Politicians enjoy statistics and polls because it helps them to gauge how well they are doing with the public. Some live and die by the numbers and will change their entire political view in order to fit the profile of an “electable” candidate. But, “normal” people do not have these tools and special interest groups to determine their influence. We use good old fashioned conversation to relay our thoughts, feelings, dislikes, etc. Likewise, we do the exact same thing on the Web, although it is not face-to-face.
Just as a political campaign listens to its groups, and the normal person listens to the individuals around them, web consultants, designers, bloggers, etc., should value the comments on their discussion boards. Comments are the best type of feedback you can hope for. They let you know if you are doing a good job, or if the information you disseminate could use a boost. They help you to drive your content in a meaningful direction. For example, if you write a blog about dogs, some people may find information about protection from canine diseases more helpful than pictures of puppies every week (nothing against puppies because I must admit, I watched the streaming video of Shiba Inu pups online a couple of years ago).
I’ve seen many sites where people post very controversial information just to start a conversation or drive up the number of comments. What is really needed is meaningful, thoughtful posts which aid the online community and further the conversation. Of course, the best way to get comments is to discuss the kind of information useful to your particular online community. Provide answers to users’ questions, and ask the type of questions which will “pull in” answers from the community. Above all, answer comments to your posts. It doesn’t matter if they are the two word “Good job” posts or dissertations. They all deserve to be answered. What do you think? You can answer with one or two words, or a paragraph if you wish!