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16 Ways to Build Relationships With Blog Comments - 11/13/2012 -

Everyone is looking for ways to form stronger relationships with current and potential members and customers. Improving your blog-responding techniques will help get you there.

By Marcus Sheridan

As we’re ushered into this age of social media, each and every one of us is looking for ways to form stronger relationships with our audience, especially with current and potential members and customers. Blog comments are often a poorly understood and very under-utilized strategy. This article isn’t about "How to get more blog comments,” but rather how to cultivate better relationships through comments. Notwithstanding, the two do overlap, as you’ll see in the following list:

#1: Write in a personal voice. When done properly, writing in a personal tone and style will immediately help readers feel more comfortable with an author, and this comfort level naturally lends itself to readers considering leaving their thoughts in the comments section or via email in a direct reply.

#2: Invite reader response by asking questions. Studies have shown that less than one percent of readers will leave comments on a blog, but this number would be better if writers would simply ask readers their thoughts and whether they agree or disagree. Invite them to share further examples that would help other readers.

#3: Don’t be a know-it-all. Although it’s a good idea to be an authority in your industry, be careful not to be too over-the-top in your efforts to establish your voice, as this will greatly hinder anyone’s desire to continue the conversation with you going forward, especially in a blog’s comment section.

#4: Admit you may be wrong. This is an especially powerful technique for inviting discussion, especially if what you’re writing is an opinion piece. By simply admitting you might be wrong in your opinion, you'll come across as much more humble and approachable to your audience.

#5: Utilize an author bio and photo. Including an author bio box and photo is a tactical way for readers to get a personal feel for the blog’s author, and therefore be more inclined to leave a comment, share the post, etc.

#6: Say a simple "hello.” A simple salutation is a good practice to use when responding to blog comments. Just a little "hello” goes a long way in building relationships with readers.

#7: Use readers’ names. If you’ve ever read the classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, it’s likely that you remember his thoughts on the power of using names. Carnegie states, "Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

#8: Show empathy. Often, when someone is leaving a comment on your blog, they’re doing it because they want to share about their problems/solutions, failures/triumphs, etc. If someone discusses their struggles in their blog comment, always reply with empathy. Recognize what they’ve just told you. This alone will show them you care and will be a powerful relationship-builder.

#9: Ask further questions. Other than simply responding with a potential answer, consider asking more questions to better identify what is happening with the individual so that the solution you come up with is the best one. Also, by asking these questions, the individual (and other readers) will see how much you care and want to assist in solving the problems.

#10: Invite other readers to share their solutions. It’s one thing for you and those in your association to answer all of the questions and needs of those who comment on your blog, but it’s another to invite others in your membership to step up and give value to readers. When you have readers who help each other find the answers they’re looking for, this not only takes the pressure off of you to be the "end-all,” but it will also develop a sense of community. Be sure to make it known to readers that they’re always invited to leave replies to other folks when they can add value to the discussion.

#11: Respond with personal emails. With most blogging platforms, a person who leaves a comment must leave their email to do so, which is why it’s a great idea at times to personally reply to readers not just in the comment section, but via direct email as well. As you might imagine, this is a powerful relationship-building tool.

#12: Be specific with your praise. If a blog reader leaves a thoughtful comment on your blog with excellent points, take the time to point out what about the comment impressed you, plus your additional thoughts. This will show the person that you truly read and appreciated the comment, and in many ways will feel like a "reward” of sorts for their efforts.

#13: Recognize returning commenters. Like the theme from the famous TV show Cheers, "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.” The same feeling can be created within a blog’s community, and it starts with your ability to recognize readers "as they come through the door.” So if you see someone returning to your blog, make sure they realize you notice their return and the fact that you appreciate the visit.

#14: Use a plugin/platform that ensures all replies are read. There’s a good chance that just because someone leaves a comment on your blog that they’re not going to subscribe to all comments on that post, for fear of "inbox inundation.” This is why it’s critical that along with giving readers the option to subscribe to all comments in the post, you add a plugin that ensures they’ll get your reply emailed to them directly.

#15: Sign your name. This little technique is surprisingly practiced by few bloggers, but it certainly makes a difference. Just as you would in a letter or an email, it’s a great idea to sign your name to every reply you make to a commenter on your blog. Not only will this allow them to know who is talking, it will also have more of a personal touch.

#16: Respond! Although I probably should have made this the first item on the list, I wanted to finish off with it because everything we’ve talked about starts and stops with an organization’s willingness to take the time to respond to commenters. Now granted, sometimes this may not be possible due to time and resource constraints, but if your desire is to cultivate relationships through your blog, a reply to thoughtful commenters and readers is an extremely important element.

Marcus Sheridan is a social media thought leader and popular speaker. This article is excerpted with permission from an article by him that first appeared in Social Media Examiner.


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