In all the time I’ve been blogging, one truth has remained constant. The hardest part of building your site, and your community, is building up an active community of commenters. I’ve had sites that pulled in millions of visitors a month and it was like pulling teeth to keep the comments flowing.
Another truth is, in nearly all the blogs I’ve ever ran, at one point or another, I’ve had friends or acquaintances that read my blogs fairly regularly. I often found myself in the position of seeing these people days or even weeks after I’ve written a particular post and having them say to me, “oh, I read that post you wrote about FILL IN THE BLANK and INSERT COMMENT HERE.”
Another common occurrence is getting those comments via Twitter or Facebook rather than via the post’s comments.
It can be frustrating. Everyone who reads your site has an opinion on what you write. The problem is getting them to voice their opinion in a comment rather than through some other method. It’s important to glue the engagement to your post. Community discussion sparked by an interesting post can be even more interesting and eclectic than the post itself.
The truth is, when it comes to your comment community, friends probably aren’t the best source to rely on, for a few reasons.
- More than likely your friends aren’t avid bloggers and don’t truly have a stake in participating in your community. More accurately, since they know you, they may have a hard time communicating with you, the blogger. It’s not always easy to differentiate the two.
- Many of your friends may simply not understand the value their point of view can bring to your site. It’s up to you to help them to understand that if you can.
- While there is something gratifying about seeing someone you know and respect comment on something you’ve written it still is only a very small part of building your community content.
Often what ends up happens after someone starts up their blog is they find that although they’ve sent the link to all of their friends and family, no one is commenting. For some, it’s too easy to get discouraged and just give up.
The truth is, unless you’re already a well established name in your field of choice and then start blogging, don’t expect to be the Grand Central Station of comments anytime soon.
- Do unto others – There’s an old proverb that says, “Hard work means prosperity; only a fool idles away his time.” Chances are, if you’re blogging, you already have an RSS reader full of some of your favorite blogs. Be diligent about joining their community. Keep an eye out for a post that piques your interest or that you are knowledgeable on and comment, comment, comment. Virtually every place you can leave a comment allows you to link your name to your blog. Start leaving enough insightful comments and people will want to come and find out what you’re all about. People who are already reading/leaving comments on other blogs are more likely to comment on your blog as well.
- Top and bottom – Make sure you have a “comments” link at the top and bottom of your post. Make your comments link as easily accesable as possible. Don’t make people go hunting for it.
- Keep it simple – It’s your job to weed out spam, not your commenters. If you’re using WordPress make sure you have Akismet turned on. Akismet is amazing at stopping spam. CAPTCHA on the other hand is amazing at stopping comments. Don’t make your commenters jump through hoops to leave a comment. So you may have to spend a few extra minutes eying over the comments that get through to make sure it’s not spam, but if that happens, it’s a small price to pay.
- Be vigilant – Once your comments start flowing in, some of the legit comments are bound to get false positives and end up in your spam filter. Check your spam filter fairly regularly to make sure this doesn’t happen. I also use a setting in WordPress that allows me to moderate a comment the first time someone leaves one, but after you have a comment approved your comments will appear on the site instantly. It’s a good way to weed out the spam comments without adding hoops to the user side.
- Listen, respond, rinse and repeat – As your comment community starts growing, make sure you listen to what your commenters are saying. Engage them. Reply to their comments and let them know you’re also interested in what they have to say.
- Lead by example – I often find myself being the first commenter on one of my own posts. Sometimes I’ll finish writing a post and realize I actually want to comment on something I just wrote, and rather than go back into the post and change stuff around, I’ll just do it in comments. Another great way to kick it off, is to start the first comment with something like, “That’s my point of view, what do you guys think?” Let them know they’re interested.
Often your readers may not understand just how important their voice is to your site. Either they think no one cares what they think or they are just nervous about being the first to post. It’s our job to alleviate those concerns and make them feel as comfortable as possible. Each one of your readers should feel like your post isn’t complete until they’ve had the chance to add their two cents in the comments.
Keep your head up, keep the content flowing and go forth and multiply…your comments I mean. Find three great posts to comment on tonight and go do it. The best way to break old habits is to start up with new ones.
I know I linked to him before but I’ve been procrastinating about writing this post for a while and it was totally jump started by Chris’ post, so make sure you go check out what he had to say, you won’t regret it.