There are a lot of lurkers on the web.
You know, those people who visit websites, consume content, and move along. We’ve all done it. (You’re probably doing it right now!)
People may Retweet and Like your stuff, but they aren’t depositing their two cents in the comments section as often as we might like.
Even some of your favorite blogs – especially corporate blogs – can sometimes feel like ghost towns.
Getting someone to visit is step one, and getting them to share your content on their network is nice, but getting them to leave a comment is the holy grail. It means they cared enough to not only read your post, but they also took their time to think about a response and post it to your site. Having this to happen is more elusive than it might seem.
Like a police officer playing by the rules, you can’t force anyone to talk, but there are some things you can do to encourage more conversation on your organization’s blog or website:
1. Forget global, start local.
Many of today’s most successful businesses started as a few bucks and a big dream. In a lot of cases, entrepreneurs field-tested their ideas among their own social networks (i.e. people they knew in real life) before they got in front of the rest of the world.
Even Facebook started as a site for students of Harvard only, so don’t worry if the only people commenting on your blog (at first) are people you actually know.
Sharing your content with people you know might feel tacky, but they likely care more about you than the average web user does. And generally, they won’t mind if you ask them to check out your stuff (the first time, anyway).
Think beyond mothers and grandmothers and tap into your own social network by asking people you are friends with (or Internet friends with) to check out your content and leave their reaction. Tell them to be brutally honest and not to sugar-coat it. This will help you get real feedback and develop thicker skin. (Pro tip: Don’t abuse your personal network.)
The snowball effect starts with people you actually know and that’s how it gets started. Recipes work this way; first shared among friends and then blossoming into something a restaurant might serve to the rest of the world. Besides, this will help you:
2. Get it started.
Nobody wants to be the first to jump in a pool – or a conversation on the web – because there is greater perceived risk than reward. People are unsure of protocol and instead of diving in, they’ll choose to sit on the side … or leave.
When I was slinging sandwiches for a living, we’d always seed the tip jar with a few bucks to break the “I don’t want to be first” effect.
People were more likely to tip when they saw that others had tipped because a norm had been established.
Getting people in your own network to break the ice for you can help onlookers realize that other real people are actually reading and will encourage them to jump in.
Besides, they might say something controversial and prompt someone else to chime in with their opinion.
Conversation breeds conversation on the web.
3. Ask them and make it easy.
You tend to get more answers from people when you ask them a question. They might have made it all the way through your post but most people aren’t inclined to write up a paragraph celebrating your work. If you want them to take part in a conversation ask for their opinion.
4. Don’t leave them hanging.
Ever said something and have a whole room go quiet? It’s the quickest way to make you feel like a complete moron. When someone does take the time to comment continue the conversation with them. Hey, they did it for you.
Plus, awkward silences are just, well, awkward.
What do you think? What makes you comment on a post? And why are you about to close out this window without saying anything? I don’t blame you, I just want to know![image: shyald]