Its no secret that every webcomic artist loves feedback. Sometimes the only thing that keeps us going is that anticipation of appreciation or minute moment of glory when someone leaves a comment on our latest page. But it can be very hard, especially in the beginning, to coax readers to leave that feedback or interact with you. Let’s have a look at the reasons why they don’t, and what you can do to get readers to be more interactive with you and your site.
Readers are, by nature it seems, a shy bunch. You can have several hundred readers and only ever see a fraction of them make a peep. Like we are talking in the single digits. And even less become regular commenter. There’s several reasons for this, lets examine what prevents people from commenting and how you, as the author can help alleviate these conditions to get more people to talk and participate on your site.
Reason #1 – Nothing to say
A lot of readers simply have, well nothing to say. They like what you are doing. Its clear because they keep coming back, but they don’t really have anything clever or witty to say. You might not think this is important, but a lot of readers do think its important to have something relevant beyond ‘thanks for the update’ or ‘nice page’.
How to fix it: If you give your readers a topic to comment on, something they can relate to and give an opinion on, it really helps to alleviate this problem. When you write your comic blog, try to think of a single question to ask your readers and solicit feedback from them. Not only does it provide something for them to do or say, but it makes them feel valued and allows you to collect information from your readers. Giving them something to give their thoughts on really helps. It won’t get everyone to comment mind you, but it often gets people out of the woodwork who might not say anything otherwise.
Reason #2 – Conversation feels one sided
A lot of artist creators soak in the comments but don’t actually respond individually. While its nice to get comments, its also nice to be recognized for your comments and thoughts, particularly by the artist in question. If the artist never responds to comments, or never acknowledges the contributions of the readership, people can get tired of giving, giving, giving and never getting anything back.
How to fix it: This one is really easy. All you have to do is recognize your commenters kindly and regularly. Treat them as friends, build relationships with them in terms of conversations in the comments. Reply to each and every comment and try to be gracious and kind, even if the comments aren’t always good. Remember, at least people are taking the time to tell you what they think. That’s really worth something.
Reason #3 – An empty forum/comment section is an intimidating one.
No one likes to be the first one to stick their nose out into an empty forum or comments page. Unless you’ve got some kind of culture where that sort of bravery is lauded and celebrated, most people will be reluctant to be the first person to comment. Once there’s a string of comments, more people will tend to join in, but the trick is to get that first person to comment and then begin talking to them to build those page comment numbers so that people don’t feel intimidated.
How to fix it: Make the first comment on your page something special. Offer some kind of special mention of the commentators name, give them a digital cookie, or find some other way to reward people who are brave enough to comment first. If you do this, people will scramble to be the first comment when you update.
Reason #4 – The Author appears to be mean/emo/reclusive or otherwise unapprochable
There are a lot of authors who either don’t believe in the blog, don’t know what to say, or don’t write particularly well in a prose form. Conversely they might also perpetually bitch about how miserable they are, or complain about things, or put their comics down, or annoyingly give a blow by blow of the comic. Constant negativity or saying the same things over and over again does not encourage people to comment, it sometimes discourages them if it goes on too long. You get what you give, if you give nothing, you probably won’t get much back in return.
How to fix it: Make yourself as approachable as possible. Invite feedback, even if you have to say “Feedback is always welcome”. Try to talk about things possibly related, but not directly about your comic. The readers can see for yourself. Keep the conversation positive and interesting. If you don’t believe in blog with a comic, try to engage people elsewhere, such as through a facebook page or on twitter, encouraging them to comment. Treat people well, and they will treat you well back. (generally)
Reason #5 – Readers feel no sense of urgency to comment
Readers, by nature, are kind of passive. So to engage them you need to give them reasons, and immediate reasons to comment, or do something. In advertising this is called a ‘call to action’, giving clear instruction and reason for the reader to engage.
How to fix it: Giving your readers a good reason to engage is key to this. Recognition can go a long way, but sometimes your bribe needs to be a little more substantial. Running contests or other forms of competition requiring people to jump through a few hoops (joining forums, making posts, commenting on so many comics, etc) will break the ice with a bunch of new people. It gets them to join forums, and make some posts. If you have a handful of regulars, try to get them to help keep the newbies engaged. If people feel like they are getting recognized and being accepted on a forum or website, they will tend to stay around. Make sure you use a time limit on contests to give a sense of urgency. Having monthly, or reoccurring contests can be very good for keeping people engaged. The more they are invested in your site, the more likely they are to say things.