Encouraging Online Reader Discussion

Recently, the co-organizer of my local WordPress Meet Up Group asked if I would give a short presentation on encouraging online reader discussion. I immediately turned to Google. There I found many contradictory strategies . I have sifted through these suggestions, and have included the ones that have worked for me, along with my own ideas below. I’m most interested in knowing what tips work best for you. If you are a blogger, what strategies do you use to promote reader dialogue? As a follower of blogs, what encourages you to join the discussion?

Many bloggers rely on comments to provide some (or all) of the following.

    • Get valuable feedback.
    • Foster community.
    • Spark new ideas.
    • Enhance content.
    • Develop relationships.
    • Give readers a voice.
    • Respect followers.
    • Help drive traffic.

Unfortunately, a quality post alone does not guarantee comments.

The 90-9-1 Rule

  • According to the New York Times Innovation Report, 3% of blog visitors read the comments, and 1% leave a comment.
  • The 90-9-1 rule states that in most online communities, 90% of people who view social media posts never contribute. 9% contribute infrequently. 1% accounts for almost all of the comment discussion.
  • A recent typical post on my site received 330 views and 50 comments (%16, not including my replies to comments).
  • Despite the tough odds, there are effective strategies that  can be used to encourage online discussion. Below are twelve ideas to consider.

comments

1. Make it easy for your audience to comment.

    • Do not require readers to register in order to leave a reply.
    • Some spam prevention methods (e.g., CAPTCHA) can reduce the amount of comments left. The same goes with different commenting platforms. Ask your readers for their feedback.

2. Let readers know that you’d like them to share their thoughts.

    • End your post with an invitation, e.g., “What other tips can you provide about this issue?”
    • Announce that you would like feedback on a specific area — a change to your blog, advice to a recurring problem, etc.

3. Write with Passion.

    • Stir up controversy.
    • Provide thought-provoking information.
    • Be real – be human – let your vulnerabilities show through.
    • Admit weaknesses (without going overboard with TMI).

4. End your post with an open-ended (or unanswered) question.

    • An open-ended question tends to prompt reader engagement.
    • Direct questions give readers an area of focus and help to ‘prime the pump’ for discussion.
    • Rather than have a wishful approach to comments, kick off the dialogue yourself.


5. Regularly follow and comment upon blogs in your niche
.

    • Make thoughtful comments on other people’s blogs. More often than not, the law of reciprocity will take effect.
    • When choosing blogs to comment on, look for ones with active, engaged communities.

6. Develop a Comment Cluster.

    • Groups of bloggers who comment on each other’s articles often create a “Cheers Bar Effect” – where everyone knows your name—and knows the names of other commenters.
    • Comment clusters form naturally over time, but can also be built with thoughtful effort.

7. Reply to all comments in an engaging, meaningful manner.

    • Ask a question or provoke further thoughts in your reply to take the discussion further.
    • Help people to feel good about their comments. What you write in reply can dramatically shape how that person feels about your blog. Your opinion of their comment shows through in your word choices and the points that you focus upon.

8. Invite Guest Hosts to write for your blog and accept Guest Hosts from others.

    • Guest Blogging and allowing Guest Posts can strengthen your relationship with other bloggers.
    • Guest Posting also gives you the opportunity to meet and interact with readers from someone else’s audience (preferably in the same niche area).

9. Join A Link Parties (or Two)

    • A Link Party allows you to link one (or more) of your posts onto a host’s website. It’s a great way to share your best content.
    • Link Parties are also an excellent way to find other blogs in your niche.
    • Thoughtfully done, participating in Link Parties can increase your page views, followers…and comments!

10. Use a Plugin that Rewards Commenters.

    • The Comment Luv Plugin pulls the most recent post of the commenter and displays its link beneath their feedback.
    • Many bloggers are motivated to comment on blogs that offer this incentive.

11. Avoid blatant promotion of your own blog.

    • This is simply uncool (and often gets your post banished to a Spam Folder).

comments

12. Be consistent and be willing to learn and adjust your approach along the way.

    • Don’t expect overnight results.
    • Don’t give up too soon. If you build it, they WILL come.
    • While encouraging comments and guest posts, be sure not to lose your voice to other blog contributors.

Don’t Forget the Basics:

    • Encourage readers to sign up to follow your blog.
    • Ensure that each of your blog posts goes out to each of your social media outlets (email, FB, Twitter, Google Plus, Flipboard, Pinterest, Instagram….)

Basic Comment Formula:

Traffic + Engagement + Emotion = Comments

Warning: Once you start getting more comments be careful. They can be addictive!

What did I miss…or not emphasize enough? As I plan to use this post for the core part of my presentation, I would love for you to join in on the discussion – even just to say hello!

Sources:

Blogging Wizard
CopyBlogger
Life Hack
Neil Patel
NN Group
SmartBlogger
Take Charge Comments

All Photos Courtesy of: Unsplash

128 Replies to “Encouraging Online Reader Discussion”

  1. Hi Donna! You are the PERFECT person to be answering this because your relationship with the all the people that comment on your blog are amazing. My blog is much more in alignment with the “official” 90-9-1 Rule. But then I know how much you work at your engagement and it clearly shows on your site. I do try many of the things you recommend but I also realize that my posts are more informational so that doesn’t always drive an immediate comment. I want to get people thinking and sometimes they need to process the information before they would be willing to comment. Also, I had commentLuv for years (I even paid for the premium) but it eventually started conflicting with my other plugins and I had to stop it. It is my understand it hasn’t been updated in years and others could find it problematic. Of course, the only thing you can’t recommend is being the kind of person other people really want to know. You have that down perfectly! ~Kathy

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    1. Ahhh, Kathy – This is such a warm, affirming comment. You have totally made my day. It is truly incredible how powerful kind words can be! If the goal of your blog is to get people thinking…you have achieved this 110%! I have learned so much from your site, and often take a while to think before responding so that I can ponder and digest what has been written. You are right about CommentLuv. It no longer plays nicely with some other plugins (e.g. Jetpack). That is unfortunate as it was one of my favourite plugins and many readers commented on how much they liked it. I’m looking forward to catching up IRL soon!

