Rainmaking Problem # 2: The Next Level of Blogging

(This is part of my series on Rainmaking Problems. I hope you will leave a comment with your thoughts on a solution to this problem.)

Today I place my own problem before you.  As a person who puts himself forward as knowing something about selling professional services, I have tried to keep abreast of changes in marketing techniques.  I do so by interviewing people who have used a technique, but also by using it myself.  I’m able to talk about how to write an article, because I have written over 100.  I’m able to talk about networking, because I have a large network that feeds me business opportunities year after year.

The Internet is changing the way that professionals market and sell their services.  One of my efforts to keep abreast of these changes was starting this blog.  Having published it for about a year and a half, I feel justified in making some comments about how blogging works.  I may not be an expert, but at least I have a grasp of what I know and of how much I don’t know.

In the first category is my knowledge and that if this blog is to be truly successful I must take it to the next level.  I know what this level looks like, but I don’t how to get there.  Having looked at a good many blogs by now, I believe that successful ones move from the driving force of content to that of community and that this is done through comments.  Let me explain.

The day you start a blog, you have no readers.  You may be able to attract readers once with an advertisement or a mass e-mailing, but to keep them coming back requires content.  And supplying that content can be deliciously fun at first.  I look back on writing some of my early posts, such as He Talks Too Much and Three Ways to Get a Good Seat, with pleasure.  In this way you build your first readership base.  I will call this Level 1.  Business blogs without solid content fade quickly.

While building to Level 1, your posts receive few comments.  A low percentage of those who read blogs ever comment—the figure one percent is commonly thrown about.  You simply don’t have enough readers to spark much comment, let alone dialogues.

But many people surf the net not just to receive information, but to exchange it.  If you want to grow your base of readers to the next level, you must engage them in a dialog.  That is, you must write in such a way to attract comments; not just any comments, but the kind that attracts still others.  If you do this assiduously, those looking to participate in a dialog, plus those interested in reading debate in addition to content will form a community of readers, which I will call Level 2.  It is much larger than achieved at Level 1.  The community comes to your site to read and to be read, to agree and to disagree, and to feel.  They come to feel smart or funny or provocative, but above all else they come to feel connected.

And that’s where I need help.  I believe I have plateaued at Level 1 and want to move ahead to Level 2.  But I don’t know how to do it.  There’s something wrong with either my writing or my format or something.  Or perhaps I’m just not patient enough.  As bloggers and participants in blogging communities, can you advise me how to move from content to community, through making people want to comment to making them feel connected?

Or am I looking at the problem the wrong way altogether?

(Got a problem selling professional services? Feel free to email me your problem and it may become a future “Rainmaking Problem.”)

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34 Responses to “Rainmaking Problem # 2: The Next Level of Blogging”

  1. Charles H. Green Says:

    Ford,

    Thanks for a thoughtful–and honest–blogpost. In the spirit in which you wrote it, it’s important that I COMMENT on your CONTENT in this COMMUNITY.

    I’ve not been doing this all that much longer than you, and so still face some of the same dilemmas you do. I have just a few thoughts.

    First, I think your analytical framework is dead right. The power of all this is community dialogue centered around content. You’ve got to have all three, and while they’re somewhat iterative, it does start with content. Your content is consistently strong, a–like this one–devoid of puffery and fluff. It’s solid. Don’t give up the faith that this works for you, especially in a world loaded with crap.

    Second, don’t mistake lack of comments for lack of community. I think blogs are becoming a bit like Twitter–people no longer feel obligated to comment, but they’re still reading. We used to call that lurking; I’m no longer sure that’s right. I find the number of comments on my site are way down, but I know the readers is way up; and I am astonished at how many people mention my blog in conversations, even with people I haven’t met before.

    What that suggests is that content is driving community, and conversation–it’s just that not all the conversation is happening on your blog, and in fact the community is larger and more dispersed than just your mailing list or log-in stats. You are probably influencing real-life conversations out there in real companies, every day; they’re just not bothering to copy you on the emails.

    And in this day over over-metricization, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that if you can’t meaure it, you can’t manage it, it doesn’t exist, etc. That’s crap. The truth is independent of your ability to measure it. Just because your metrics don’t show it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. And your ability to measure it doesn’t add one whit to your ability to influence it. This is still community, subject to the laws of human behavior before the laws of internet behavior.

