The last time I was back home, I (along with her husband) was encouraging my friend Erin to blog her cultured, sophisticated point of view on food, travel and other enjoyments. I warned it would have to be its own reward; feedback is very, very hard to come by. Erin’s been cranking away, and probably finds the silence deafening (she mentions it in there somewhere, in fact.) In the past, I too have been really bothered by the ratio of readers to comments in this space, but have finally (I swear) let go of that. Here’s how and why.
First of all – the facts. While it varies wildly depending on the topic and how you set things up (e.g. are you asking your readers a question, or just ranting like me?), my research has shown that you can generally expect about a 0.4% participation rate. That is, for every thousand readers of a particular piece, an average of four will take some kind of action (either e-mail you or leave a comment.) It’ll be higher (often much higher) for something particularly incendiary or with a call-to-action, of course – and lower for something as simple as a link to someplace else. Jakob Nielsen explored this in much greater detail last year with his 90-9-1 rule.
Simply put, no matter what folks tell ya, blogging is just not a conversational medium. There are technical reasons (its linear model) and social reasons (most people are passive) for this. Beginning bloggers can let this discourage them, and I can understand that.
Probably the most important reason for this phenomenon is that most blog readers see it as a voyeuristic activity and are loath to make their presence known. Plus, participating takes much more time and effort than just reading. I’ve finally come to understand and appreciate this. Add to that the fact that those who do engage tend to be wingnuts, and it’s all good.
So, kids: blog away. Watch your stats so that you have a good idea of who is coming and from where (try something like Google Analytics – it rocks and it’s free) – and don’t let it bother you that they quietly sneak in and out the back door. It’s what they do.