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      1. Hi Donna … the chap who ran CommentLuv had a debilitating illness I believe: hence its demise … cheers Hilary

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  2. All very good suggestions. I try to end my posts with questions and/or ask people to share their opinions. Getting involved in challenges is a good way to increase participation on your blog as well.

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    1. HI, Janet – Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I agree that Challenges and Link-Ups are a great way to meet new people and increase on-line discussion. Midlife Share the Love Link Party is an excellent example of this and has helped me to meet many new bloggers in my niche.

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      1. I forgot to say (and didn’t do) another thing to remember when commenting is to include your name if your blog ID does not include it. Not everyone knows who scr4pl80 (scrap lady) is, yet! LOL Janet

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      2. Hi, Janet – This is an excellent point. I love addressing people by their first names…and often spend much time searching other comments, and the About Page, to find out this information! 🙂

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  3. Looks like a great presentation! Well done. Not sure whether I can add anything to your valuable list, of which I try to incorporate most things.

    Since I don’t see myself as a blogger first, I am currently doing the “bare minimum” to remain engaging and reactive. I’m not in a position to build my blog more yet, since that requires a whole lot of work and effort. That being said, I should try to add a “commenter reward”, like the one you point out.

    I often end a blog with a question to get a discussion started, I always reply to comment on my own blog, and I thoroughly enjoy discussions and conversations that arise in the blogging world.

    What an honor to be asked as a presenter, and I agree with Kathy that you are the perfect person to do this!

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    1. Hi, Liesbet – Being a long-time follower of your site, I have always found you to be highly engaging and interactive in your posts. If that is minimum effort — you are a real natural! I know that you are currently working diligently on your memoir — which I can’t wait to read.
      BTW – If considering installing CommentLuv, please know that it currently on Jetpack’s list of plugins that no longer plays nicely with Jetpack. As I have been a long-time user of this plug-in, I am patiently waiting for this to change.

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  4. Hi Donna. This is a terrific post – comprehensive, thoughtful and helpful. I use and am happy with every one of these strategies to promote commenting on my posts.

    I find that I’ve gotten better at asking meaningful questions over time. I still can’t pinpoint exactly which questions are going to work but I have noticed when questions don’t. Too big or generic and the questions actually shut down dialogue; too small and they could be answered with one or two words so no one bothers. Like Goldilocks, when they’re just right, the magic happens. Not only do more people respond, but the quality of the responses turns into a meaningful dialogue. I’m always beyond delighted when people tell me they enjoyed reading the comments almost as much as the post!

    I love the Cheers Bar Effect, and at the same time, worry a bit that those who aren’t regulars at the bar might find it more and more difficult to add their voice. I have no idea what to do about that other than to be welcome and encouraging when someone new does join in.

    We talked privately many months ago about what’s the right proportion of guest posts to owner/author posts. I’m glad you made the topic part of point #12. My view is that blogs are different from online magazines and are special precisely because of the distinctive voice and interests of their author. I enjoy the occasional guest post because it increases my awareness of other sites or it tells me something about the life of a blogger whose name appears often as a commenter on a blog I follow. I’ve found so many worthwhile sites that I wouldn’t have known about if they hadn’t been brought to my attention through guest posts.

    Because I see their value, I’ve been watching on various bloggers’ sites lately to see where the point is that I disconnect and either don’t read at all or read and don’t comment. For me, it’s when I feel that the guest poster is being used as a babysitter to keep me ‘home’ and reading while the author is away for an extended length of time. Or maybe in our world I should be calling guest posters supply teachers! Even when I was a kid, I might enjoy a day or two of a particularly captivating and fun supply teacher, but I’d quickly get to the point where I wanted to stay home until my regular teacher came back. In the same way, I’d personally rather a blog go dark for a month or two because a blogger is travelling or she needs a break. I’ll always come back. I just don’t like the feeling of being ‘managed’ by a lengthy rotation of supply teachers. By the way, this feeling is a testament to the community that the blog owner has built, not a condemnation. I always loved my regular teachers.

    I freely admit that this may be a personal quirk and I may be the only person on the planet who feels this way. Maybe other commenters will chime in, or you can ask others during your presentation and let me know.

    Have a great presentation. This topic will be very helpful to your audience.

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    1. Hi Karen…your comment caught my eye and I thought I’d jump in here with my two cents on the idea of guest posting. I have used guest posts as “substitute teachers before” 🙂 BUT I am very picky about who I ask to substitute. I mainly ask other bloggers who are both good writers and very familiar with my brand. I actually get LOTS of people asking to be guest bloggers but every one I’ve ever had was there because I invited them and I felt that my readers would appreciate what they had to say as much as I do!

      I do agree with you that sometimes the guest blogger post and series (on other blogs) feels a little too much like a marketing ploy. I don’t care for that really. While I think it is wonderful to meet new bloggers, if they seem to be too promotional of either their own work or the site where they are guesting, it is a turn off to me. I get that we are all attempting to spread the word about our own sites, but when it becomes too much it is noticeble. Of course I would only say that to you and Donna because I have never had a problem with the way either of you does it! So much for my 2 Cents! ~Kathy

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    2. Hi, Karen – Thank you for your comment. I agree that it is often difficult to know which questions promote reader dialogue, and which ones actually serve to hinder discussion. As you say, the ‘just right’ questions are extremely powerful.

      I also greatly appreciate your comments about Guest Posting. I am a huge fan of Guest Posts and Guest Hosting and agree that they must be used meaningfully to ensure that they add value.

      Thank you for your good wishes for my presentation. Fingers crossed that all goes well. I will keep you posted.

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  5. Donna, this is a wonderful summary of the many factors and strategies that a blogger can use to build a loyal readership and encourage people to share their own thoughts in the comment section. Your talk at the WordPress Group is going to be great!