    The last thing I’ve learned is one I keep learning. The internet and human converge on this one: to get, you just give. The comments you get back are equal to (roughly) the comments you get back. People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.

    The single best thing we can do as bloggers is go comment on other people’s sites. The best way to get people to read Ford Harding or Charlie Green is to go read other people’s work and comment genuinely on theirs. That motivates the good old sense of reciprocity that has to lie at the heart of any genuine community.

    That’s what I’ve learned, or I should say am still learning.

    Thanks for this most excellent post.

    Charlie Green
    http://www.trustedadvisor.com/trustmatters

  2. Ford Harding Says:

    Charlie:

    This is reassuring. We both write books and so both know the let down of a book’s first day on the market. It’s a glory day for the author, but not one recognized by anyone else. There is no immediate cheering from the market. It takes time for readers to absorb the book and react. Blogging may have similar attributes. There are moments when I am convinced that the only eyes which see what I write here are my own, in which case the effort is selfish and pointless. Comments from readers are evidence that this hard judgment is wrong. Perhaps that’s why they seem so important.

    Many thanks for the thoughtful comment.

    Ford Harding

  3. Mark Buckshon Says:

    Ford, there are different ways to generate comments and feedback, which I agrree are important. Periodically, in my bi-weekly newsletter (with subscribers largely garnered from the blog), I ask for questions — yesterday, five people sent in really good inquiries. These questions of course provide the gist for further postings, research, and interaction.
    If we are working in specialized niches, we can’t expect to have tens of thousands of readers; nor want that many; based on the percentage of readers who comment, this suggests that comment volume will be lower in blogs than elsewhere. However, I appreciate your initiative in raising these questions — and will follow your lead in creating postings that generate more comments in the weeks ahead.

  4. John Caddell Says:

    Ford,

    I can’t give very good advice, as my blog is also a “Level 1″ blog, and I have been thinking just as you have that I should do something to change. (In other words, I have comment envy.)

    One thing in my blog that inhibits comments is the authority with which I state my opinions. Many of my blog posts are small essays, and are titled something like this, “To innovate better, tap all your people.”

    Ironically, the more carefully I craft my argument, the less commentable my post is (IMHO). That is, in order to comment, you would either say, “I agree!” or “You are wrong.” #1 is boring and not worth the time for most people. #2 is challenging and difficult.

    The blog artists (of whom I have comment envy) seem to be able to lay out partial arguments, or observe interesting situations, in a way that invites people to fill in the gaps, debate alternative interpretations, etc.

    I don’t want every post to be like that, but I would like to be able to do it on occasion.

    One technique I don’t like is the reflexive “question at the end of the post” intended to draw comments. For example, if I read a post titled, “The World is Round,” forcefully argued, which ends with “What shape do YOU think the world is?” I feel like the author has not really invited me to comment. And I don’t. Some people do that almost every post! (BTW, I don’t consider the question at the end of this post in that way. The entire post was inviting dialogue.)

    I’ve used that technique that once or twice, and don’t feel good about it.

    regards, John

  5. Steve Shu Says:

    I hope to have some more comments for you later, but I think that there is some truth in Mark’s comment that specialized niches will have limited numbers readers by nature. How to determine what that limit is can be difficult, but relative benchmarking against comparable niche blogs may be useful to understand better.

    Personally, I think the commenting state of the art for blogging lags the community development tools for bulletin board technologies (for example, automatic comment thread subscription and email updates upon posting of comments). That sounds like a bunch of techno mumbo-jumbo, but I think if one benchmarked same sized bulletin boards versus blogs, there would be a lot more comments on the bulletin boards (*if* that is the success measure [note the "if"]). One blog service I used for email updates of new blog entries (not comments) is Feedblitz. That helped to capture the readship of non-newsreader folks (which is significant – for me I estimate at up to 20%).

    So key message is to make sure to incorporate email into your processes, whether low-tech or tools-based.

    Aside from getting things to tip to the next level for a blog, I believe that a lot of it is hard blocking and tackling. If I had one stylistic comment to make (not about your blog but in general) taking controversial positions and writing about news events also helps to build readership and connection.

    Sorry for wandering around abit

  6. Ford Harding Says:

    This is all so helpful, I’m not sure where to start. I am off to a meeting which will give me time to reflect for a bit and will be back to you all later.

