How to Create a Killer Blog Community

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It’s one thing to have great content. It’s another thing to have a great blog community. Killer blog communities have one thing in common: lots of discussion amongst the readers. And discussion happens, of course, within the comments. In this post, we’re going to look at the ways you can encourage more discussion within your blog community.

Encourage Discussion

First off, if you want to have discussions, you need to encourage discussions. This can simply be done by adding a question at the end of the post that invites readers to spark a conversation. For example, if you have a post with 10 tips, ask readers to add their own tip. If you have a list of 25 great bloggers, ask readers to add their favorite blogger to the list. If you share your thoughts on a controversial topic, ask readers to share their thoughts as well.

The key is to be specific. Don’t just ask the question – tell people to reply, discuss, join the conversation, etc. in the comments below.

Make It Easy to Comment

While you might want to make comment moderation easier on yourself by limiting the ability for spammers to gain entry to posting comments, make sure that your barriers don’t block legitimate comment authors. In particular, note the following.

  • People are not likely to register for your blog to leave a comment.
  • If the captcha is difficult, this will just frustrate your readers and potential comment authors. For WordPress users, instead of using a “guess the random characters” or mathematical problem catpcha, try GASP instead. It just requires people to check a box.
  • While people in online marketing are likely to have accounts with Livefyre and Disqus, people outside of this industry may not. When deciding on a comment system, look to the top blogs in your vertical to see what readers are already using actively if you want to upgrade the basic system on your blogging platform.

In short, the easier you make it for people to comment, the more people are likely to comment.

Reply to Comments

No one likes a one-way discussion. At minimum, reply to comments for the first week or two while the post is hot and getting the majority of its traffic. And when it comes to your replies, don’t just stop the conversation. Find ways to continue it.

It’s just like when you want to start a conversation with someone you meet. If they ask how you are, you don’t just say fine. You ask how they are too, then continue asking questions for as long as you would like the conversation to last. The same should go with replies to your blog comments.

Get Guest Contributors to Participate

Do you have guest bloggers, freelance writers, or other contributors who write for your blog? Make sure that they know the community policy for publishing on your blog includes the requirement that they reply to comments for at least a week or two after the post is published.

On a side note, this is a great way to deter link builders disguised as guest bloggers. Instead of letting someone use your blog as an article directory, tell everyone who wants to contribute that they have to respond to comments, otherwise they will have their link removed from their author bio. This will either send the link building on their way as they don’t have time to do this or get you great content and community interaction.

Use a Reply Notification System

Last, but not least, remember that people don’t have time to check back to your blog to see if you’ve replied to their comment. So make sure that your blog’s comment system has a way to notify people when their comments have been replied to.

If you use comment systems like Livefyre and Disqus, people will automatically get notified of replies to their comment. For people using the basic WordPress comment system (on self-hosted domains), you can use the Reply Me plugin. This will send an email to anyone who gets a reply to their comment. This plugin also comes as part of the Commentluv Premium plugin package, along with the previously mentioned GASP plugin.

As an added bonus, you can customize the email template that is sent to comment authors when they receive replies. This is a great way to get people back to your blog to continue the discussion and point them in the direction of your mailing list opt-in, products, or services.

Now it’s your turn. How do you encourage more discussion on your blog, and what comment systems or plugins have you found the most helpful? Let’s discuss in the comments!

Kristi Hines
This monthly Blogging column is contributed by Kristi Hines. Kristi is a freelance writer, ghostwriter, professional blogger, and social media enthusiast. Her work has been featured on top marketing blogs including Social Media Examiner, Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Journal, KISSmetrics, CrazyEgg, Unbounce, and Wordtracker. She enjoys producing content that helps businesses with their online marketing strategy. Whenever she's away from the keyboard, her hobbies include photography, camping, and tennis. +Kristi Hines
Kristi Hines

@kikolani

Freelance writer and blogger. Interests include business, marketing, psychology, photography, and tennis. Questions? Tweet me or visit http://t.co/LfeKoLfPdf
The Simple Blog Tweak That Gets You More Social Shares Right Now http://t.co/JpzcF0Ptcn via @JonMorrow by @azspagirls - 4 hours ago
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Comments

  1. says

    Kristi, spot on. The only real addition I have: comment on other blogs, particularly other blogs starting up in your space (the blogger will appreciate it and often reciprocate) and blogs with a strong community, where readers are more likely to be inclined to comment in general.

    I’ll add one more for Neal’s sake: make the comment box easy to find! I had to turn on my ad blocker to make this one usable at all (on PC Chrome). Neal, time for a design tweak…

  2. says

    That is a nice article and helpful. I wanted to see your linkedin profile and when I clicked it under the author box linkedin icon, it went to a 404 not found error. Thanks

    • says

      Thanks for the comment Huzalfa. I’ll let Kristi comment on the other issues, but, yes, LinkedIn profiles are not displaying properly. They used to but LinkedIn changed something in their coding – and I am still researching what we need to do. I have found other websites with the same problem – have you seen any that still work? If so, please comment with a URL or two that will help me debug. Thank you! – Neal Schaffer

      • says

        Hi Neal, thanks for your reply. I am not sure what has happened recently but normally in my blog I use the public profile URL. So if you go into your linkedin own provide, right under your photo, you will see the public URL of your profile. for example my public URL is http://my.linkedin.com/in/hozyali

        I think if you and your authors simple change the links in their profile on this website, that should do it :).

        Hope it helps.

        Thanks

  3. Chris says

    The ReplyMe plug in hasn’t been updated since 2009. Got any other options? Or are you still using it and haven’t had any problems with WP upgrades?

    And there is something wrong with your comments – in Firefox, they end up in a narrow box to the left of an ad unit…

    • says

      Chris – thanks for the comment. I’ll let Kristi reply about the ReplyMe plugin, but we are aware of the comment technical issue and hope to have it fixed in the next 24 to 48 hours. Appreciate the feedback! – Neal Schaffer

    • says

      Hi Chris! I didn’t have any trouble with the free version of the plugin. About a month ago, I did switch to the one that is bundled with CommentLuv. That one is the new one that is being updated, but it’s no longer free.

  4. says

    Hi Kristi,
    I appreciate your points in this article. And I noticed in the comments that Eric W. mentioned being able to find the comment box. On my old blog, the theme placed the comments in a sidebar to the right of the post instead of underneath the post (the way everyone else’s theme does it). It was an issue. I did have some commenting, but not at all like the commenting community I’ve seen on other blogs. I’m looking forward to creating a dynamic commenting community on my new blog. Wish me luck!

  5. says

    Hey Kristi,

    Great write! I feel that it is a must to reply to comment. I mean, at least say thanks for leaving a comment etc right? Engagement is important and I can’t agree more with using CommentLuv and ReplyMe. Both are great plugins indeed. Also, a great way to get them sign up to newsletter or getting them back to continue the discussion.

    Excellent write up as usual and thanks for sharing this!
    ~Reginald

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