    One of the consequences of building a large blog following using these strategies is that the whole process can become very time consuming. For a blogger who is very engaged, researching and writing each blog post ends up being just a small part of the time requirement. Much more time ends up being spent on:
    – responding to comments (especially as the number of people commenting grows)
    – reading blog posts posted by people who regularly comment on yours, and reading those comments, and commenting
    – keeping up with the schedules and topics for link parties and guest hosting
    – communicating about and formatting guest posts that you have invited
    – submitting guest posts you have been invited to do in a timely way and then responding to comments on them
    – dealing with technical issues, which become more complicated the more features and plugins and so on that you have

    I am in awe of your level of commitment and the time that you put into building a blogging community!

    Jude

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    1. Hi, Jude – Thank you so much for your kind words and very encouraging comments. You are absolutely correct. Blogging has many, many different components….most of them I never even knew existed when I first began my blog. I believe that we all need to determine what level of commitment works best for us, and we all need to find our own balance. As I tend to be an “all-in or all-out” kind of gal, I have scheduled the end of June and the full month of July as a blogging/technology break.
      Are you sure you don’t want to take me up on my offer to do this presentation with me? You’d be great!

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  6. Terrific post, Donna! I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve considered bagging my blog. When I’m under pressure and stressed, managing my blog becomes overwhelming. That said, I don’t think I could walk away from all of the fabulous people I’ve met over the years. Some have come and gone, but so many have continued. I strongly believe that the blogging community is the best form of social media out there. Many writers I know, ask readers to please write a review of their book. When my first book was published, the majority of my reviews were written by my blogging friends. Did I ask them to review my book? No way…I could never do that. Bloggers are kind and generous people who support each other. I love my blogging buds! As far as building a blog, interaction is key. I’ve stopped follow many blogs where the writer doesn’t respond to comments. Thanks for these wonderful suggestions, Donna! xo

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    1. Hi, Jill – I believe that many of us have considered ‘bagging our blogs’ before…but something keeps bringing us back! I wholeheartedly agree that this little corner of the blogosphere is an amazing place, filled with generous people. I recently pre-ordered my copy of A Father for Bella from Amazon. I greatly look forward to reading it!

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      1. Thank you so much, Donna. The paper copy will ship on July 17th and the Kindle copy delivers on August 1st. I’m not sure why it’s done that way. I hope you enjoy it. xo

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  7. Hi Donna this was such an informative post and I know you will give a wonderful presentation. I might be suffering from ‘blogger-lag’ but i actually felt quite discouraged reading your post. I believe I do all of the points you mention and yet, my page views and comments don’t reflect this. I like to think I’m very supportive of other bloggers by promoting them on my website as guests, sharing and commenting on their blogs and also hosting #MLSTL and encouraging bloggers to post to my FB page. I’m obviously very good at supporting and encouraging others but don’t always feel that reciprocation. I have been blogging for 3 years and it is very disheartening to feel that I have totally missed the mark, especially when I know how much work and effort I put into the blog and my writing.. If I am doing all of the above why are my pageviews not reflecting this? I have my few close blogger friends who regularly comment and I love each of them because we have a strong connection. They are the reason I keep going, and I count you as one of my closest blogging friends. You have written a very informative and well researched post so I’m going to end with a question as you suggested: ‘What am I doing wrong?”.
    Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

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    1. Hi, Sue – Thank you for raising this critical topic so honestly and openly. I believe that there is often a huge disparity in how we view our own blogs, and how others perceive them. To me, you are my blogging hero. Honestly. As you say, you put much effort into supporting and encouraging others, both in the blogging world and IRL. You lead a very inspirational and balanced life, not only putting your heart and soul into blogging, but also being an active wife, daughter, mother, grandmother, friend, runner, presenter and guest author (both on blog posts and published articles). You were recently voted Runner-Up in the category of Most Informative Blogger by the Annual Bloggers Bash Awards. You are an outstanding model of Positive Aging and openly share valuable information in this area. I personally have learned a great deal from you and treasure our friendship. Ultimately, as you have written in several of your posts, quality is what is most important. Many things that we value most are quite intangible. As you and I have discussed, I will be taking a blogging break for the month of July. I know that breaks like that can be a risk, but it is one that I need to take. I will send you an offline message. Thank you for putting in words what so many of us feel.

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      1. Thank you Donna for reminding me of all that I have achieved. I value your support and encouraging words and i also treasure our friendship. I suppose sometimes it is hard to take our own advice, in particular, comparing ourselves (blogs) to others. I do value the friendships I have made through blogging and that is the best part of the whole process. Have a beautiful weekend, my friend 🙂

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      2. Hi Donna, after my whining session, you and another blogging friend, Karen, reached out to me with such lovely encouragement and support. As a result I have a ‘new look’ website and a new approach. Thank you for writing this and sharing the information. Thank you also for your support. It is great to have you join us at #MLSTL and keep enjoying your Summer. I’m sharing on SM.

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      3. Hi, Sue – I did not consider your comment to be whining at all. Actually, I found it to be strikingly honest, and brave. I like the new look on your website. I look forward to hearing more about your new approach!

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      4. Oh that is good to hear, Donna. When I reread it I thought it was quite negative. (Bad day perhaps?). Thank you for following up with your PM it was greatly appreciated. 🙂

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      5. My pleasure, Sue! Remember when you spent an evening online with me trying to help sort out my Jetpack frustrations? Anyone who thinks that online friends are not the same as IRL ones, definitely does not understand friendship! (BTW – as it was my evening, it was likely your daytime!)

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  8. Hi Donna, I agree that your posting is informative and has worthwhile material to share on a presentation. I am particularly struck by the 90-9-1 rule. It is amazing that that many people read the post but most of them do not respond. Good luck with your presentation!

