11 Commandments to generating comments and discussion

Mikey 6 comments
11 Commandments to generating comments and discussion

What is the secret to getting comments on your web site? I don't claim to have the answers but it's something I have been asked more than enough to warrant writing this article, so I hope some of you find it helpful.

There are some obviously overlooked practices on some sites, and thanks to a little poking from Janet Meiners over at Newspapergrl.com I am happy to share what I know and have learned from managing this site for the passed 3 years.

Let me start with a disclaimer. This is not a guide to guaranteed traffic, nor is it a guide to increased web site revenue, although the latter can be an expected side effect of increased traffic. These tips I have found to be effective and some of them are already well documented elsewhere. I will start with the obvious.

01) Provide comment opportunities by being 'open ended'.

If you were to blog on a topic with absolute authority and say everything that needs to be said, that won't leave much motivation (or reason) for anyone to contribute. Sometimes it's good to let your readers 'fill in the blanks' by being vague on certain parts. Give them the opportunity to show their expertise as well.

02) Ask a question

Sometimes your audience needs to be addressed directly to remind them that they can participate in the discussion, rather than just being a reader. Finish your posts with 'How would you deal with this?' or 'Can you suggest a better solution?' and alike.

03) Be controversial

It's cliché I know, but it still works. Topics considered taboo will almost always ruffle some feathers and spawn debates and or discussion. But your intention is not to offend people, so be as diplomatic or objective as possible.

04) Join in

Contribute to the flow of comments and respond to any deemed worthy. Some readers seek feedback from the author, and giving them what they want should keep the conversation flow.

05) Be respectful

The best way to lose readers is to be disrespectful. It's fine to disagree but insults and demeaning behaviour won't earn you any kudos. Respect your readers if you want them reading and commenting on your other articles.

06) Offer participation

If you are compiling research on a topic, let your readers help do some research for you. This is loosely associated with my first point about providing comment opportunities, and something you will see I have allowed for at the end of this article.

07) Allow self promotion

Allow commenter's to link to their personal or business web sites, assuming they are not obvious spam of course. Like other blogs we have an optional field specifically for the user's web site address.

08) Outsource questions

This one is very specific to interviews. We have on occasion interviewed some well known Internet celebrities (Ronald Jenkees being the most recent). Instead of making up our own questions, we posted an 'upcoming interview' article (once Ronald had agreed to an interview of course) and allowed our readers to post the questions they wanted to ask.

09) Make it easy

This one might be tricky, unless you are a competent web developer or have access to one. We do not force registration and we don't make people decipher a drunken alpha-numeric sequence before they can post a comment. Additionally, we do not moderate comments before they are allowed to 'go live'. The point is to make it as easy as possible for the user to post a comment and see it without delay. When they know it's a painless process, they will comment more often.

That said, this site is owned and maintained by web developers so we have the luxury of being able to implement our own anti-spam combat measures and completely disregard the dreaded CAPTCHA obstacle. Do this at your own risk.

10) Display popular discussion and most recent comments

Again, this one will probably come with the assistance of a competent web developer. A long time ago we wrote some code that generates a dynamic list of most popular articles, which is based on the number of comments. It also generates a list of most recent discussion topics. This had an immediate positive effect on the number of comments being posted, which increased roughly five-fold within a week and maintained that status since.

With this in place, people can see at a glance what hot topics they can jump into and what has been commented on most recently. I guess the real tip here (and with commandment 09) is that if you have the resources to try out new ideas, then go for it.

Well there you have it. If this helps even just one person I will be happy. What happened to the 11th commandment? To lead by example I am asking for your suggestions on what the 11th commandment could be. I will gladly add the best to this list and give credit.

Not a Member!


Wednesday 26th September 2007 | 05:52 AM

Write posts that are related to previous questions or comments, information that is relevant to your audience. This is an elusive one, but as you learn your readers, you will discover their interests and questions. They are coming to you as an authority or at least a unique perspective on a subject. Answer their questions and you'll build a loyal readership.

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Wednesday 26th September 2007 | 08:32 AM

Also don't get discouraged when there is a low number of comments. It's a commonly accepted statistic that only 1 in every 100 readers will actually bother to comment on any given article. So if you only have 10 comments at least you know 1000 people have read it.

Comments are good but maximising your audience starts with having good content. Cheers.

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Wednesday 26th September 2007 | 04:23 PM

#11: Thou shalt not delete comments for any reason

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Thursday 27th September 2007 | 01:27 AM

Thanks for sharing this list. It's very helpful. I'm leery of the "be controversial" one, though. I'm always worried about offending people.

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Thursday 27th September 2007 | 08:15 AM

Thank you Neece. Don't worry about offending anyone. Give it a go is what I mean - a go at being controversial not at offending someone

Step outside your comfort zone once I a while and see where it takes you. Best of luck.

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Sunday 7th October 2007 | 12:32 PM

You make it sound so easy. Fantastic blog theme by the way.

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