How social interaction can benefit more from your commenters
There is this common complaint within social media – a distinct lack of social interaction from your followers.
Looking around, it seems that some people are absolutely overflowing with social interaction, whereas you get nothing. Or very little to make whatever you do on social media worthwhile.
Why is this? Is there something wrong with people nowadays? Or does the problem actually lie with you?
Whatever it is, can anything be done about this?
Well, it's all about changing your perceptions about social media and social interaction. And this post aims to do just that.
Being social is not about you
If you've read the subheading below, and truly understood it, you will either be thinking to yourself: "I know that!" or "What the hell does that mean?".
If you're the former, you'll know using social media is all about focusing on other people, your followers and your readers, and giving them what they want.
If you're the latter (and usually a business person), it's time to wake up and smell the coffee. The social media world is not about you and your business. It's about the people your business works or provides for.
And yet so many people take no notice
Why are you getting so little social interaction? Have you really looked at what you are posting onto social media and thought carefully about it?
Is it about your followers, or is it about you? When you publicise something on social media about your business, are you only banging on only about your business? Or are you focusing on your customers and how this superb bit of news will have an effect them?
It's human nature to talk about yourself. This is hard-wired into our social make-up. In our desire to draw attention, we tend to focus on ourselves, because this is what is really important to us.
But it isn't to anybody else. Take a look at the infographic below:
Too much noise destroys social interaction
Think about what social media is. The amount of social interaction that (supposedly) happens on it. The amount of updates posted every minute, even every second, on such a large variety of media.
This is a heck of a lot of information. All these people clamouring for attention. All this content demanding to be read, watched, listened to, appreciated, answered and shared. So much noise vying to get noticed above others.
If you post only about yourself, or what you like, prefer or aspire to, do you think you'll stand out? To you you will, because you are interested in you. But to anybody else? Really?
When I read through this post, I do so carefully, because it matters to me. I suspect most people will skim read this without due concentration. Maybe only a few will go back and read it properly once they've sussed it is something they would like to read.
Something which appeals to your followers
If your posts are failing to get social interaction, it's time to take a good look at them. How interesting are they to your followers? Is this definitely something which would appeal to them? What can they get from it that could make a difference to their lives?
An update that stimulates a response is one which has resonated with that commenter. Something triggered a reaction. They recognised a relatable element within it. Perhaps they felt it had been written specifically for them.
It's difficult to personalise a post written for a mass audience. Try compiling it as if it was created with one purpose in mind – to inform, educate and entertain each individual follower. Make them feel special, wanted, appreciated and that they are the most important person to you.
What should you do to make a difference?
To cut above the noise and stick out like a sore thumb, any posts you write need to be outstanding. Find out as much as you can about your followers or readers. This isn't just about creating an avatar for them, it's about acknowledging their problems, desires, needs, emotions, failures and successes.
Imagine yourself as your follower whenever you update on social media. Forget about yourself and/or your business. This is not important at the moment. Think what would be going through your readers' minds when they arrive and start flicking through their news streams.
What can you create to provoke an instant response? Which element about your news would make them sit up and take notice? How would this relate to their lives? Is this something tangible they could take away and instantly implement?
The infographic below provides a series of suggestions which could turn an update around to the follower's point of view:
What do your followers want?
People like gossip, and have done since the dawn of time. They love to know what is going on. Unfortunately you cannot guarantee any of this sort of media being true, valuable or useful; nevertheless, people are still drawn to it.
Take advantage of this sense of community. If you can't successfully create your own, optimise an existing one. Twist your story to match a trending topic to give it more appeal. Combine popularity with the 'fear of missing out', cultivate urgency with irresistible hooks and court controversy with curiosity.
If sensationalism works, use it. If your followers are more intellectual, bend that way. But they will all respond to the power of emotion, especially when used within a story, anecdote or moral.
Find out what your followers want to read, watch or listen to, and give it to them. Pander to their needs, use the same language as them and refer to personalities or characters which they can relate to.
What would make you stand out?
Transparency is a vital element which is often misunderstood, neglected or overlooked. Being yourself and expressing your personality, especially if it is likeable, relatable and obtainable, is a sure-fire way of gaining a following who are ready for more social interaction.
Think about the success of the YouTubers. They socially chat with their followers, show they care about them, ask their opinions, converse with them elsewhere, provide material based on feedback and suggestions. None of this is inward looking, it is totally focused upon their fans.
A business could have a specific representative (remember Halifax's Howard?), a cute animal (Metro's CEO tweets as his dog!), or an animation (compare the Meercats). Whatever you choose, it needs to appeal to your followers so they start talking about and sharing it with their friends.
And last, but not least, it is the first thing your followers notice which could make or break any chance of social interaction. Think carefully about instantly attractive headlines followed by validating first paragraphs that hook and guide followers towards the goodies that could change their lives.
And the missing link to encourage social interaction?
It doesn't stop with only the posts and updates. Many of your followers will need encouragement to partake in any social interaction, such as suitable call to actions at the end of your posts which provide suggestions to comment on.
But I have been experimenting with another concept. I am often 'blessed' with short, nondescript comments that are meaningless or have no worth. In the past I deleted these in disgust, but now I value the time and effort each commenter has taken (provided they're not spam) to respond to my posts.
