Blogs that Attract Comments: Are You in the Active ‘1%’ ? Do You Want to Be?

September 16, 2008 at 9:09 am 16 comments

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.

The information above is only a very small part taken from a very engaging and interesting, and I think, on-target article by Lindy Dreyer and Madie Grant, entitled “Why Doesn’t Anyone Comment on Your Blog?” in the Associations Now Sept. 2008 publication. Many tips on writing style and basic content for blogs, all encouraging blog comments, are provided, with information on the types of blog posts and styles of blogs adapted from an excellent SlideShare presentation from Rohit Bhargava and Jesse Thomas also worth viewing: “25 Basic Styles of Blogging: And When to Use Each One.” Apparently, Bhargava put this up on SlideShare some time ago, since it has “55810 views 35 comments 606 favorites 334 embeds,” but I found it very pertinent still.

Back to the Association Now article–the authors provide 5 strategies to draw in blog readers and commenters, and various tips for what to do and what not to do to keep them coming back, including possibly changing “subscribe” with “get updates” and “trackback” with “blogs that link to this post,” among others.

Whether you are new to blogging or not, do take the time to read this article and its recommended links, not to mention the article’s comments and the bibliography provided at the SocialFish post (along with the SlideShare presentation mentioned above, found again at the bottom of the bibliography).

Although written to and for associations and organizations to help get the conversations going on their blogs, the advice and tips provided here are extremely pertinent for individuals as well. I am always attempting to give practical advice on blogging, but this is one of the best articles on attracting readers and commenters that I have read this year. I especially liked their detailed information about the five qualities common to many blogs with a vocal audience (i.e., strategies). I hope you enjoy learning from this, as well, and that you share it with other bloggers.

-Robert Lackie

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16 Comments

  • 1. Janie L. Hermann  |  September 16, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    I have to comment because it would be too ironic if no one commented on a post about getting more comments. ;-)

    Seriously, though, that is a great article. Thanks for posting it.

  • 2. Lisa Coats  |  September 17, 2008 at 8:28 am

    Like Janie, I have to comment, too, lest the irony abound. I do occasionally respond to blogs (this one included), but what stops me sometimes is having to sign in — if I haven’t commented in awhile, I may have forgotten what password I used, or which email I used for that particular blog, etc. Hate to admit it, but if I’m feeling overwhelmed, I may just pass up a comment. I’ll read the article soon, though an maybe comment again! :)

  • 3. Robert J. Lackie  |  September 17, 2008 at 9:07 am

    I see that our two commenters thus far–Janie and Lisa–have a sense of humor! ;) I personally think that is a good trait for a blogger to have. You will notice, when you read all of the material in and linked to the post, that it does give advice in what NOT to do (so as to not discourage comments if you really want them), and some of those are requiring log-ins and CAPTCHAS (which make us spell out letters or numbers to prove we are actually human beings). I, personally, am OK with both of these, but I am just reporting! Anyway, thanks again for your comments, Janie and Lisa, and I am glad that you liked the post.

  • 4. waltc  |  September 18, 2008 at 11:28 am

    I haven’t gone to the linked piece yet, but a couple of thoughts:

    1. The 90:9:1 rule is a best case. In many cases, it’s more like 990:9:1–consider Wikipedia, where active involvement is a tiny fraction of usage.

    2. Recognizing the reality of 90:9:1 is vital to establishing realistic expectations and proceeding accordingly. For the PALINET Leadership Network, if we relied on user contributions, the site would be nearly stagnant–and I don’t think any set of techniques for increasing reactions is really going to change that all that much.

    3. To me, the biggest barriers to commenting are signins that seem to require previous knowledge. (That may be true here, but I already have a Google account, so it’s not a barrier.) In general, I think a good spam filter makes more sense than requiring signin. As for Capcha, it’s mostly annoying in the versions that change mid-post–and wipe out your post in the process.

  • 5. Robert J. Lackie  |  September 18, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Thanks for your comments, Walt! Your number 1 thought made me chuckle–and I believe your ratio is probably closer to the truth, and I must say that out of the 90:9:1 (or the 990:9:1), I, myself, fall more in the “9” category, and I am fine with that. Regarding your number 2, I agree that setting realistic expectations for your blog and its comments is vital, but I also have seen improved techniques over the years significantly change readership and active involvement; for instance, I have not dealt with the issue when using Capchas where it changed mid-post and wiped out my post–that would be an issue that would definitely impact my decision to post comments (or post again) to that blog. I think you will like the entire article and its links (bibliography and SlideShare presentation), so do take a look when you can. Anyway, great thoughts on the topic, and thanks again for your comments, Walt–you must represent the “1’s”!? Or we just got lucky that you stopped by our Library Garden blog? ;)

  • 6. Nancy Dowd  |  September 18, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    Great topic Robert! I’ll have to read the linked pieces for sure. I’m usually surprised which posts get the most comments but when I look at my own responses I guess the truth is that I have a long “to comment” list that I put aside and never get to. Simple posts of encouragement, confirmations, etc.. are easy to do and require little thought, so they get posted. I am also an eraser who gets way to wordy then just erases rather than take the time to edit. I wonder how many other people do that too!

