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10 Prolific Bloggers Share Tips on Generating Conversation on Blogs

Yesterday I gave 13 tips for having great conversations on a blog. As a followup to that I shot an email to a number of bloggers that have a habit of having active comment sections to ask them how they make their blogs more conversational.

As expected – their responses were rich and full of goodness! Here are their responses.

Leo Babauta

Leo.jpg

“Conversation on Zen Habits is as important or more important than the posts themselves. The readers on my blog have really formed a positive community and I am deeply grateful for such a great readership.

A few things I’ve done to foster conversation at Zen Habits:

1. Write posts that go beyond the usual and provoke a little thought and some sort of response from readers. If your post doesn’t generate some kind of emotion in your readers — whether that’s inspiration, motivation, anger, laughter, whatever — you need to look at ways of being a bit bolder while still being true to yourself and your readers.

2. Ask for thoughts at the end of the post. Ask them to post their ideas, thoughts, experiences in the comments.

3. Always, always be grateful for comments, and don’t attack commenters. This is huge for me. Even if a commenter is negative or even a bit rude, I thank the commenter. I try to find the nugget of truth or wisdom in the comment and ignore the rudeness. I never reply in anger. I try to be grateful for the feedback, because it helps me to get better. And I try to learn from my readers instead of thinking I have all the answers.

4. Sometimes it’s better to step back and let readers converse. Conversations don’t always have to be between the reader and the blogger. Conversations between readers can be lively and enlightening. Don’t feel you have to respond to every comment — let others handle things sometimes, and only step in when you have something valuable to contribute that others couldn’t contribute themselves.”

Gala Darling

Gala.jpg “People always say that you need to start conversations on your blog in order to foster community, but one of the main problems is that some people try to do it just because they think they should — out of some sense of “blogger obligation” (blogligation?!), rather than an authentic desire.

The most important thing in blogging, I think, is to be genuine. This applies to getting people to comment, too. If you don’t actually care about what your readers have to say on a given topic, that comes through pretty clearly, & you’re not going to get the response you’re hoping for. People can smell your lack of sincerity, & they won’t bother!

All that aside, I find that the best tactics for stimulating conversation are to…
a) talk about something which everyone has an opinion on
b) ask for people’s real life experiences
c) share something personal & invite others to do the same
d) request advice or help — people love to help others!

Of course, the more positive energy you put into your writing, the more likely it is that people will bounce that back at you… So if you make an effort to write with a sense of fun & delight, your readers will respond positively in their own charming, utterly individual way!”

Duncan Riley

Duncan.jpg “By making commenting as easy as possible, and by facilitating conversations where people want to have them. We use the commenting 2.0 service Disqus (although there are a number of players you can use), and the first advantage is that Disqus users can immediately leave a comment without having to enter their personal details, encouraging more spontaneous commenting. Further to that, they can track comments they’ve left on Disqus and easily comment again on the same post in response to other comments left where as in the past, a comment may have been a one off without followup. We’ve found that using a service such as Disqus delivers more comments, and increases the levels of engagement and repeat traffic, and it’s why I’ve been more than happy to evangelize the commenting 2.0 space.

On the broader conversation front, we also incorporate comments from FriendFeed, both in importing FriendFeed comments in, and allowing people to make comments using their FriendFeed account on the site itself. We often see far more discussion on FriendFeed than directly through comments on the site. People are going to have those conversations anyway, so if you can incorporate FriendFeed comments on your site and give people a choice to use their FriendFeed account as well, its a win/win: a win for your site, and a win for your readers.”

Liz Strauss

Liz.jpg “I do a few things to keep the conversation going. I try to write my blog posts complete, but not too thorough so that readers can add something to what I’ve started. I also try to learn rather than teach — that’s a hard one. When I end a blog post with a question, I make sure that it’s one that can be answered and that I’d be able to answer it myself. In the comment box, I look at who’s talking and answer to that individual. I’ll often continue the dialogue by ending my comment with another question. Sometimes it makes sense to stay back and let readers talk with each other. They discover and uncover even more ideas if I’m not in there talking all of the time.

Mostly though, I make sure that everyone knows that their ideas are respected and protected. There’s one rule on my blog, “disagree all you want, but be nice.” Saying “thanks,” doesn’t hurt either. “

Timothy Ferriss

Tim.jpg“-Ask questions at the end of the post — ideally ask for not just facts but opinions. Few people feel qualified to offer facts but everyone has opinions.

