Keep On Blogging: Community and Competence as Motivational Factors

Research published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication indicates the importance of audience engagement to help increase senses of community and competence among female bloggers.

In a series of studies, Carmen Stavrositu, assistant professor of communications at the University of Colorado, and S Shyam Sundar, her colleague, distinguished professor of communications and director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory, found direct links between evidence of audience engagement, and positive feelings among bloggers.

Their test subjects included 340 female bloggers drawn at random from an online directory of mainly female bloggers, 106 female college students asked to blog about a topic personal to them, and 108 more asked to write about an external topic of interest to them.

What do you feel?

Interviews with the initial 340 bloggers revealed different outcomes for those who wrote about themselves, compared with those who blogged about an external topic - such as politics or science.

The former group claimed that blogging helped them to feel a sense of community, while the latter gained a sense of competence, confidence and assertiveness through their writing.

Both of these positive outcomes were investigated in the subsequent groups of college students, who were asked to blog for just two days, and then presented with manipulated figures purporting to describe how successful their blog had been.

How strongly do you feel?

Some of the bloggers were told that their blog had received 100 visits in its first two days; others that it had received only around 40.

Some had their posts' comments section artificially filled, while others were given only a small number of reader responses - all of which, in all cases, were controlled by the researchers and were largely identical.

The greater the number of comments, the more the writer reported feeling a sense of community - and it's not just the number of hits or comments that matter, but also the author's ability to see at a glance just how many readers they have in their audience.

Stroking the ego of bloggers

Sundar argues that making data on hits, page views and total number of comments more easily available could help third-party blogging sites and social networks to encourage their members to continue blogging.

"We are often overwhelmed with information, and we all crave simpler indications of complex data.

"Presenting this information in a simple way allows the users to derive meaning from it, and this is especially critical in social media, which depends heavily on interaction with others and feedback provided by them."

And as Sundar points out, in many cases, bloggers do not achieve widespread fame or renown, and get paid nothing - or very little - for their writing.

What about men?

Interestingly, the research simply did not address male bloggers at all, and Sundar says the findings would probably be fairly similar if the same studies were conducted on men.

Personally I'm not so sure - men are wired a little differently than women, and I think the outcomes might be different too.

The notion of feeling competent when blogging about an external topic seems reasonable enough, but I suspect men are less influenced by feelings of 'community', and probably less likely to blog about personal topics overall.

Do you agree?

Fellow bloggers, what do you think? I may be biased by the fact that I write about external topics much, much more often than personal issues.

Those of you who write about your own lives - would you say your mood really is influenced by your hit counter, or is the writing therapeutic enough in itself?