So I reply thanking them, and then ask them a question. This continues the conversation which could have been abruptly severed without this extra effort. Mostly these are ignored, but occasionally I have success – which is extremely gratifying.
Below is an infographic providing ideas for questions in reply comments, and I will show examples afterwards:
Why are questions so useful?
People have forgotten how to comment properly since the abandonment of blog commenting facilities in 2014. Social interaction on social media has a different style: more conversational, but also bitty and disjointed. This is due to being in real-time, with limited moderation, so engagement doesn't need to be so detailed.
However, this particular style isn't suitable for blogs. A short, swift answer doesn't cut it. So commenters need to be enticed into providing a little more through questions.
Ask the commenter to elaborate on their reaction, explain what they mean, offer an extended opinion and even provide their own solutions. Entice them to reveal which element made them comment.
Prompt them into relating an experience which is relevant to the post. Do they agree with everything the author has said? What will they do with the information they have just gained?
Asking a question in your reply shows you care about their comment. Extend your friendliness and desire to find out more about them. Commenting can be a lonely business, so knowing the author appreciates their efforts increases the possibility of extra replies, thus developing into a proper conversation.
How does this work?
This is when I started to employ using a question in a comment:
This failed because I replied too late. This is extremely bad practice, but I was put off by the shortness of the comment (and it was on my other blog which I don't visit frequently enough). If you want to cultivate conversations you need to reply as soon as you can.
It's not worth being snotty about short comments. As long as it is obviously not spam, you should fully acknowledge any effort with a response. Adding a question increases the likelihood of a reply:
As you can see, as soon as I stopped asking a question, the conversation ceased.
This harks back to before 2014 when people commented more frequently on blogs. I particularly remember one conversation I had with a commenter that went on for about nine exchanges each. It was extremely exciting and I had to keep on refreshing my blog to see when he next commented!
And I still see evidence of lively interchanges on popular blogs which have a large, loyal readership. If the subject is right, the atmosphere is friendly and accommodating, and the audience enthusiastic, there is no reason why threads like above can continue for much longer. Especially when they answer each other!
And of course it goes both ways – questions in the comments will always guarantee an answer:
Though if I had also asked a question, we could have continued this conversation a little more.
Bonus: how to make your commenters feel special
I use the Thrive Comments plugin because it provides much more than making your commenting area look nice. It focuses on making the commenter feel valued and special by providing the blog's author with a few extra goodies up their sleeve.
Blog Tyrant offers a selection of incentives in his post and explains why these sites succeed in commenting. For example, Huffington Post offer award badges to their loyal and frequent commenters. So does the Thrive Comments plugin, as I explained in this post.
Mashable promotes their social sharing buttons, as obviously they have an excellent following on social media. SEOMoz prefer to acknowledge their community when they comment, as well as showing off their impressive commenting and sharing stats.
CopyBlogger makes his commenting policy prominent above his comment box. This is probably to explain to his readers and fans the strict rules he put in place when he reopened his commenting facilities in 2015. This doesn't put off potential commenters, in fact the transparentness encourages even more.
And Blog Tyrant also suggests the Comment Luv plugin as an incentive for commenters. Who wouldn't like an automatic link to your latest post included at the end of your comment? This definitely helps with increasing backlinks to your blog, which contributes towards increasing its rankings.
Why social interaction is important for your commenters
It's all about forming a community with your trusted readership. Part of getting them on board and wanting to participate is due to social interaction.
I ask questions to get my commenters to reply back. If they respond I have realised they really care about their comment and want to know how I respond. This can be made more possible through the Subscribe to Comments plugin which informs commenters whenever there has been a reply.
I like it when my commenters show a real interest in my blog and want to know more. However, so many I feel leave a comment without a purpose. Maybe they do, but are unable to fulfil this within the few words they produce. Asking a question gives them a second chance to reveal their true intentions.
And getting more replies increases the threads, which enhances the popularity of my blog. The more comments I have, the more interesting it appears to passing readers. Thoroughly active social interaction within the comments is proof of a worthy audience who regularly visit to read what I write about.
And social interaction attracts search engines
Search engine optimisation (SEO) shouldn't be confined to only the post's content. Increased popularity through multiple comments is also attractive to the search engines, and can have a large impact here as well.
Commenting is a great way of producing acceptable backlinks to your blog. This is done through the URL you fill in when you submit your comment. Usually this is the blog's homepage, but linking to a related, relevant post instead could produce more coveted 'Google juice'. This is an opportunity so many commenters miss out on, because they haven't realised the potential.
If you're really canny, and post multiple replies within a continued conversation, you could offer a selection of relevant posts within each comment (provided the commenting system doesn't automatically accept the last submission details). All this helps towards increasing your blog's Domain Authority and page rankings.
And for exceptionally clever commenters, using similar keywords to the original post increases the chances of the comment being indexed to match a relevant search request.
Have you a question about social interaction in comments?
I like to practice what I preach, but it helps greatly if I am suitable encouraged by my readers. It take two to tango, you know!
Since you've managed to get all the way down to here, you will have either a) read all of the post (if so, well done and thank you!) or b) skimmed read it and jumped to the bottom to catch what's going on.
If you're b, go back and read this post carefully – you might learn something! If you're a, leave a comment asking me a question, to clarify something or to fill in a knowledge gap. Whatever feedback I get will help me to improve this post for future readers, as I prefer to plough my profits back in to the benefit of all.