“I really need some tips how to get visitors to interact on blog posts. Though it may of course be a problem with my posts themselves!”
Now, my first thought on reading this was, “You and me both, sister! I hope someone answers this!” Then I remembered it was ME who was supposed to be doing the answering, so my next – and hopefully more helpful – thought was that no, Nicky, it’s not you: it’s THEM. It’s the visitors. They just don’t interact the way they used to. I mean, SOME of them do, of course: some blog readers still like to interact with the blogger and with each other, but the vast majority don’t, and I know I’m not the only blogger who’s noticed that things just ain’t the way they used to be down there in the comments section.
It’s not the readers’ fault, either. I actually think it’s probably mostly the fault of social media, to be honest: it’s much easier to just click the “like” button on Facebook, or to favourite a tweet, than it is to fill out a comment form, which means that a lot of the interaction that used to go on in a blog’s comment section has now moved to social media. The good news is that the conversation hasn’t stopped completely, because obviously interaction is interaction, wherever it happens. The bad news is that we bloggers are a pretty needy bunch, really, and when we put a lot of time and effort into creating a blog post, it’s disappointing to get crickets in response. My first two tips, then, aren’t really tips at all, but they are worth bearing in mind:
01. People comment less these days…
I don’t think I know many bloggers who haven’t seen a downturn in the number of comments they get on each post over the last few years. It’s something that gets discussed a lot in blogger circles, and I guess it’s comforting to know it’s not just you who’s experiencing this, so you’re probably not doing anything “wrong”. These days I set the bar much lower when it comes to comments: I know it’s much harder now to get people to leave them, so whereas a few years ago I’d consider a post to be a failure if it didn’t get X number of comments, these days I’m happy to get any AT ALL on some posts.
02… but that doesn’t mean they’re not reading.
People read blogs, and interact with them differently now. I think one of the consequences of blogs becoming that bit “glossier”, for want of a better word, is that people tend to read them a bit more passively, almost as if they were magazines. You don’t normally read a magazine and feel the need to comment on it, and the same is true of a lot of blog posts, really: sometimes people don’t have much to say in response to them, but that doesn’t mean they’re not reading them. As I said, social media has played a huge part in the downfall of comments, so just because you’re not getting comments, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not getting any interaction: it could just mean the conversation is happening elsewhere, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
Of course, that doesn’t make it any easier to look at your precious blog post that you slaved over, and see that big ol’ “no comments” at the bottom of it, so although Nicky asked about interaction in general, rather than comments specifically, the rest of this post will focus on encouraging people to comment, and my first tip is this one:
Understand which posts generate comments and which ones don’t.
I realised a while back that not all types of post generate the same number of comments. This probably differs from blog to blog, but in my case, it breaks down something like this:
Posts that get the most comments:
- Opinion pieces. Standard advice would be that the more controversial your opinion, the more comments you’ll get, but I’d advise against controversy-for-controversy’s sake – it comes off as trolling, and tends to create drama, so if you’re going to be controversial, then a) only write it if you genuinely believe it, and b) understand that you’ll get a response, but you might not like it!
- Personal anecdotes, especially the type of posts people find honest or relatable: I find that readers respond well to posts which strike a chord with them – for instance, my posts on being an introvert, or wondering if I’ll ever feel like a “grown up” got quite a few comments, mostly because people seemed to relate to them.
- List posts – i.e. Things Redheads are Sick of Hearing; Things People Say About Scotland, etc…
- Requests for advice – i.e. me asking readers for feedback about something. Even posts which don’t specifically ASK for advice, but which people CAN offer advice on will tend to get comments: i.e. when I write about what I’ve been watching on Netflix, people will often want to offer their own suggestions…
- Long posts – everyone says they don’t read long posts, but my longest posts tend to be the ones that generate not only the MOST comments, but also the most thoughtful comments (my longest ever post currently has 80 comments, for instance, which is about 10x as many as my shorter posts typically get), so don’t be afraid to write something a bit more in-depth if you feel like it.