-Do not try and be comprehensive on a topic. Offer your strongest position and don’t hedge or steal others’ thunder; let readers add their perspectives.

-Identify and thank commenters on occasion in main blog posts. Make them famous (even for one post) and make it clear that you’re reading the comments, especially to those who have never left one b/c they assume you don’t.”


Jason Falls

Jason.jpg “I foster conversation on my blog by taking a stand on issues. Sure, that can be polarizing, but that’s the point. Nothing gets people either yelling, “Amen,” or, “You S-O-B,” better than drawing a line and saying, you’re either with me or against me. Pick one.

But I would caution you to make sure you’re ready for it. Thick skin, a healthy dose of humility, a sense of humor and the ability to disagree without being disagreeable are required.”

Jeremy Schoemaker

Jeremy.jpg “I try to inspire conversation on my blog by asking a questions throughout the post.”


Chris Garrett

Chris.jpg “There are three types of conversation that I see on blogs.

1) Inter-blogger conversation – Bloggers talking to each other through their blogs

2) Blogger-Reader conversation – Bloggers and their readers discussing topics through posts and comments

3) Reader-Reader conversation – Readers creating conversations in the comment area

The last one is the least common and for those who want to build community, it’s the holy grail.

To foster the first, you have to get into a link bait state of mind. Which approach is going to get a reaction, how can you press topical or emotional hot-buttons? Many bloggers drift into snark territory with those. It could, though, be as simple as linking to other bloggers with an interesting and unusual question that you would like to see answered.

Most people know what to do with the second. Getting readers to comment is about leaving the opening, inviting a response, and creating the appropriate environment. In marketing terms this would be a “call to action”. At the end of your post ask for comments in a way that anyone can answer without fear of looking stupid.

For readers to comment to each other takes that commenting environment to a new level, and also requires that you get out of the way a bit. So while you answering comments encourages more comments, answering too often discourages readers answering each other. You have to balance the need to make commenters feel valued and welcome, with the need to open up the floor for other readers to jump in and respond to another comment.”

John Chow

John.jpg “The best way I’ve found to foster conversation on my blog is to ask for feedback from my readers. If you want something, you have to ask for it. I got a free Macbook Air at IZEA Fest because I asked for it. You’ll be amazed at what you can get if you simply ask.

Once you get the feedback, the next thing you need to do is to reply to it. Fostering conversation is a two way street. If your reader took the time out to make a comment on your blog, please reply to it.”

Lorelle VanFossen

Lorelle.jpg “While I believe conversation and interactivity is the key to the definition of a blog, I find the issue of blog conversations fascinating. Not all blogs need comments. Not all of my blog posts need comments either. The conversation can happen on the blog or in someone’s head and I’m still happy. But when I want to get the conversation rolling, it rolls because of the community created by the blog’s overall theme, content, purpose, history, and historical climate of trust.

While many will tell you the basics of opening up the blog conversation by writing open ended blog posts, asking questions of your readers, and leaving room for them to enter the conversation, I believe that people contribute their thoughts to my blog because they already feel like I’m their friend. They trust me. We’ve created a relationship. They feel like they know me, thus feel safe leaving a comment. We’re family.

Creating a safe space for comments doesn’t happen with your first blog post. It might not even happen with your 1000th. It begins with trust. Your blog showcases your history and expertise in the subject matter. Your blog post publishing history speaks for your passion for the subject, enthusiasm, and consistency – you’ve been there and you will continue to be there. When you show you care about the readers, and you are blogging for them and their needs, they tend to open up the conversation with you more than you open it up for them.

The synergy of like-minds keeps the conversation going. You don’t have to respond to every comment, but you must let your community think that you do. When you show you care, they care back, and together you create the content on your blog.”

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Darren, this is exactly what i’m after for my beginners blog. I think the most important part of being successful is staying motivated and bloggers who are starting out can feel like giving up at any point. It’s essential that people have others to aspire to.

    I’ll be bookmarking this and linking to it a some point in the next couple of weeks.

    If anyone out there knows of any other posts like this i’ll be interested in hearing about them.

  2. Jake says:

    I think number 3 is Key – You need to let your readers know that their comments are appreciated. The more comments you receive the more readers you will get. 1st time readers will be more likely to stick around on a blog that has active conversation.