    Ford Harding

  7. Mel Lester Says:

    Ford,

    Having started blogging myself in June, I share your sentiments about getting to the next level. (By the way, you were the first to comment on my blog. Owning two of your books, that was an encouraging start!) You and others I consider as peers are well ahead of me, so I watch with interest to see what the reasonable expectations might be for a blog aimed at professional service providers.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your comments about community, which was one of the main things that motivated me to start blogging. But enroute to that goal, I’m still trying to answer some basic questions:

    Who’s reading my blog? Is it my intended audience (A/E firm managers)? In talking to my clients, I’ve found very few who look at blogs. So is blogging an effective means of connecting with clients?

    Do blogs appeal more to the younger generation? The data I’ve seen on this are mixed. This is of interest because most of the A/E firm managers I’m trying to reach are baby boomers like me. If I’m more likely to reach younger professionals, should that influence my content?

    To what extent is the potential online community other bloggers? With one or two exceptions, comments I’ve received to my blog have come from other bloggers. Does that mean that my audience is primarily bloggers or that bloggers are more likely to leave comments?

    Blogging is admittedly something of an experiment to me. I’m not sure if it will reach the audience I initially targeted. There are certainly benefits in networking with other professionals who blog or read blogs, even if they aren’t clients or prospective clients. But it’s worth considering as we strive for Level 2, who constitutes that community we’re trying to build?

    I know you asked for suggestions, not questions. But it would seem the answers to these questions help clarify how we get to the next level. I’d be interested in your thoughts.

    Mel Lester
    http://www.blog-bizedge.biz

  8. Ken Lizotte Says:

    Ford and all,

    I think the spirit in which you wrote this particular blog is significant, that is, your entire theme invited participation. And now you have created some dialogue. So you should do more (not ALL) your blogs in such a spirit. When you are not “sure” about something, when you don’t feel especially authoritative, let it all hang out, see what happens. That will create community.

    One caution: Don’t try to do this every signal time. Creating community doesn’t mean we all have participate every single time. Just means that there’s a lively enough spirit to cause some of us, some of the time, to make an offering. the rest read and listen, quietly, which is just fine too.

    With this blog you have begun to build Level #2, and I would predict to you that they will indeed come.

  9. Carol Bentley Says:

    Hi Ford,

    I think we all like reassurance that our blog is read and the time we put into it is appreciated.

    But as Charles said, the number of comments you receive is not necessarily indicative of how well received your blog is.

    My blog has been running for just over a year. During the year I have occasionally invited my readers to take part in a short survey on something I wanted their input about.

    As part of the survey I gave them the opportunity to ask any question they wanted an answer to (like Mark I got some great thought-provoking questions) and I asked them how useful they found the blog posts. Like you may be feeling, I wanted to be sure it was worth carrying on. I got some great feedback.

    Now, you commented on the fact that you look with pleasure at your early posts. I do too – but what I discovered is that new visitors rarely explore those early posts. Which often means they’re missing out on some great gems.

    So I’ve collated a good selection of my blog posts and published them in a book, just so people can easily find the info they’re looking for. The book was only published last Monday, so is pretty up to date. I plan to market the book and use it to draw more people to my blog.

    Is that something you could do?

    And, like Steve, I invite my readers to join my email notification list. I encourage people to subscribe by giving a gift when they do and occasionally writing a private post, which is password protected. The post often has a free downloadable gift for my reader. But the password is only sent to readers who are on that email subscription list.

    I use aweber to deliver the blog post announcements and include a short excerpt to encourage people to follow up and visit the blog to read the full post.

    And finally, I encourage my readers to pass the word about my blog by using a ‘Tell A Friend’ script. Again they get a thank you gift for doing so.

    Steve’s point about taking a controversial position in your post may generate comments or cause people to discuss your post on their blog, which may in turn encourage their readers to visit your blog.

    Hope this helps..

  10. Shama Hyder Says:

    Hi Ford,

    Sometimes all you gotta do is ask! : ) I am an avid reader of your blog, and a blogger myself. I also reviewed your book.

    If you want to create more of a community, then you should (as you are doing now) ask for people’s input! Often, I see your posts as lessons but not necessarily conversations. This takes it to a new level.

  11. Ford Harding Says:

    I still need time to absorb this cornucopia of ideas which may necessitate a slow walk through the forest preserve along the fall leaves, while I mull. Here are some early responses.

    Shama:
    Many thanks for pointing out what as a sales consultant, I should have known: you have to ask. Thank you also for the review and for declaring yourself an avid reader–you mean there’s one out there, afterall?

