Contributing to Online Discussion

an example of public debate

An example of public debate

A core value of Google is Democracy (#4): ‘Democracy on the web works.’ Public debate to establish common values is one of the corner stones of a democracy. So how exactly is democracy established on the internet? The traditional answer would have been links, but this is not the why. Links are the how. Trust is established by helping people out. For example, if you receive a good movie recommendation from a friend, chances are you are open to more suggestions from that same friend. You might even ask him or her for an opinion.

On the internet, this is analogue to sharing your point of view, adding information and helping people. The main mindset you should have is helping out other website’s visitors. Even if you don’t get a link back. The search engines are highly adaptive. If people want to know more about you, they might search your name or for an idea you propose. This will generate buzz. Google Trends proves that the ranking and display of results is adjusted according current event or popular ideas. That is why you do not necessary need a link back to succeed, as long as your name or brand you comment under leads to your website.

Finding Interesting Blogs

In order to be able to contribute successfully to the public debate about a specific topic in your niche, you must first identify the platforms in use. Doing so will enable you to

1.    Stay on top of current events and topics in the niche

2.    Get content ideas (trough new perspectives)

3.    Get an increased readership

In order to assess whether or not a platform is worth investing your time in, a couple of question need to be asked? Remember, you are sharing your opinion, but I’d be nice if someone actually listens and responds.

1.    Activity – How often does the platform publishes new content? When they update once every six months, it might be that the blog is not very active. However, the contrary can also be true, the author may only publish high quality articles that are perceived well.

2.    Engagement – Do other people comment? What is the quality of those comments? Usually, when a blog has lots of ‘bad’ comments (the ‘thank you’, ‘nice post’ ones), I usually skip this platform. To me it indicates that the webmaster does not moderate the platform well enough for me wanting to be associated with it. Comment count is also to be taken into account. It might be easy that your comment gets buried when lots of people comment.

3.    Popularity – It can be hard to establish the popularity of a platform if statistics (like on forums) are not available. However, you can get a fair impression of its popularity by checking how popular the query is you used to end up on the platform

With these criteria you should be able to decide for each platform if you want to avoid it, use it to get new ideas or contribute your views and perspectives

Managing All Found Blogs

bamboo-readerManaging all posts from the blogs you’ve found is actually not that hard if you use the right tools. I’d like to use an Mozilla Firefox extension called Bamboo Reader. It is an RSS – Feed reader and only has functionality I need. You can sort feed by category, show unread posts only and even filter on keywords.

This last functionality is particularly useful to make selection of posts you will comment and share your opinion on. This really helps to make blog commenting into a habit. This is especially important since we are what we repeatedly do.

You can find the extension, here installing and operating the plugin is pretty straightforwards so I’ll not go into that in this article.

The Anatomy of a Good Comment

A good comment should adhere to following points

1.    Let the author know that you’ read the article (not literally)

2.    Let the author know if you agree or disagree

3.    If you disagree, share an opposite opinion and support it with facts

4.    If you agree, share a way to improve on an idea or proposition

Let me explain. If I write about healthy eating and eating Paleo for 30 days, you can add value to that. An example comment would be

“I found that paleo indeed is very healthy, it helped me improve my overall fitness greatly [establish that you’ve read the article, agree and relate to your personal experience]. However, in practice I found it hard to prepare my food in advance. [Introduce a problem associated with the proposed idea]. Luckily, I could convince my mom to do help me.”

Most often, the blogs author or other visitors will react, and if appropriate (sometimes people even ask for it) you can share a link to a resource on your website that deals with that issue. This way you create a win-win-win situation. Heck, it can even give you knew content ideas, since you are actively involved in the niche, thinking critically at ideas proposed by others.

The nice thing is, that after a few weeks commenting on new articles by the same blog, the author really gets to know you and this paves the way to future opportunities like guest blogging or giveaways.