Ten tips for encouraging blog comments

A couple of days ago, someone forwarded me a request from a journalist writing a piece for a national UK paper about social networking.

The journalist’s questions were a little unclear:

I need ‘ten top tips’ for social networking, what to do (as opposed to what not to do). i.e., things to encourage comments and feedback on your postings – sentence length etc…

Mainly because of the ‘ie,’ I read that request as more to do with blogs – social media applications rather than social network services. Might have been different had it been an ‘eg.

Still, many social networks include a blogging capability – places where you and others can write content.

As the original request was to a mailing list, no doubt the journalist was swamped with all sorts of suggestions, many perhaps helpful.

In any event, I added my £0.01 worth by email with the following ten tips for encouraging blog comments:

  1. Write your post with your points well constructed and clearly presented so that the reader understands what you’re saying. May seem obvious but I see so many blog posts where none of that is clear at all.
  2. If getting comments is one of the goals you have for your blog (which is not every blogger’s goal), write your posts in a way that encourages readers to want to leave comments. The simple approach is often enough – ask a question.
  3. Make it easy for readers to actually make a comment. Ensure you have a blog design that is pleasing to the eye and each post has a clearly-identifiable area for writing comments and any instructions you have are easy to understand and follow. A good idea is to have a terms of use statement for your blog that includes a clear commenting policy, if you have one. My terms of use do.
  4. Provide some basic formatting functionality to make it easy for a commenter to best express him or herself such as buttons you can click to add attributes to your comment, eg, bold, italic, etc.
  5. Let commenters leave links to content elsewhere on the web. Although it’s often an issue with spammers who typically spray your blog with crap containing loads of links, you should be able to allow some linking especially if you have safeguards in place, eg, Akismet.
  6. Related to numbers 4 and 5, strike a balance between ease of use for your readers and security of your site. Recognize that many people are put off by too many hurdles. The big one is having to log in or register on a site before you can comment. Another is a complicated captcha, either the captcha itself or the procedure you have to follow. Yet another is comment moderation where typically comments by first-time commenters go into a moderation queue (that happens on this blog) for approval by you. Be timely with this – approve comments so they appear on your blog quickly, certainly within 24 hours.
  7. If you see people beginning to comment on a post you’ve written, join in the embryonic conversation as well. Add your own comments, not only to provide your additional viewpoint but also to show you want to actively engage with your readers. It’s the equivalent of a conversation. And it’s one way community starts building.
  8. Recognize that commenting on a post in your blog can happen elsewhere, eg, on other people’s blogs. If you want to be able to connect all that commentary together, make sure your blogs accepts incoming trackbacks or pingbacks.
  9. Many people who leave comments on blogs want to know when others leave comments. So offer an RSS feed for comments as well as the feed you’d offer for posts. That way, everyone can keep up with developing conversations. and thus encourages people to leave more comments.
  10. Get known outside your own blog. Visit other blogs. Read other posts. Contribute to discussions by leaving comments on other blogs. People (and Google search) notice such things. This can be good as people get to know you a little and so may keep an eye on your blog more than they otherwise would and, thus, may be more inclined to comment on your points of view.

I could have gone on with at least another ten tips but the journalist asked only for ten.

What would you have written as ten tips?

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Geoff Livingston

    Very strong post, Neville. I’d only add taking a strong side will provoke comments and interest, too. It may be a little sensational for some, but it does foster conversation and makes people think.

  2. neville

    I agree, Geoff, a clear opinion can often provoke comment especially if it’s a topic or position on something which will engender strong views.

    Asking a question does work sometimes, Benjamin. People like being asked for their opinion.

    I asked a question in this post, for instance… :)

  3. Eric Schwartzman

    Here’s another one Neville, from a book I’m reading currently that is not about social media but rather general business, by Jack Welch protege Lawrence Bossidy. The quote is taken from a passage about the importance of open, honest dialouge within the conversation.

    “Formality suppresses dialogue; informality
    encourages it. Formal conversations and
    presentations leave little room for debate. They suggest that everything is scripted and
    predetermined. Informal dialogue is open. It
    invites questions, encourages spontaneity and
    critical thinking…Informality gets the truth out. It surfaces out-of-the-box ideas –the ideas that may seem absurd at first hearing but that create breakthroughs.“

  4. Chris Marritt

    Another good post, Neville.
    As well as ending this post with a question (Tip 3), you also get involved in the conversation (Tip 7).
    In this case, I’d suggest Tip 7 was more influential in attracting comments (seeing as nobody has answered the question – yet)

  5. Cambridge Who's Who

    Great Information, I maintain blogs for Cambridge Who’s Who that are informational for our members. Originally while learning software etc., I had the comments closed. Since our company is a business networking company it only seemed fit to allow comments. Problem is even though many members read the posts they do not comment. Your solution seems so simple, but very much overlooked by me. Thank you. I now have the inspiration for my next post I will surely mention your words of wisdom and see if I can get the interaction from our members.

  6. ErikElsea

    Thank you neville for this post. I post my blog in several areas and welcome comments and questions. I will definitely start posing questions to my readers in order to facilitate comments. Do you have a top ten list for enticing readers to subscribe to your blog?

  7. Bo Tipton

    Great post. I especially like the idea of asking a question at the end of the post as you so adeptly demonstrated.

    One of things that I use to get comments is the Top Commenter plugin. It shows who has been commenting the most over a period of time you can set depending on the traffic you get. Not only do the commenter get another back link to their web pages but it fosters a little competition to see who comments the most.
    Bo Tipton
    The Ornery Marketer

  8. Tony

    Excellent points!…both the article and the comments below it. We started our blog and then discontinued it. Now I can see some of the ways we went wrong. We weren’t really engaging anyone in a conversation. Thanks!

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