and if you give them the opportunity to be heard, they will take it. If you have a blog and people aren’t responding, maybe they feel that you are saying it all.

Maggie: If people care aboput you, they’ll care about your cause. I was out in Central Park running around with a tutu on this morning. It’s not that I didn’t know what MD was, it’s that people care about Catherine, they care about Tanner.

Katherine: Because we set a tone in our community of helping each other, learning together, women get set up with various online services. We now have women saying “don’t thank me, it’s just the gimpgirl way.”

Elena of Dirt and Noise: Not a community. I’ve gotten a lot of people involved, coming to participate because they know me and my personal connection. I’ve written some really difficult things about what I’ve gone through with my son and services taken away. When people see that, they are compelled to comment and help.

Jill Miller Zimon: I’m now starting a blog specifically for my constituents. Also have my mayor, fellow city council members Do you have any insight toward that kind of community, or how comments in an environment that’s more political might differ?

Nancy: There are a lot of politicians that are jumping on the Internet bandwagon and the challenge is to be genuine.

Jill: Can the expectations of the constituents might have higher expectations. They may write something and then feel “well I told her that,” not realizing how many stakeholders I have to listen to.

Nancy: I think you say that. You make it clear.

Denise: I think use BlogHer as an example. We gather feedback every year. It’s a listening tool.. We listen, we actively listen then we come back and tell you what we’ve done later.

Maggie: The best thing about it is that you get to make the rules. You don’t have to be professionals. If you really believe in something, you’ll learn as you go.

Katherine: The best thing you can do to be successful on the web is to be genuine and transparent.

Amy: I have a blog on women and the economy and I have a hard time moderating men who come in and attack or get aggressive with women who are commenting for the very first time. I don’t want them to leave.

Denise: Where’s your line in the sand? If your community is being attacked by other members of the community you have to protect them. It’s not a gender thing. You have to have your community know what your guidelines are and you have to have them follow those guidelines.

Katherine: Honing guidelines. Deciding whether you’re a 101 space and whether or not you are giving people 101 level information about your topic. Ad hominem attacks are never appropriate.

Audience member: We need to learn how to engage the controversy, how to embrace it and make it a teachable moment. Even if I have to do some personal emailing, I engage the person who’s being offensive. If there’s a terrible comment, the other commenters will jump in.

Maggie: You really have to go with what your gut is. In the case of abuse, if you are speaking out for the first time, it’s just not appropriate.

Denise: There’s a big difference between a person sharing their abuse story and people talking about politics. A huge difference.

Francine Hardaway: My blog is very unpredictable. T’s sometimes policy, sometimes healthcare, sometimes politics. If this person is basically cscreaming at a total stranger, the issue is their issue. I do the woman thing. I try to nurture them I’ve got a pretty thick skin at this time in my life and I can afford to do that I think if we all try to remember that we all have issues, you can get beyond everybody yelling at each other.

Katherine: Doesn’t this remind everybody of dealing with your kids?

Beth: The guys have nothing on us in arguing. A lot of time I wait on the moderation, and because my group is menopausal, they say something terrible and then come back and say “okay, I had a moment,” and they come If somebody doesn’t hate you at some point, you’re not doing it right.

Owningpink: All about getting your mojo back. People who have gotten a divorce, lost a loved one. At the same time, I’ve found myself censoring myself because I’ve my community and that’s not what I’m here to do. (I’m an OB-GYN), the more people find it’s a safe place, and I think it can be that way and it can still be loving.

Katherine: The longer we’re around, the more they feel safe. I want to emphasize modeling appropriate behavior and setting norms. In our case, they may not have good access to technology. We’ve had people stay in our community that are unsafe elsewhere.

Laura HoldingoutforaHero.comn: Trying to raise awareness about Spinabifida. I’d like to know – I contacted a lot of senators, there’s a Spinabifida caucus, supposedly. How do you get these people to listen? Do you have to shake things up and be controversial? And how much information is too much information. I have pictures of my spinal column being closed.

