I wrote a post called Comment Envy on Friday morning, and although it was written partly in jest, it was a question to which I really wanted an answer. I searched for any blog posts on the subject and reached out to bloggers who have an active and engaged group of commenters.
Searching the blogs I found quite a few posts on the subject. Nearly all of them were a form or flavor of a four year old post by Darren Rowse at ProBlogger.net called 10 Techniques to Get More Comments on Your Blog. In fact, many of them had the same list, or parts of this list. Some where in a different order or with a few additions or comments, but the same tips showed up nearly everywhere I looked. I’ll encourage you to follow the link to read Rowse’s description of the tips. Mine will be listed here.
- Ask for comments — OK, this one may seem obvious, but maybe it’s not. It was at the top of nearly every list I looked at. My interpretation is this, your readers need to know that you want them to comment. Several of the other tips are related to this one in a way.
- Ask Questions — I think that every blogger asks questions, but most of the time they are rhetorical, aren’t they? (See what I did there. ) To get readers talking you have to give them something to talk about, and a great way to do that is to ask questions. I remember something I heard about doing an interview that said, “Ask your question and then SHUT UP.” I take that, in this context, to mean ask your questions but don’t immediately provide the answers.
- Be Open Ended — Rowse wrote, “If you say everything there is to say on a topic you’re less likely to get others adding their opinions because you’ll have covered what they might have added.” This one should be easy as I have never, and could never, written everything there is to say on a topic. But, I would add, you need to write in such a way that you make it clear you haven’t covered everything. Then, going back to the first point, make it clear that you invite others to add their thoughts.
- Interact with comments left — I’ll have more to add on this, but for now let me quote from the ProBlogger post. “If you’re not willing to use your own comments section why would your readers?” It seems obvious, but I have to ask my self if it is something I make a habit of doing. Do you?
- Set Boundaries — This one may not be as obvious as the others, but several posts I read indicated the same thing. They mentioned anecdotal evidence saying that comments increased when they created a clear comment policy. While I think that is a good idea for many reasons, I think that this tip can be in place even in the absence of a written policy. I think readers get a good sense of what is and isn’t acceptable from the tone and style of the blog writer as well as the other comments posted. If you follow the previous tip and interact with the comments it is easy to step in and let people know when they’ve crossed the line. Even in the anonymous world of the internet people like to feel safe, and clear boundaries are one way to do that.
- Be Humble — This one is easy for me. I know I’m not an expert on any of the topics I spout off about. Many would say that that’s painfully obvious. Still, there is a way to write things in such a way that you come across as open to other points of view and additional information.
- Be Gracious — Even (mostly?) when you’re wrong. The flip side of this is being defensive to any criticism. It doesn’t mean turning your back on things you believe, or kowtowing to the PC police out there, but rather allowing others to disagree without being shut out.
- Be Controversial? — I’ll let Rowse explain what he means.
I put a question mark after this one because it doesn’t always work (and I personally avoid it as much as I can these days) – but there’s nothing like controversy to get people commenting on your blog. Of course with controversy comes other consequences – one of which is the risk of putting off less vocal members of your readership.
I would add that this one is very dependent on your own style and personality. Some writers can pull this off and still be gracious in doing so. Others, like me, are much less confrontational and aren’t looking to “pick a fight.” Even at that there are ways to introduce controversy without acrimony. Post a list of the “Top 10″ anything and you’ll see what I mean.
- “Reward” Comments — Let me be clear. You’re not getting money. 1) That’s not what this means, and 2) I don’t have any. The reward can take many forms. It can be as simple as replying, “you’re right” or “good comment”, or something more tangible in the form of links back to their blog, listing top commenters, or pointing out great comments elsewhere on your blog. People like to be recognized. We have a saying where I work, that employees will work for candy. In that context it means that people will work to get the next sale, or the most calls answered, or whatever, even if the reward is a Snickers Bar, baloon, or 50 cent off fast food coupon. That’s because people are competitive and they like to be recognized. You can feed off of that on your blog.
- Make it easy to comment — This one is a pet peeve of mine. I don’t think anyone wants to jump through a dozen hoops just to leave a comment. Most won’t find it worth the effort. If there is anything that makes leaving comments here difficult, please let me know!
I think that’s a pretty good list. Don’t you?
But I wasn’t content to leave it at that, so I reached out to the two bloggers I mentioned in the previous post. Ace may very well be in a Valu-Rite induced haze and hasn’t had time to read or respond. I’ll add his thoughts when I get them. I did hear from my friend Wyatt at Support Your Local Gunfighter. Here are my questions along with his answers.
1. Do you do anything special to encourage comments?
The only thing I always do is answer every comment. I try to respond to every single one, no matter how long it takes me. I never wanted to be one of those people that took commenters for granted, so everyone gets a response, no matter what.
2. What do you think is the number one thing (habit or style, not topic) that induces readers to comment on your posts?
I think the commenters feed off the post topic and themselves. A good topic gets commenters going back and forth with each other, and that’s the one thing that puts a smile on my face. It shows that they’re interested.
3. Looking back to a time when you started to get a number of comments on each post, what got the ball rolling?
Not sure about this one. I think the comments are topic-generated. A good topic – in my case, usually one that is off the wall – begets a lot of comments.
4. I know that both of you have a number of very regular commenters. Did you encourage that? If so, how?
I try to build a relationship with commenters by interacting with them. Responding to their comments, the occasional e-mails, and commenting on their blogs when I can. I made a lot of good internet friends through SYLG, and many commenters know me as well as I know myself.
5. Any other thoughts on comments you would like to include?
Dave from Garfield Ridge – the first major blogger to notice SYLG and give me encouragement – gave me terrific advice when I first started out. He said that the key to hits and comments was to post often and post well. I post at least three times a day and try to post things that people are interested in. It’s not easy, but if you work hard at it – blogging, I mean – the comments and the hits will follow.
There you have it. I think those are some great tips and advice. Come back later and I’ll be taking a look at some WordPress tools you can use to help with comments, but for now leave your comments here!