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  9. Hi, Fran – Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. I have had numerous people (mostly non-bloggers) tell me that they read my posts but never comment. I totally understand and respect that on-line commenting is not for everyone. When people do take the time, effort and risk to leave feedback, I am extremely appreciative.

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  10. Hi Donna, Thank you for a terrific summary. As a blog follower, tips #1, 3, and 7 encourage me to comment. I like the CommentLuv plug in when you had it. As a blogger, I’m applying most of the tips to varying degrees, except #10 (no plug in), and #11 (I hope I haven’t blatantly promoted my own blog). I haven’t devoted much time and effort into my blog so at this time, I accept that it will stay as a small blog with low volumes of page views and/ or comments. I’m sure the WP Meet Up group will learn a bit from your presentation. I’d be interested in knowing if the group came up with something new that you haven’t covered.

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  11. Hi, Natalie – Thank you for leaving your feedback on what blog features most encourage you to leave a comment. This is very valuable information. There are many, many strategies to increase online comments that I have not covered in this post. You can find them in the Sources section at the end of my post. I am sure that my WordPress group will have additional ideas. I will keep you posted on this.

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  12. Interesting topic. I’d suggest that if you want more comments then don’t get hung up on being in a niche. Why limit yourself? Niches often encourage cliques and then like a commenter said above, newbies don’t want to comment because they don’t feel like they’re part of the group. I’ve seen a few bloggers put themselves out of business because they insisted on only talking about and talking to people who were just like them. That’s not how you grow a blog. Or one that lasts, I guess.

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    1. Hi, Ally – Thank you for raising this point. Like many other ares of blogging, there are currently many strong beliefs about blogging and niches, with people arguing both sides of the “should you” or “shouldn’t you” debate. My advice is always to do what works best for the individual blogger. I wonder what others think about this?

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  13. Donna, I’m so proud that you have put yourself out there in your WordPress group as an expert on this subject. Everything I read at the beginning of my blogging journey points to these principles…you must engage with your readers! I have struggled with log-ins when trying to comment on blogs which is very off-putting, especially when I’m participating in a link party and wanting to do my share of commenting on others’ posts. Sadly I have followed and unfollowed bloggers who never comment back. If I take the time, then please acknowledge it somehow (even a “like”) through Wpress is better than nothing. When I took my blogging break, I MISSED the engagement and although I tried to fill the time with Instagram, it wasn’t even close. I am also proud to see how you, Kathy, Janis and some of my other friends have scads of comments (that take forever to scroll to add) on their posts. It’s a wonderful thing! Go with this Donna, you will help so MANY bloggers with this info at the meetup!!

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    1. Whoa!! What a minute there, Terri. Did I imply ‘expert’?! If so, that was definitely not my intention. Truth be told, I am always the one asking questions in our WordPress Meet Up and mooching off of the knowledge and support of others. So…when the group’s Coordinator asked if I would present, I really couldn’t say “no!” (Right, Mike?)
      You make a crucial point. When someone takes the time to read and comment on a blog, I agree that it is common courtesy for the blog’s author to acknowledge that comment in some way (even pressing ‘like’).
      You previously mentioned how much you missed blogging during your break, and I am thrilled to see you return. As you know, I will be taking a blogging break shortly…but I will come back!

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      1. LOL, yes you certainly could have declined my invitation to present. And actually, bringing questions to our meetups is a benefit to others too, because it helps all of us learn about that topic (often they’re topics we thought we knew, but when we try to explain it we realize there are large gaps in our understanding.)
        Your track record does suggest you have quite s lot of expertise. Wherever we’re at, we all have something valuable to teach to others, and something to learn.
        Thanks for sharing what you’ve learned!

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      2. Hi, Mike – Thank you for commenting. I was wondering if you would notice that I mentioned your name in my reply to Terri! I’m glad to know that you find my (constant) questions helpful at our MeetUp. Now it will be everyone else’s turn to fire them back at me!

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  14. Well, you know that I agree with all of your points! I appreciate how you gathered all of these tips together in an easy-to-follow fashion. Anyone starting a new blog, or struggling to make their blog more engaging would be smart to take these pointers to heart. Print them out, pin them on the wall.

    Funny, I recently reached out to a blogger (privately, through their email) to let them know that I was having problems leaving a comment. I was a bit taken aback by their reply… basically that I should sign up for their blogging platform (not WordPress) if I wanted to leave a comment and, if I didn’t want to do that, it was ok not to leave a comment. I was a little surprised by that response. I 200% agree with you that we need to make our blogs easy-peasy to leave comments on. I know that I would very much appreciate it if anyone took the time to reach out to me to let me know that they’ve experienced a problem on my blog. As you know, our blogs can all of a sudden do funny things that we might not be aware of.

    I would love to find a blogging group like yours in my area. I’m beginning to think that I’ll have to start it myself 😄.

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    1. Hi, Janis – I am happy that you agree with these points…I learned most of them from you! It’s funny, this past month I have experienced increased difficulties with blog comments (both on my site and on the websites of others). When people have taken the time to email and let me know that they could not comment on my blog, I was incredibly appreciative (and immediately wrote to Jetpack, and started to deactivate unnecessary plugins). Did you comment on this post via Reader or are you back to regular commenting on my site?
      BTW – I totally support you beginning a WordPress Meet Up Group in your area. Our Meet Up operates on a very simple format and always includes a Help Desk, where someone asks a question (aka me), and someone else volunteers to work with that person to help problem-solve. I absolutely LOVE this group!

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      1. Still commenting via Reader. Well, actually, I forget and comment normally (for me) then realize that it won’t work that way and head off to Reader. Fortunately this time I remembered to copy my comment first so I could just paste it again. Old dog, new tricks! I’ll miss you in July!

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  15. All good points. I hate commenting when I have to go through hoops to prove I’m a real person. Posting an essay that people can relate to makes people want to comment. You have hit all the high points!