    Carol:
    I thought I knew what I didn’t know about blogging but not only don’t I know what an aweber is; I had never heard of it. You are clearly much more planful and adept at this than I am and you treat your readers better than I do mine. I will need to go over your suggestions several times. By the way, what is the title of your book and where can I get a copy?

    Ken
    Thanks for your encouragement. I will take your suggestions to heart.

    Mel
    I love your questions which are the right ones. I won’t try to address them here, but will devote a separate post to them.

    Steve
    You clearly understand things I don’t. I willl want to talk with you more about this.

    John
    I am rereading Granoveter’s work on weak ties, thanks to a comment you made to an earlier post. More will come of that later.
    Your observation that sound logic in a post deters comment is like a dose of ice water . . . but, John, I pride myself on my sound logic. I believe you . . . darn it!

    Mark
    What fun it will be to run parrallel experiments on writing posts that encourage comment. I will be a good way to continue our conversations. Our blogs are, in some way, wrapped together.

    Good night,

    Ford Harding

  12. Mason Boswell Says:

    I have one comment and one example you might study. The comment is that you are such a towering expert to me in this field, and perhaps to others, that many of us come here to learn (lessons like Shama said). In that regard, I am more in the mindset of listening intently at a lecture than having a dialog as I read here.

    The example I want to point out is seattlebubble.com, a site I started reading in Seattle while people were still pretending there was no real estate bubble. Tim, the site’s author, started a lot like you, he had great posts putting together data that wasn’t available in concise form elsewhere. Stage 2 is that he started doing what he called a daily open post. It was a blank post that had no other purpose than to let people bring up whatever they wanted in the comments. I believe the genius of this is that it invited the readers to drive some of the content and more importantly allowed the author find out what was on people’s minds. The discussions we had there were golden, and cemented many of us to the site. Later, Tim added forums where people can drive the topic of conversation in an organized fashion. Many blog posts on the site today are generated by a discussion that has first started in a forum. All of this took place over a period of about two years.

    This probably isn’t the only example, and many blogs have infinite histories, so you could probably pick a site that has the kind of success you want, go back to the early posts and look where the comments really started to roll in and what was different about the posts. Were they provocative? Did they pose a question? Were they no different all so that maybe it was just a matter of time?

    Hope that helps,
    - Mason

  13. Sean Murphy Says:

    I have been blogging for almost three years now and believe that my blog has had a positive impact on our firm’s level of business. I think it’s just as interesting when someone comments on your blog on their blog (and I will sometimes refer to another blog post and include my comments on it in my own post). This is why trackbacks are useful.

    I don’t know that I agree with your level 1 / level 2 taxonomy.

    I think if you want a community you need to consider another platform like a forum or content management system that would allow many people to initiate topics and reply to each other without your posts required to be “in the middle” so to speak.

    There is a model of collaboration called “community of practice” that I subscribe to. One of it’s key tenets is “legitimate peripheral participation” which says that folks who are sometimes referred to as “lurkers” are a legitimate part of the community. I don’t think you can infer a lack of impact or even involvement from a lack of comments on your blog.

  14. Dan Schwartz Says:

    Ford: I’m not sure I agree with your premise that a lack of comments on the site indicates a lack of “interest” or importance. I have read your blog for a month or two and find it very valuable — just don’t have much to add to the content as you seem to be more of an “expert” in this area than I.

    Having had a blog now for over a year, patience is key. Reaching out to other bloggers — and more importantly, mainstream reporters — can help drive your influence. Ultimately, I suppose you have to decide what your goal is: to be a thought leader; to drive business to you? Something else?

    I don’t pretend to have all the answers here and am still feeling my way as well. I too am trying to take the blog — and what I’ve developed from it — to some type of next level. But the problem is I’m not sure what that next level really is.

    I think your post is a good way for all of us to think about the issue and keep growing. Keep blogging. I, for one, enjoy the posts.

  15. Carl Isenburg Says:

    I strongly agree with Shama.
    There are blogs that I read, and blogs that I comment on. The difference is how the authors/contributors position it – how likely is my comment to be appreciated.

    An example of a blog that generates a lot of comments and feedback is the Freakonomics blog over at NYT. They have two or three posts a day that are questions – they posts are specifically and carefully formulated to generate a lot of discussion.

  16. Bizzie Guye Says:

    Ford

    Thanks for the honesty. I have been blogging for about 2 years or so and I know exactly how you feel.

