This column is written by Kimberly Turner from Regator (a great tool that gathers and organizes the world’s best blog posts). – Darren
You may have heard the stat that for every 100 people who read your post, only one, on average, will leave a comment. The fact is, most of us are lurkers by nature. I know I am; I read dozens of blogs every day but very rarely comment. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the content, just that I didn’t feel the need—or have the time—to join the conversation. So the next time you’re looking at the vast sea of white pixels below your latest post, don’t beat yourself up over it. Having eyes on your post and having comments aren’t necessarily the same thing, but the silence can be frustrating. After all, interacting with readers and creating a conversation are the aspects of blogging that many people enjoy most. That’s why, as we look at this week’s ten most-blogged-about stories (trends provided, as always, by Regator), we’ll also pick up some tips on how to encourage readers to interact with content:
1. Google Instant
Example: Business Insider’s “Microsoft Bing Exec Pees On “Google Instant,” Says Bing Results Still Way Better”
Lesson: As Darren pointed out in his excellent 2006 post on comments, one way to encourage comments is to write open-ended posts that leave room for readers to provide extra information and expertise. This example provides one side of the story, allowing readers to add detail or jump in with opinions and facts that support the other side of the argument. Being thorough but not too thorough tempts readers to fill in the gaps.
2. Labor Day
Example: ComicMix’s “Labor Day and the Cost Of Doing Business in Comics”
Lesson: Ask for comments. It sounds elementary but is probably the single best way to get more interaction. The question that ends this example post, “So how would you do it?” manages to create an in-depth discussion that is longer and more detailed than the original post.
3. Terry Jones
Example: Mediaite’s “How To Marginalize A Media Whore: Morning Joe Refuses To Interview Pastor”
Lesson: Be controversial. Taking a stance on a hot-button issue such as this one is almost certain to create discussion and debate. This example got 113 passionate comments in just eleven hours.
4. US Open
Example: Bleacher Report’s “2010 US Open: Can Robin Soderling Break The Cycle?”
Lesson: Cultivate a relationship with your readers. Author Rob York takes an active role in the conversation in the comments of this example, and it’s clear he has developed relationships with some of his regulars. Your blog almost certainly has commenters who are more active than others. Getting to know them keeps them coming back and their contributions may, in turn, create discussions that prompt others to join in.
5. Tony Blair
Example: Spectator’s “Why Tony Blair remains a class act”
Lesson: Be opinionated. This is a great example of a blogger spurring conversation and debate by sharing a strong opinion. Those who disagree will feel the need to explain why you’re wrong. Those who agree will jump in to support your arguments.
6. Ground Zero
Example: Gothamist’s “Donald Trump Offers To Buy “Ground Zero” Mosque Site”
Lesson: Have an official policy on comments. Some of the comments on this example are harsh, but Gothamist has laid out some very clear rules regarding comments, namely that “…once you post a comment on one of our sites, it becomes part of the public conversation. Our policy is that we will not remove a user’s comments unless they are in violation of our Terms of Service…We cannot simply remove your comments because you have a change of heart about making them.” You may want a more gentile atmosphere and can alter your policy accordingly, but it can only help to have some sort of policy in place.
7. Mark Hurd
Example: The Wall Street Journal Law Blog’s “Can H-P Win Its Suit Against Hurd?”
Lesson: Make it easy to comment. There are far too many log-ins and passwords in our lives, and nothing will reduce the number of comments you receive more than a complicated system that requires users to create yet another account in order to join the discussion. This WSJ blog is a great example of a system that is fast and easy to use.
8. Fashion’s Night Out
Example: Jezebel’s “Fashion’s Night Out Sparks Global Fashion Orgasm”
Lesson: Reduce spam. No one wants to wade through dozens of “look at my blog!” and “buy my product!” comments to be part of a discussion. Jezebel’s unusual commenting rules actually contradict the advice I just gave about making comments easy. In their case, commenters must “audition” by showing that they’re capable of enhancing the conversation “because our editors want to spend more time providing new content and less time moderating comment threads.” It’s a bold move, but one that seems to have worked for a blog that, at one point, had a fairly significant spam issue. Deal with spam however you see fit, but do deal with it.
9. San Bruno
Example: Karoli’s Blog’s “Infrastructure, you say? Ask the city of San Bruno why we need it”
Lesson: Interact in the comments. This gets harder as your blog becomes more popular, but it’s worth some effort because the more you take part in the conversation, the more likely your readers are to feel a connection to your blog, visit regularly, and help spread the word about your brand.
Example: John Quiggin’s “A slow motion disaster (update)”
Lesson: Tell readers what to do. If you want readers to take an action, give clear instructions, as John Quiggin did here. This post ends with “Please give to your favorite charity and record it in the comments box,” and readers did just that.
If none of these tips work, this bunny has a foolproof tactic.
What do you do to increase interaction on your blog? Please share your experiences in the comments.