Welcome to the first installment of a brand new series here on Performancing called Blogging Tactics. This series will tackle a number of different subjects related to blogging and will offer up tips, suggestions and tactics to accomplish a specific goal. Today’s goal, building reader participation.
When I started blogging, it took quite awhile before people would stop by to simply leave a comment. This seems to happen with every blogger. At the beginning, it’s like yelling down an echo chamber. Getting people to comment can be a frustrating task as you can’t control whether someone spends the time to do so or not. Outside of commenting, there are other ways in which you could encourage participation which we’ll cover later in this article.
Blogs are a two way communication medium. It is the one aspect of a blog where new interactions can take place, where new relationships are born. There are numerous ways in which to create that commenting atmosphere:
Be Controversial – Writing content that is controversial opens the door for more possibilities, as the controversial subject usually doesn’t have a black or white answer.
Be Outlandish – Writing something outlandish can generate either positive or negative comments, depending upon how outlandish the content is.
Ask Questions – This tactic has been proven to work time and time again. Asking questions gives the reader a chance to really digest your content and encourage thoughtful participation. Although, this doesn’t work all of the time. There are many bloggers who ask questions all the time which go unanswered. It’s been known that if you are passionate about what it is you are writing about, you’ll naturally ask questions that matter.
Be Wrong – I really don’t like this method of generating comments as it could have a negative impact on your credibility. If you write content that is blatantly wrong, people will stop at nothing to let you know about what it is that is wrong while also giving you a beating. Only use this as a last resort if you are really that desperate for comments.
Be Open Ended – Content which is written in an open ended format tends to do very well with generating comments as it leaves room for the reader to expand upon the initial set of thoughts. Writing content which ends up being a complete thought is an excellent way to keep people from leaving comments. SO DON’T DO IT.
The Comment Form:
The design of your comment form on your blog can also play a role in whether someone comments or not. For example, most blog themes highlight the number of comments which have been left on a particular article. If there are 0 comments, does your comment form ask readers to chime in? A few examples I’ve seen include blogs which state “Jump In And Leave A Comment”, “The Waters Warm, Come Join Us”, “No One Has Commented Yet, Be The First”. Although some of these leave a lot to be desired, giving readers a warm invitation to be part of the conversation is the method that works best.
How easy is it for readers to comment? Do you have 30 different CAPTCHA methods that humans must jump through just to have there thoughts published on your blog? Thankfully, Akismet and other anti spam measures have really stepped up their game and have allowed bloggers to have an open comment system without much in the way of CAPTCHA systems. Having one CAPTCHA system in place could be on too many. If implementing a CAPTCHA system, make sure it’s something that is not insanely difficult for humans to decipher. Don’t add more than one different system. These are just added hoops for your readers to jump through and believe me, unless they are seriously devoted to you, readers will move on to the next blog.
Continue The Conversation
If your content generates comments, the worst thing you could do is not respond. This in turn would end the conversation. Answer questions presented by the commenter’s, further the discussion by conversing with those who took the time to stop by and contribute to your thoughts and expressions. Too many times I see blogs in which the author writes incredibly juicy content only to have the stream of comments stop because the conversation grinds to a halt from the failure of the blog author responding to the comments.
Forums are another way of increasing participation. Users can register their own account, start up their own conversations and participate in the discussions already taking place. Unlike a blog, the audience isn’t confined to the thoughts and expressions of one author.
Blogs are usually niche content related websites while Forums open up the conversation to discuss a number of different subjects. Using a blog in conjunction with a forum has some differences. The first being that a blog is used as a broadcast medium. Once you publish a post, that post is out their for the world to see and is open for discussion. With forums, the posts are on a one on one basis. Because forums are groups of registered members generally with the same interests closed from outside participation, they become one on one conversations.
Bloggers can use forums to expand upon their subject matter. Or, you can use blogs to expand interaction with your content while at the same time, giving the users a chance to create content of their own. Forums are one of the best ways to give a sense of community to a blog, but be warned. Just because a blog is successful and rakes in a number of comments does not mean the same result will take place with your forum.
Join A Social Network
There are so many different social networks now available on the web, there is bound to be one or two that are dedicated to your niche. These social networks are communities of people with the same interests. Joining a social network pertaining to the subjects you write about on your blog is an excellent way to expand your audience.
Join A Social Bookmarking Service
Social bookmarking services are those services centered around bookmarks being shared by users across the net. These bookmarks are sites in which a user as deemed useful, or quality content to come back to later. Social bookmarking services such as Ma.gnolia, BlinkList, del.icio.us and Technorati are all good ones to start out with. Use these services to your advantage to spread your content to a wider audience. Also, make it easier on your own blog for users of these same services to share your content.
Join A Related Forum
This still works. Joining a forum related to the topics you cover on your blog can help you create new one on one relationships with people of the same interest. Many forums also allow you to link to your own content as long as it relates to the forum thread being discussed. Also keep in mind that you can use the SIGNATURE line in forums to promote your site. This will come in handy when you write good quality forum posts and become a prominent member of their community.
Commenting On Other Blogs
I can attest to this technique working. Find other blogs related to your niche and comment on them. I’m not talking about the “great article, visit my site” type of comments. I’m talking about the comments which could just as well be a blog post. Writing informative comments on blog posts can do wonders for your own blog. Ever have someone write an excellent comment on your own blog? I bet you visited the URL they linked to within their comment. I’ve used this method to spread the word about my blog while also discovering new blogs/websites which were worthy of subscribing to.
Create A Live Podcast
Using services such as Talkshoe or BlogTalkRadio.com, you can create a live interactive podcast. I’ve been doing this for quite awhile now with WordPress Weekly and it’s been a big success for me. It’s generated inbound links, conversation in comments but also conversation in audio form. I’ve had people call in and discuss the news of the week with me, talk about their experiences ect. Podcasts offer an incredible opportunity for readers of your site to communicate with you in a different medium. It’s almost like audio comments.
Although this would work out great to live blog events as they are happening, you don’t need an event to happen in order to live blog. James did a great job showcasing another aspect of Live Blogging the other day when he showcased the Cover It Live service. Instead of covering an event, schedule a live blogging time and start blogging live for an hour or so. Give your readers a chance to interact with you in real time. Have a discussion with them. It’s your chance to tap into your audience without any lag time. Shoot the bull and answer their questions.
This post could go on and on for days, perhaps years in terms of how to get more participation out of your readers. By now, you should have a good idea (or two or three) on how to increase reader participation for your own blog. Treat comments like gold. The majority of bloggers are lucky to see 10 comments in a week, let alone 100 in a day. Keep the creative juices flowing by sharing your thoughts and ideas on how to increase reader participation.
Let me know what you would like to see covered within the Blogging Tactics series. Next up, Blogging Tactics: Start your posts off with a question