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Associations Now

Why Doesn't Anyone Comment on Your Blog?

ASSOCIATIONS NOW, September 2008 Intelligence

By: Lindy Dreyer and Maddie Grant

Summary:
If we had a nickel for all the association executives who lamented about the lack of comments on their association blog, we'd have... at least enough to share a nice lunch. Hey, a nickel's not what it used to be.

Time for Some Strategery

Getting more comments is often important to achieving your blog's objectives. (You already know your objectives, right? If not, stop right here. Come back to us when you have a clear picture of what you're trying to accomplish. We'll wait.) Most of us want our audience to be more vocal, but it's not something that happens overnight. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to build an audience that cares enough to speak up. Here are five qualities common to many blogs with a vocal audience.

1. Voice. The biggest mistake we've seen on association blogs is sterile, over-edited writing. Blog posts are not press releases. Choose a blog author who is not afraid to constructively show his or her true colors. Resist the urge to edit out all personality. Whether the author is your executive director, chief elected officer, or a member with a passion for the blog topic, let the blogger set a tone and be genuine.

When multiple blog authors are involved, defining a voice can be extra challenging. Make sure it's clear who is posting, and make it easy to find additional posts from each author.

The 1:9:90 rule
"In most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action."
—Jakob Nielsen, web usability guru and principal, Nielsen Norman Group

What does this mean for you? It means that most of your audience is reading, not commenting—and that's normal. Many of those readers think about commenting, but something stops them. Help them conquer that fear. Strive to write content that is more than just relevant. Dare to be unique, to stir the pot sometimes, to write in a way that resonates.

2. Open and easy. If you really want to build comments, you have to be open and make commenting easy. Limiting your blog content or commenting features to members also limits what you can achieve with your blog. A members-only strategy may be appropriate in some cases, but not if your goal is to engage a vocal audience. In fact, to truly be open, try setting up a blog with
  • No login;

  • Easy to find comment links;

  • No captchas—those annoying things that make people spell out letters to prove they are human;

  • No moderation. (You can always be notified of new posts and moderate after the comments are posted.) The instant gratification a new commenter feels when they see their name and content post to your site is not to be underestimated.

3. Challenge readers. You have to be writing something that makes people care enough to comment. That might mean sharing an unpopular opinion or stirring the pot.

4. Active. Posting regularly is important. You cannot build and sustain a vocal audience on a stagnant blog. But being active is about more than posting frequency. Commit the staff time and energy to

  • Reach out to other bloggers by commenting on their blog and linking to their posts on your blog. If you comment on their stuff, they will return the favor.

  • Connect your blog author face to face with the audience. Putting a photo of your blogger is a good start. Organizing an event where your blogger can meet the audience face to face is even better. The more your audience can feel connected with the author, the more they will feel comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions.

  • Share the best posts with your membership. Don't overdo it, but when you have a great post that parallels the interests of your members, use your existing marketing channels, especially e-mail newsletters and listservers, to share the link.

5. Listen and reward. When someone makes a comment, they want to be a part of a conversation. That's why it's so important to build listening into your strategy.

  • When someone comments, reply quickly. Ideally, your blog author will be the one replying, but knowledgeable staff can get in on the conversation, too.

  • Give commenters credit. It can be a small thing, like publishing their web address, or a big thing, like choosing an outstanding comment and highlighting it in a follow-up post.

  • Be prepared to act. Some comments might require an organizational response—a new session topic at your conference, a response to a criticism of how you're handling an advocacy campaign, or thanks for words of praise. If people who comment feel like they can affect change, you're doing something really right.

