So, you have a blog. You post on it regularly, and you give some thought to what you want to say. You proofread your posts and choose interesting images to go with your text. A peek at your analytics shows that you’re getting views, and you seem to be slowly picking up a good readership. But… when it comes to the comments section, there’s nothing but crickets. People are reading, but not saying anything back. What are you doing wrong?
You’ve heard of the Pareto Principle, which states that about 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. If you applied this to your blog, then you might figure that 80% of your comments and interaction come from 20% of your readership. Not bad, right? Unfortunately, the Pareto Principle doesn’t really apply when it comes to most blogs. Instead, you have to apply the 1% rule, which is pretty well recognized among Internet communities: Only one out of one hundred readers are actually going to become active users. The rest will just read along silently, or, in ‘Net-speak, “lurk.”
While you might think that this doesn’t bode well for the echo chamber that you call your comments section, there are actually some things that you can do to boost your reader interaction. Reader comments tend to snowball; if you get one, you’re likely to get a few more, and if you can get a dozen, then you just might have a conversation (or even a debate!) going, which can lead to even more comments. Try some of these strategies to see if you can get the ball rolling:
Be open-ended. It’s great to end your post with a question; this might inspire readers to type in an answer! Another good suggestion is to leave some of your topic unsaid. If you leave out a couple of well-known points, a helpful reader just might decide to contribute his or her own take on things. In other words, don’t be a know-it-all; let your readers add in their two cents in order to complete your blog post.
Make it easy on them. One frustrating trend that I’ve seen is the necessity to register for an account, sign up for an email newsletter or pick out an avatar before leaving a comment. Unless I’m really committed to sharing something, I just won’t bother most of the time. Who has time for that? A name and email address (which doesn’t get posted) should be all that’s required to comment on the vast majority of blogs.
Push a few buttons. This suggestion could go either way, so do this cautiously. If a current event is related to your industry or business, then you could give your opinion on it. If it’s a bit controversial, then you might wrangle up some conversation. Of course, in an effort to stay professional, you will need to be diplomatic and perhaps closer to neutral than to either end of the “extreme” spectrum. And remember that if you’re posting controversial topics often, then people might be turned off, particularly if that’s not the point of your blog. Once in a while, though, this could be an effective strategy.
Don’t be desperate. Adding fake comments, allowing spam or letting abusive responses sit in your comments section are all bad ideas. Let your comments section evolve organically, and remove spam and other inappropriate posts as soon as you see them.
Interact back! When you do get comments, make it worth your reader’s while to comment again. Respond with a well-thought-out answer. If someone asks a question, answer it, either right then and there, or in another blog post. You can even respond via email if it’s something you’d rather not have published publicly on your blog.
The goal of getting some interaction on your blog is a good one, and should be thought about after you have some content that is attracting readers. Just don’t get discouraged, and remember that it usually takes time to build up a good core group of interactive users.
What about you? Have you found the holy grail of reader involvement and interaction? You know what to do.