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    1. Hi, Kate – I totally agree. Going through hoops to make a comment (and then losing a long, thoughtful comment before it posts) is maddening. Rereading my post, I realized that I did miss an important highlight. Whenever a blogger can get their cat (or dog) to write a post for them, that is sure to generate comments (as Molly, Hazel, Morgan, and Gracie have all proven). Who can resist?

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      1. Hi, Kate – Thank you for sharing this. Usually WordPress Reader is not a problem for me. Your first comment did not go into Spam nor your third or fourth….just your second one. I wonder which one of those five words upset the Spam Keeper?

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  16. Your blog would probably be one of the most commented upon that I read Donna – so you obviously have things down pat. I would think that a blog that has good engagement probably has about a 5% comment rate (going from my own stats) – so anything over that is pretty great.
    The thing I’ve noticed all the way through is that most comments are left by fellow bloggers because they are comfortable with commenting. Most non-bloggers are worried about privacy and trolling and other issues and tend to read and move on. I think that’s why we’re surprised when a friend IRL says they read our blog – they’ve never commented so we never knew. I would say that 99% of my comments come from fellow bloggers and before I started my own blog I’d never left a comment on a blog – I was too scared for some reason???

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  17. Hi, Leanne – Thank you for adding these important points to the discussion. Although I do have several commenters who do not blog, I agree that bloggers are generally more comfortable giving online feedback on blog posts. The first time that I left a blog comment (2.5 years ago), I read and reread that comment several times before pressing “post.” Even though the blogger for that site could not have been more welcoming, I remember how intimidated I felt putting myself out there (in a non-erasable manner) for all of the world to see. At least with our own blog posts, we can erase and delete at any time!

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  18. Thanks Donna for that great advice! How do you get involved in link parties? I had never heard of them. I’m always impressed by how many comments other bloggers have. Not sure how to get out there more. But I enjoy all the blogs I follow and feel a connection to the writers. You have really figured it out – you’re a good example to the rest of us. Cheers!

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  19. Donna, that’s a great summary. I have also read every single comment ( think my hair grew half an inch while I was doing so 😉) with the result that I feel I have nothing useful to add in the way of tips! So I’ll have a bit of a moan at technology instead. Our commenting relationships are hampered by its limitations: even the basic WordPress commenting system has its flaky days when everything I say vanishes into the ether. And I admit to a sinking of the heart when I investigate an interesting new blog and find it’s Blogger and I’m going to have to go through one or more of several rigmaroles to comment, then I won’t know if they’ve commented back unless I sign up for emails which I don’t want. I do most of my reading and commenting on my iPad (Feedly for commenting on blogs I read, and the WordPress app for replying to comments made to me). My dream is for one interconnected app which would pick up comments from any blog you chose and show the replies, thus leading to truly seamless conversations without having to sign in to individual platforms. If it exists and I am missing it I would love to know!

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  20. Hi, Anabel – My blogging dream is the same as yours. If there is (or could be) one interconnected app which allows seamless conversations among bloggers, I will sign up immediately. My last two Guest Posts were on Blogger sites and try as they did, many of my regular readers simply could not get there comments to go through.
    Congratulations on reading ALL of the comments on this post. That does deserve a special award! 🙂

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  21. Hi Donna,

    Excellent post and one I will refer back to, again and again. I wish I had a WordPress Meetup Group near me – they sound very worthwhile. I have no doubt your presentation will be a smash!

    Deb

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      1. Thanks Donna. That meet up is about the closest to me that I’ve seen advertised in WordPress, and still an hour away by highway. Someday I hope there is one closer, for me to check out.

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  22. Hello, I found your blog very comprehensive and helpful. The comments were also very helpful. Ally Bean’s comment hit home with me. Although I started out blogging on a certain topic, I get a lot of feedback from other countries and demographics if I just write what I feel like writing about.

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  23. Hey Donna,
    I adore that you researched this and created a list of things to do. When it got to #7, I felt overwhelmed and insecure. Not because of what #7 is… but that many things to remember to do! And then it got to 12!

    For me, it’s 1) write with an authentic voice, and 2) I try to leave with a thought-provoking question. Not always successfully. And 3) I respond to others, especially if they’ve simulated my thinking as well.

    Year ago, I worked in consumer products, so I know that it takes a lot to make a comment…even in today’s world of everything asking for your review on-line. I never heard the 90-9-1 but I totally believe it.

    I also try not to put commenting as a success measure. I know quite a few folks who read my blog and don’t comment. There are many bloggers I read and never comment on.

    I view most of my commenters as my “blogging buddies” who are the ones I’d be having coffee or wine or walks with if they lived closer. I get a kick out of new followers (readers) and if anyone wants to start becoming a buddy, that is so cool. I try hard not to look at the numbers when it comes to comments. I look at the quality of the relationships being formed.

    But that’s me. And I’m certainly not winning any awards. 🙂

    Like

    1. Hi, Pat – I believe that the three strategies you suggested for encouraging reader dialogue are essential ones. The twelve ideas that I gave to consider are meant simply as a smorgasbord from which readers can pick and choose. Although each of these ideas has helped generate dialogue on my site, many of them are not for everyone. (There are even more to choose from in the Sources section!) 🙂
      You hit the nail on the head regarding quality relationships being key — I could not agree more.
      Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I always enjoy hearing from you.

      Like

  24. Hi Donna – It’s frustrating tying all the comment dots together. We all get there and do what we need to do. I started on Blogger and have kept on. I’m in my tenth year with over 900 posts. It would be challenging to move. I have to say I have a basic WP account because those 9+ years ago … I couldn’t get WP to work, so ended up on Blogger with some help. I now do sign up to other sites – just facilitates things as I comment. Re finding replies – I subscribe for those if I need to – or remember to check back by keeping the post open in Feedly.

    Great sum up! Interacting with others is so important – and finding others … easy enough to do via comments on others’ blogs … cheers Hilary

    Like

  25. Hi, Hillary – Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting, I greatly appreciate it. As Anabel mentioned, I would love to have one foolproof interactive mechanism that allows for seamless online conversation regardless of the blogging platform used. In the meantime, it sounds like you have found very successful ‘work arounds’ to make this all work, which is fantastic.

