A Crash Course in Comments

the conversationComments are currency. I learned this first from Liz Strauss. They are the ultimate in social proof, because if we’re all supposed to be about joining the conversation, and yet you aren’t getting a lot of back and forth in the media you’re making, it might be time to look at this a bit more. If comments matter to you, read on. Here are some thoughts to help improve your back and forth.

A Crash Course in Comments

First, the Basics

  1. Give to get – If you’re not leaving thoughtful comments on related blogs without spamming them about how awesome your blog is (or how awesome you are), then you’re missing the first big secret of comments. Comment elsewhere. Find the good stuff, add your two cents (and not just “great post!”), and watch the authors and other readers visit your site.
  2. Double Vision – Double check that your blog design puts a “comments” link at both the top and the bottom of every post.
  3. Please Spammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em – Make the sign-in process super easy. (Annoyingly difficult CAPTCHA is a quick vote for no comments.)
  4. Spread the Comments – Comment platforms like Disqus are now much easier to integrate with your site, and have lots of added features. (See an example at my Dad’s Poker Blog.)
  5. Patrol your spam filter to make sure good comments aren’t being eaten. (Happens often to me.)

Getting Comments By Tailoring Your Content

The truth is, once the mechanics are out of the way, here are the most likely ways to improve your blog to get more comments.

    The Letter Writer
  1. Brevity rules – The shorter the posts, the more likely people will stop and comment.
  2. Answer “WIIFM” – If you write posts that answer any reader’s primary question, “What’s In It For Me?,” you’re far more likely to get comments.
  3. Ask questions – I always encourage your feedback. Why? Because the value you give me in my comments section is way better than anything I could ever write myself. Ask questions.
  4. Reply as often as you can – I am the #1 commenter on my blog. I’m not always as responsive, and I don’t always answer every single comment, but I learned early that if I respond back, I get more follow up thoughts and ideas in the comments.
  5. Give your ideas “handles”- If others can take your ideas and run with them, they’re apt to comment on their gratitude, and/or their new variation on what you did. Encouraging that is a great way to build more conversations.

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The Bonus Round

    pure communication
  1. Promote others- Finding ways to promote the people who visit your blog, to praise your community, to engage them on their own blogs and sites, are all ways to build a relationship that gives back.
  2. Offer some tech help – On my blog, I use a WordPress plugin called Subscribe to Comments. You might offer that, and/or an RSS subscription to the comments feed. In fact, if I were clever, I’d add that RSS to my comments section. It’s often better than the post.
  3. Experiment – I’m not sure why we don’t, but if you’re writing the same thing over and over and no one’s commenting, STOP WRITING THAT THING. If something doesn’t work in the mainstream media world, editors make changes. They fix it. Do the same.
  4. Be Your Own Editor – That’s one position most media makers don’t seem to give themselves. Edit your posts to be better, tighter, more punchy, more useful. The better your work, the more comments you’ll get.
  5. Use an outpost strategy to get more attention.

In Lieu of Comments

One quick note: when folks don’t have time to comment on a post, but they like it, what I hope they at least do is share it via the various social systems. Meaning, if you don’t have time to comment, but you’re reading a good post in Google Reader, share it. It’s as rapid as hitting Shift-S. That one gesture does something for the work. Ditto using StumbleUpon or Delicious. Using social sharing gives a post more chances to be found and enjoyed by others. Doing this gives more back to a blogger, so when you can’t comment, consider sharing something forward for others.

What’s Worked for You?

I don’t have all the answers, for sure, but I’m grateful for the comments I do receive. What’s worked for you? Did I miss anything you’re doing that’s worked for you? What else haven’t we covered here? Oh, and did you notice how blog design and graphics make a difference?

Photo credits polandeze, KevinDooley, Rita Banerji, and iandeth, in that order.

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