Well, we all want comments on our sites. We can agree on that. Interactivity, after all, is what the Web is all about.
Trial and error is great fun; however, perhaps there are certain “rules of engagement” we can define to improve our aim. These ideas are a condensed rehash of a piece at Pro Blogger, plus some of my personal interpretations and unicorn-themed non-sequiturs.
Of course, we generally want nice comments— or constructive criticism at least. (Occasionally, of course, we like to get beaten up by trolls – especially if they are shouting at us while riding by on unicorns.)
1. What’s the Magic Number?
If you create a contest that requires comments from folks to be entered into the field of play, you will get a lot of comments. So quantity of comments with this method can easily be achieved.
Do these people necessarily care about your site? No. People know when they are being manipulated. However, that small piece of engagement can make them more likely to spread the word to friends. Of course anyone who wins becomes even more likely to mention you on- and offline (like a unicorn given an apple dipped in raw Greek honey whinnies your praises to Mt. Olympus).
2. Show Me the Money, Honey:
Invite people to post stuff. “Show me a picture you’ve taken” or “share a joke” or whatever. This is obviously using the comments section in a different way. Rather than the comments being thoughts on your material, they turn into the actual material itself. This is a lot of what Internet success is about: take a standard structure and tone, mold and tweak into something with an interesting twist that draws in people’s attention and imagination (like creating a unicorn-human hybrid with opposable thumbs to serve as the butler for your benefit gala raising awareness of genetically modified organisms).
3. How To Do What I Do:
Show folks how to do something. So this is basic education. Many people want to improve and grow. Some don’t. Even those who don’t want to sometimes have to. Everyone wins. The Internet loves people who actually have something useful to say. (Example: “I have a song and dance troupe, and I’d like your unicorn to be my stage manager.”)
4. Laughter – The Antidote to … Uh … Everything
It’s sometimes kind of difficult to understand why it is that humor works so well. I think the key component is that it provides a mandatory release from an otherwise intense point of focus. If you’re trying to get across information, and folks are trying to process it, let them breathe every paragraph or two. (Same thing goes for your unicorn butler: one thirty-minute break every four hours, just as with child labor.)
So to review: contests because people like to win stuff, sharing because people like to show off, information because people want and need it, and humor because people want to relax. Try out some creative techniques like this, and see if you can convert your site into a community.