There have been a number of new platforms popping up recently that claim to increase your user engagement, get you more comments, increase your traffic, and more, through means that I consider short-sighted and harmful. Since people seem not to mind, I thought I’d write a guide for how to increase the number of comments you get by 400-1,000% and ruin whatever shred of community you had on your site.
- Don’t Moderate. Allow anybody to post anything regardless of whether it contributes to the conversation or not. Stupidity, libel, hate, curse words are all okay because in the comments you have plausible deniability. Make sure people know that whatever they post will live forever, and anything goes. The few smart people you did have in your comments will enjoy responding to these folks. Advertisers love being next to a good fight, too.
- Allow Spam Through. I don’t mean the obvious viagra mortgage stuff, but the human-written and surface-thoughtful comment that “Florida Real Estate” or “Poll Widgets” decided to leave on your entry. Or the guy who comments on every post and has a 3-link signature. Or the lame startup that mentions itself at every possible opportunity, however tangentially related it is. Once spammers catch a sniff of this stuff getting through, they’ll descend on your site like locusts and instantly double or treble your “community.”
- Force Signup. You’re not a blog, you’re a social network cum media empire and even to leave the smallest comment you should make me fill out a profile, preferably with demographic information you can use in advertiser pitches later. (*cough* CNET) Please ignore useful services like Gravatar and try to get me to upload yet another profile picture because you think that makes your site more “sticky.” (In a sense of the word, it does.)
- Don’t Participate in Comments. Make it clear that your post itself is for annointed authors who don’t mix with the hoi polloi in the comments ghetto. Don’t link or highlight anything good from the comment section; those people silly enough to contribute content to your site for free should feel ignored. If an author does happen to drop in and make a comment, make sure it doesn’t stand out from the rest so it’s lost amid the sea of…
- Random Crap from Around the Web. Make sure any comments you have are buried by every random piece of “conversation” from around the web, especially retweets, Delicious links, Digg and Slashdot comments, pretty much anything will work here. Bonus points for unmoderated pingbacks, so every scraper spam blog copying the content of the post gets a free link in the comments.
- Design Like NASCAR. The more buttons, widgets, stickers, and visual clutter the better. I want to see every possible login system including but not limited to Facebook, Twitter, OpenID, Google Friend Connect, and that Myspace thing. Because of their respective crappy terms of service, use the giant buttons they insist on. Also include a megabyte of “share this” icons for every obscure service in every language. People love options! Complexity is for closers.
As a bonus, here are a few extra that don’t make any sense to me, but seem to be popular:
- Be Famous! You’ll get thousands of comments on almost everything you post and make sure only to let through the most sycophantic and saccharine, don’t tolerate real conversation or debate. To spice it up every now and then opine on a known controversial subject like abortion and let your audience loose on each other like gladiators while you watch from the stands.
- Put the Comment Form at Top. This ensures everyone making a comment hasn’t read any of the discussion so they’ll leave a comment anyway even if the exact same thing has been said already or a question has already been answered.
- No Subscriptions. Don’t allow me to get email notifications of new stuff, make me visit your site and reload the page constantly to see if there’s anything new.
- Make People Click Click Click. Ideally do 1-comment-per-page CNET-style and your pageviews will go through the roof, but if you can’t stomach that just make comments-per-page setting low or have some sort of complicated nesting scheme.
- Treat Everyone the Same. If I’ve left hundreds of great comments over many years on your site, please make me wait in the moderation queue like some random stranger off Digg. Don’t let anyone know I’m a regular, or talk to me, or invite me to test out beta stuff, or pretty much anything that acknowledges my existence or shows any degree of trust.
- Don’t Ask Anything of Your Audience. No polls, surveys, or open-ended blog entries. What do those plebes know anyway?
Shameless: IntenseDebate does all of the software stuff right, or will shortly. Core WordPress threading, moderation, and whitelists are already built in but also check out Subscribe to Comments and of course Akismet.
What are your pet peeves and rules?