This guest post is by Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing.
Remember the first time you realized that you’ve actually got traffic?
Suddenly, you aren’t blogging to an empty void—real people are consuming and engaging with your content!
Or are they? That’s when you begin to wonder … why isn’t anybody leaving a comment?
This can be a frustrating challenge for bloggers, and some blogs never get past it. There are blogs with readerships in the hundreds of thousands with barely a handful of comments per post.
Odds are you don’t want that to be you. You want people to read and interact!
Why don’t people comment?
This may come as a bit of a shock if you’ve been navigating the blogosphere for any length of time, but commenting on a blog is not a natural or intuitive behavior.
Blogs are new, publishing is old.
Outside of an extremely small circle of blogosphere denizens, most people are new to blogs, and accustomed to traditional media; television, newspapers, magazines, and books. These are all uni-directional media; the publisher publishes, and the audience has the choice of consuming the content (watching or reading), or not.
Just a few years back, those were the only two options. Engaging in dialogue was difficult (writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper), or impossible. When most people visit a blog, their perceived options are to read, and if they love it, to bookmark or subscribe. They might even share.
But for commenting to happen, they must understand it as an option.
The easiest way for readers to know they can comment is to see the comments of other readers. Except for two things:
- If your blog is new, there aren’t any other readers.
- Even if there are, many readers will see blog commenting as one of those things “other people” do.
The solution is a change in focus: it’s not about getting people to comment on an ongoing basis.
Instead, focus on getting people to leave their first comment on your blog. Just one—because after leaving one comment, it’s far more likely they’ll leave more.
That first comment is the tipping point.
So … how do you get it?
How to get that first comment
Here are some ways you can people to make that very first comment:
- Be interesting. This should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: if your content isn’t interesting, and people don’t make it to the bottom of your posts, they will never leave a comment.
- Tell people why they should. Make it clear why people should leave comments. Some blogs offer “do-follow” links (meaning the links going back to their blogs keep the “Google juice”), some use plug-ins like CommentLuv and KeywordLuv. On the bottom of my blog’s sidebar (around the bottom of posts), it clearly states why you should leave a comment:
- “We read all of our comments.”
- “We reply, and answer every question.”
- “We often click through to see commenter’s sites.”
- “We might invite you to guest post!”
- Tell your reader to comment. That’s right—the oldest rule of copywriting is to ask for the action you want. So be explicit, and ask!
- Ask a question. Sometimes your readers will want to join the conversation, but won’t know what to say. Help them out by asking a specific question at the end of your post, one they can answer; “How does this apply to you? When have you seen examples of this in your own life? Do you agree or disagree, and why? What advice would you give to someone with this problem?”
- Make it easy. My most commented-on post is the first guest post he wrote for Copyblogger, about 38 Critical Books Every Blogger Needs to Read. At the end of the post, I asked people to list any books they love, and would add to the list. This worked so well because everybody has a favorite book, and writing it down takes zero effort (as opposed to answering a question that takes more time and thought). In other words, I made it easy.
- Be awesome. My most popular post on Firepole Marketing received over 200 comments, and Firepole Marketing isn’t anywhere near the size of Copyblogger. But that post was awesome (and in fact, that post became the framework for a book that I’m co-authoring with Sean Platt!). It was continually linked to, new people kept reading it, and people felt the need to mention how helpful the post was to them.
- Be controversial. My second-most popular post on Firepole Marketing was a controversial take on the topic of social transactions, called Is the Bank of Social Capital… Broken? It was a post that demanded people to take a stand and have an opinion.
The first comment is the key
The key to making it all work is that very first comment.
Once people comment for the very first time, they realize that “this is something I can do”—and the next time is that much easier.
Create another opportunity, another reason, another excuse—and suddenly they’re up to two, three, four, or even more comments.
Before you know it, a habit is formed. And with it, an engaged, dynamic, actively commenting community.
Danny Iny (@DannyIny), a.k.a. the “Freddy Krueger of Blogging”, teaches marketing that works at Firepole Marketing. Together with Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark and Mitch Joel, he wrote the book on building engaged audiences from scratch (available on Amazon, or as a free download).