10 Types of Blog Posts That Associations Can Rock …

Nothing draws blog readers and commenters like meaningful, engaging posts. Here are some ideas to get you thinking and planning:

  1. Insight or opinion. If your blogger can be honest and open enough to share an opinion, you'll build rapport and attract readers. If you're brave enough to express an unpopular opinion, you'll get even more comments.
  2. Conference. You have a backstage pass. Why not use it to bring a whole new side of the conference experience to your members, and hear what they think about it?
  3. Interview. Find out what the experts really think and share it with your readers.
  4. Lists. Hey, you're reading this list, right? People love lists because they're easy to digest.
  5. Live. What if you live blogged the congressional hearing on the most important issue affecting your members?
  6. Announcement. This is about using your position in the industry to let people know about the most important stuff they have to know—even if it's from a competitor.
  7. Survey. We sure do enough of them, right? Whether you're surveying just your blog readers or sharing the results of a broader survey, it will get people talking.
  8. Response. If you're not getting called out by another blogger once in awhile, you're not doing it right. Debate draws audience, and a good rebuttal might even change some opinions.
  9. Meme. When you're trying to build awareness about an important topic, starting a meme (something like an online chain letter, but with substance) is a great way to get lots of bloggers talking all at the same time.
  10. Guest. Hand over the stage to one of your celebrity members for a day.

… And 2 to Avoid

  1. Announcement. I know—we said this was a good one. But it will backfire if you only announce your own new products and conference dates.
  2. Rant. Stirring the pot is one thing, going on a negative rant is something different. This works great for some bloggers, but for associations, it's a losing proposition.

Adapted from Rohit Bhargava and Jesse Thomas's SlideShare presentation on "25 Basic Styles of Blogging."

Maybe the Technology is To Blame

Think about your blog template. Words like subscribe, trackback, and permalink are standard fare on most blog templates, but meaningless to a new user. Instead, replace "subscribe" with "get updates," "trackback" with "blogs that link to this post," and "permalink" with a social bookmarking tool like ShareThis.

More, more, more!

Check out the social media bibliography for this article at www.socialfish.org/blogtips.

Lindy Dreyer is an association marketing and social media consultant. She blogs at http://associationmarketing.blogspot.com. Email: mjdreyer@gmail.com

Maddie Grant is administrative director at the Washington Center for Psychoanalysis. She blogs at www.diaryofareluctantblogger.com. Email: maddiegrant@washpsa.org

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  Lauran sam , November 19, 2008

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  Theresa DeConinck , October 23, 2008
Excellent article. Short and right to the point. Anyone can become a good blogger by following this advice.
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  Matthew Baehr , September 09, 2008
Good practical advice anyone can follow. Check out the bibliography too.
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  Scott Steen , CAE , September 09, 2008
This piece makes a lot of sense. Thanks for your straight-forward, practical advice on one of the basic challenges we face in implementing a social media strategy.
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  Jamie Notter , September 08, 2008
Love the article because it does what we need more of when it comes to social media. It simply talks about how you do it, rather than focusing specifically on the technology issues. Well done.
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  Chris Condayan , September 08, 2008
Good article Maddie and Lindy. Lot's of great tips for getting conversations started.

However, as previously pointed out by Frank Fortin, be weary of excluding the CAPTCHA feature - even with CAPTCHA on you will get some spam - see http://blogs.zdnet.com/security/?p=1835 for an article on India's emerging CAPTCHA solving industry.

By the way, I have to say, ASAE's Associations Now should follow some of the advice in this piece and apply it their site. The irony of having to log in to rate and comment on an article about blogging, Facebook, Web 2.0 marketing, etc., is pretty thick.

Follow me on Twitter @csuspect
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  Sharon Kneebone , CAE , September 08, 2008
Lindy and Maddie are dead on with this article. I especially like how they address objectives in the first paragraph. Blogging, like all social media, should be used strategically. The authors give great practical advice as well. Sometimes as association professionals we worry so much about controlling the message that we loose sight of the true power of social media: it is interactive, instantaneous, and powerful.
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  Frank Fortin , CAE , September 07, 2008
I love everything about this but your absolute position on no barriers. I can accept no moderation, but there is so much spamming going on, the "no captcha" rule goes a little too far for me. We do have liability issues to consider. Captchas may be annoying, but spam is worse. If we didn't have them, our blog site would have been overridden by spam - unbelievable, really.
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  Bill Sheridan , CAE , September 07, 2008
Great suggestions! So many of our members seem reluctant to join the conversation. Maybe we can lure them in by following some of the advice in this article.
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  Sterling Raphael , September 07, 2008
Amazing and comprehensive guide to blogging with a purpose. As stated here... having a voice, being open, challenging, listening, etc... can help most organizations empower themselves (and their audience) for meaningful change.