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  26. Hi Donna, another great post for bloggers to learn more about the art of commenting. I believe it’s an art and one that you excel at! Your comments are always interesting, genuine and show your personality. I love getting comments from you!! Thanks very much for sharing your experiences and asking for other ideas. I think you’ve covered all the main points really well.

    Like

    1. Hi, Debbie – It’s amazing how comments (in real life or online) can pick us up or bring us down. Thank you for leaving another very uplifting comment.
      If I remember correctly, you were previously in a commenting course. Were there any interesting takeaways from that course that I missed in this post?

      Like

      1. I don’t think there’s any other major tips you’ve covered it all really well! I agree with others that acknowledging comments is very important even if it’s just a ‘like’ to let then know it’s been received and appreciated. I try to reply to all comments left on my blog and enjoy the connections we make. I agree that if you make it too difficult to leave a comment then you’ll miss out on some pearls of wisdom. Enjoy your blogging break, I love having you drop by and comment on my posts and seeing you pop up on other blogs as well. 😊

        Like

      2. Thanks so much, Debbie. I had wondered if your course had offered any great tidbit that I had missed. When I first did my google search about this topic, there seemed like endless suggestions on how to increase blog comments — many of them contradictory and many of them not for me. I agree that the commenting platform must be easy-peasy to allow readers to reply. I’ve also noticed that I am sometimes hesitant to by the first to comment on a post (I have no idea why). Going along with this, when I see engaging, thought-provoking comments left, I often want to join into the conversation myself. 🙂

        Like

      3. I’m the same Donna, I never want to be first for some reason!! I love joining in the conversation but only if I have something useful to add that hasn’t been said already. I’ve never done a google search for this type of thing so can only imagine the contradictory suggestions 😊 I do think commenting is one of the best bits about blogging. X

        Like

  27. Very helpful suggestions, Donna, especially for newbie bloggers who are still wrapping their heads around all the mechanics. I think eventually you’ll need to write a post for the lazier bloggers out there like myself who never think about any of these things (but probably should)! I did once toy with asking a question or two at the end of my posts, and I think I even tried it a few times. It is a useful strategy to get people to engage with you more. – Marty

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    1. Hi, Marty – Why is it that your comments have a way of cracking me up? Although I’ve never found one ‘magic pill’ to increase reader dialogue, I do believe that some people (like yourself) are naturals at this.
      BTW – No summer blogging break for you this year? I’ve borrowed a page from your book and will be taking a five-week ‘technology break’ starting this weekend. No push factors from blogging — all pull factors. Summer has a way of offering endless outdoor opportunities, and I don’t want to miss out!

      Like

      1. You’re stealing my thunder, Donna! In fact I am taking a summer break. I’m “announcing” it tomorrow when I send readers over to Janis’s blog for a guest post I’m doing. But you get the scoop here before the tabloids find out!

        Seriously, enjoy your own break. I think it’s good to recharge, refresh, and reframe the intellectual batteries a bit. I’ll look forward to your posts when you return. 🙂

        Like

  28. All good tips Donna! I get annoyed when I leave a comment and the blogger never acknowledges that I did so…that’s just rude! Shared your post x 4 ♥

    Like

    1. Hi, Dee – I agree that it can be very discouraging when we reach out to other bloggers and our efforts are not recognized in any way. It can leave you wondering, did they see my message, are they overwhelmed with other commitments…or do they simply think that my comment (or my blog) are lame? 🙂 Thank you for sharing on your SM. I appreciate this greatly!

      Like

  29. Donna there is so much information in this post. I started my blog seven years ago, never expecting anyone would ever read it, and never really encouraged comments. Recently I’ve changed the focus of the blog slightly, and started participating in Link Ups. It never fails to amaze me when people comment and I love replying and visiting other blogs. I’ve now joined up with a network of wonderful mid life bloggers. But I still have much to learn. Thankyou for posting on this topic.

    Like

    1. Hi, Jennifer – Thank you so much for stopping by. We seem to think alike in many areas. When I began my blog (2.5 years ago), I also never gave much thought to other people reading it. The first comments that I received threw me for a loop. I had no idea what to do with them! Like so many other areas, the more that I learn about blogging…, the more I realize how much I do not know!

      Like

    1. Hi, Candi – Thank you so much for stopping by. The CommentLuv Plugin is truly awesome. Unfortunately, it has not been updated recently and now clashes with some other plugins (like Jetpack). I will ask at my WordPress MeetUp group (the end of this month) if there are other similar alternatives to this. If so, I will update that in this post.

      Like

  30. AMAZING post with so much practical information to digest.
    I do feel the more you put into blogging (and building community) the more you get out of it. I try to take time to comment on others posts, not for the purpose of reciprocity (although that is a nice benefit) but because I want to develop online relationships with like-minded people. I enjoy reading comments as much as the post itself – so much rich goodness with diverse thoughts and opinion.
    Definitely pinning for future reference. Thanks so much!

    Like

    1. Hi, Molly – Thank you for this very thoughtful (and generous) reply. I agree that with blogging, as with so many things, when you put much in, you get much out. I also think that it is important to find that ‘just right’ approach — which is different for every blogger. I 100% agree with your style — making a meaningful comment on another blog to connect to someone who has inspired you is what truly makes a difference. When people comment only to get a comment back, their words tend to lack depth, and they often miss the opportunity to develop wonderful connections! I will be taking a blogging break for the next five weeks (summer holidays!!), but I will definitely be back to read more on your blog!

