The Internet is a social medium. We blog, Facebook, Tweet, and Tumbl to have conversations.
By participating in these conversations, we build connections, grow our networks, and even make friends.
In many ways, blogs and Twitter have become the new intellectual “salons” where people hang out to trade ideas, opinions, and feelings. Establishing yourself as a regular is a great way to forge connections with other people in your field. And, if you ever write a book or launch a product yourself and want to set up a blogging tour, those relationships are going to be vital to making it happen.
If you’ve ever found yourself staring at an empty comment field for half an hour, trying to think of the wittiest, most insightful, or most original thing to say, don’t worry—becoming a master commenter is easier than you think. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Answer a question.
Many bloggers end their posts with a question related to their topic, such as “Would you self-publish?” or “What do you think about the new Mac OS?” Some bloggers even ask questions just for fun, like “What’s your favorite break-up song?”
Questions like this are the perfect place to start your commenting career. You don’t need to think up a brilliant new angle on the topic or worry about introducing yourself—all you need to do is chime in with your answer.
Share a personal experience.
If you have a personal connection to an issue raised in a blog, or expertise in a certain field, go ahead and share it. You might say something like “I self-published a book last year and I would definitely put more thought into cover design if I did it again” or “As an interaction designer, I find the new OS frustrating because…”
It’s okay to talk about yourself in a comment. After all, the person blogging is sharing tons of their personal experiences and/or expertise—by reciprocating, you’re establishing a relationship and adding value to the discussion.
Studies have shown that complaining, gossiping, and other “negative” forms of communication actually play a key role in establishing feelings of friendship and solidarity. So if your target blogger just posted a rant or a lament, why not comment saying “I hear you, brother!” or “I was disappointed by that movie, too.”
Commiserating can create a feeling of closeness, even among strangers. Just like strangers in a coffee shop can connect by trading gripes about the terrible weather, strangers on a blog can find common ground by chatting about the things that get their goat.
Share a link.
Have you read an article somewhere else that sheds light on your blogger’s topic? Drop a link into your comment with a quick note explaining why you’re sharing it. You might say: “There was an article about this in the Washington Post recently—here’s the link” or “Have you seen this interview with the director? Neat stuff.”
Say “thank you.”
Sometimes, a blog post doesn’t lend itself to much discussion. If you’ve read something entertaining, moving, or useful, you can always poke your head in and say “thank you,” “beautiful post,” or “this made my day.”
Show some personality.
Some commenters have an intellectual style. Others are funny, argumentative, or just plain friendly. Everybody’s commenting style is different, just like the various regulars at a coffee shop can be counted on to be sarcastic, flirtatious, or shy. Your commenting style is something that will emerge with time—you shouldn’t force it or feel that you have to act a certain way. Just be yourself, and soon commenting will come as naturally to you as ordering your “usual” drink.
Come back often.
The most important part of being a regular is just showin’ up. Week by week, post by post, you’ll develop a presence and personality that others will start to recognize. You’ll get to know the other commenters, and they’ll get to know you. You might not realize it, but bloggers find just as much inspiration and fresh ideas from their regular commenters as readers get from their favorite blogs.
Commenters are a crucial part of the blogging ecosystem, and becoming a great one is an increasingly valuable social skill.