It doesn’t matter if you’ve been at this for 10 days, 10 months or 10 years. Getting people to comment on your comic/artwork/writing is something we ALL struggle with. It’s not rocket science, but it can appear that way sometimes.
We’ve all tried different strategies to incite engagement, but people just don’t seem to hang around. What gives? Well, I’ll tell you.
Understanding the Reader Mindset
Before you can get people to post on your fan page, twitter feed or comic page, you must first understand what goes on in the minds of your readers.
Typically, there are 3 types of readers that view your content – The fan, the casual reader, and the new reader. The fan follows everything that you do – your twitter feeds, your rss feeds, your blog posts, Facebook, comics etc. The casual reader may like your work and pokes in periodically to see what you’re up to. The new reader is looking around to see if there is something that will capture their lintiest and keep them around.
Of all 3 types of readers, there are some common patterns in behaviour that occur.
- they are too shy to be the first to post
- they will put off posting in order to do so at a more convenient time (and then forget)
- they are uninterested in the subject or don’t have an opinion
- they are afraid to post their views for fear of appearing to take sides
- they don’t have the time to post, ever
- they are intimidated by jumping into a community that is already established
Now that we’ve seen some of the common patterns for readers not posting, it is up to the creator to get more creative and find ways to entice readers into starting up some engagement and further developing a community.
Here’s a few ways we can get this done. NOTE: This doesn’t work for everyone, but it is well worth an experiment to see if it generates results.
How to get comments from…
These people are the easiest to get to comment. They may already go as far as interacting with you on a personal level, even about things outside of your work. You already know that they are passionate about your work, so directing a question in things they are interested in will more than likely elicit a response.
Your Casual Readers
These people can be tricky to get to stick around, as they have already decided on how they wish to absorb your content. Again, it is a matter of trying to elicit a response from them by offering a chance to engage through a discussion in something they are interested in. Chances are, the interests of these people is so broad that it is difficult to cast such a wide net.
Your New Readers
These folks are fishing – hoping they’re going to latch on to something they like and enjoy, whether it is the art, the story or the community. As the author, your mission is to establish an environment that is inviting and interesting to the new reader. Typical newbie/starter questions and introductions work best here – that way you can turn these people into fans and keep them from merely becoming casual readers.
So what do I ask these people to get them to start talking?
The conventional approach to getting your readers to comment is to simply ASK them to.
e.g. – What do you think of this week’s update? Send me your comments and tell me what you think.
It’s a start, but will it provide long-term discussion? Probably not. So the next step is to go a bit deeper and examine what the content of your day’s strip or page or update is. Is there a deeper meaning to your work? Is there a social commentary tie-in of some sort? Is there something relevant to an event, item or place in real life that you can take from the update and will allow you to start up a conversation with people?
Chances are, you’ll get a few folks commenting on the content of your update for the day. The ball is rolling. Now you have to build on that momentum – your next update could feature a certain bit of information that you can elaborate upon (an event, item or place) and give people a bit of a information lesson.
e.g. – The design for the steam engine featured in this comic is influenced by etc etc
Now you ask a question in regards to it – perhaps its a bit of trivia, or if they’ve seen it in person, or if they can share their knowledge about it, and so on.
You may have some specific commentary on this topic with very few readers engaging with you, but it will give you some insight into what they know and what they’re interested in. Now it’s a matter of casting a wider net.
eehhh….. close enough.
We’ve tried asking reader’s about the update and their thoughts, then we added an additional probe about the specific meaning or relevance to a real-life situation, place or thing, and now we’re getting even more specific by enlightening your readers (or in this case supplementing your work) with information, and asking for additional discussion from readers.
That’s a pretty good combo if you ask me.
– basic query
– thoughts on theme, setting, item relevant to comic
– information on theme, setting, item relevant to comic with a probe and call for additional info from readers
Now, you can cast the widest net by opening it up to everyone and turning it into a contest with a prize. You could start a poll and have people do one of the following:
- invent a name to the place or item
- have them answer a trivia question
- suggest a direction for the comic related to the content for the day
This allows casual readers, super-fans and new readers to get involved without getting in too deep, and leave them with the feeling that they contributed to the comic, AND get something in return for their troubles.
In theory, it could work. Now, I know that seems like an awful lot of work for getting people to comment, right? But you get how the system works. You have to invest time in creating a place where contributions are welcomed – there’s no witchcraft or illusions, just persistence, patience, and experimentation.
You don’t always have to go as in-depth as the Combination route, but you can see how to open up commenting possibilities with your readers by leaving the doors wide open and inviting them to contribute. Experiment with these methods and make them a standard practice. Over time, people will be talking to you, and to each other.
That is how you build a community. One comment at a time.
Andrés ‘ Drezz ‘ Rodriguez is the author of the neo-noir Online Graphic Novel El Cuervo. He provides WA readers with periodic articles (like this one) to help improve their comic skillz so they can pay their bills. Feel free to follow him on Twitter at @DrezzRodriguez