In blog posts, training courses and individual conversations over the past year, I've been challenging SAS employees to post one blog comment a day, every day. It's the kind of simple yet difficult challenge that can change habits and show long-term results.
Why should you try it? A few reasons:
- It has to become a habit before it feels natural. Most of us still think commenting feels strange. We're still only half-way comfortable commenting on our friends' Facebook posts. And those are friends. It just feels invasive to write our opinions on somebody else's Web site. Plus, commenting can open you up to criticism and attack, right? Well, not usually. If you follow basic etiquette, you're usually safe. And the only way to get over this natural fear of public speaking online is to practice, practice, practice.
- It makes you part of the community. If you only show up to comment when there's a crisis or a negative blog post to counter, you look like a corporate shill. But if you're there participating in the community all the time, leaving regular comments so readers begin to recognize your name and feel like you're there for more than just marketing, THEN when there's a crisis or strong opinion to dissent, you're more likely to be heard.
- It's the single most natural way to drive long-term traffic to your blog. Again, readers will start recognizing your name in the comment field. They might not register it the first few times, but after reading comments from you 3-4 times, they might take an interest and click on your name, and end up at your blog. These are quality hits. They come from readers who are already interested in your topic area, not readers who end up at your blog from a random search. Because of this, they're more likely to stick around, come back again or even subscribe.
- It's not that hard. You don't have to write an essay or a five-point argument. In fact, a few sentences are best. Most of the time, you can just leave compliments - but be sincere. Tell why you liked it in one or two sentences. Sprinkle a meatier comment in 1 out of every 4 times. But if you find yourself writing more than 200 words in a comment field, you should consider writing a blog post instead, where you can link back to that original post that inspired the idea. And then, of course, you go back and leave a comment that says, "You've inspired me to write a post about this ..."
Gary Cokins, one of the first bloggers we had at SAS, has spent the last year increasing his comment frequency as part of his work with The Smart Data Collective Blog and The Big Fat Finance Blog, and he has seen an increase in traffic and commenting on his own blog as a result. "This seems to result from a cumulative effect of just actively being out there," says Gary.
What cumulative effects might you see if you tried the same thing?