      Like

  31. Hi Donna,
    A remarkable compilation that will be of use for a blogger. I have been blogging since 2004, and let me be candid enough to admit that I have learnt a few tips from your post.
    I haven’t been promoting my blog or posts; and only since recently I have been doing something to elicit comments from readers.
    I pose an open-ended question at the end of my post. I also share my blog on social media communities of bloggers.
    But it’s indeed a fact that not many not lead to discussion, even if readers can relate to the subject in my post.
    – Pradeep | bpradeepnair.blogspot.com

    Like

    1. Hi, Pradeep – I love reading and sharing blogging tips with others. There are so many possibilities out there. Although it can be a daunting task to pick and choose which ideas work best for us, when I have discovered suggestions that have truly made a difference for me — it has been incredibly invigorating!! I am off to visit your post now. See you there!

      Like

  32. I’m just starting out and am looking for all of the good suggestions I can find. I will definitely refer back to this post often as I’m writing my content and looking to expand my readership. Thank you for sharing.

    Like

    1. Hi, Kim – I greatly appreciate you dropping by and commenting. It is very exciting starting out as a blogger. An incredible community awaits you.
      You have an awesome blog title. I am on my way now to read your recent post!

      Like

  33. These are great tips Donna. I have to say I don’t read a lot of the comments others leave on other peoples blogs. And I know that my replies to comments on my blog aren’t always the best though I try. I have not commented on a blog before because I had to jump through hoops to do it. And I have stopped reading blogs that don’t reply to comments that are left on their blog. There is one blog that I really enjoy but over six months she has not replied to one comment that I have left.

    Like

    1. Hi, Victoria – Not reading comments on other people’s posts puts you in the vast majority of readers. 🙂 For me, it depends on my time-frame. When I can, I skim through and read the comments that stick out for me, and the ones from favourite bloggers whom I regularly follow. I agree that it is such a letdown to find a blog that truly resonates with us, put ourselves out there in our comments….and not hear back. When that has happened to me (definitely more than once!), I’ve tried to rationalize. Ultimately, my interest strayed to other places on the blogosphere where I was able to make more meaningful connections (like your blog….which I sincerely adore)!

      Like

  34. A great list, Donna. I, too, have written about this subject after being asked many times by some of my readers on how to get engagement and comments on their own blogs. What amazes me is that many of those who asked me the questions told me that they had no time to read and comment on other blogs! There lays the problem.

    Secondly, and this may already have been said, but be prepared to spend a lot of time responding to comments and questions. If I see a blog where comments and/or questions go unanswered or acknowledged (especially on the ‘about me’ page), then I won’t leave any comments. In fact, I probably won’t even follow that blog.

    I’d advise people not to make it look as if they’re begging for comments to be left. Instead, find all the right ingredients to put into your blog posts (like on your list) to get those comments coming in.

    I read an interesting post today where the blogger concerned complained that they were getting hardly an comments or visitors to their wonderful (their word) blog. They could not understand why nobody found their blog interesting and went on into a rant as to why they even bothered to share their work in the first place. They said it was a total waste of their time. Talk about putting those readers who already follow the blog off from ever coming back. I was surprised they’d published, let alone, written the post. I certainly won’t be going back.

    I could go on, but I’ll leave it there.

    Like

    1. Hi, Hugh – If you just heard a loud bang (all of the way from Vancouver Island, Canada to Swansea, South Wales), it was me banging my head on my desk. As you know, I am a steady follower of your posts. I have learned a great deal from your generous blogging tips. After reading your comment above, I went back and rechecked the blogging tip section on your site. I can’t believe that I did not check there before writing this post (she says while banging her head on her desk once again). Your advice is both practical and thought-provoking. I especially like your quote, “Not answering comments left on your blog, is like inviting somebody around for coffee and then ignoring them.” Your site is an awesome example of encouraging meaningful dialogue, both in quality and quantity (your About Page alone has generated 279 comments). I highly encourage anyone interested in expanding this area of their blog to check out: https://hughsviewsandnews.com/category/blogging-tips/. I will definitely be adding some of your gems to my presentation (giving you full credit of course)!

      Like

      1. That’s so kind of you, thank you, Donna. Of course, we’re always going to be writing about subjects that overlap, and never be worried about not reading all of my posts. It’s an impossible task for anyone to do regardless of how many times they publish a post a day, week, month… Sometimes, we’re doing other things when posts are published, or maybe we have to be away on that blogging and social media break when a post is published? I still pick up many blogging tips on a daily basis and am always thankful to the people who take the time to write and publish them. I read a comment once that said “people who write and publish blogging tips, obviously don’t have anything else interesting to write about.” That got steam coming out of my ears, but I then I remembered that i should be thankful that I live in a part of the world where there is free speech.

        Keep up the great work with sharing what you have learned. If if it only benefits one person, you’ve done an excellent and outstanding job.

        Like

  35. Considering there are 104 comments on this post alone (as of this comment), I’d say you know what you’re talking about!

    There is a little irony in the fact I have to sign in to my wordpress account (or other account) in order to comment on this post, but it really is becoming the norm no matter which blog you visit. I suggest mentioning that in your presentation – so people don’t shy away from great blog platforms just because of the comments.

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    1. Hi, Jen – I am so sorry to hear that you needed to sign into your WordPress account in order to comment on this post. How maddening! I will bring this point to my WordPress MeetUp and see if any of the people there know how to fix this.
      BTW – I am breathing a sigh of relief about the very generous (and incredibly meaningful) comments on this site. As I am using this post as a core part of my presentation to my WordPress Meet Up group, my biggest fear was that this post would generate very few comments. Phew! And thank you to all!

      Like

    2. Hi, Jen – Mike Nelson is the Co-Coordinator of our local WordPress Meet Up Group. He is trying to help me solve the issue that you raised about needing to sign into your WordPress account to comment on this post. If you have a moment, can you look at his questions to you (bottom of the comments) and let us know what is happening for you when you try to comment here? Thanks so much.

