It is perhaps satisfying to be in the enviable position of owning a blog that is so wildly popular readers are grateful to just see their name listed among the comments. They expect nothing else in return. A post may have hundreds of comments and the writer need only take a minute to dash off a one-line reply to the first two comments, and that's if they're feeling particularly sociable. For those of us that haven't reached that stature, I've discovered that it's important to give liberally of our time and ourselves.
I admit that jumping into conversations with strangers does not come naturally to me. It's been a learning process and I am beginning to enjoy the engagement more.
One of the best ways to get comments is to give them first. Generosity goes a long way. Many of the most active commenters have a strong sense of community. You'll find them listed in the ‘Top Commentators' widgets in the sidebars of blogs and their comments sprinkled throughout the threads in the comment panels below each post. When you click the links of active commenters you'll often find the same people actively commenting on each others' blogs. Congrats, you've just discovered a community or hub!
If the themes of these blogs align at least somewhat with your own, these active commenters will probably feel comfortable entering your conversations as well. To become part of the community you should make a commitment to actively engage and provide value. Create a list of blogs you want to become a regular contributor on. Then dive in, read the recent posts carefully, find some that you feel you can contribute to and add your comments. Don't just comment on the post; become involved in active conversations with other commentators.
Most bloggers don't require your praise, but knowing their readership gained something from their efforts can be rewarding. What insights and additional knowledge did you gain? Can you add value to the post by relating an experience that reinforces something the writer said? A life experience that is similar to that of the writer? Do you have a link to additional information (preferably not your own content when you're first introducing yourself)? Can you expand on one of the writer's points? Maybe you disagree with some or all of what was said in the post.
Take a look at the comments being left, check out the commenters' Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn profiles and follow at least some of these people. Do the same for the author of the post. Take the time to retweet, like and +1 their social posts. You want people in this informal community to know that you would be a valuable addition to their circle.
Give Proof of Life
Some people that comment aren't there to gain comments or links. They want to be part of the conversation. They may have an opinion they want heard. It's important to acknowledge everyone that comments on your blog promptly. It's a very good idea to set up comment notifications on your cell phone. The WordPress app is great for this. Let commentators know that you value their input and are glad they took the time to write. Actually read over what they wrote carefully, then respond to the comments they have made with some thought, encouraging them to contribute again.
Give of Yourself
As bloggers and content marketers, it's easy to assume the role of lecturer. There's nothing wrong with providing information in a well-researched, structured format. You can gain a large following as an authoritative information resource. In-depth articles become content pillars Google loves to index, but they may not provoke any response… ever.
Newspapers and magazines may have a huge readership based upon the quality of content they provide, but it's the editorial section that gets the comments. If I want comments, I've discovered that I have to take a risk in sharing some of myself, my opinions, my successes, my failures, what I've learned and what I am still struggling with. Some people may disagree with my conclusions and I need to be okay with that, acknowledging their opinion and welcoming contorversy. Commenters love to interact with real people.
I would enjoy hearing from you. Perhaps you have felt out of your element, jumping into conversations and commenting for the first time on a complete stranger's blog. Have you found other ways to give online, with rewarding comments in return? Are you using community-oriented commenting plugins like CommentLuv, Google+ Comments or Disqus?