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How to: Get People To Reply to Your Posts

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1 How to: Get People To Reply to Your Posts on Sun Jun 21, 2009 7:36 pm


1: Use a Description Title.

This is the foundation for being noticed. Without this, no other tips matter.

On a board with this much activity, nobody could ever read every single thread. Here's what I do when I get on this board.

1: Check my Personal Messages. Since nobody ever PMs me, this is a very quick and easy step, taking about a second.

2: Hit the New Posts button, scroll through the first 3 pages looking for threads that I have either responded in, or that have a title relating to something I'm interested in.

Here's how to make your threads noticeable from the New Posts search:

Do not title it "Please help." This is a support board, and lots of people need help... Do you need help dealing with DEERS? Do you need to get a company to recognize a POA? Do you need help defragging your hard drive? Are your cookies going stale and you need people to eat them? There are many ways that people can and will help you, but if we don't know whether we can help you or not, we probably won't even open the thread.

Instead of "Please help." Use something like "Hubby may have PTSD. What do I do?" A title like this alerts those who have had experience with PTSD and shows that you aren't just here for pity, you actually want help.

Describe why you are posting in your title... What are you hoping to get out of the thread? What are you hoping others will get out of the thread? Why should those people care?

The most effective advertisement I have ever seen was one that said "1 pint of Strawberries, $0.88." It caught the attention of those who cared about strawberries, described exactly what they were getting (1 pint worth) and how much it cost. Unfortunately, when I saw that ad, I was working in the produce section of the store that ran the ad, and we couldn't keep the strawberries on the shelf. Your post title is the first ad... Catch the attention of those who would care, describe what they'll get, and what it will cost them in as few words as possible.

In my title post, I caught the attention of those who want replies to their posts. The stated benefit is that people will reply more, and the cost is that you'll have to read a long article.

2: Be Understood.

The most important part of this rule is to use correct punctuation and grammar. At least try. That's all that we ask.

Your goal when writing a post is to be understood. If people don't understand you, then why write?

You do not have to be a Grammar Nazi. While some people will cringe at the incorrect use of there/their/they're, its/it's, and your/you're, we can still get out the meaning of your post. if however you leave out punctuation and do not capitalize anything we will have a hard time figuring out what youre trying to say this makes the post hard to understand and people will get through about three run on sentences before giving up in frustration

Commas are your friend. They give you a natural pause within a sentence, allowing you to chain related ideas into one complete thought. Capitalization is your friend as well, though not completely necessary. Also, separating your post out into different paragraphs will avoid the Wall Of Text that send many people running for the Back button on their web browser.

To create a new paragraph, simply hit <Enter> twice.

Over-using punctuation is better than not using it at all. If you put an extra comma in your sentences, that's fine. If you put only one sentence in each of your paragraphs, that is fine. If you Capitalize words that shouldn't be, that's fine.

If you ask for the differences between its/it's, their/they're/there, and your/you're, we'll be happy to explain it, but we also realize that sometimes the rules of grammar are confusing, and nobody expects perfection. I'm certainly far from being perfect, and I only have a vague notion of the differences between affect and effect.

The second part of being understood is recognizing that written words do not convey tone. It is up to the reader to fill in the blanks and guess. I imagine that people will see this article as coming from some sort of teacher standing in front of a small class... At least, that's the tone that I'm trying to convey. Unfortunately, nobody can jump in and interrupt me while I'm typing, so I just go off on my tangents during my lecture and leave the Q/A section to the end. Some people might read a condescending tone (which I don't have), while others will read this as coming from some brainiac nerd who was lucky to have ever met a woman, much less actually marry her.

If you're joking, put in smilies to show that you're joking. As much as I don't like it, LOL is an excellent way to show people that it's alright to laugh, since you're already laughing. Try to make your emotion painfully clear, so that only people like me (who sometimes just don't get that there's a joke) will miss your mood.

