Marie-Celine recently did a post that talked about putting words out in a blog post but not always getting words back in the form of comments. I think that’s something that’s fairly common, so let’s chat about it.
I think for pretty much any new blogger it takes a while for comments to actually start flowing. That was certainly the case when I started out. Regardless of what you try to do to invite comments, realistically there’s going to be an element of hurry up and wait.
Among established bloggers who’ve been around for a while, there’s a lot of variability in the number of comments per post. Follower numbers account for some of that, but only so much. Some blogs with large followings don’t draw very many comments, and some smaller blogs draw lots. My blog tends to have a fairly active comments section, but offhand, I can think of a blogger who has half my follower numbers but has significantly more comments than I do. Different blogs have different styles and involve different people, so direct comparisons aren’t that meaningful.
So, follower numbers only matter so much, but what else does?
Asking some sort of provocative question at the end of a post can facilitate comments by giving readers something to focus on. For me, commenting typically requires a fair bit of cognitive energy, and I only have so much available to draw on. A focused question can mean less mental energy is required to come up with an answer in the comments (although sometimes anything beyond what colour is the sky requires too much energy). Broader questions that are hard to answer in a couple of sentences can go either way; you may end up getting a lot of well thought out answers, or you could end up not getting many responses if readers decide not to commit the time/energy to a longer answer.
It matters if you comment on other blogs. Leaving meaningful comments (as in not “Nice post. Check out my blog.”) will help bring comments back to you. And it’s not just the blogger you’re leaving a comment for that might notice. Others might be interested in what you have to say as well. It also helps to establish that you’re community-minded rather than just doing your own thing. That being said, there’s the whole mental energy aspect, and everyone’s got to balance that out for themselves.
It can help to have a handful of bloggers that you have regular exchanges with on each others blogs. If you’re commenting on most of each others’ posts, that helps to create a comment-friendly atmosphere for each of your blogs. If you get that kind of connection going with a few people, you’re probably not going to have posts being met with radio silence.
Try to always respond to comments left on your blog, unless they’re spammy or otherwise inappropriate. Emojis are fabulous if you can’t come up with much in terms of words but you still want to respond. I use them a lot for that very reason. If people leave multiple comments on a blog that go totally unacknowledged, they’ll probably stop commenting. If you miss the odd one now and then because WordPress marked it as spam, you accidentally deleted it, or your guinea pig ate it, most people aren’t going to judge you for it.
Most of us are inherently inclined to be lazy. That means any time there’s an extra step added to doing something, fewer people are going to follow through. I really can’t guess how much of an effect this has, but using a comment plugin that requires people to type in their name and email address (this isn’t relevant for WordPress.com people) probably ends up cutting down at least a little bit on the number of comments coming in. If anyone has switched from WordPress.com to self-hosted, it would be great to get your take on this.
When there are already comments on a post, other readers are probably going to be more likely to leave their own comments. If you can get a few regular comment exchanges going, that can help draw in other commenters. If you’re moderating comments before they’re visible, and it takes a while after you post to get to them, you could potentially be missing out on some of that benefit.
All of that being said, I think there’s still more layers that I certainly haven’t figured out. Maybe there’s a magic eau de blog wafting around. Do you have any ideas about what the other lucky charms might be?