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.
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).
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!
All Photos Courtesy of: Unsplash