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As I discuss blogging with people throughout my day one of the questions that comes up regularly is ‘how do I start connecting online?’ This question usually comes up right after the light goes on and people realize that marketing on the Web is not simply about broadcasting in a one-way stream of outbound media, but rather about connecting with people in a new medium that provides plenty of ways to generate discussions and relationships.

Going back to basics, I rounded up four of the primary methods for getting involved with your online community and establishing yourself as a hub in your niche.

Read
Subscribe to three other blogs in your favorite niche and read them at least once each week. It’s easy to subscribe to a blog feed using a feed reader such as Google Reader, or simply bookmark your favorite places in your browser and set a reminder for a time to read. Reading other blogs in your niche will keep you up to speed on what others are talking about in your industry, and will help spark good ideas for you to blog about in your own.

Quote
Quoting other blogs is a great way to establish yourself as a hub in your niche, and to demonstrate your connection to the industry. Filter the content that you find on other blogs and quote the interesting parts for your own audience. Make sure you are adding to the conversation by including your own thoughts and assessments. Merely quoting another blog is simply not as engaging as offering an opinion or analysis of the quote. Explain why the quote seemed important or interesting to you, or how it touched your emotions, moved you to action, or caused a change.

Quoting is an important strategy for your blog, but is also important for your social media connections as well. Be sure to add some quotes to your Facebook and Twitter pages, too.

Link
Have you ever been driving around and suddenly found yourself at a dead end with no where to go but back toward where you came from? Frustrating, isn’t it? Without links to other relevant sites, your blog becomes something of a dead end; readers can see what you are up to, but have no place to go for more information or related articles.

Search engines measure your site, in part, by the number and quality of links you have to other destinations. Adding good quality links to your site is good practice both for your readers and for SEO, too.

Comment
Making comments on other blogs within your niche is an easy way to create valuable links back to your site, and to establish yourself as an active participant in your community. Make comments often, but work to make them relevant and thought provoking. The more thoughtful your comment, the more credibility you will gain among your community.

As you can imagine, reading, quoting, linking and commenting will increase your engagement with your niche, but it will also get your niche engaging with you. Reading and subscribing is noticed by bloggers and often rewarded with a higher level of interaction. Quoting is a basic form of flattery that will not go unnoticed and is often pointed out by other readers. Linking creates trackback links on other people’s blogs and adds to your SEO, and Comments not only allow for links back to your site, but provide a brandable connection within the audiences of other bloggers.

These four simple actions will help you get engaged with your niche and establish yourself as a hub in your community. Do them often!