Posts that get the most likes and pins on Pinterest:
- Outfit posts
- ‘How To’ posts
- Home decor-related posts
Posts that get the most likes and comments on Instagram:
- Random photos of Rubin
- Anything related to shoes
Posts that do well on Facebook:
- Opinion pieces
- Blog tips
- List post
Posts that do best on Bloglovin’:
- Blog tips
- Tutorials/’how to’ posts
So, by analysing this list, I can see that if I want to get more comments, I need to write more opinion pieces and personal posts, and if I want to get more Pins and shares, I need to do more outfit posts, tutorials etc. In the end, I tend to do a bit of a mix, and just accept that not every post will get an equal amount of interaction everywhere. Of course, it’s not quite as simple as that (If only, right?): you can write the type of post that you know is likely to get the most interaction and STILL hear crickets in return, so here are some more tips to increase comments:
01. Make it easy for people to comment
It sounds really obvious, but not all comment systems make it easy or welcoming for people to leave a comment. If you’re using a Captcha code, for instance, or you have the kind of commenting system that only allows comments from certain sources (all of those Blogspot blogs that only allow comments from other Blogspot members, for instance), or force you to register or log in to their commenting platform to post something, you’ll undoubtedly be getting less comments than you could be.
I, for instance, normally read blogs on my phone, and I find it really fiddly to try and log in (that’s assuming I can even remember my user name and password) and type in a captcha code on the small screen, so if your blog requires me to do that, I normally just won’t bother. Similarly, I know a lot of people dislike comment systems that force you to comment under your Facebook ID, because that means your full name gets published alongside the comment, which then also sometimes appears in your newsfeed: even if you’re not saying anything controversial, that can still be off-putting, so my main piece of advice is to open your comments to everyone. (If you’re on WordPress and are worried about spam, there are tons of plugins that will pretty much eliminate it.)
02. Make it clear that you welcome interaction
The last time I talked a bit about the downturn in comments, I had a couple of people tell me they were surprised to hear that bloggers want comments, and that they deliberately DON’T comment, because they worry it’ll annoy the blogger. I, in turn, was really surprised to hear this, because it seemed obvious to me that bloggers won’t want to write something and not get any response to it, but then I remembered that there have been times when I’ve been about to comment on someone’s post myself, and have thought, “Wait a minute, what can I say that they won’t have heard before?” or “What if this sounds stupid?” The fact is that it’s NOT always obvious to people that you want them to comment, so you need to find a way to make it clear that you welcome interaction. One way to do that is simply to tell people, by saying something like, “I’d love to know what you think,” and another way is to…. (drumroll)
03. Ask questions
I feel like every post I ever read about boosting interaction offers the advice to end your post with a question, but honestly, I’m in two minds. Yes, it CAN help generate comments, but it doesn’t always, and asking a question and not getting a response feels even worse than just writing a post which doesn’t get a response. Also, this is possibly just me, but I always find it quite cheesy when a post ends with a question which is obvious comment-bait, especially if it’s transparent fishing for compliments (“Which part of my outfit do YOU like best?”) or oddly specific (“When was the last time YOU wore a blue dress with green spots, paired with a yellow cardigan and red shoes?!”). If you’re going to do this, then, my advice is to choose your question wisely: make it interesting (asking people what their favourite colour is, say, is probably not going to kick off a scintillating conversation…), but don’t make it too complicated – people don’t want to feel like they’re sitting an exam!
04. Respond to the comments you do get
This is another one that sounds obvious, but if you want people to talk to you, you have to talk back to them: it makes sense that if you don’t like feeling like you’re talking to yourself, your readers won’t either. I don’t think – and I know a lot of people will disagree – that it’s necessary or practical to respond to every single comment you ever get, but if you never respond to ANY of them, people will stop leaving them, so if you want to increase interaction, you have to be prepared to, you know, interact.
05. Keep the conversation going
On that note, one of the reasons I don’t think you need to respond to EVERY comment is simply that a lot of readers aren’t expecting a response, and don’t come back to read it. It’s obviously not a good use of your time to sit and write responses that no one will ever see, but if you use WordPress, you can use a plugin to allow people to be notified by email when someone responds to their comment. (I use Jetpack for this, but there are lots of other plugins that will do the same thing.) By doing that, you’ll be able to keep the conversation going, and gradually build a community around your blog: at the end of the day, the number of comments you get on each post might not matter too much (especially now that so much interaction happens on social media instead), but building a community is something that will be invaluable to your blog, so it’s well worth encouraging people to interact, for that reason alone.
06. Consider changing your publishing schedule
I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve noticed a drop-off in comments during the summer, and also on national holidays (both UK and US ones). I also get less comments on Fridays (I’m assuming it’s because people are too busy thinking about the weekend to bother with blogs), so I bear that in mind when I’m working out my publishing schedule: it always feels like a bit of a waste to publish something I’ve put a lot of effort into on a day when I know it won’t get much interaction, which is why I think so many bloggers do ‘Friday Favourites’ or list-type posts at the end of the week – we’re not being lazy, we just don’t want to waste our best content on a day we know people won’t read it!
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Would it be too cheesy to end this post by asking if anyone has tips of their own on this? I think so…