  3. Rachel says:

    GALA! It’s refreshing to see young, female bloggers here!

    Fantastic information in this article, I’ll be putting this to good use.

  4. Sid Savara says:

    Wow Darren this is who’s who of my favorite blogs. I especially like John Chow’s point that you get what you want by asking for it.

    I too use Disqus on my blog for commenting, partly because I can reply via email. Since I always have my blackberry on me, this means I can often respond to a reader comment within minutes.

    Of course, I’m not as popular as Problogger – that kind of attention doesn’t scale ;)

  5. Adam Singer says:

    I can’t believe no one stated the obvious:

    Write something controversial. That will do it everytime. Seriously, none of these bloggers wrote that? Do they not want to give away the secret?

    Write controversy if you want conversation =)

    Take a playbook from the oldschool message forum days of the 90′s

    Adam

  6. Tink *~*~* says:

    @Gala: I trademarked the word “blogligation” on September 11th 2008
    . But I’m not gonna charge ya! :D

    OK, seriously – I guess I need to get over it, but it occurs to me that a blogger could go overboard and take a lot of these legitimate techniques for facilitating conversation to extremes that the readers will experience as manipulative. I so don’t want to go there! My “regulars” are a small bunch of maybe 40 people who, after a year of doing this, are just now starting to feel like friends. I would hate to do anything to offend them. Any advice for avoiding this pitfall?

    Tink *~*~*

  7. sir jorge says:

    The title is somewhat misleading. These are “prolific” paid bloggers.

    I write 10 blogs daily, and I’m prolific, I’m just not well paid. I’m not here sharing tips.

    And now, I await the flames of the internet for not posting a positive notion.

  8. Great advices and insightful answers…

  9. Anne says:

    These are some good tips, I’ve been generally following the common sense ones – asking for feedback, etc. but since my reader base is so tiny I hardly get any… it’s frustrating, but hopefully as my blog continues to grow that will change.

  10. SuiteJ says:

    This is a golden reference list! I love Gala’s “blogligation”. lol

    Tim Ferris got me thinking when he said to not be too comprehensive and steal others’ thunder. Hmmm…never thought of it that way. Maybe I should limit the amount of characters for only my comment replies. lol

    Cheers!
    Jay

  11. Mike Nichols says:

    I can never predict which posts will provoke the most comments. Some of the most innocuous ones provoke the most comment, and some of the most provocative produce no comment at all, though they are among my most highly read.

    I’ve read here and elsewhere about putting emotion into posts, not making them too complete or perfect, asking questions, and so on — and I use all these devices regularly.

    Still, I can’t tell in advance which posts get the comments. Go figure.

  12. writer dad says:

    My blog is ten weeks old, but I pull an average of forty comments per post. My advice: pour your soul into every post.

  13. Gary says:

    I like how most of the people listed are in the exact same niche, as if the world consists of blogging about blogging and MMO.

  14. Daniel Kemp says:

    This is a great post Darren. There is so much here that I have to bookmark it and come back to it. I will put a bunch of these recommendations into my blog.

  15. Darren Rowse says:

    Jake – yes you’re right, active conversation breeds active conversation.

    Rachel – Gala rocks doesn’t she. A refreshing voice.

    Adam – controversy certainly gets comments, but I wonder whether it always equates to ‘conversation’ or not? I did mention in my previous post that playing Devils advocate can work (if you do it carefully) but in my experience controversy tends to lead to fairly heated exchanges rather than productive conversation. Just my take.

    sir jorge – I guess I used the word ‘prolific’ because I see these people everywhere. They’re actively engaging in conversation not only on their blogs but at conferences, in social media etc. It is probably skewed towards ‘paid’ or bloggers making a living from blogging, but that’s what this blog is about :-)

    SuiteJ – yes, if your posts are too comprehensive it can actually not leave room for others to say anything that hasn’t been said before.

    Mike – it’s frustrating isnt it. Some posts just have ‘it’ and some don’t. Keep at it though – over time you’ll find your blog starts to get a culture of conversation going and it’ll happen on more and more posts.

  16. Darren Rowse says:

    Gary – actually half of those listed don’t blog about blogging or MMO.