    If you are not familiar with skellie’s blog I suggest you read this article, it will change the way you blog: http://www.skelliewag.org/how-to-get-piles-of-links-subscribers-and-comments-273.htm

    One tip she offers, that I am trying for the first time is tagging. I will be tagging you and Tim Klabunde in a post I am wrapping up today…please respond and tag others. This will help you yo get dome dialogue going.

  17. Bizzie Guye Says:

    I wish blogging spell check would catch the ever so eloquent phrase “yo get dome” and flag it as a “consider rephrasing” like MSWORD does. :)

    correction: …”to get some” dialogue going.

  18. Carol Bentley Says:

    Hi Ford,

    sorry – that was naughty of me to assume you knew what aweber is.

    Aweber is an email autoresponder service. Basically they provide a service where you can collect and properly maintain a database of subscribes, send out messages automatically on a pre-determined schedule and – as I do – link to your blog.

    When I publish a post on my blog aweber picks it up automatically and sends the notice out to my subscribers without me having to do anything else.

    There are other services that offer a similar system, but personally I prefer aweber because…

    * they are hot on the CAN-SPAM regulations,
    * they have a brilliant reputation with ISPs so your emails have a better chance of getting delivered and
    * they provide brilliant support, ideas and reporting so you can see how effective your messages are.

    They also make it really easy to create the sliding pop-overs to encourage people to sign up, if you visited my blog you’ll have seen an example of that.

    You can read more about aweber at http://www.aweber.com.

    My new book is Beat The Recession: Proven Marketing Tactics and you can read more about it at http://www.copywriting4b2b.com/btr-blog.html (I’ve put this URL as my website above so it is a live link on my name on this comment). It is available as a digital book or a print-published book, which is scheduled to be ready for despatch by the end of this month.

    If you want any more info on using aweber pop an email over with any questions you have or reply on here – I’ll check back in a couple of days, just in case. ;)

    Regards
    Carol

  19. Gautam Says:

    Hi Ford,

    It depends on the tone and tenor of one’s blog posts IMHO. We consultants have a predisposition to take the ‘expert’ position – ways to do it, how to do it, etc. Those kind of posts don’t attract comments.

    A personal post, or a post that looks for feedback/ideas will spark more comments. Questions that challenge conventional wisdom that evoke a response would also spark more comments.

    My other suggestion would be to link out more often, possibly to competition and collaborators you work with. As I tell participants in Management Development sessions that I conduct both obey a “MYSMYG” principle – More you share (link) more you get” !

    I keep following your posts and take your ideas. I am engaged, though you won’t find my comments usually here :D

  20. Michael McLaughlin Says:

    Ford,

    You’ve got lots of insightful comments, so I’m not sure I can add much to the mix, but here goes.

    I’m not sure I agree with the assertion:

    “If you want to grow your base of readers to the next level, you must engage them in a dialog.”

    It seems as though many blogs have substantial followings without creating a dialogue. In fact, some of the most popular blogs have comments turned off entirely.

    I think if you want to grow readers, you continue to create great content, keep yourself active in the market, and promote your blog. I’m not sure that everyone wants to be in a community, or whether or not that’s what’s best for your practice.

    Without getting esoteric, it seems that the if you wanted to create a community, then you’d become a blogger who is a consultant. If you want to improve your readership, you become a consultant who blogs.

    What I mean is that I believe you can build an active readership that helps you stay sharp without building a community. It’s really a matter of choice, I suppose.

    Keep up the great work.

  21. Shawn Callahan Says:

    I’ve been blogging for five years now with my current blog being over fours years old. I went through a period worrying about not having that many comments but realised it doesn’t matter because enough people are linking to our content that our Google rating is quite high. Prospects looking for “knowledge strategy” or “business narrative” will find us on the first page of results. More importantly if they are looking for, for example, “storytelling melbourne” we are number one.

    I would say half of our new clients come from finding us on the web.

    So the question is not how to get more comments, but how to get more links.

  22. Ford Harding Says:

    Mason:
    This is a fascinating example, that I and, I suspect, others will explore. Examples really help. Many thanks.

    Sean
    You and others have proven that my premise was wrong. The real question is what kind of blog do I want to have. So, its back to the thinking room for me.

    Dan
    We seem to be facing the same question (see above comment to Sean). Perhaps we should talk.

