One of the things I love about having a blog over a traditional website is the feedback that you can receive via comments. I get comments on my blogs from readers on how helpful they have found an article, if I've made a mistake, or about just anything else. Yes, there are a few bad apples out there who want to bash you any chance they can get, but engagement with your readers is worth the slight pains the few can cause.
I've talked about a few tricks I use in the how to get more comments post, but it does help to optimally set your site up to increase discussion. Let's take a look at a few helpful hacks and plugins I've used in the past.
I often see the plain "No Comments" text at the bottom of posts, but what if instead you put "No Comments yet, but what are your thoughts on this article?" If you ask your readers their opinion then they are more likely to give it to you. This is an easy fix. Open up your index.php template and search for the comments_popup_link() and change the value from the one above to something more engaging.
Thank Your First Time Commentors
A great way to get people to keep doing something is to praise them, so how about after they finally post their thoughts on one of your articles you redirect them to a page that thanks the reader for taking the time to comment on your post. For this you can use the comment redirect plugin, or if you just want to send an email instead of a redirect us the comment relish plugin. Both of these will only effect first time commentors, so you won't be bugging your every day readers.
Keep the Conversation Going
A great way to keep the conversation going is to display the most recent comments first. This way the user doesn't have to scroll down to the bottom of a long list to see if there are any updates. Also, if you have a long lasting post recent comments can be valuable to let a new reader know the post is still valid.
Once people actually start discussing something on your blog, you will want to keep them in the conversation and a great way to do that is with the subscribe to comments plugin. This plugin will send the commentor an email when there is an update to the comments, getting them to come back and keep the conversation alive.
Also, by allowing readers to subscribe to your comments via an RSS feed you can help them stay up to date on what others are saying.
I also like to style the author comments, so people know when I'm responding to comments or have anything extra I would like to add.
Are there any other hacks or plugins you use to increase reader comments? If so I would love to hear about them.