Denise: People are often uncomfortable with really personal stories, it scares them. And they don’t know what you expect from them. You can help them figure out what kind of response you want. I think you should totally keep doing them I think it’s important that we all be witness to all kinds of experience.

Nancy: In response to how do you get politicians to listen: organize, organize, organize. If they see you as a force, they will listen to you.

Anita Jackson from We have about a million members and we do a lot of political organizing. I have learned so much working about the organization about getting members voices heard. Being really strategic. You collect petition signatures and those actually work. We found on our blog a lot of success reaching out beyond our regular readership. We recently did a blog carnival on paid sick days – collected about 300 stories about paid sick days and how its effected their families, cross-posted it and put it on Twitter. It increased our readership and we reached beyond the people that ordinarily

Maggie: There’s a link on the site where you take the pledge – you are signing this thing saying “we will listen.” Your blog is there and you put a badge on your site. Almost every time someone comes out of the woodwork and shares something. Are you a forum, are you an informational site.

Nancy: My background is in investigative reporting. At the Sunlight Foundation, we have tons and tons of tools that help you follow politicians and know what they’re doing.

Denise: When you’re talking about reaching out to communities, don not forget that BlogHer is your community, and every one of you can write a post on

Mamadata: the wight of science is generally not very controversial. My readership increases when I talk about the controversy – breastfeeding, fertility. I don’t get as much for the actual science.

Denise: Sometimes you write the stuff that’s really important and you don’t get the pageviews or the comments that your post deserves. It’s hard to find a balance. What’s not popular is just as important to post

Maggie: Traffic is really different than engagement. There are a lot of ways to get get traffic, but quality engagement is a whole different story.

New blogger: First blog post was an infographic visualizing the food system. People respond to visuals. We had sociologists and economists. It was this short infographic that got them there.

Katherine Stone, PostPartum Progress: I wanted to answer the comment about the woman who is writing about Spinabifida. I learned about something called line of sight – you start at the top and figure out your main objective, and you always go back to that. I write about mental illness and people with mental illness. My mission is to help women who feel alone and don’t know what’s wrong with them and don’t know where to get help. If my mission was to be popular, then I would make the choice. I’ve had horrible things happen to me when people say terrible things to me. When I get upset, my husband always says to me, “honey, what’s your mission?” When somebody says something hurtful, it doesn’t matter because as long as you are true to your mission of helping people, you are doing the right.

Alicia Keys’ blogger, I want to learn more about blog commenting. When did you have you’re a-ha moment that made you realize there are people out there,

Maggie: I have a personal blog, Okay, Fine, Dammit. If you have a personal blog, that’s where people are hearing about you. I had written an article profiling seven abuse survivors and the response was intense and personal. I had a naming contest, I had people offering to design it for me. The day that it launched, there were 5,000 hits because it was everybody’s. This is blogging: when you write, people listen.

Denise: It’s the community and the connection, that’s why you’re all here.

Karen Gersber, All about wokmen’s relationship to alcohol. One of the thing we’re challenged with is engaging our readers. We have a lot of guest posters, we want people to share their stories. We have the readers we just don’t know how to engage.

Maggie: I just want to say. Let people know you want them to engage, let them know it matters to you.

Denise: How many of you have been blogging for 5 years or more? Have you found that your comments have dropped off?

Group: Yes.

Denise: Comments are fantastic, but don’t let that be your indicator of success. The comments are happening on Twitter. They’re happening on Facebook. How many of you have commented on a blog.

Emmie J: Many people have on their blogs what they want people to do about products and stuff, but there are people out there who also want to talk to you about issues, so that’s something you might put out there so that people like me who can connect you with experts can find you and know what you’re looking for,

Commenter: Self-promotion is not my forte. And I talk a lot about really personal stuff. I’m really grateful to you guys for starting these communities and bringing people together.

Rebecca Self: Pick ambassadors. If you can pick a group of people who are prominent in the area you write about on your blog, you can ask them to comment once a quarter. Amy Sample Ward is a great resource for this. She has a post about how to create a listening board for your organization. Partner with other organizations.

Maggie: Thank you guys for wanting to know how to build a community around your cause because you can do it and the world will be better, as they say in all those songs.


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