One of the first experiences you’ll have when you start your blog is publishing a post and then wondering if anyone is reading it.
Especially at the beginning, author blogging can feel a little bit like “pouring from the empty into the void.” We all know that some of the best blogs are about the conversation going on between the blogger and the readers, but it can take a long time before you start getting those comments on your blog articles.
Commenting is central to the kind of blogging I like the most, and the one that seems to work best for most bloggers. There are lots of reasons commenting is a tool you should learn to cultivate and respect. And whatever you do, try to make it easy for your readers to comment. It will do many things for you:
- Comments allow you to engage one-on-one with readers. When we write for publication, we’re writing for some group of people, and we may or may not know very much about who is reading. But when a reader steps forward and writes a comment, they are opening a dialogue with you, one that can have profound implications.
- Readers will make your blog posts better with their comments. If you’ve missed something in an article, or made a factual error, astute readers may well point it out. And since none of us can know everything about a subject, comments can make a conversation more complete and well-rounded than it would have been with only one voice.
- The voices of many people can be heard in the comments. These other voices help to expand the range of your blog and its appeal to more kinds of people.
- Comments show that a community is building around your blog. Many of us follow dozens of blogs, but we can only give enough attention to become part of the community at a handful of sites.
- Commenting gives readers an opportunity to get to know you better. In fact, this is one of the most common pieces of advice given to bloggers who want to write guest posts for other blogs, and it certainly works. For instance, the wonderful article on Friday by Joan Reeves came about because of her comments on another article.
A Word About Blogs Without Comments
Although it seems like most bloggers are eager for comments, sometimes you come across a blog where the comments have been turned off. I don’t read many of these blogs, and it’s interesting how different the environment is on a blog without comments.
It feels more like a website where articles are posted regularly, and that’s about the only relation to a blog. Some bloggers have good reasons for blogging this way, and it does take time and attention to have a conversation with readers that just goes on and on.
So it can be done, and done very well by the right person, but I’m not talking about those kinds of blogs in this article.
What is “Social Proof”?
One of the reasons you want comments from your readers is because it contributes a great deal to “social proof.” What does that mean?
Social proof is a psychological trigger that affects our behavior. It’s the tendency, when you are undecided about something, to be influenced in your choice by the apparent choices of a group of other people.
What does that mean? What I mean is that suppose you happen onto the blog at Copyblogger.com, one of the internet’s premier resources on the subjects of copywriting and content marketing. You like the article you’re reading, then you notice the subscription box:
When you see that over 155,000 other people have subscribed to the Copyblogger blog, you are assured it would not be a big mistake to take a chance and put your email address into the subscription box. The number of subscribers is a kind of proof of quality, a social proof that can influence our behavior.
The same is true for blog comments. If you see a blog article with 10, 30, 50 comments, you might automatically think that it has some value, that it’s not just an empty post parroting something some other blogger said. Otherwise, why would it have so many comments?
So having comments, and displaying the number of comments on your blog posts, naturally prompts more comments. And remember, the vast majority of your readers will never comment on the blog, so each person who does represents a whole swath of readers who likely have similar opinions.
How Can You Stimulate Interaction?
As a blogger trying to build community and relationships, your readers are vitally important. Encouraging comments makes your blog a better read and more attractive for interaction.
So how do you get those comments?
- Ask—I know it seems obvious, but it’s not that easy when you start out. If you’re writing a post that centers on your opinion, ask for reader’s opinions. If it’s a how-to article, ask if they understood it. If it’s a survey, ask if readers know other resources.
- Unfinished posts—I learned this from Chris Brogan and it works. Instead of writing all the way to the logical end of an article, stop and ask readers how they would finish it.
- Controversy—One of the easiest ways to spark a discussion is to take a controversial stand, to oppose the current trends in your field, or pick a fight with a leading figure.
- Revelation—Discussing your problems and your passions, revealing yourself to your audience in an emotional, contactful way will bring in comments from a variety of readers.
- Co-creation—You may want to try creating a resource with the help of your readers. This can be a powerful community-building experience, especially if you can get enough people to participate, and the comments are a great way to do that.
The Golden Rule of Comments
Okay, now you’ve got the story on blog comments. Comment on other people’s blogs so you can get inside the feeling and know what your readers are experiencing.
Use comments to ask your readers what their concerns are, what information they would like, or what they think of your new book cover. These conversations turn into relationships and the bond between you and your readers will grow strong.
The Golden Rule of blog comments, of course, is to never ignore them. What’s the point of asking people to comment if you never answer them?
You don’t have to answer every comment, but it makes a huge difference if readers sense that you are as much a part of the discussion as they are, and a well-placed response will be much appreciated.
So does that answer your questions about blog comments?