Comments. As bloggers, are there any of you who don’t like receiving them? They confirm that we are being heard by someone, and reinforce our ability to reach out to people because not only are we being heard, we are being connected to and communicated with. Comments mean a lot to me.
I think at first, most personal bloggers just want a place to record parts of their life story so they can look back and see how far they’ve come. I’d guess that at the beginning, comments aren’t as important as the satisfaction gleaned from putting something “out there”. But then you hit milestones such as the first comment received (even if you begged a friend to go to your site, read your entry and leave a comment), the first unsolicited comment received (which to me is the first comment that really counts), then a second and third comment, then comments on your next entry, and the one after that and the one after that and all of a sudden a little part of you feels very committed to writing things in a way that will encourage a response.
If you want to receive more comments on your blog entries, you need to leave comments on other people’s blogs. Most people will at least visit the blog of someone who leaves a comment on their blog and once they’re on your blog, they may feel compelled to leave a comment (because they connected with your entry/with you). One exception to this general rule is one of the more famous bloggers that I’ve mentioned before, dooce, who I don’t believe comments often (if at all) on the blogs of others but she herself receives thousands of comments on her blog entries. Because she is a blog celebrity, she gets some really nasty comments at times and I suspect the work involved in moderating her comments is part of the reason she doesn’t open all of her entries to comments.
Even more important than commenting on other people’s blogs is writing compelling entries. If you write valuable content, and people connect to it, they will read your entries and comment, even if you never comment on their own writing, and even if the entry is long. “Valuable” can be defined as anything from making you laugh (entertaining) to giving you information on getting through medical school. Your entry doesn’t have to be the next self-help blog for someone to consider it valuable. The entry doesn’t have to be long; it doesn’t have to be grammatically perfect; it doesn’t have to only use “proper” English. Sharing your life story or experiences can influence the lives of others in ways you didn’t even consider. Many people will take your story, which differs somewhat from their own story, and apply elements of it to their own life. The key to me is to just be real: no matter your topic, be it shoes or makeup or your life, try to be genuine. People can tell which bloggers are being genuine and which are trying to make their lives seem more exciting than it actually is, or more tragic than it is.
Asking questions is another way to get comments. Some do this really well, in a way that shows that the reader’s opinion is welcome, but some just tack on a random question to an entry that’s on a different topic entirely and sometimes that can come across as a comment-seeking ploy.
For those of you who enjoy leaving comments, here are the some things that I try to pay attention to when commenting.
Read the entry you’re about to comment on to the end. Sounds obvious but sometimes it’s clear the commenter only read the first part of your entry where you say you’re sad because their comment is “I hope you feel better soon”. If they had read the entry to the end they would discover that due to what happened in the middle of your entry, you are already better.
Try to stay on topic. Leave a comment that relates to the entry; not the entry before, not a private conversation you’re having elsewhere. This is especially important for blogs that want to encourage dialogue, not only in response to the entry but in response to the comments of others. If a new person comes to a blog that seems to have comments that are mostly inside jokes, it may make it hard for the new visitor to feel like they can connect. That doesn’t mean that I sometimes won’t ask the person a question unrelated to the entry, but I try to keep at least part of my comment on topic.
Try to be nice, but not at the cost of lying. I love comments that agree with my viewpoint, or seem to appreciate my entry, but the entries that affect me most are those that correct me or provide clarifications. My instinct is always to try and clear up apparent misunderstandings, and sometimes if an entry I write is taken in the opposite way that I intended, I’ll go into “crisis management” mode out of shock. But in the end, these comments are often the ones that allow me to open my mind and grow. I also really appreciate the comments that show me love when I really need it.