As a community leader for your site, you’re probably interested in building an audience. If you often find yourself sitting on the sidelines, twiddling your thumbs waiting for this to occur, we’ve got some tips for you: get commenting! Jump into the comment section and reply directly to your community members. After all, you’re an important member of, well, your community and your contributions matter. We recently chatted with Nikki Parkinson over at Styling You, who runs a very loyal and active Fashion and Style community. We wanted to pick her brain on the topic of author participation.

Here are some tips to keep in mind while commenting as the site moderator or author, and some words of wisdom from Nikki herself:

1. Set the tone

As the community leader or site author, you have the unique opportunity to “lead by example” in the comment section. You’ll be able to help your community members get a feel for what’s appropriate when they read your comments, whether that be scholarly debate, inane cat jokes, or one-liner responses. The more you comment, the more effective this will be.

Q: How do you encourage healthy debate among your readers?

Nikki: I set the tone of the community - it's all about respect. Differing opinions are fine but talk nicely. My readers and comments like that the community is like that and it feels safe for them to comment.

Q: Do you moderate comments (remove and approve comments) that don't fit well into the discussion?

Nikki: I read every comment but don't have moderation on first. I delete spam - blatant unasked for promotion - and any comments that are abusive or attack an individual.

2. Let your community know you care

By replying directly to people on your site in the comment section, you can convey to them that their opinions and thoughts are important to your site’s community. Commenters are your most engaged readers and they’re likely the ones you want sticking around –– encourage them to come back in the future by prolonging the conversation.

Q: Why is it important to you to reply to the comments on the articles you write?

Nikki: Blogging is a conversation. I start it and then others join in and add to the discussion. It would be boring (and lonely!) if no-one talked back. I also believe that if people take the time to comment then I need to make the time to respond. It's just good manners.

3. Authors are experts

If you have authors and contributors for your site, encourage them to participate in the conversation! Authors have the largest stake in hearing from commenters, and they likely have a lot (more) to say about the topic they wrote about. Dialogues between authors and readers can be awesome. You can even add your site authors as moderators so they’re notified of new comments.

Q: Have you ever made a clarification in the comments when people are misunderstanding something you wrote?

Nikki: Yes. It can happen because of the very nature of the written word. A tone or idea can be misinterpreted. I'm happy to clarify or make right.

Q: Lastly, what have you learned about the people who read your content?

Nikki: I have a very loyal bunch of readers and commenters. Many come and comment every day. I get to know them as much as they get to know me through what they write. It helps me to work out what blog post topics might have interest.

Now, it’s your turn to share

We also have some questions for you all, let us know your thoughts below!

  1. How do you interact with your community? Weekly chats, emails, meetups?

  2. What’s the best interaction you’ve ever had with someone on your site?