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. 🙂

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…)

Facebook Timeline Changes: Blog Mash-Up

My Goodness. There have been LOTS and LOTS of blog posts on Facebook and the impending Timeline for Pages changes. For those that are looking for a quick checklist and summary, here you go. This list is a mashup of my favorite posts on the topic.

1. Cover Photo – You now have an 851 x 315 pixel palette to convey your brand visually. “The cover photo is the first thing people will notice when visiting your Page, which is why it’s recommended to select a unique image that accurately represents your brand — this doesn’t have to be a logo.” – Sprout Social Blog. Here are 20 great cover photos to give you some ideas.

2. Direct Messages – Facebook has added an optional feature that allows users to send a direct message via the brand page. This will likely be used as a customer support feature for most brands. However, it could also be a great way to gain feedback on new or existing products. If you’ve had customer service PR nightmares, this could be a good feature to activate: it sends a message that you’re more readily available, but it also hides the conversation from other users. A win win if your product or service is not as popular as you’d like. ” This allows brands to take care of customer service issues in a more intimate and less public space.” – Location 3 Blog (more…)

Are Using Contests To Build Community A Bad Idea?

83/365 So many board games.I read a recent post by Patrick O’Keefe, a very well-respected community manager and blogger, about the place contests and giveaways have in building community. Rather than a community-building tool, he says that “contests and giveaways are marketing for your community”.  While its true that the oeuvre of traditional marketing knowledge indicates that the most common usage of contests and games is to recruit new members, there is a lot of good research to back up the notion that games can be used in very effective ways to build community. (more…)

Interview with Fast Gush

I love pontificating on my favorite topic, don’t you? Last month I got the chance to wax philosophical on the topics of online communities and social media. The folks at FastGush asked some questions. I got to answer. Here’s an excerpt:

The two most frequently asked questions: How do you measure ROI? and how do you measure engagement?

Love these topics! Conduit is about sharing information, networking, and coordination. Our currency is collaboration. We’re ultimately helping people get their work done more effectively. So this is a fuzzy thing to try and turn into a number. Right now, we’re measuring ROI by surveying users and asking to what degree they perceive Conduit as helping them in their work – i.e. “do you believe it is a valuable tool?”.

Another proxy for ROI is engagement. If people are using the tools the site offers and interacting with one another, we believe this is helping push forward the site’s collaboration goals and ultimately accelerating our energy efficiency work. So we measure engagement a couple different ways. The highest level of engagement is content contribution. We measure that by tracking, on a per-member basis, their content contributions over a certain period of time. If they’ve contributed at least once during that period, we deem them engaged. Our monthly average is around 8%. We hope to raise this to above 10% this next year.

See the full interview on the Fast Gush blog.