Have you ever wondered where all your readers are?
How is it that some writers seem to get 14 million views on their blogs within five seconds after publishing a new article, but you don’t even get a tenth of that after five years?
You slave away on each article, waiting with bated breath whenever you hit “publish.”
No likes, no comments. No signs of life.
It’s disheartening, isn’t it? Soul-crushing. Almost makes you want to hang up your pen (or keyboard) and give up. But hang on —
What if I told you there is a powerful and easy method for finding engaged readers?
There is. Here’s the secret:
Comment on other people’s articles.
It is an often-overlooked tip. But the truth is, when you learn how to comment right, you create a win-win-win situation for everyone!
Why Great Commenters Win-Win-Win
When you comment on other people’s articles well, you benefit at least three people:
- The writer. Writers need to know that their work is making a difference to someone (that’s why they write online, after all. If they didn’t care about readers, they’d just journal). When you comment on other people’s articles, you recognize their hard work and encourage them to keep writing: Win #1.
- Other readers. When an article or idea is really good, readers don’t want the conversation to end. They head for the comment section to see what other readers (like yourself) have to say. When you comment well, you can deepen the discussion and help everyone learn something new: Win #2.
- Yourself. Commenting skillfully makes you look like an intelligent, interesting person — to other writers and to other readers. If you keep it up, people will start to take notice of you, and wonder what else you have to say. They’re more likely to go out of their way to check out your articles and read them. That’s how you find readers: Win #3.
But skillful commenting does not mean leaving a “Great story! Now will you read my article?” note on as many articles as you can. If you try that you’ll be soundly ignored.
There is an art and skill to commenting, but it’s not difficult to learn. You can learn to comment like a master in two minutes flat. Just follow these steps:
How to Write the Perfect Comment*
In his detailed article on Smart Blogger, Kevin Duncan offers a few stellar tips on writing the perfect blog comment:
1. Say hi
It helps when you mention the person’s name in your comment. People tend to like “hearing” their own name. And it’s generally considered polite to include the name in your greeting:
“Hi Bob!” Sounds better than plain “Hey,” or nothing at all.
And you can be creative with this. You don’t always have to say “Hi Bobby” or “Hey, Bobette.” Change it up with “Great post, Bobba!” “What a coincidence, Bobbina, I was just thinking about this topic, and…” or “Boba Fett, you are a genius!”
(Disclaimer: In case it’s not obvious, please don’t call someone “Bobbina, Bobette, Boba Fett, or even Bob” unless that’s their actual name… 😉)
2. Add value
Everyone says this, but what in the world does it mean?
Well, you can start by giving a sincere compliment. As mentioned before, sincere recognition is valuable to the writer. So go ahead. Tell the writer how their writing has touched you or helped you, or how you plan to follow their advice. Make someone’s day. One day, someone will make yours.
But to take this up an extra notch, you can also: share a related personal experience, ask an intriguing question, or offer a different perspective. That way you are helping that writer, and other readers, learn something as well, and most people appreciate that.
Adding value makes you appear valuable — intelligent, interesting, and/or entertaining, and creates a positive impression on people who see your writing, which is the first step to building a relationship with future readers.
This last tip from Kevin Duncan is the most unused (thus, potentially the most powerful)…
If you’re interested in a longer-term relationship with the writer, or you just really like his/her work and want to support him/her, share their writing.
When you comment on writers’ works, let them know in your comment that you plan to tweet some line from their article, or share it with your friends via email or FB. If you can, tag them so that they know you’ve actually done it.
There are a few people who regularly comment on my articles and share my articles with their friends, and I know them by name. If one of them asked me to read something for them, I would, because I recognize them, and we’ve begun to build a relationship.
But, warning: don’t be mercenary. People can tell when you are abusing the Law of Reciprocation — ie, sharing (or commenting, or using flattery or whatever) just because you want them to do something for you. If you do that too often, it will backfire on you. So, share only if the article is worth sharing.
But if it is worth sharing, don’t be afraid to let the writer know that you have done so. 😃
Other Commenting Tips:
Don’t comment just to get noticed.
Don’t comment haphazardly on every single article that’s remotely related to your topic. Comment because you actually appreciate what the person wrote, and have a sincere thought to share.
Actually read the article before you comment.
You’d be surprised how often people read headlines and then immediately jump down to the comment section to leave their two cents…which turns out to be completely unrelated to the article topic.
So if you want to comment, read the article first.
This will keep you from making embarrassing mistakes like misunderstanding major points in the article, repeating things the author already said, etc. Besides, how can you add value if you don’t even know the topic being discussed? Don’t be that person. Read first, comment after.
When you comment, focus on the writer’s ideas, not on you.
No one stands on someone else’s lawn to promote their own products. Be respectful. When you comment on someone’s article, don’t link to your own stuff unless it’s relevant to the conversation.
If it is relevant though, link away. As a writer, I like to read articles related to mine, and I’m sure other writers do, too.
And use an actual link that works — don’t make someone look all over the internet for the thing you are referring to. Most times they won’t. They don’t have the time for that.
If you choose to comment on an article that you disagree with, do it kindly, clearly, and respectfully. Go ahead and stand up for your ideas, but do it without name-calling, sarcasm, or ridicule.
Don’t alienate that writer and all of his/her fans.
When you are mean to others, it will come back to bite you sooner or later. Instead, show people what it means to debate well in a public forum. We sorely need more of that in the world today.
Respond to people’s comments on your articles.
When you start to get readers and commenters, make sure to respond to them. They took the time to read your article and leave you a note. So respect their time and energy by acknowledging them back!
If you don’t have time to leave a thorough comment…
Sometimes you just don’t have time to comment, and you definitely don’t have time to leave a thoughtful, value-adding comment like the ones described above.
If that’s your situation, comment anyway.
Even a four-word note like: “thank you for sharing!” or “great article, appreciate it!” is still better than nothing. Remember this famous line from Galatians 6:7 —
A man reaps what he sows.
So if you have just a little time to sow a little encouragement or leave a brief but helpful comment — do it. You may be surprised how little bits add up.
Bonus tip: Use a system
I used to be really bad at this, until I developed a system for writing and worked it into the system:
I collected a few writers’ names on an Excel sheet, and schedule time to look up their work, read, and leave comments. It reminds me of what I need to do. It helps keep me accountable.
When you comment well, you can attract positive attention from potential readers — including the person you are writing to, his/her friends and fans, and anyone else who comes across your comment.
In other words, you won’t even have to find those readers you’ve been looking for. They’ll find you.
After You Find Your Readers…
…you have to keep them.
And that comes from writing well, which is the subject for another article. (Or perhaps a whole slew of them). For example, you could start with this:
Commenting well does not by itself help you win loyal fans and readers. It just gets your foot in the door and your name on other people’s radar.
It’s the first step. Don’t forget to take the other steps too: write skilfully, offer valuable ideas, be a kind person. Finding readers and (more importantly) building relationships with them takes time.
So be patient, be persistent. In time, they will come. And if you have a message worth sharing, they will stay to listen.
Ready to be a Brilliant Writer?
I’ve created The Brilliant Writer Checklist to help you clarify your message, reach more readers, and change the world with your words.