    Carl
    Another good example for me to look at! Plus an appropriate assessment of the effect of a post’s structure on readers’ likelihood of commenting. I need to do some work there.

    Bizze Guye
    This, http://www.skelliewag.org/how-to-get-piles-of-links-subscribers-and-comments-273.htm, is a post every blogger should read. Thanks

    Carol
    Many thanks for the explanation. There is so much to do and so little time. At least I have a good list of ways to increase my blogs reach and impact that I can prioritize from. Thanks.

    Gautam (For those of you who don’t know him, Gautam is a masterblogger from India)
    It is good to hear from you. I must do more linking and commenting, but how do you find the time for it? I am in awe of what you have done as a blogger. You have grown and adapted your blog as your circumstances, needs and interests have changed like no other blog I have seen. Your comments are always welome and helpful.

    Michael
    your distinction between a consultant who blogs and a blogger who consults is right on the money. Many thanks.

  23. Ford Harding Says:

    Shawn (to learn about Shawn’s blog see my post from April 28 08, More News from Down Under)
    This is an important distinction that I need to focus on more. We should catch up.

    Good night, all!

  24. Barbara Metzler Says:

    I haven’t read all the comments, so apologies if others have already made this point. I read your blog and get fabulous ideas and instructions. Then I’m done. I think only if you post something inflamatory or outrageous or totally counterintuitive are people stimulated to respond. By the way this is the first blog of any kind I have EVER responded to. I read your blog like I might read a book or magazine article — to get useful ideas and information. And of course, you are very experienced in writing for books and articles! But to stimulate comments, I think you have to pose a question or say something outrageous.

  25. Mike Spack Says:

    Ford,
    I am still at Step 1 and am not sure if I should even try to go to Step 2 (it would be fun, but I personally don’t know how to do it). Michael’s distinction is great – I am a consultant who blogs, not a blogger who consults. I write a blog for the same reason I publish articles, which is to position myself as an expert. This leads me to write in a manner that doesn’t invite a lot of community interaction, as others have commented about.

    I get very little comments on my blog, but I have been approached by a lot of people in my network about my blog and specific posts. Like you, this always shocks me because it feels like no one is reading. This feedback encourages me to keep blogging though. Frankly, it is more feedback than I get on articles I write.

    Part of the Step 1 vs. Step 2 analysis should be to analyze a person’s purpose for blogging. I am very curious to read your future posts on this topic. Especially if you feel consultants are stunting themselves by stopping at Step 1.

    Mike Spack

  26. Ford Harding Says:

    Barbara:
    I knew you scanned my blog from time to time, but I didn’t know that you read it regularly. That you do is a good reason to keep at it. Many thanks for letting me know.

    Mike
    I am no longer sure that stopping at Level 1 stunts the consultant. As you can see in the notes, a lot of people argue the contrary. I’ll let you know if engaging people with questionns increase my perception of the return I get on it.

    I looked at your block which looks fresh and newsy. If I were involved in traffic issues in Minneapolis, I would want to see it ever day. It must enhance your name in the region.

    Thanks for the comments.

    Ford Harding

  27. Tim Klabunde Says:

    Ford-
    Looking at the various responses here it seems that how you define success for your blog should dictate whether or not you need to transform your blog to a level 2 blog.

    As one of the “non-consultant” bloggers out there I define success differently than most, for me it is defined through relationships (I can identify Mark Buckson, Mel Lester, and yourself as just a few of the relationships I would never have if I did not blog). What defines success for you? If you are looking for new business I would agree with Shawn Callahan, if you are looking to be the center of thought innovation I likewise would work towards a level 2 blog.

    I have already come to the conclusion (as have several others here) that you already have a successful blog. I also add to this that it seems you have been able to “turn on” the comments easily with a thought provoking post and an open-ended invitation. Sounds like perhaps you are already achieving a greater level of success than you know.
    Tim

  28. Ford Harding Says:

    Tim
    One reason I want to get to Level 2 is to have more of the kind of exchanges I have ejoyed with you. The response to this post has been beyond all my expectations.
    Ford

  29. Dennis Says:

    Ford
    First time visitor today :-) – so haven’t look at many of your posts.
    Normally I don’t comment much because much of the conversation (too many blogs) are just opinions rehashed as pseudo-intellectual think pieces, so not worth of comment.

    And then if you factor about the social media types who comment ad naseum about social media and how it is going to change the world, then there is not much commenting about.

