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