I have written numerous articles for websites and magazines, have published almost five hundred video reviews and have many friends in the blogging industry. We don’t always agree on technology trends, business strategies or the quality of some products, but what everyone agrees upon is the mystery behind reader comments. Not the comments themselves mind you, but how to effectively elicit more comments on whatever type of media you publish.

I have had marathon conversations attempting to find the magic equation to engage reader feedback, and there have been some very interesting solutions, some enlightening, some just off the wall. The two strategies that we all seem to agree upon are the need to grow you website, and to build a bond with your readers.

istock_000006428830smallGrowing your website seems like a pretty basic solution, but sometimes simplicity is genius. With all sorts of online statistics such as hits, page views, unique visitors,time spent per visit, never mind all the search engine optimization strategy, it starts to make your head spin.

A good portion of viewer comments is based on numbers, and the numbers are easiest to understand when compared to something everyone recieves everyday: direct mail. In the advertising industry, direct mail is based on the quality of content and quantity of pieces mailed out, because very few people respond to it. Think about it, what do you do with what I call “junk mail”? Probably the same thing I do with most of it, which is throw it away. During good economic times, response rates to direct mail is about 0.1%, yes 1/10th of one percent. If a company sends out 100,000 postcards they can expect to receive 100 inquires. Oddly enough, the same numbers hold true for websites, blogs and other forms of online media. If you have 10,000 unique views per day and post one piece of new content, each and every day,  you can expect ten comments. The response rate can vary of course, and I have seen rates of up to 0.8%, which would yield 80 comments. Quality and quantity of your content will partly determine if your percentage is closer to the 0.1% or the 0.8% mark.

Building a bond with your readers is also a point we all agree upon. It’s just not enough to put out great content on a regular basis, your readers need to feel invested in your work. This can be more or less difficult depending on the type of media you are working with.

When producing video content this seems to be accomplished more easily. Talking to people is a natural, everyday occurrence and you can accomplish this with video. Viewers know what you look like and can relate to the visual as well as the tone of your content, which is much harder to accomplish in print. At best in print media you will have a headshot and a short bio to convey your personality to readers, along with your content obviously. There are a number of ways to build a relationship with your readers and make them feel a part of your website. Here are some suggestions to get the ball rolling:

  • ask questions of your readers to gain their opinion
  • implement their suggestions in relation to format or story ideas
  • share some personal aspects of your life
  • respond to their comments and engage in a discussion
  • conduct polls, a quick way for readers to engage
  • participate in social networks

and probably the most important, and the one I take very seriously, is to answer all personal emails.

With increased exposure and engaging readers that are loyal to your site, the comments on your posts should start to increase. You invest a lot of time and effort into your content, and readers spend valuable time consuming your media, so you owe it to each other to provide quality in both content and comments.

Of course there are other techniques to increase the number of comments your posts receive, but these are the two that nearly everyone agrees upon. How do you elicit participation from readers on your site? I’m sure you will have some other creative ideas so leave them, ironically, in the comments below.