    Leo – productivity and life hacks
    Gala Darling – fashion, relationships etc
    Duncan – tech, humor, pop news etc
    Liz – blogging
    Tim – author and blogging about life hacks and more
    Jason – social media
    Jeremy – affiliate marketing but also has a site on ‘fighting’
    John – blogging, tech, recipes, cars
    Chris – blogging, social media (also photography)
    Lorelle – blogging, but also has a site on photography/travel etc

    Sure there is a skew towards those that do (although most of those also blog about other topics too), but that’s the space I interact in.

    It also is a reflection of those who answered my email asking for comment. I sent this out to 10 others, most of whom were from other niches.

  17. Tinh says:

    Great post and I think personally the owners should welcome all comments and grateful for them. It is also a way to reward our readers. T

  18. Adam Singer says:

    @Darren actually I reread the original post and I think Chris G did touch on it:

    To foster the first, you have to get into a link bait state of mind. Which approach is going to get a reaction, how can you press topical or emotional hot-buttons? Many bloggers drift into snark territory with those. It could, though, be as simple as linking to other bloggers with an interesting and unusual question that you would like to see answered.

    I actually don’t see a problem with being snarky IF you can back it up…Mike @ TechDirt does this in a provocative, yet referenced and purposed way.

    You’re right though, you should do this carefully.

  19. Jason Falls says:

    Adam – I didn’t use the word “controversial” but that’s what I said, FYI.

    Darren – Thanks for including me in this. Very humbling and very cool.

    I love the input from the others as well. I can’t say that I would disagree with any of the points and this is a great compilation of pointers for folks just starting out or even for those of us who have been at it a while.

    Yet another reason ProBlogger is at the top of most people’s conversation points. Great stuff.

  20. Laura says:

    Great post! I also found that if I write a post based on comments, I get more conversations started. It helps me as I also have writer’s block. It’s win-win.

  21. Liz Strauss says:

    Thanks Darren for including me in this star-studded line up. Yeah, it’s great to this bunch all in a row.

    Someone left comment yesterday that asked for a serious response. I found myself today doing what John Chow suggests. I asked readers to help me respond to his question. Wow! The wisdom and advice was marvelous. Conversation is another thing that can come when we ask. :)

  22. David says:

    Great Post… one sentence jumped out at me a little more than the rest…

    Gala Darling’s “authentic desire” you can’t fake sincerity and passion. At least not all that well.

  23. Leo says:

    This post itself has started a great conversation! I loved reading the responses from other bloggers in the post and in these comments.

    For me, it’s been a matter of trying to remain humble, of knowing that I don’t have all the answers, and of discovering just how much wisdom there is in my readership.

  24. Shafar says:

    ‘Rich’ information from the experienced bloggers together at a place !!
    This is awesome post Darren.

  25. Thank you so much for thease valuable tips, my glog will explode from now :-)!

  26. Mario Chase says:

    Nice.. tips I’m going to be posting on my blog also.. I think is very valuable stuff here.. very simple, but very good

  27. Tim Brownson says:

    @ German Romance – Jeez, I hope your Glog is ok after its explosion.

    Here is a question that bugs the hell out of me.

    I have a bit of an issue with people that leave one-line that adds no value to the conversation and then take the liberty of dropping a link back to their blog too.

    Even worse than that imho are hit and run comments. People that throw something in and then never come back to see the response. I know this can happen because if we subscribed to all the coment follow ups we’d get overwhelmed with e-mails, so it’s easy to forget every now and then.

    However, I know some people that do this all the time and the crushing lack of genuiness (made up word) as Gala alluded to, does my head in.

    And another thing as I rant on to nobody in particular.

    Those people that comment for a short period and if you don’t go and reciprocate on their blog, they never come back (unless you’re ‘A’ list in which case they’re just waiting to be the first to comment). This just means they were never interested in the first place and were only looking for traffic.

    Personally, I read a lot of the people here and comment on about 1 in 20 posts that I read. If I can’t offer any value, then what’s the point other than to attract other bloggers?

