Five Tips, Two Questions: Getting Blog Comments

102_0213_r1My current social media goal is to get an average of 10 comments a day on my blog by April 1. It may not be achievable, but it is a clear and concise goal, the kind I often have trouble making due to raging flights of fancy.

Why comments? Because they build community and add value to each blog post.

What do you think of the comments here? Are they doing what I’m talking about? Are you a regular, or would you like to comment for the first time on this post? What blog post would you like my comment on?

I write this blog because I have a lot of ideas. Some of them aren’t very good, others are great (at least to me!) Instead of just sitting down with people who want to learn how these ideas can build their business or develop more effective governance, I try to put the most developed thoughts here for everyone to learn from and discuss. When you comment, you’re helping me and my readers see others sides of any issue, validating something as important, or just being social (which is what this Web 2.0 world is about).

And comments are far more important to me than traffic. I evaluate them for each post.

If I don’t get any comments, it was because my post was so clear and important it needed nothing else. I kid! If there are no comments, usually it’s because I missed the mark, talked about something unimportant outside of my own head, or said something that’s already been said better.

In the last couple months, I’ve been pretty effective in pulling people into the discussion. And I’ll admit right now, I learned everything I know about blogging from Chris Brogan. If you want to be a better blogger, sign up for his blog and newsletter right now.

Hopefully, you listened and now you’re back! Because even though I’m on a totally different order of scale, I’ve been successful enough that I get questions about how I build my blog community. Let me tell you the tips and tricks (learned from Chris) that are working for me.

1) Write like you mean it. Inner monologues don’t get a lot of comments. Social questions do (just look at a newspaper Web site).

2) Ask questions. Many of my readers are smarter than me. If I can get them commenting, other people will want to read the original thoughts they are discussing on my blog.

3) Be provocative. Every debate has two sides. While you might a acknowledge the other side, you don’t want to be so balanced that people just shrug. If it’s important enough for me to think about it, write a note about it, discuss with people off and online, then blog about it, it’s important enough to debate.

4) Go where the people are. I post links to new posts at Twitter, GovLoop, Facebook, and, sometimes, LinkedIn. I work to stir up debate on Twitter, which even if I don’t get a comment, can lead to a great follow-up post. I comment liberally on other’s blogs, especially those who’ve already accepted me into their community. I cultivate relationships on my social sites, and hopefully they’ll like the blog enough to join the commenting community here. I also post links to the comments, and notify people when I’m responding to their contributions on my site.

5) One last point. If your not already, I think you should blog. Your blog is the best and most accessible place on the Internet for you to build community. Twitter and Facebook are fun, but they belong to other people. Your blog is yours.

A couple questions for you that have me stumped: what’s the best time to push a new blog post to generate comments and discussion? Because I work during the day, I tend to publish very late at night (I know, there are tools to time it, but I’m blogging for me, too, and I like to see it!). Sometimes I get a lot of comments in the next 24 hours, sometimes not, and I’m still considering whether there are top time slots for new blog content. Or maybe I don’t want that time slot, because I’d be competing with the bigger dogs for your attention span?

Second question: How come comments totally die out after about 24 hours? Is this unique to me, or is the media cycle just to fast (or does everyone see it the first time?)

What do you think?

6 thoughts on “Five Tips, Two Questions: Getting Blog Comments

  1. Hey there Adriel,

    Blog comments are definitely the wheels that make the bus go round. We can be great drivers and know where we want to take the bus, but it’s definitely the comments that take it in new directions.

    With regards blog posts, it’s a bit of luck and a bit of analytics. Because blog audiences are truly international, timezones tend to cut out on the *best* time to push a post, publish a post, etc. Weekends can be great, as can weekdays; early morning can be great, as can middle of the day or evening. (See where I’m going?)

    Some of my best posts (in my mind, anyhoo) have seen little traffic, while some of the “generic” ones have hit home runs. It’s a lot of luck at times. Of course, using analytics to see where you’re traffic is coming from will allow you a better idea of timezones to use.

    Comment lifespans are (again) one of these mysteries. Sometimes a post can stay alive for weeks on end – sometimes they can end on the same day as the post.

    I’ve found the comments that last the longest on my posts are the ones where I’ve left a really open-ended question that can have numerous answers. Allowing your readers to open up their own debates within your comments is as good as having a brand new post.

    Consider me added to your 10 commentators target 🙂

  2. Hi Adriel. I made this post a Twitter favourite as it has lots of thoughts in it that I want to mull over. About the best time to post a blog…well I’m most likely to follow a blog link and actually really read the post if I get it on a Wednesday (middle of the week, generally on top of things before the panic of Thursday and Friday) – but I think you were looking for a more generic piece of information than that right?

  3. Adriel,
    I too have wondered about the “best time of day” aspect of releasing a blog or even sometimes a Tweet. As for generating comments, I agree asking questions of your readers helps.

    Posting a provocative topic also increases particpation. The passion someone feels about that topic drives them to add to the conversation.

    I think your target audience can also make a difference. If your posts reach out to a certain demographic, you will only get comments if that group spends time online reading blogs. I notice this with my own blog – my industry is not yet online in force, and I believe this is reflected in the number of comments I receive.

    Building relationships online can increase comments too. If someone has spent time “talking” to you online, they feel more comfortable adding to your posts.

    Something I wonder about though is will you increase comments and further the dialogue if you respond to your comments. I noticed this on a few other blogs I commented on. The blogger got right in there with us commenting, and this seemed to extend the conversation.

  4. The big problem with blog comments is that they are separate from the entries. If you don’t hit the link to look at them, and I rarely do, they aren’t “there”. In message boards, you have the first post and all the replies on the same page.

    As to why comments die out after 24 hours, 2 guesses:
    1. Blogs don’t bump. Once the entry gets off the first page, or far enough down, new people won’t see it. A facebook style notification that someone else has commented might help to keep the discussion alive.

    I know that what I do with message boards is save the date/time of the last post I read & when I come back to the board I start out with the first post posted after that time. Since message boards bump, I can just go from there to the next one, until I get to the topic with the latest post.

    2. Regulars probably check the blogs they read every day or more often. This means that your regulars have read and commented within 24 hours and, without a clear indicator that more comments have been added, they’re not going to bother to check the comments again.

  5. Thanks, all, for the helpful thoughts. Anthony, I wonder if there is a tool for making posts bump depending on activity? I’m having a bunch of trouble getting WordPress to do extra stuff, so I’m going to have to find some help. I’ve also been told my comment notification system is buggy.

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