Note from the Editor: At the end of the post, I’ll give you an opportunity to win a free one year membership to Authority Insider. Read on to learn more!
Blogs thrive on reader participation. Blogs can’t even exist without reader participation. Behind every successful blog is an audience that’s a part of the blog itself.
But actually getting readers to actively participate is difficult. Really difficult. You think you’re doing everything right––come up with a unique idea, write a great post, share it on social media––but no one comments.
This usually happens because you haven’t created the right environment. Like a plant, reader participation has to be grown and nurtured. You have to attend to it regularly lest it die. So to have a lot of reader participation, you have to create and sustain the right conditions for it to happen.
While there’s no magic formula for increasing reader participation on your blog, there are some elements you can optimize and techniques you can use to make the best environment possible. Here are 5 techniques to increase reader participation and get more comments.
Host a comment contest.
People love to share their opinions. People also love free stuff. Give them the best of both worlds by hosting a comment contest, wherein the best, most insightful comment will win the jackpot.A comment contest works for you on multiple levels. It draws attention to your blog and, more importantly, your brand. If you give away one of your own products, even better. It also helps your readers to be more engaged. When a prize is at stake, people are more likely to interact with you and other commenters.And if you team up with someone else, it gets even better. You can find a sponsor for your contest for a win-win situation: You don’t have to spend a penny on the prizes, and the sponsor gets attention. Alternatively, you can take this opportunity to use affiliate links.Before you host a comment contest, write out your rules. How will the winning comment be decided? Do you have the final say, or will it depend on the number of upvotes? Having a runner-up spot (or two) is also a good idea, as it increases a reader’s chance of winning.If you decide to host a comment contest, keep the following in mind:
- Leverage social media. Use a socially powered comment tool like Disqus if you want the most popular comments to win. Contest facilitators like Rafflecopter make social sharing a breeze and factor it into the contest, so you can get blog comments and social shares at the same time.
- Choose a worthwhile prize. Stand out from the crowd by offering a useful, unique prize. (Perhaps surprisingly, Apple products make for bad prizes.) Choose a prize that’s fitting for your blog and that would make a difference in a reader’s life. If your blog is about books, you could give away a $250 gift card to Barnes & Noble. Choose value over price.
- Don’t ask too much of people. No one will want to write a 500-word comment, share on 5 social networks, subscribe to your newsletter, and email 10 friends. Make the entry requirements quick and easy to do. A simple contest facilitator (mentioned above) will help out a lot.
Ask, and you shall receive.
Social media is the lifeblood of almost every site on the Internet. Why not use it to get comments?Yeah, you can share your blog post on Facebook and Twitter. But that doesn’t do any good unless you give readers direction. When you share a post, make sure you ask readers to comment on the blog post itself. You can also redirect commenters to your blog. If someone commented about your post on social media, tag them and say, “Thanks for the comment! I think that would be great in the comments section of the post. Mind sharing it there?” Voila, you’ve got a new comment.The takeaway here is to make the blog post the place that people need to be. Convince them to leave social media and spend time on your blog. Make your links appealing and drive the traffic there.
Figuratively speaking, of course. It’s a simple idea, but no one does it. Simply solicit comments directly from readers.You can do this in a few ways. If you’ve noticed a couple of stand-out comments on your blog in the past (or even on other blogs), contact their posters and ask them to share their voice. You can also utilize social media again by messaging people and asking them to comment.Make your messages genuine and personalized. If you can, customize each message for its recipient. And go for simple: “I’ve really appreciated your insight on my posts. Would you mind sharing your perspective on [blog topic here]?” They’ll appreciate your reaching out and respond in kind.
Present helpful and/or controversial ideas
Readers love to either help others or argue with others. So content that is either helpful or controversial will help to increase reader participation.People love to read articles that will help them in their life and career. This can be an article about someone who founded a popular startup with only $3 in their pocket or a list of actionable steps that the reader can take.And of course, few people can resist speaking their mind on controversial ideas. Readers enjoy the back-and-forth dialogue of a high-energy comment section. It’s sort of like a football game; they pick sides and battle it out. These posts are great because they naturally attract a lot of attention, and people will share them to either display their agreement or disagreement.In 2013, blogger Seth Adam Smith received tons of attention for his post “Marriage Isn’t For You.” A misleading first line and a heartfelt message got him over 5,000 comments and coverage on ABC. His post was seemingly controversial but actually helpful, so it was the best of both worlds.
Discuss, don’t preach
Don’t look at your blog as a soapbox. Think of it as one voice in a conversation. You should be actively inviting others to participate and giving them ample opportunities to do so.Every conversation is a two-way street. Some bloggers don’t do their part and then wonder why no one’s commenting! The blogger always initiates the conversation and has to keep it open. Whether you present your viewpoint or give help, you don’t want to come off as stubborn or give the impression that your post is the last word on the subject.Posts that preach are almost always one-sided by nature, and that’s exactly what readers hate. They don’t want to feel closed off, like they can’t participate. Your post should appear pliable and open to change. That way, it’s a discussion.The folks at Boost Blog Traffic do an outstanding job of interacting with readers and continuing the post in the comments. They put forth ideas and techniques that readers can modify and improve upon. If a reader has a question or objection, the writers don’t ignore it; they respond and keep the discussion going.
Your Readers Fuel Your Blog
If you’re not already taking steps to increase reader participation, you need to be. Your blog is nothing without your readers. Reach out to existing readers and make it easy for new ones to join in. Remember, your blog isn’t a definitive source of ultimate truths––you are one voice among many. Invite everyone to chime in.