    I really think – as some others observed – that it depends on the type of blog you have. Most B2B friendly topics don’t have that much chatter.

  30. Ford Harding Says:

    Dennis:

    Thanks for overcoming your normal reluctance to commenting. I appreciate this one. There are a lot of comments on blogs that are little more than ‘ata boys. But there are also useful additions and debates if you look around a little. Being a cantankerous soul, I have had debates with Suzanne Lowe, Charlie Green, Sims Wyeth and others. Charlie Green’s blog, Trust Matters, tends to attract a lot of agreement on the value of building trust, so I sent him a post, ”An Ode to Distrust,” which he graciously published on April 1.

    I have found the comments to this post reassuring and instructive, even as they pointed out some of my wrong-headedness. Dialog is extremely helpful to a writer.

    I hope you comment again.

    Ford Harding

  31. Ian Brodie Says:

    Ford – Like many, I don’t feel super-qualified to advise on this, but here’s my 2 cents:

    I think the level of blog commenting depends on a number of factors:

    1) The size of your readership (amongst the sort of people likely to be online commenters). While you’re very well known in the PS niche, obviously the Seth Godins and Guy Kawasakis and of the world are going to have a higher readership on the web.

    2) The “hotness” of the topic you post about. The latest buzz on internet marketing is more likely to generate comments than timeless wisdom on sales strategy.

    3) How visibly commenting is signposted on your post – and how easy it is to comment. Some blogs, for example, have a big widget at the top saying how many comments there have been so far as a gentle reminder than commenting is encouraged. Michel Fortin’s blog is a good example of this (www.michelfortin.com) and other strategies.

    4) How synchronised visitors are to the site. If your visitors all arrive in a short period of time then commenting becomes more real-time. If it feels like you’ll get a quick response from others then you’re more likely to comment (vs if the last comment was months ago). You can help this by more aggressively building your email list and alerting them whenever you post – so they all come at around the same time. Again, Michel Fortin’s blog (www.michelfortin.com) is a good example of aggressively building an optin list. You might not want to go as far as he has done with popups etc. But it’s worth a look – especially as his latest post actually discusses optins. Using social bookmarking (or having friends who do it for you) more aggressively may help too. For example, I have “Dugg” & “Stumbled” your most recent post – you might be able to see if that generates any traffic and/or comments. You could add bigger, colourful buttons rather than just the text links to Digg & Stumble et al.

    5) Finally, of course, commenting on other blogs, which you already do, helps too.

    Ian

    PS – I think a comment someone made earlier is definitely true: since you’re the guy who “wrote the book” on Rainmaking, you may find a number of your readers feel a little self conscious about commenting and might need more encouragement than if you weren’t held in such high regard!

  32. Ford Harding Says:

    Ian:

    Many thanks for a thorough and thoughtful response. Far from feeling like an authority, I am constantly struck by how much I don’t know. Your helpful list is another reminder. My practice has been built by asking people to describe what they do and then trying it myself for a while to really understand it. It is through the generosity of others like yourself that I have succeeded.

    Ford Harding

  33. Tommy Kelly Says:

    Ford,

    You ask if you’re looking at the problem the wrong way. I think you are. In my opinion, your blog is high grade material and I have recommended, and will continue to do so, it and your “Rain Making” book. I don’t really buy the Level 1/2 dichotomy, so I think you’re seeing a problem that doesn’t exist.

    Look at Joel Spolsky’s occasional essays, or Paul Graham’s. It’s hard to beat either, but while they do generate a lot of discussion, neither Spolsky nor Graham appear to participate much. That, to me, is *fine*.

    In fact, I believe the notion of the blog as the core of an interactive community is not generally valid in practice. The machinery is not, for whatever reason, geared up for that. You’re not the first to make this mistake. Alf of us are watching Faecebook, Myspace, Twitter, Yammer, Blogging, etc, etc to see how they’ll work. One thing that’s clear is, the success and use model of each is far from clear.

    Just keep doing what you’re doing. It’s not broke.

  34. Ford Harding Says:

    Tommy:

    I clearly got it wrong seeing the shift from what I call Leve 1 to Level 2 as the only way to make progress. The situation is far more complex. What do you think of the approach I am using which poses a question I am wrestling with about every fourth post? The next one will be out on Thursday. I would value your opinion. It is a possible compromise between what you are suggesting and a full move to Level 2.

    Ford Harding

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