    BTW-The best response I ever got to any post was specifically designed as a way for librarians to give their input on a project. They could cast a vote and/or comment- it was an incredible conversation. We had over 300 votes and nearly 60 comments and really helped in making decisions for the project.
    Okay… I’m talking waaaay too much so am going to post before I’m compelled to erase! :-)

  • 7. John Lang  |  September 18, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    Hey Robert…I’m glad some interest was generated by your post. Realistic expectations are probably to have none, keep on doing what you do, and try to improve continuously. Everyone, hang in for the long haul!

  • 8. Robert J. Lackie  |  September 18, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    I am glad you hung in there, Nancy, as John Lang recommended, and that you did not erase it before you posted. ;) You are not the only one who has done that, Nancy, believe me! But we can always continuously strive to improve everything related to blogging and commenting, as John states. Here’s to progress!!

  • 9. Cynthia  |  September 22, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    When I have the time to read, I tend to comment. Nearly all of the comments I make are positive.

    One of my biggest barriers to commenting is the number of previous comments. I figure my voice will be lost in the crowd or simply repeat something said before me when the numbers get high.

    My second biggest reason not to comment is fear: as a job hunter, I don’t want to say something that will hurt me at a later date. Therefore, I would say it is less than 1% of the time I write a negative comment.

    I worry that this fear of reprisal causes blogs to have mostly ‘yes’ answers, and not much give and take or critical analysis (not mean flames, but real dialog). Are we loosing ideas and input because someone in the field has a performance review or interview soon?

    It is a small world here in library land–seemingly smaller due to things like blogs. Does this have a chilling effect on communication via blogs or social networking sites?

  • 10. Robert J. Lackie  |  September 24, 2008 at 12:21 am

    Hi, Cynthia–just saw your comment, and I just wanted to say something about your two main points: you voice lost in the crowd or simply repeating others, and fear of reprisals from possible employers.

    First of all, I must say that I understand both points–they are valid ones, in my opinion, for not commenting or blogging itself. It is understandable that we as individuals might not feel that our opinion counts, but ironically, if we always felt that way, no blogs, much less comments, would exist. I feel that if you have something to say and it means something to you and possibly others, you should say it–if not, don’t bother blogging or commenting, simple as that, I think.

    As for reprisals, again, this can happen, as I know of many people that did not get a job, a promotion, a place on a sports team, etc., because of comments that they made public that would have been best kept private. However, I think there is a simple solution for this, maybe overly simple–you should just trust your instinct and values: don’t make public via blog posts, blog comments, email, text messaging, letters, etc., that you don’t feel like talking about in public, in person. If you are not immoral, unethical, or illegal in your communications (text and graphics), then I think that you have really nothing to fear. People will have their opinions, and that is OK. But you don’t have to express all of yours in public settings. Continue to choose wisely what you put your energy and time into (what you are committed to), and it will serve you well, especially when you care–and I know that you do, because I know you. If you did not care, you would not have commented to this post (the 10th comment, by the way) as you did. Stay honest to yourself, protect your privacy as you see fit to do, and speak out when you feel it necessary, and then, you will be happy with yourself. Maybe fear of reprisals for comments stop some from hitting “enter,” but it doesn’t have to always be that way. Pick and choose what’s best for you and be content for now. Experience will be your guide, as will your friends like me in the blogosphere.

    Thanks for commenting and blogging at Library Garden, and being open about all of this–you are what good employers are looking for, and I wish you the best in your professional and personal endeavors.

  • 11. Lisa Coats  |  September 25, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Thank you, Cynthia, for bringing up this dilemma; and thank you, Robert, for your comments on it! I have strong opinions (oh really??) and I often have to stop and think: would I say this in a person-to-person or public setting? Because after all, a blog is VERY public, no? The library world is also VERY small (as you know, Robert ;) and it is important to remain professional. I do, however, like a good debate. So, if done appropriately, I think we can disagree without being disagreeable.

  • 12. Robert J. Lackie  |  September 25, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    Thanks, Lisa, for responding to Cynthia’s and my comments–good advice, and I am not just saying that ’cause I don’t want to debate with you! ;) Good hearing from you!

  • 13. Maddie Grant  |  September 27, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    Hi Robert, thank so much for linking to our article! We’re glad you found it useful. There is always a TON of information out there on all sorts of social media-related topics, but Lindy and I decided one thing we could do pretty well was to distill some of that information into clear, practical advice for anyone to use. Postings like yours about our writing is what we need to tell us we’re on the right path. We have plans for lots more to come. Thanks again!

  • 14. waltc  |  September 29, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Oops. Forgot to check back here.

    One note: It’s not my 90:9:1 rule. I think it comes from one of the internet gurus, as does the 990:9:1 variant.

    And my note on capchas is a little misleading: They tend to change just a few seconds after reaching the comment box (yours included), but can still wipe out a fast comment.

    For WordPress blogs, I suspect either Spam Karma2 or Akismet does a good enough job that none of the intrusive measures–capchas, accounts, moderation–are necessary. Too bad they appear needed elsewhere.

    And yes, I’ll go read the full article…

  • 15. waltc  |  September 29, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    It must be Monday. Your article, of course, began by citing the proper source of the rule. I’m pretty sure he later added the variant.

    Sorry for the confusion.

  • 16. Robert J. Lackie  |  October 2, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    You are quite welcome, Maddie, and thank you, Walt, for your clarifications. I think this post and its comments will be helpful to many, thanks to all of us who wrote, posted, and commented on the topic! ;)


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