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Blog reader participation

Posted by Michael Bloch in web development (Thursday October 12, 2006 )

I’m not what you’d call a Jakob Nielsen fanboy by any means, but he’s recently published a very interesting article on participation inequality in online communities I thought I’d make mention of.

In the article he states that on average, online communities follow a 90-9-1 rule; being:

– 90% of users observe but don’t contribute
– 9% of contribute content intermittently
– 1% of users are active participants, contributing regularly

Mr Nielsen suggests that blog would probably have an even lower user contribution rate – 95-5-0.1.

My own blog would be a good example of that, probably even a lesser contribution rate, and the reasons are numerous. Among them:

– Foremost, as Mr Nielsen states, audience participation will always be low in online communities. It’s just the way things are and always will be.

– My audience are mostly small online business owners, many of them too busy or too shy to post comments.

– The structure of my posts are such that they don’t really encourage a lot of comment. They serve more to report and inform rather than engage. It wasn’t intentional, just my writing style at this point in time.

– When addressing highly controversial issues, I rarely mention names of companies etc. and I try to be careful when addressing touchy subjects or rumors. I keep away from the “shock jock” stuff; even though I know it to be quite an effective way of goading people into making comments. It’s also a great way to get the attention of lawyers. I can do without that :)

– I don’t actively network with other bloggers; again, it’s a time issue.

– All comments are moderated; and I do moderate heavily. I have no patience for flamers, trollers and other people who seek to be disagreeable for the sake of it. Constructive feedback, fine. Shoot-from-the-hip or rude comments; bah. I do this even though I know that by allowing imbecilic comments through, that can also stir people up to respond themselves; either in defense of the post or to join in the crapfest :).

– Blog design and layout – I’m not about to win any design awards with this blog, that’s for sure :)

– At times, thin on content. I post 6 days a week, but sometimes I only have the time to paraphrase a report or article, not contribruting my own thoughts on the issue. Actually, this post was going to be one of those :).

I like to see comments on my posts, but I also know there’s a responsibility involved. Once people comment, I need to respond – people have taken the time to write something, so that should be recognized.

I’m pretty busy these days, so I’m happy with the level of comments this blog does get at this present time. My stats show people read it, they return, and I tend to get more comments via email on various blog posts than on the posts themselves which is very interesting. When I do have more time on my hands, it’s certainly something I’ll want to change.

I guess what I’m saying is, that if you’re looking for information on how to really engage your audience to the point of getting them contributing to your blog; my blog is not a good example at this point in time, so I won’t try to give you my personal advice. Check back in 12 months from now ;). The points I list above are what I can provide as things that perhaps you *shouldn’t be doing* :).

For some ongoing excellent advice on the topic of involving your blog readers, Darren Rowse from ProBlogger.net is a guy to take note of. He’s really got audience participation down to a fine art and provides many useful conversations on the issue.

Back to Mr. Nielsen’s article; just briefly, he also states a number of points to increase audience participation:

a) Make it easier to contribute.
b) Make participation a side effect.
c) Edit, don’t create
d) Reward participants without over-rewarding.
e) Promote quality contributors

For more information on each of these points and further research on audience involvement in online communities, view Participation Inequality

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