There’s a scene in the movie Julie & Julia when Julie reacts to receiving her first ever blog comment by jumping up from her cubicle and sharing her excitement with her co-workers.
I could totally relate.
I don’t know of any blogger who isn’t excited each and every time a blog post receives comments because it means people are reading and that what we wrote is important enough to warrant a remark. However, there’s no better feeling than that first ever comment. It’s validation. The lack of comments also inspires emotion. It can be frustrating for both beginning and veteran bloggers when the comments fail to come in.
In the ten years I’ve been doing this, I learned there’s a right and wrong way to encourage comments and I’m the first one to admit, I don’t always practice what I preach. If I could list my biggest mistakes in regard to blog commenting it would probably have to do with not doing enough to encourage comments, and allowing myself to be too busy to respond to comments as often as I should.
Here are my favorite tips for encouraging blog comments :
I was taught to ask for the things I want. So if I want blog comments I ask. I try not to only say “what do you think?” and hope for a response. Instead, I ask specific questions. For example, at the bottom of this post I may ask for your tips for eliciting a response from your readers or to share mistakes bloggers make in encouraging comments. It’s my experience that a community is more responsive to specific questions and direction than if I were to only ask them to comment.
2. Leave room for interpretation
The beautiful thing about blogging is that it’s mostly sharing of opinion and experiences. This encourages others to share their experiences as well. When we state facts and leave it as “my way or the highway” there’s really nothing left to comment about. Leaving a blog post open to interpretation means more readers can participate.
3. Go for discussion – not controversy
Have you ever noticed certain blogs only receive one or two comments each day unless they bring up a controversial topic? Negativity definitely causes a reaction, but then we have to ask ourselves if this is the reaction we wish to receive. I think that if we have to go for controversy or negativity to stir the pot for a response, we also have to wonder why what we’re writing each day isn’t enough to encourage comments. Is it because our readers aren’t interested in the posts? Is it because they can’t relate to the post? Is it because it’s not stimulating a discussion? Try creating discussion worthy posts over controversy. Sooner or later negativity will drive people away, anyway.
4. Don’t Make Commenters Jump Through Hoops
I understand why some bloggers use CAPCHA or want their commenters to register. It’s to keep away trolls and spammers and makes absolute sense. However, if I have to jump through too many hoops to leave my opinion, I’ll probably pass. It’s frustrating to have to take 20 minutes to fill out a form or to continue refreshing an unreadable security code. If it’s too hard to comment, no one will.
5. Create a Positive Atmosphere
If your blog, including the comments section, are a hotbed of negativity, folks are going to get uncomfortable. If everything you write is an attack on someone else, or commenters are sniping at each other, you’ll only attract more negativity.
A few more things to consider
- All bloggers want comments. Most want to receive feedback on their blog posts, plus they want to watch a discussion take place. Most of us also agree that we enjoy a spirited exchange. That isn’t to say we want fights and pettiness to take place, but rather, respectful disagreement. Debates are fun, but debates aren’t fights.
- One thing I need to work harder on is responding in the comments. I sometimes get so busy in my day I don’t have time to participate in the discussion. A blog’s community wants to participate in discussion with the blogger – as well as the community. Being AWOL might encourage everyone else to be AWOL too.
- Top bloggers disagree as to whether or not a blogger should respond to every comment that comes in. It’s understandable if a blog only receives a couple of comments each day, but when there’s dozens of comments it can be hard to keep up.
- If things get too out of hand, don’t be afraid to moderate and delete. I’ve been criticized for this in the past, but I’ve deleted abusive comments. I don’t delete comments that disagree as long as they’re respectful, once they’re abusive or attacks and snipes begin, I delete.
- A comment policy will help to set ground rules. If you especially post a lot of hotbed topics, you’ll receive hotbed comments. Nicely let folks know you won’t tolerate certain behavior such as attacks or cursing.
- Some bloggers don’t allow anonymous comments. Personally, I don’t mind a pen name if a person is afraid to publicly say something for fear of reprisal from an employer or a community – as long as that person is respectful. I prefer to know everyone by name, but understand that in the online world some folks wish to remain anonymous.
- Create a community not a clique. If the only comments are from you and your best friend and contain mostly private jokes and references to unnamed parties, you’re creating a clique, not a community. Include everyone or start a private forum.
Notice these are only tips? That’s because I don’t believe there are any hard and fast rules when it comes to commenting. There’s a certain universal etiquette, but I’m not the social media police, and it’s not up to me to tell everyone how it should be done.
When a blog presents a positive environment, people will respond in kind. If you want your readers to comment, you have to give them a reason to participate.
What do you do to encourage comments? Have you noticed that certain methods drive people away instead?