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You can post as regularly as you like, but without a strong community – or at least the opportunity for readers to respond – you could be restricting your blog from ever reaching its potential.
So how do you attract comments, generate discussion and foster community?
The first step is to understand the importance of a community, and the place that comments to your website have in building a following to your blog. Once this is realized, you can then begin tailoring your posts to generate discussion, which might mean altering their focus somewhat or simply taking advantage of some killer headlines for your post titles. The key here is to understand that while your posts might be important, the discussion that they generate is just as vital.
With a modest community built and interacted with (replying to comments is important!) you might then start looking at various tools that can be used to enhance the whole discussion element.
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The Importance of Community
Often we think of online communities as being discussion groups, bulletin boards and forums, but this isn’t the case. Facebook, Twitter and even LinkedIn allow you to generate communities and followings, and where there are people following you online, a community can form.
Your blog can be the hub of a massive online community, regardless of how many visitors you currently have. For instance, with just one post you can inspire your readers to respond to your thoughts, and through the replies you might find that people learn from each other, whether it is a view point, a link to something that confirms or contents your original post, or something else.
As the World Wide Web is all about connecting people through communication, it makes sense that blogging should prove a suitable home for groups of people to congregate online. Remember that as you add more interesting, contentious and inspiring content, your readers will take the time to interact with you.
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Providing Interesting, Inspiring Content
So how do you go about providing content of this kind, and can it really be used to get more comments for your blog?
Basically you need to be prepared to open your heart. This might be uncomfortable for many, but by being honest you can inspire a response from your readers.
For instance, you might run a blog that reviews something, perhaps power tools. Posting a review of an electric drill that is unnecessarily positive (perhaps to aid links to an affiliate) might seem politically safe, but it can seriously affect your reputation and standing, making you and your blog look nothing more than a big advertising effort. Not only that, any comments you do receive when following this approach could be quite negative
However, if you offered constructive criticism of the device, highlighting any issues with performance or suitability when drilling into different surfaces then you are likely to both generate an interesting discussion over the merits of the device as well as highlight your reputation as someone who knows about power tools.
A well written post that gives an opinion will do more to improve your bank balance in the long run than a short-term boost via an affiliate account.
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Plugins to Aid Comments and Discussion
Some blogs are designed to be replied to, such as those provided by Google’s Blogger service, although there is little you can do with that platform to improve the comments you receive or widen the net for responses.
WordPress is a different kettle of fish, however, particularly for self-hosted blogs that can accept plugins.
Various extra tools are available to WordPress.org users (as opposed to the WordPress.com hosted blogs) that can aid commenters and foster discussion on your website with the intention of generating a thriving community.
Commenting tools such as plugins for Facebook and Disqus can be used to offer a wider selection of responses from people who might not be willing to sign-up to “another” blog. The Facebook and Disqus options in particular will introduce a new comments area on your blog in addition to the native comments; sadly there is no way to combine these so you might opt to disable the native comments or ignore these options altogether. Making it easy for commenters to leave a response is important, however, which is why the Facebook option is becoming more and more important; when comments are left, their friends find out via Facebook.
Once you have people leaving comments on your blog, you can show your appreciation of their presence and bring them back again by taking advantage of autoresponder plugins that both thank the commenters for taking the time to leave their thoughts on your article as well as update them as to when any replies to their own posts are made.
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There are other plugins that you can use whose functions are less overt.
Providing an option for your commenters to subscribe to the comments left on a particular post is a very useful option, as is allowing comments to be rated by other readers. Finally, providing a list of the most regular commenters in your community can prove useful and help you in your aim of getting more readers for your blog. By recognizing the efforts of others you will inspire new members to get involved!
One last point - encouraging comments on your posts is easier if you disable rules about signing up to your blog. This might result in some spammy posts but in most cases these should be blocked by the blog software. Making it easier for readers to leave comments can easily double the volume of comments overnight!
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Author's own experience.
Screenshot provided by author.