Also, blogging efforts around events can ignite dialogue. Posting blogs to your attendees before, during, and after events with structure yet open dialogue can really makes the "during" of your event much more effective.
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  Robert Wolfe , September 07, 2008
Great thoughts, especially opening up the blog completely (I didn't realize those annoying letter patterns had an official name.) Also I love that you mentioned that tech should be transparent - reducing the tech lingo with phrases that actually mean something to users is awesome insight.
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  David Sabol , September 07, 2008
This is spot-on advice and a great reference not only for associations/individuals that are just getting started with blogging but also for those who have been doing it for a while. I think that the fundamental theme and one that is worth repeating is that blogging, and any other social media for that matter, is not a one way street. It's a bi-directional highway useful for sending AND receiving information. However, if you take the ability to interact out of the mix you are left with yet another static communication medium and there are already more than enough of those.

As Maddie and Lindy point out, blogging is not a "create it and forget it" communication medium. It takes time, persistence, patience, focus and creativity. In the end you will only get out of it what you put into it. You not only have to get your audience interested in what you saying but you also have to provide them with a way to participate in the discussion. And as for engaging, recognizing and communicating with your readers, YOU HAVE TO DO IT. It's called positive reinforcement and if your goal is to build a loyal and responsive readership or community, you not only have to make it easy for them to share their thoughts (even if you don't agree with them or they are controversial) but you also have to recognize them for taking time to do so. I do find it somewhat interesting that some associations have a problem with this when in other mediums they do such an outstanding job of recognizing and rewarding their membership.

This is rock solid advice from two individuals who practice what they preach. Ignore it at your own peril. As for me, I will be bookmarking it and reading it repeatedly because the ideas they share are what sets apart the successful blogger from the unsuccessful.
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  Peggy Hoffman , CAE , September 05, 2008
I know its scary but we really do have to have faith and stop putting barriers up - glad to see that spelled that. This is going to be bookmarked for sure (not to mentioned shared on FaceBook. What's next from you two?
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  David Patt , CAE , September 05, 2008
Great tips! (Especially about moderating comments). I'm saving this list. You should also advise people not to be afraid to post comments. Some folks think they'll be seen as chronic commenters, but their dialog is important to keep the discussion alive.
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  KiKi L'Italien , September 03, 2008
The Wonder Twins of the Association world have done it again! Thanks for the great tips! I really like what you posted about including commenters on the conversation. I think that is where many blogs go wrong. People want to be involved!
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  Maggie McGary , September 03, 2008
Amen to not moderating comments. There is nothing more annoying than taking the time to comment on a post only to have it not show up immediately. At best it makes you wonder if there was a glitch and your comment didn't get sent; at worst you know it got sent and the blogger purposely didn’t post it. As far as I’m concerned, as long as a comment isn’t obscene or otherwise offensive, it should be posted. A blogger who picks and chooses which comments to publish automatically negates that blog’s authenticity.
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  Renato Sogueco , September 03, 2008
Great, practical tips on injecting "life" into our blogs. I've printed/emailed this article for our communications staff and will use in my own blog. Thank you Lindy and Maddie!
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  Scott Sherrin , September 03, 2008
This is a great, to-the-point synopsis of some of those things associations likely are overlooking when it comes to their blogs (I know my association is!). It all makes perfect sense, of course, but we always tend to forget the basics when we're trying something we're not as familiar with. Thanks for putting all these great points in one article.



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