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Answering Comments

12 Ways to Build an Active Community by Answering Comments Like a Pro

Let’s face it. The blogs that really make it big are more than just web sites with articles on them… they’re communities. They’re communities in which readers interact with the author and with each other.

And the backbone of your interaction with your community is your comments section.

Be honest. How healthy is your comments section? Is it busy? Does it contain more significant conversation than just, “great post” and “thank you?” Do your visitors interact with each other in a meaningful way?

If your blog is like most emerging blogs, there’s likely not a lot of in-depth interaction going on.

Two Reasons You Need To Rock the Comments

There are really two primary reasons you need to step up and make your comments section highly interactive.

1: To Get Your Audience Involved
An audience is a group of people who observe something together – and then do nothing. Or maybe clap politely. A community, on the other hand – well, they interact with each other. They get involved. They agree, disagree, debate, and joke around with each other.

The difference between just having an audience and having a community is how you interact with them and encourage connection not only with your blog – but with each other. Your comments section is a great opportunity to make that happen.

2: To Make an Impression on New Visitors
The second reason is more of a positioning or a branding reason. It’s a matter of image. Imagine a new visitor coming to your blog and seeing four or five interactions like this at the end of your post:

Reader: “Great post!”
You: “Glad you liked it. Thank you.”
Reader: “Thank you for thanking me!”
You: “You’re welcome.”

Mind-numbing, isn’t it? It adds nothing to the conversation and it makes both parties look like knuckle-heads.

Now imagine that a new visitor comes to your blog, and instead of the shallow conversation above, they see a highly-interactive and intelligent conversation going on.

Which of those two impressions would you rather leave on a new visitor?

12 Simple Tips to Create Outstanding Conversations

If you want your comments to be outstanding, it’s up to you to pull it off. No one else can make that happen. You can’t control how many people comment or what they say. But you can make whatever conversations exists more meaningful.

Here are 12 simple tips to taking control and encouraging more meaningful conversations in your comments.

1: Answer All Comments
If you’re just starting to build your community, make sure to answer all of your comments. As your community grows, you may choose not to answer 20 different people who all say, “Great post! Thanks!” – but early on, give everyone some attention.

2: Go Beyond “Thank You.”
It’s always polite to say, “thank you” when someone compliments you – but go further than that whenever possible. Show that you’re interested in your readers.

3: Answer Questions
Many readers ask questions in the comments. Make sure to give them full and complete answers when they do. End your answer with, “Does that make sense?” or “Does that answer your question?” It encourages longer and more meaningful conversations.

4: Show Some Personality
The comments section of blogs can be a dry, dull place. As bloggers, we spend a lot of time and energy developing our online brand in order to show our unique perspective on the world. So why then do so many of us get so stiff and boring in the comments?

Whatever your “thing” is, it needs to show through in the comments. If your blog is informal and conversational, show me that when you answer comments, too. If humor’s your thing, use it. Whatever the spirit of your brand is, it should come loud and clear in your comments as well as in your content.

5: Be Human
Make sure you come off as a real person in the comments. Bloggers get too wrapped up in this whole authority thing where they have to be right all the time. Don’t do that. Be human.

If someone expresses an opinion contrary to yours and they’re right – tell them they have a good point. If someone thinks of something you’ve never thought of say, “That’s awesome, Jill. I never thought of that. Great point!” Readers like and trust people who are real and transparent. They tend not to care for people who always have to be right.

6: Use the Reader’s Name
Everyone likes the sound of their own name – and it’s a great way to show someone you care about them personally. So the example under #3 becomes, “Does that answer your question, Jon?” Just be careful not to overdo it, Jon. Because you know, Jon – after a while it becomes annoying and insincere, doesn’t it, Jon?

7: Welcome Civil Disagreement
Make sure your readers feel safe and welcome to disagree with each other (and you) in the comments. Members of a community don’t always have to agree in order to like each other and inhabit the same space. When people feel like they don’t have to hide their true opinions, they tend to open up to and trust your community more.

8: Compliment Your Audience
When your reader makes an especially intelligent comment, tell them it’s an especially intelligent comment. Say things like, “That’s a great story, Bob – and it really illustrates the point of this post perfectly. Thanks!” Hand out praise when it’s warranted and sincere. Your readers will love being acknowledged.

9: Ask For Clarification
Not all readers are great at clearly articulating their questions or comments. If there’s a chance that you’re misunderstanding their comment, ask them. “Hey, Sheryl… just so I’m clear, are you asking about X or are you asking about Y?”

10: Ask What Others Think
Get readers to interact with each other by asking them to participate in other people’s comments. When someone asks your opinion in the comments, share it – then add, “I’d be interested to hear what others think about this, too. Anyone care to comment on this?”

Over time, your readers will become accustomed to interacting with each other and you won’t have to prompt them anymore.

11: Refer to Earlier Comments
Another great way to get readers to interact with each other is to refer to other comments in your answer. You might say, “That’s a great point, Jane. Bill made a great comment above about that. Take a look.” Again – the idea is to get readers to read and interact with each other’s comments.

12: Ask Follow-Up Questions
By asking follow-up questions, you can encourage more in-depth comments and more meaningful conversations. When someone comments, “Great post! Very useful.” – instead of just leaving it at that, reply, “Thank you, Debbie. What did you find most useful about it?”

What You Can Do Today to Start Transforming Your Blog Into a Community

You now have 12 simple tips to start turning your comments into something meaningful and useful for your readers. You’ll develop your own methods of getting people more involved as you go along, too.

It may take some time for your audience to get used to really speaking their minds. But if you regularly let them know that’s what you want, most people are more than happy to jump in and tell you what they’re thinking.

Make note of these 12 tips. Print them out if you like. And the next time you publish a post, make it your goal to get people to interact beyond, “Thanks! Great post.” Use some (or all) of these tips to get a real conversation brewing on your blog.

So it’s up to you. Decide if you want a quiet audience of readers – or an active, vocal community.

Put these tips to use and then come back and let us know how it went.

Your Turn To Type Now…

How are things in your comments section? Share your frustrations or your tips in the comments section below.

Let’s see if everyone can give me more to work with here than “Thanks. Great post.”  🙂

Gary Korisko is a battle-tested real world sales pro. Download your Free copy of his eBook, How To Influence All The Right People - a guide to breaking away from the herd. For more of Gary's work, check out his blog Reboot Authentic

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