Time and time again, we are reminded that without loyal readers, blogs are rarely successful. Corporate sponsors who seek out bloggers to pitch ideas and projects to consistently mention the importance of comments, retweets and conversation in blog posts. The idea is simple: bloggers who communicate and respect their readers achieve loyalty, and loyalty is the most important aspect of becoming a successful blogger.
While you should always strive to have content that attracts comments organically, it never hurts to add some extra functionality to your blog that will help readers feel even more comfortable and enthusiastic about starting or joining a conversation.
Here are 10 plugins that will encourage interaction between you and your readers without compromising the design, or feel of your blog, while minimizing your effort output.
CommentLuv was also mentioned in the “Must Have” list for free plugins because of its immense effect on commenting. Since I installed this plugin on my own blogs, I have noticed a noticeably higher volume of comments. By parsing the reader’s RSS feed from the website they entered, CommentLuv allows their latest blog post to be displayed and linked from inside their comment. This offers a mutual benefit – you get to build a relationship with your readers, and they get some recognition by commenting. Win-win.
I often forget that I have this plugin installed because it literally takes 3 minutes to set up, then you never have to think of it again. Comment Relish sends an email to your readers the first time they comment by grabbing the email they entered. You can customize the message to tell your readers about upcoming events, remind them to subscribe to your RSS feed, or just say “Thank you!” It’s a small gesture, but I’ve received many responses to the email (they go to your admin email address) which has started up valuable conversations between me and my readers.
If you look to the right of this page, you’ll see a cute, little tab that reads “Follow Me.” This unobtrusive, ever-present, flash-based tab allows your readers to instantly connect with you on Twitter. I have met tons of my readers through Twitter – even some great feedback and post content fodder. Your readers are smart! Let them talk to you. WP Follow Me is another simple plugin that gives a ton of functionality without requiring too much space or effort.
It’s be nice if we could acknowledge our readers as soon as they arrive at our blogs – welcoming them, giving them any necessary information (RSS feed info, e-Books, etc.). Well, you’re in luck. Increase Sociability tracks where your new visitors come from – be it StumbleUpon (“Don’t forget to give me a thumb up if you like what you read!”) or Digg – and thanks them for the visit. You can add custom text as you see fit.
This is a pretty straight-forward, self-explanatory plugin. I can not stress enough the effect that threaded comments have on developing discussions in blog posts. Allowing your readers to respond to each other gives them a sense of importance (which they definitely deserve), and allows you to communicate directly with your readers in an organized, easy-to-understand manner. If your WordPress theme doesn’t already have threaded comments built in, you need this plugin.
If you think about your blog, or your writing in general, are there any particular posts that come to your mind? Consider it in terms of an elevator pitch – if you had thirty seconds to select one blog post from your website to show to an potential reader or advertiser, would you know which to pick? Do you think that your preferences align with your readers? Installing Post Ratings on your blog allows your readers to rate your posts, therefore allowing you to see exactly what type of content your readers want to see. Catering to your readers’ preferences is the ultimate way to ensure your success.
In the same vein as post rating, allowing your commenters to upvote or rate the comments on your blog. This keeps you from having to moderate comments, and gives your readers an interactive opportunity to actually improve your blog. Comments that are down-voted several times become hidden, while up-voted comments are highlighted for easy reading. You can also customize the comment thresholds to fit your needs.
If you follow some larger blogs with regular readers, you’ve probably noticed that the same people comment over and over – the pinnacle of blog loyalty. Why not show off your stats with a Top Commentators widget, displaying the names of those who comment on your blog the most frequently. This not only encourages new readers to comment, but shows visitors that you have a loyal following.
I was doubtful when I first heard that you could subscribe to comments. With all the sub-par comments left on blogs, including spam and useless “visit my site!” comments, I had no idea why I’d want to subscribe. Then, I came across an article I was really interested in, left a lengthy comment, and realized that – yes, I did want to see what others had to say about it. Not only that, I wanted to garner conversation with others, and really discuss the topic at hand. Subscribe to Comments gives your readers the ability to keep up on the discussion from the convenience of their RSS reader.
This is a fantastic plugin that allows you to respond to your reader’s comments right from the WordPress Dashboard. From the Better Comments Manager tab, you can view all comments organized by post, chronologically, or the favorite “View All” which allows you to reply immediately (without redirecting to the post). You can mass edit your comments to take charge of spam comments that Akismet doesn’t catch (far and few between, but still there!). This tool might seem simple, but it will absolutely make conversing with your readers infinitely easier.