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Passing the Mic: A How-to Guide for Open Threads

Posted by Amanda Nudelman on July 21, 2014 • Read More »

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We’re all familiar with this scenario: spend a few hours writing a great blog post (or a few days), hold your breath when you click the publish button, and then BASK IN THE GLORY OF THE AMAZING COMMENTS THAT ROLL IN, ONE AFTER ANOTHER! Unfortunately, that last part isn’t always true. But, there’s hope! We’ve got a few ideas for using Disqus in unique ways to engage your community.

First up: open threads. The point of this type of blog post is to ask an open-ended question for your readers to answer. Open threads are a great way to let your community spur conversation, and run with what they think is interesting. (Bonus: you get direct insight into what your readers may want to talk about in future posts.)

Take this recent post from Mommyish as an example: Open Thread: What’s The Rudest Thing A Stranger Said To You When You Were Pregnant?  What do you see? A short piece of content, and a lot of engagement (192 comments!).

So what is Mommyish doing right with this blog post? Three main things (besides excellent gif usage):

1. The headline is the question.

2. The subject is provocative.

3. The author provides an example of the type of responses she’s looking for.

Using your prompt question as the post title immediately clues people into what you’re talking about, and will grab the attention of people interested in that subject. Making the question personal will only bolster engagement. After all, it’s easiest to talk about what you know — your own experiences and opinions.

So I want to know what the rudest, most oblivious, most WTF, or most jacked up thing anyone ever said to you when you were pregnant is. Go! Dredge up those memories and get it all out. We’re here for you.

Theresa Edwards - Mommyish

People don’t want to talk about boring stuff. You’re probably not going to get 192 comments about people’s preferred brand of garden hose. Mommyish nails this by asking a question that is relatable for the majority of their audience (most moms have been pregnant at some point). Choose a topic that’s debatable, annoying, or an issue people can rally around. (A stranger rubbing your pregnant belly and asking if you even know who the father is definitely qualifies.)

Setting the tone for discussion is also critical. The author openly shares her experience with humor, and throws in a gif for good measure. Now readers better know how they can/should talk about their own experiences. She also ends the post by saying, “We’re here for you.” This tells readers they are in a safe place, and can find support through commiseration.  

Have you ever hosted an open thread on your site? What have you seen work, or not work? And don't forget to stay tuned for more tips on engaging your Disqus community!

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