Disqus recently convened a panel of four women at BlogHer ’13 to talk about building community, return visits, and monetization through comments. These four accomplished bloggers — Danielle Smith, Lindsay Ferrier, Fadra Nally, and Lizz Porter — shared their wisdom, and what follows are 5 key takeaways that any blogger can put to use for building a stronger community.

Reply, reply, reply

“When you’re commenting I’m commenting back. I want you to know I’m listening.” — Danielle Smith

Reply to as many commenters as possible, as often as possible. Responding individually to a reader lets them know that their thoughts matter, and your blog isn’t just a soapbox — it’s an active dialogue between many interested parties.

Replies are one of the best ways to measure how engaged a community is, and there’s no better person than the author to lead by example.

Know your top community members

“Knowing the people that come to your site...is a good way to keep them coming back.” — Fadra Nally

Focusing on your most active community members helps you turn your most enthusiastic fans into evangelists. Someone who is just as passionate about your content as you are will engage time and again, and also encourage other less active members to return to your site.

Reciprocate their loyalty by looking at their profiles, and seeing where they blog or regularly comment. Post a comment on their site to let them know you’re interested in their life, and not only the ways in which it pertains to yours.

Readers will visit your site for the content, but they’ll keep coming back for the conversation. If you have a cohort of people to help lead that discussion, you’ll never want for a dedicated readership.

Show your community that you care

“It’s about the connection, engagement — we’re just people doing this together.” — Lizz Porter

One of the best ways to show your readers that you care what they think is by authentically asking them to talk back. End your post with a question that makes readers think about their answers — you’ll find more thoughtful responses, and a greater number of responses in general.

Know where your audience comes from

“Once you get hold of that data, it gives insight to your readers, maybe the ones that never even wrote comments.” — Fadra Nally

Knowing if your visitors come from a specific geographical area, or represent a certain brand, can help you create content that is more relevant and interesting to them. Utilizing tools that analyze your traffic, like StatCounter, can give you deeper insight into your community.

Create great content

“Create great content. Put your heart and soul into it and people will respond.” — Lindsay Ferrier

The most surefire way to start building a community is by publishing compelling content that people want to read. Write from your unique perspective. Originality on the internet is a thing to be treasured, and readers will want to talk about it.

Do you have any tips that have worked well for your community? Let us know in the comments below!