Ask Inkwell: Why won’t anyone talk to me?

February 28 by

Ask Inkwell: Why won’t anyone talk to me?

 

How can I get more people to comment on my blog? I write post after post, and but it just feels like no one is listening. What am I doing wrong?

Talking to Myself

First off, let’s get one thing straight — it doesn’t mean that you’re doing anything “wrong.”

You can’t make horses drink water, and you can’t make people comment on your posts.

Everyone’s born with free will, and getting a random stranger to do anything can be quite difficult. There’s a reason that marketing is such a hot topic in the non-fiction book world. There are hundreds of theories, experts, books, and programs that purport to help understand consumer psychology — and many will give you exactly opposing advice.

Nobody can predict human nature with absolute certainty. That’s not how it works.

So, let’s lose the “wrong” word, and be a little easier on yourself.

But is there room for improvement in your blog?  There could be. While you can’t force anyone to comment, there are definitely things you can do to encourage more reader engagement. Here are just a few.

 

Don’t be you-centric, be them-centric.

If you meet someone at a party, and all he wants to talk about are the incredible successes he’s had at work, and the compliments he’s been given, and the exciting places he’s gone, and the wonderful stuff his kids do, and the best wine he ever drank, and the reason he chose his current sports car, and the play he went to see last summer…

I lost you, didn’t I?  I can feel your ears going numb from here.

It’s the same idea. If all you post about is your company or your particular view on your topic, but you don’t actively seek a back-and-forth volley with your readers, you’re being that guy.

Don’t be that guy.

Stop and ask for feedback every once in a while . In the middle of your paragraph about your favorite books as a kid, hint that you’re always curious what others grew up with. Talk about the fantastic expo you went to and link out to a couple of posts by others who reviewed the same event. Repost (with permission, of course) a small comment you read elsewhere that you can expound upon and turn into an exploration of something interesting.

Don’t try to be the only interesting person in the room. Share the limelight.

It’s an easier habit to fall into with blogging, because you’re the only one posting. It’s all your own voice, sure. But that doesn’t mean you have to be the only one who matters.

Think about the problems your readers are facing, and write them some solutions. Figure out what they need, and be the one who gives it to them — whether that’s how-to videos, definitions, tips and tricks posts, or even entertainment.

View your blog as a resource, not your personal showcase, and your readers will begin to care more and appreciate your value on their own.

 

I, I, I. 

Similarly, be careful what language you choose to use in your blog. If every single sentence starts with “I”, you’re not being reader-centric. Even if it’s a small, subconscious thing, your readers will catch it.

Notice the words we use at Inkwell: you, us, we.

I’ll tell a personal story about myself for a paragraph or two (like this sentence, and the one below, where I talk about one of my bad blogging habits), and that’s okay, in small doses. But that’s not where I stay.

Why? Because YOU are what matters to me as a writer. Not myself.

I could sit here and stare at this blog all day, everyday. I need you to read it, or it doesn’t go anywhere.

The bulk of this article is you, your readers, your blog, things you can do.

Do that. Speak to them, not just about yourself. Choose the concrete pronouns that prove it.

 

Leave conversational space for them.

First, a confession. I’m horrible about this one. And I only realized it when a commenter at my own personal blog called me on it!

The problem is, I tend to see all sides of an issue objectively. I’m usually the one in the circle of friends sticking up for whomever everyone’s mad at, pointing out the offender’s possible point of view, and trying to be logical and diplomatic. (That, and I plain old talk too much. Go figure.)

Well, playing the devil’s advocate is not always appreciated in social circles, and it’s definitely not appreciated in blog posts.

Why?

Because if you identify and fully flesh out seven sides of a controversy, what’s left for your reader to say in a comment?

Monologues — especially long, multifaceted diatribes — are not conducive to conversation.

If you’ve said everything, then your followers don’t need to. They’ll read it and go, “Yup.”

They don’t need to add anything if you have covered every single base, ad nauseam.

State your point of view, and keep it simple. Don’t explain the world. Leave some room for the world to come back in and explain some things to you.