      Like

      1. Hi Donna,
        If you can read this comment, it means that I did NOT have to sign in, and the problem must have been on my end before. So it looks like all is well! 🙂

        Like

  36. Hi Donna! I just spent the past 30 minutes reading your blog post and every comment–a first for me. I often read one or two comments, but never 100+. I’m not sure if it was the topic which triggered me reading all the comments or that once I started, I was drawn in. What a great conversation you started. As for my practices, I always respond to comments on my blog, not just because it’s polite, but because I love the interaction. I end almost every blog with a couple of questions. Some commenters respond to the questions, and others respond to something else in the post. Either way, I’m thrilled. When I’m reading other people’s blogs, I almost always comment, because I want them to know I was there and read what they had to say. Right now, I am working full time, and loving 10 grandchildren, so I have limited time for blogging–writing my own and reading and commenting others. I’m torn between spending more time on each post I read and reading fewer or reading as many posts as I can and spending a little less time on each. Obviously, tonight I chose the former. Thanks Donna!

    Like

    1. Thank you so much, Christie – I am truly honoured that you spent so much time reading this post and ALL comments. Seriously, there needs to be a special award for both you and Anabel!
      There are so many wonderful layers to blogging — and they each demand a chunk of our time. I greatly admire that you write such quality posts and comment so meaningfully when working full time and having TEN grandchildren (I am completely jealous about the latter). There’s always something that’s “gotta go,” and it is often hard deciding what that will be. The time struggle is real…and, I don’t work….not even part-time! As I stated above, you have my sincere admiration!
      BTW – I think that I was recently kicked out as a subscriber to your site. Can you let me know how to resubscribe?

      Like

  37. Some wonderful tips here, some I already know, some I’ve conveniently forgotten and others have prompted me to take note and act on them. Thank you. It’s great to see how much wonderful feedback you’ve had on this topic! It’s obviously one that genders discussion 🙂 🙂

    Like

    1. Hi, Johanna – I am glad that you found these tips and reminders useful. This topic generated much more discussion than I had imagined it would. I am grateful for all, like yourself, who have generously stopped by to share their feedback. Now I just need to put all of these ideas together in presentation form! 🙂

      Like

  38. Thank you Donna for the kind words and for letting me know you were no longer getting my emails. I suspect it happened when I sent out the request to confirm consent for GDPR. I will consider your comment above as consent to receive emails and add you back to the list. You should get an email from me today. Thank you for your continued support of my blog. It means a lot!

    Like

    1. Congratulations on starting your new blog. It is an incredible journey. One of my first tips is to spend some time browsing some About Pages on other blogs and then create your own. It is a great way for people to learn about you and get a glimpse of your personality. Don’t worry about getting it perfect — you can always switch it up later. For other tips for new bloggers, I highly recommend checking out these tips from Hugh at Hugh’s News & Views. Good luck!

      Like

  39. Hi Jen, good comment. I’m confused by how you need to sign into your wordpress account in order to comment. I don’t have to do that.
    Eg, this is what I see when I go to comment and am signed out of wordpress.com: https://drive.google.com/a/eventespresso.com/file/d/1PO2RZOvP94Un72WoDrclifNLgH9mGPgr/view?usp=drivesdk (signing in with WordPress.com, google plus, twitter or facebook are all optional; I can choose to just enter an email and name if I want).
    Do you see something different when you’re signed out and go to leave a comment?

    Like

  40. This is a great post, Donna, and very useful advice for new bloggers. Building a reader base as a new blogger is hard work and these strategies help with that. The bottom line is simply to be engaging with others and the community will build – just like in real life.

    So many of the comments made by others express well my thoughts, however, I think I might be an animal of a different colour – or maybe it’s just the nature of my blog compared to the informational aspect of many of the other commenters.
    I rarely look at my blog stats and quite frankly have stopped reading bloggers who seemed obsessed with their numbers. It devalues me as a follower.

    I’ve also stopped following bloggers who post too often. If a blogger is clogging my mailbox with posts several times a day, it is simply not possible to have a meaningful dialogue with someone who is essentially spamming.

    I abandoned some of the comment building strategies early in my blogging life because they felt contrived on my blog – like questions at the end of a post. It felt like a ‘teacherly’ thing to do – it just doesn’t fit the nature of my blog.

    I have also deliberately chosen not to link my blog to my other social media. I do not think of my blog as a brand – it is an extension of me. It’s the same reason why I don’t like guest posts and have never had one on my blog.

    Each of my social media platforms reflects a different aspect of me and therefore I deliberately attempt to keep the content on my blog, FB, and IG unique.
    I do however have a separate FB page for my blog. This is in recognition that I have some friends in the real world who are comfortable reading my blog from FB, but not registering for emails. I think of them as the silent readers and I’m always in awe of the feedback I get in person – but never online.

    I guess what I’m saying is that not all strategies fit all types of blogs or bloggers. Certainly at the beginning of my blog, I felt like I was doing something wrong by excluding certain behaviours – and a few bloggers told me as much. It took a certain amount of courage to dance to a different drummer.

    Like

    1. Hi, Joanne – Thank you so much for stopping by and for adding this important reminder. Remaining true to ourselves is the one essential thing that we should each hold on to as bloggers (and in all aspects of our lives). When doing some background research for this post, there were literally over 100 different tips suggested to increase blog/social media engagement. Some strategies I had tried as a beginning blogger and then drifted away from because they just weren’t me. Other aspects of blogging, I stumbled upon and were an immediate fit for me, but (not unlike home-exchanging or other things that I love) would not be for everyone. Some tips, e.g., offer giveaways, attack a common enemy, make a promise in your headline…..are definitely not for me. Ironically, there was also a tip from the Social Intelligence Report to publish new blog posts on Fridays (apparently comments increase 17% on Fridays). When I checked my stats, Fridays were not my big comment days. I agree that it does take courage to dance to your own drummer, especially on a public forum. Personally, that is the number one ingredient in the blogs that I choose to follow.

      Like

      1. Thanks Donna for seeing through my rambling and recognizing my point that it’s all about being ourselves and that none of these are one-size-fits-all rules.

        Happy Long Weekend. Hope you have a good one!

        Like

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