This post originally appeared on the HighQ Solutions blog.
was in London last week and some colleagues and I were discussing blogging.
One asked a very pointed question: How do you get people to comment on a
blog post? The short answers is, you don’t. You never will.
Occasionally, when the stars align and you’ve written a brilliant post
on a hot topic, then and only then, you will get a comment or two. But
even then, it is very likely that at least one of those comments will be
correcting your grammar.
When I attend conferences there are
always a handful of people that come up to me and say they read and
enjoy my blog. About half of the time they will follow with a
discussion about something I have written in the last few months. These
are the comments that people don’t leave on the website. At first, I
was bothered by this. I thought, “Well, why didn’t you just say that
when I wrote it?” But I’ve come to think of blogging as starting a
conversation with whole group of people, many of whom I have never met.
Some of those people will continue that conversation with other people
they know. Some of them will run into me at a conference and will
continue the conversation with me directly. And some of them will only
continue the conversation silently in their own heads. I have come to
see any continuation of a conversation that I start as a sign of a
successful blog post.
But still there is the question of how
to write a blog post that interests people and gets them to continue
that conversation? There is no short answer here, but I have a few tips:
- Forget about any other kind of
writing you do. Blogging is not journalism, it’s not letter writing,
and it’s certainly not legal writing. In fact, I would argue, blogging
is less like any other kind of writing and more like speech. Write the
way you speak, without the “ums” and pauses, of course.
- Read your finished posts aloud. This
engages a completely different part of your brain and you will find that
you stumble over words and phrases when speaking aloud that didn’t
trouble you when you were reading silently to yourself. These are the
areas to rework.
- When you rework your post, make
clarity of purpose your only concern. You will find that otherwise
unacceptable punctuation, grammar, spelling, and formatting sometimes
gets your point across more succinctly than writing “correctly” does.
Go with it.
- Be personable. Remember, this is a conversation. Nobody wants to talk to a boring person, no matter how interesting the subject.
- You are not reporting the news. This
is a big one for external facing law blogs to remember. If you are
reporting content that you found on Lexis or the New York Times, then
chances are your audience has already read it somewhere else, written by
someone who actually writes for a living. Why compete with
professionals? Link to those other articles for the details and instead
write about your take on the subject.
- If you are funny, use it. If you are
not, please don’t. When using sarcasm or satire, always make it very
clear. I don’t care how obvious it is to you, someone will not get it
and that can be very dangerous. Make sure Sarcasm or Satire are included
in the Tags on your post when you use them.
- Be provocative. Never lie, or argue
against your actual position (unless doing satire – see above), but it
doesn’t hurt to take a slightly stronger stance than you would
otherwise. Nothing gets attention like a bold statement confidently
- Don’t forget to use the title. Only
on a personal blog can you choose your own title, usually you have an
editor giving your post some boring title that YOU wouldn’t even click on. The
title should get your audience’s attention, but it also creates a frame
that sets up their expectations. Use those expectations to your
advantage, make people see things differently than they expect from your
- Choose topics that bother you.
Things that happen, that surprise or upset you; things that you find
yourself day dreaming about at inopportune times; ideas that get stuck
in your head; these are the best topics, because they will also get
stuck in the heads of your readers.
- Publish immediately. When you feel you have your ideas down, publish. Do not sleep on it. Do not wait to see what you think the next day. You will hate it. You will see every flaw and error. If you wait, you will never publish. If you cannot publish, or you are not done by the end of your writing session, then start over from scratch the next day and publish as soon as you’re done.
- Don’t write too much. You do not
have to be comprehensive. Set up the conversation. Throw out a few
points to think about and then let it go. Remember, you want to start a
conversation, not finish it. (This post is already too long and chances
are good that you haven’t actually read this far.)
- Leave the audience with a rhetorical
question, a bold statement, or a thoughtful turn of phrase. Give them
something short and concrete that summarizes your post. Find a phrase
that sticks in your mind and it will stick in theirs too.
leads me back to the issue of comments. After writing a blog for about
three years, I think I now understand why my favorite posts, the ones
I’m most proud of, are the least likely to get comments. I think it is
precisely because they make people think. Readers are left with an idea
that is new to them. It is probably an idea that I have spent days or weeks
formulating, and I’ve just dropped it on an unsuspecting public. If I
have expressed myself well, and gotten my ideas across, then the readers
too will have to sit and mull over my ideas for a while. By the time
they realize they have something to say on the subject, they are no
longer on the page, or near a computer. They may not even remember
where the original idea came from. But when they see me at a conference,
or a seminar, or on a train, or waiting in line for a bathroom, that’s
when they will come up and say, “I read your blog.” And then our
conversation – the one that I began writing by myself, weeks or months
earlier – will continue, as if we were old friends who had simply paused
for a moment.