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.
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.
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.
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!