Guest Genius: Maddie Grant

Each Tuesday, we’re happy to turn over our blog space to a Guest Genius, someone who can give a fantastic and fascinating perspective about making word of mouth work. 

This week’s guest genius:
Maddie Grant
Administrative Director, Washington Center for Psychoanalysis
Non-profit/Association Blogger


Blogging is one popular tactic in the WOM toolkit because it offers a quick conversation-starter via comments. Maddie Grant, a well-known blogger from the non-profit/association world, offers eight useful tips for generating comments. 

Eight Tips for Getting Comments on Your Blog

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We all want our audience to be more vocal, but it’s not something that happens overnight. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to build an audience that cares enough to speak up.

First things first. Do you know exactly what your blog strategy is? What your goals are in having a blog in the first place? E.g.: Are you trying to show the human side of your organization? Do you want to extend the content from your company publications? Are you trying to give your Chief Executive a voice, allow them to respond directly to questions from the public? Or do you want to discuss industry issues in a more conversational way, by attracting interested people and enticing them to converse with each other publicly through the blog? Yes? Good.

Here are some useful tips for engaging your readers enough to comment.

1. Give the blog a voice and a personality.
Is the author of your organization’s blog someone people want to know? Someone with an important voice in the industry? Or, is the blog authored by a select group of people? What’s the blog’s tone? Professional? Critical? Fun? Whichever it is, it must be genuine. If you want conversation, there has to be a person behind the blog curtain to talk to, not just a faceless corporation.

2. Make it easy.
If you really want to build comments, you have to be open and make commenting easy. No login. Easy to find comment links, at the bottom of each post for example. No captchas – those annoying things that make people spell out letters to prove they are human. Don’t let anything make your audience think it’s too much hassle. Worried about spam? Moderate your comments instead. Deal with that after they come in, not before.

3. Consider your blog template.
Words like "subscribe", "trackback" and "permalink" are standard fare on most blog templates, and yet they’re meaningless to a new user. Instead use, "get updates", "links to this post", and "open just this post" or a social bookmarking icon in place of the permalink.

4. Set up outposts where your content is syndicated.
This sounds complicated, but it isn’t. For example, Facebook has a bunch of applications for sending an RSS feed from your blog to your Facebook page. Feedburner has "headline animators" which you can place on any webpage using a small amount of html code. There are also applications that send your blog posts to Twitter automatically.

5. Allow people to share, link, use the feed and reuse content freely.
People may comment as they share, on sites such as FriendFeed and in Google Reader, rather than commenting directly on your blog – but those comments are still public and findable.

6. Challenge your readers!
You have to be writing something that makes people care enough to comment. Certain types of blog posts are going to get more traffic. Other types are going to get more comments. You need a good mix. And don’t worry – not every post will generate comments. Experiment within your subject matter, you soon see which ones garner more response than others. See Rohit Bhargava and Jesse Thomas’ 25 Basic Styles of Blogging SlideShare presentation.

7. Be active!
Are you posting regularly? How does your blog author interact with other blogs and content providers on the Internet? Are you actively leaving comments on other blogs? Linking to other bloggers is a great way to start getting some feedback – bloggers like to write and comment (or they wouldn’t be bloggers), and they like to be linked. If you comment on their stuff, they will return the favor. Also, make sure you understand the time and staff commitment that maintaining a blog involves. If you allow a blog to stagnate because you don’t post often enough, interest will be difficult to sustain. You don’t have to post every day – but you do have to post predictably regularly. Make sure you have enough people, or one designated and dedicated person if necessary, to keep the momentum going. And when you do get comments, reply to them quickly.

8. Listen and reward.
This is how you learn what people are paying attention to…by commenting, linking to others’ relevant posts, adding a post to the conversation, knowing who’s interested in what, you can build rapport with your audience. What is commenting going to do for them? If they make a comment about your organization or something your organization does, you need to respond to that comment. You might need to make significant changes. You might just need to thank them for their praise.

A final thought.
Remember the 1:9:90 rule. "In most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action." (Jakob Nielsen)

What does this mean for you? It means don’t think that because you only get a few comments, that means people are not reading your blog. In actual fact, 90% of the readers of your blog DO NOT COMMENT. I bet many of those readers think about commenting, but something stops them from taking that step. Make your posts help them conquer that fear. Strive to write content that is MORE than just relevant. Dare to be unique, to stir the pot sometimes, to write in a way that resonates.

Learn more from this Genius: 

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Comments

  1. Maddie Grant

    Wow!! *blush* that is SO cool. Although, I can’t take all the credit, Lindy Dreyer wrote this with me. We are “Double the Trouble” and she’s my genius wingman.

    On a more serious note, we really want people to let us know if they have anything to add to our living bibliography for this article – http://www.socialfish.org/blogtips/
    We know there’s lots of good stuff out there!

    Thanks so much for the post and link love.

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