(Of course, when your commenters do show up, you can agree, disagree, or share more details then, when it’s more than just you in the conversation. You’ve left yourself more to say, too!)

 

Comment on other blogs, too.

Most blog networking success lies in linkage. We have a whole post about that here.

Visit other blogs in your niche, and get to know the people there by commenting and initiating conversation.

When you comment elsewhere, most websites will make your name or alias into a clickable hyperlink that leads back to your own site. Frequent blog visitors know this, and know to look up people who have made interesting points at blogs they read regularly.

Don’t ever, EVER type your link within the text of your comment and advertise yourself blatantly in someone else’s space — that is spam, and spam is bad. Always.

But do type your link in the blank field provided for “Website” when you’re being asked to log in to make a comment, so it will be connected with your name when the comment is published on the site you’re reading.

Then, and most importantly, make sure you say something meaningful.

You never know who your breadcrumbs will attract.

 

Ask questions.

It could just be that your readers are taking in the information, and aren’t even realizing you want feedback.

Do you feel like writing back a response to every magazine article you’ve read?  Nope. Even if it’s useful information, you probably are moving in information-mode and not conversation-mode. It wouldn’t occur to you that the author would probably love to hear what you thought of the piece.

Not everyone is versed in blog commenting. Some people read only the information they need exactly at the moment they need it. And if those people are right there and reading your blog about That Thing You Do, those are the prime customers who might be slipping through your fingers! You’ve already gotten their attention; you just have to figure out how to keep it and translate it into the action you wish them to take.

If you’re writing about a product or a service you offer, just ask them outright: “What do you think? Tell us in the comments.”

In business literature, this is termed a “Call to Action,” and it’s usually phrased as either a question or an imperative (command) sentence. If you want your reader to do something, ask them to do it!

Do you want them to subscribe to your newsletter?  Say, “Sign up here,” and include your link.

Want them to comment?  At the bottom of your post, add a simple, “What would YOU do in this situation?  Do you think it was well-handled?”

Our comment trail at this blog is preceded by “Leave a Reply!” and our question-and-answer posts always end with a highlighted link inviting readers to ask us their own questions. Our sidebar has some too; and it says, “Click here to get free updates,” “Find us on Facebook,” and “Follow us on Twitter.”

Oftentimes, even this simple change in wording can help your numbers.

That said, we need to talk about those numbers.

They’re certainly flattering to the ego, I know… but they may not be as important as you think they are.

 

Be sure you need those comments in the first place.

If you have ten thousand RSS readers and no comments, well, that’s pretty odd… but maybe that’s okay!  The point of a blog is not, despite the hype, to gather a million comments.

Comments don’t do anything on their own. It’s not like someone’s out there waiting, just itching to mail you a dollar for each time you get a post comment, a like, or a retweet.

In our classes, we teach that comments and hits don’t matter; it’s your greater purpose that should be measured.

I know of some folks who run massive blogs, and yet have comments disabled. They’re doing just fine, without a comment one.

Whatever your end goals in maintaining your blog are (books sold?  links shared on social media? visits to your restaurant?), that’s really what you should be measuring.

Maybe nobody commented on your blog, but you sold sixty tickets to your event through the Groupon deal you ran. Maybe no one shared your post on Facebook, but you got four new high-dollar clients from an email newsletter you ran. Those are successes, no doubt.

And what can two thousand views buy you? Well, those and a dollar bill will get you a 99-cent coffee at McD’s.

The point is to engage people in what you’re doing in the real world, too, not just on the blog.

Comments are great — and a good, solid blog usually has many, you’re right.

But don’t mistake popularity or comment trail length for success.

Measure that on your own terms, and keep at it!

 

(Image credit.)

 

Tracy Lucas

About Tracy Lucas

Tracy Lucas is a writer, editor, and the co-owner of Inkwell Basics. She owns Four Square Creative and Smash Cake Press, and she blogs about writing and publishing at her personal website. She has written and sold more than one hundred and fifty pieces for print, web, radio, and stage.

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