    I’m not even sure what value I am offering here other than whining and I’ve even forgotten what my original question was (I’m losing the plot), so let me end by saying this:

    “Great post, it couldn’t have come at a better time for me and I’m going to print it off and nail it to the dog to remind me. Please visit my site for a slightly greater post about why my dog insists on sniffing my butt when we have guests” Here’s the link in case you haven’t got the energy to scroll up to my name”

  28. Tink *~*~* says:

    @Tim Brownson – a lot of the “hit and run” behavior that you describe I think is the result of having been tutored here, there and everywhere on “how to generate traffic to your blog”. I think the point of these tutorials is missed by many bloggers – the point being that you’re supposed to be establishing RELATIONSHIPS, not just driving by with the hope of a return visit. I don’t think there’s anything that can be done to stop the driving by stuff, and I admit that it’s not a huge issue for me (I don’t have huge numbers by any means), so I haven’t been bothered by it and thought about it as much as you have. Sorry, I’m not much help here.

    Tink *~*~*

  29. DnDCorner says:

    Excellent post. I find that when I can invoke my readers life experiences it helps. Much of my content is advice etc. and it gets pretty specific, but when I can reach to an experience they have had and can relate to rather than simply informing them, the comments come naturally.

  30. Tim Brownson says:

    Sorry Tink but I haven’t got time to reply to your post because I’ve moved on to more important stuff, but thanks anyway ;-)

  31. Lorelle says:

    Thanks, Darren, for including me. It’s interesting to see people’s responses to our comments on comments. Comments are confusing to many, and blood to many more. It’s great to see the feedback on the issue. I’m always curious about what motivates people to comment. I’ve been trying to predict which posts will get the most comments and which won’t, and it’s hard to predict the crowds sometimes. :D

    Great discussion all!

  32. I emailed some of these people and didn’t hear Jack
    People are only motivated when it benefits them.
    Bloggers need to get a gripe and treat each other
    fairly today’s nobody is going to be tomorrow’s
    superstar.I don’t blow anyone off in emails or comments.
    The premise of my whole blog is why do people sweat some
    people and treat others wrong.
    One of the many reasons I like you is that even at the TOP
    of the game your not an arrogant jerk like many well known
    bloggers unfortunately.
    You can check people’s stats the less they appreciate their
    readers yeah the regular JOE the more their stats suffer.So
    really they are doing me a favor in the long run.

  33. Wizardgold says:

    Here is a tip which I think some will find useful.

    Add a podcast to your blog!

    There that’s it have another way to talk to your audience. Some people prefer the listening to the reading.

    I have podcasts on all of my blogs and I know they are appreciated. On Wizardgold.com/wordpress I have produced 35 podcasts and had 35,000 downloads. Not absolutely massive compared to something like Coffee Break Spanish or Grammar girl but I think it is good for the niche that I have.

    I have just started a new Blog and podcast called Funniun and I will be talking to people in the street and in the course of my daily business and recording their funny stories. Everyone has a party piece and now a chance for the internet world to hear it.

    I will also be taking recordings via Skype, so if you have a funny un’ contact me on Skype and of course you can plug your website in the podcast and I will include a link in the enhanced version and in the show notes for you.

    Skype name = Wizgold

    I also have information on my sites about how to make a podcast. If you have any questions then please ask. Did a session on Podcasting for beginners at the recent Podcamp Barcelona.

  34. timmy says:

    I was curious about writer dad’s blog and the number of comments on such a young blog so I checked out his latest post. What a wonderfully refreshing post from the heart! I can see why he has such a community already!

    I also noticed he was using an interesting plugin called “CommentLuv” which lists a commenter’s latest post under their comment. I thought that was a neat way to encourage posts!

  35. CoolProducts says:

    I believe that if you are to blog, you must truly have a passion for your topics.. and with this passion, emotion is embedded in the very threads of the fabric of each post, of the blog itself. This will get reader’s minds intrigued by your post, which allows you to start conversation by asking a question in your blog to bring out the emotions of the readers. If you write simply with the goal of making money (something I’m seeing constantly in many blogs) you will not achieve success in the form of conversation. Have passion.

  36. Thanks for the great tips. I hadn’t actually heard of disqus before, so I checked them out and it’s very impressive!

    I like the look at feel of the comment system, so I added it to our blog (http://www.palaestratraining.com/blog)

    Thanks again, always great information here.

  37. Blograzy says:

    The ultimate reason for a great discussion is the quality of the content and the advantages it gives for the people. I dont think that its just asking for opinions. I have seen a lot of popular blogs that has atleast 10 comments even if the content is worthless for a fish.

    But i have to admit, every title i click on your blog, interests me. :) great work.