Websites like Cracked and Listverse get more reaction from their audience than any other website on the internet. And why is that? Let’s face it, we all enjoy reading interesting and weird stuff about anything. While websites focused on designing and development, as compared to the most commented websites, are a little dry when it comes to discussions. Why?
1. Because articles about design and development rarely lack intrigue. People love intriguing things.
2. Most of the time it’s spoon-feeding. It’s like reading a book where everything is already in place.
It’s an unfair world. There are niches that just don’t get much discussion even though they’re noticed. But there are several things you can do to increase the likelihood of people to engage in discussions. How? By creating a discussion, of course!
1. Learn how to write
I’m not the best writer out there but I’m trying to improve daily. I have my flaws but I still write. Part of writing is knowing what your audience wants to read and realizing that you can’t just write anything that comes to your mind because, well, writing is freedom, right? Nope. Writing is deeper than that, you will have to read your readers to know what they want, or what appeals to them, then you mold yourself according to their preferences. Is your topic about money? Then you need to be serious and precise. Is your topic about designing? Then be critical and creative. It’s all about how you adapt to change.
Will this increase comments? Probably not, but it will increase your readership which will ultimately result in a higher discussion rate.
It is also important to note that original content, not in any way just rewritten, gathers more attention. Personally I don’t like rewritten material because I believe that anyone who can write can rewrite even if they don’t know anything about the topic. It defeats the purpose of writing. So, if you want your blog to succeed and bring in lots of loyal readers to comment, be sure to produce original content, content that you have written and researched.
2. Serious or Humorous?
Being too serious might be taxing for your readers, but if you’re too humorous you may lose your audience because..man, is this a comedy blog or a design blog? Whatever your blog is about you need to have a fair share of both. Come on, you are writing for the web, not for a newspaper or your high school paper. Lighten up sometimes and have some fun. If the situation calls for serious discussion then by all means take a serious approach. I know I don’t have to emphasize this, but being flexible about how you present things can make or break a successful blog.
Who says you can’t be humorous while being serious?
3. Hold back a little
Ask for suggestions, leave them with a cliffhanger, let them do things they want done, restrict yourself. At least that’s what fiction writers do to make their books page-turners, which also works for every form of writing including blogging.
As mentioned above, the problem with articles that don’t get commented on is either they lack the quality to be taken seriously or there’s just nothing more to discuss because everything is already there, all spoon-fed to the readers. While it is important to provide key points, you can still hold back a little, make them guess what comes next, or by giving hints but not explaining every point of the topic until you’ve covered it all.
4. Use Points and Give Back
Reddit, the front page of the internet, has this thing called karma. I heard it’s a very important currency on that website where people strive their hardest to earn karma via comments or through the links they submit. All in exchange for reddit popularity. Well, not exactly, because karma doesn’t do anything. People know it doesn’t do anything, yet many comment on just about anything to get all the upvotes and reap sweet karma. What could be the reason behind this? I’d understand if you could exchange karma for real-life money or goods, but no, there isn’t anything. So, why? Well, points make you awesome and make you either feel inferior or superior. Admit it, no one wants to get left behind. Right, zero pointer?
TheNextWeb, one of the leading technology blogs, uses a point system based on how their readers interact with their blog. Sharing stories on social networks and commenting on articles results in points. They use Badgeville to handle all the points, which is then displayed on a sidebar widget along with their names. Imagine having your name posted on a big website? Wow!
Imagine how many comments it took to have 53,170 points!
MakeUseOf is one of the most active Facebook users out there that gives rewards to their loyal readers. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I’ve taken part in four of their raffles so far, and I keep on checking in to see what’s new because they intrigue me. MakeUseOf also has this section they call MakeUseOf answers where people ask and someone answers. The best answer of the week gets $50. Oh, did I mention their raffle prizes consists of DSLRs and laptops?
Perhaps one of the greatest motivators out there for readers to comment is when they see that you’re actually engaging with the community, that you are taking their suggestions on how to improve things. That’s the best “points” or “giving back” to the community.
5. Always give the choice to comment anonymously
There will always be people like me who love to read and comment on blogs that neither want to log in using Facebook or leave an email just to comment. Why comment anonymously? It’s much easier, and sometimes we just don’t want to leave our footprints behind while wanting to have our opinions expressed. Easier in the sense that there’s less clicking and more security, without all that “access my wall” thing or “post on my Twitter” stuff.
Why do you want comments anyway?
- Usually, when people see an article with loads of comments they will automatically think that it’s worth reading.
- It looks good. My blog doesn’t have comments yet so it looks bad. Show some love? *laughs*
- Comments give the feeling that you’re doing something good. It’s a good motivator on your part.
- It’s a good indication that your blog is received well by the community you are building.
My newest favorite blog is Blogger Jet, by our friend Tim Soulo. As you can see below, one of the articles published has 57 comments already. Tim’s blog is just 2 months old and it’s really doing awesome. If you’ll click the image it will lead you to the said article and you will know how he managed to pull off such a big following.
Satan’s Guide to Blog Comments is very similar to this article, it didn’t actually enter my mind that I’m writing about a similar topic as Tim, even though I’ve read his post a while back before even writing this. Now I’m surprised and delighted to see his blog reaping massive comments on the same topic. Will mine do the same? Hopefully, but in any case, you guys should check his blog. Chances are if you’re here, you will surely love his too!
Now that I’ve finished drinking my coffee, I realized that this is not my first time writing about comments! Earlier this year I wrote an article asking Where Have All The Comments Gone? Because, seriously, compared to when blogs became hits overnight, what we are left with now is just a fraction of the numerous comments from years before.
Remember when I said you can increase reader engagement on discussions by creating discussions? I wasn’t kidding.
If you’ll read the article and browse through the first page comments you’ll see walls of texts discussing things about why comments have dwindled over time. Close enough to Tim’s article, right?
Next is SmashingMagazine. We all know that SM is a behemoth when it comes to the world of designing. Looking at the screenshot below, you’ll see that they’ve just recently introduced a new section for their blog. The number of comments reflect how well people received it, which is why should you care for comments, as I mentioned earlier. If you read the comments you’ll see valuable suggestions and heartwarming messages.
There are other articles published on SmashingMagazine whose comments span up to 200+, clearly they are doing something awesome!
What do you think?
I really love hearing from readers, and when I have the time I join in! So let’s have a fruitful discussion. Tell us what you think and we’ll see how we’ll move from there. You can also tell us what topics you want us to cover!
Rean concurrently served as the Head of Operations and Editor-in-Chief of 1stwebdesigner from 2011 up until Aug 2014. He regularly writes about freelancing, technology, web design, and web development with a little touch of internet marketing here and there.