One 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.