Internet

6 Ways To Get More Comments

Speech BubblesOne of the highest priorities of a community manager is driving conversation. In an online community, that manifests in the form of comments. The Utopian online community has lots of users engaged in lots of conversations; comments are sparkling and spraying about in all sorts of directions, while of course staying on-topic to the original theme of each discussion. I’ve been doing some experimentation and research, trying to answer the question, “how can one push the needle on comment creation”? Let me outline 6 things that have worked for me and many others.

1. Create a comment contest. Follow in the footsteps of blog wonderling Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic. He clearly has a large and dedicated following built into The Atlantic Monthly brand, but what he does with his audience is enlightening. Check out his comment contests. His premise is simple: “I ask a question and you answer it as if I’m stupid. I’ll pick the best response and feature it in a follow-up post.” Here are a couple examples: London Riots and Race, Rebooting DC Comics. The bonus with this type of contest is it’s FREE. Of course, you can also try giveaways, ala “post a comment and enter to win an iPad”.

2. Pick a controversial topic. Pick a topic that you know will fire up your community. It doesn’t have to be politics. It could be around what your audience thinks is the best digital camera manufacturer, or why compact fluorescent bulbs are good or bad.

3. Pick an easy topic. Find a topic that everyone knows about, but that, unlike #2 above, is easy and non-confrontational to answer. For example, try an “introduce yourself” discussion. Here’s a great “Introduce Yourself” example from Govloop. Or ask commenters for pictures of what they did over the weekend. These are not super engaging discussions, but, particularly for new users who are not quite ready to bare all just yet, they can be a gateway to richer discussions later.

4. Ask a clear and compelling question. Put a good question in the title of your blog post, and follow it up with the question re-iterated at the end of your post. Ask simple Yes or No questions, or ask questions about a photo.  Here are more tips on how to ask compelling, comment-getting questions.

5. Ensure commentors are able to easily follow your post. Make sure they can receive notifications (via email, RSS, or within-platform) whenever a new comment is posted to the discussion. This builds a micro-community around the discussion and promotes continued discussion from your previous commenters. Check out Facebook’s functionality as a great example of within-platform notifications.

6. Create great content in the first place. This one should go without saying, but let’s say it anyway: Write well and check your grammar. Include pictures. Be meaty (500 – 800 words) and thorough with your topic. Consider making your blog post a how-to list like “7 sure fire ways to increase your Klout score“. And definitely give your post a succinct and keyword-rich title. 60 – 70 characters is nice and succinct and will ensure that your full title displays in organic search listings.

Do you have other tips and recommendations on getting more comments? Please share in the comments. 🙂

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The Shape of Online Communities: History and Promise

Online communities used to be analogous to cities and towns. Our first notion of virtual community was based on real-world, geographically-based interests. Technology then supported this notion by creating tools that mimicked cities and villages. This idea was wildly popular, but ultimately failed because we hadn’t yet figured out how unimportant geography was when it comes to online community:

Yahoo bought GeoCities — a collection of homepages organized by neighborhood. AOL and Tribune launched Digital City. Corporations from Citigroup to SAP moved into virtual terrain.

These city metaphors all failed. Why? Because they proved utterly unnecessary. The older generation, who might have used them as a crutch, found them unwieldy. And digital natives moved directly into new neighborhoods that they built from scratch — forums, message boards, blogs, and ultimately social networks. via Mashable

Here’s another evolutionary tale. When Twitter first launched, people used it to tell real friends where they were and what they were doing. It was mostly about their physical orientation to the world. Nowadays, while we do continue to post about these things, we’re spending much more time talking about intellectual matters. And we’ve expanded beyond our real world friends to ones with the same interests or values, whether they be in Utah or Uganda. Physical proximity has been displaced by cultural-value proximity. (more…)

Anonymity Online: Good or Bad?

Anonymous is Friendly?
Christopher Poole of 4chan.com advocates for anonymity online. According to Mathew Ingram of GigaOm, Poole gave a recent Ted talk where he argued that “anonymity has very real benefits online, and that we would be wise to consider those before we switch to exclusively ‘real name’ policies.” He claims that allowing pseudonyms opens the door for more open discourse and protects the identity of those who may be vulnerable to physical harm.

The benefits of anonymity that Christopher Poole or Mathew Ingram posit are more for the exception rather than the norm. Those benefits just don’t apply to most online communities. I’ll provide a couple reasons why. (more…)

Creating Evangelists in Your Community

My good friend Charlie Weiss shared this with me. He developed what I call a “user engagement model” that was originally designed to convince some marketing execs at his software firm that marketing doesn’t always end with the purchase. I think it applies wonderfully to how we now look at social media as a brand development tool. It can also be applied to online community management. (more…)

Welcome

Welcome to my new blog! The themes I’ll be delving into here will have to do with online community management, social media, internet culture and technology. I have worked in the web-based realm for over 10 years, with niches spanning from e-commerce, social media to online community building and management. Currently I run the new online community for energy efficiency professionals in the northwest, www.conduitnw.org.

You can catch me on twitter at @benfowler.