As for spelling... I really don't care. Some people care deeply. It is far more important to be understood than to be right... but if you can be right and understood at the same time, so much the better. I am terrible at spelling, so I use the web browser Firefox, because it has a built-in spell check. (And, because Firefox doesn't have the security vulnerabilities that Internet Explorer has.)

Finally, this is a rule that probably won't apply to most people. If you're writing a very long post (over 1000 words), give the readers a way to skim through it. I've broken this post into sections, and put the main point I'm trying to make in the section headings. Italicizing and underlining text also makes it stand out, as does putting in numbers.

The rule to keep in mind when making an article easy to skim is to make certain that the section headings are clearly visible... Make them short, 1 or 2 sentences at most, preferably just a simple phrase, and make the headings meaningful. Give away all of your secrets in the section heading, then explain those secrets in the body of the section.

Use italics for emphasis. Take this sentence as an example: "They're going to that store?" is just a simple question.

"They're going to that store?" probably shows that something is wrong with "they."

"They're going to that store" shows that something is wrong with the store.

Underlining can also show emphasis, but don't use it very much on message boards or the Internet in general. Since most links to different pages are underlined, people tend to think that underlined text can be clicked on. Don't fool your readers, they're your friends as well, and they won't get the joke. There are some places where it is grammatically correct to use an underline, but consult someone who majored in English first.

3: Put the Thread in the Right Sub-Forum.

Remember back in section 1, about titling your article, when I explained my three steps when visiting this board? My third step is to go to the specific sub-forums that interest me... I tend to read all of the new posts in each forum that I'm interested in.

There can be many threads in the General board... The average thread stays on the first page for 8 hours or less. If the people who would be interested in your thread happen to be asleep, they'll probably never see your post.

However, threads put on the other sub-forums tend to stick around on their first page for a couple of days. Now, for someone to miss your thread, they'd have to be on vacation. It might take an extra hour for your thread to be noticed, but it will certainly be noticed, and best of all, it will be noticed by people who care about the topic.

4: Sometimes, a Thread Just Gets Missed.

It isn't personal. In any board, even the meanest, most spiteful troll is only being ignored by 10% of the active users. (Please don't feed the trolls. If someone drops a drama bomb, just shake your head and go on to the next thread.) Sometimes, even with all of your best efforts, your thread simply doesn't get noticed. With a boards, it happens, nobody means for it to happen, people are sorry when it happens, but even the most senior members have threads with no replies.

If your thread drops off of the first page of its sub-forum, and you don't feel that it has received enough replies you can ask an admin or ask a moderator to move it to a more appropriate sub-forum.

5: Get People to Participate.

The best way is to ask a question... Get their opinions, or their further insight. Also, invite people to ask questions of their own.

So, to demonstrate how this works, I'm going to ask a question... And yes, it is a real, serious question. I know that a lot of people have picked up additional tips on how to get themselves noticed, and I don't have a monopoly on knowledge, so...

What are some of your tips on getting people to reply to threads?

Feel free to ask for clarification, whether another tip may/may not work, etc... We're here to learn from each other, so let's learn!

Three more tricks to add to the list:

6: These steps work on more than just message boards.

Nearly everybody here uses email. Everybody has used email at least once in order to register on this board. If you apply these same steps with your email... that is, use a descriptive message title, make certain that you're understood, make certain that the email is being sent to the right person/people, get the recipients to participate in the discussion (ask questions, be open for questions), and remember that sometimes your messages get missed (Ask for an update after a couple of days with no reply), then you'll be much more effective at using email.

The steps also apply for people running blogs. In fact, this list is largely created from my experiments with blogging. All of my most responded to and best noticed posts on my various web sites used each one of these tricks.

8: Keep the discussion going!

As long as you want people to keep responding to your thread (or emails, or blog posts), keep responding to them as well. Talk with them. Enter a real discussion...

Let everyone know that it is alright to keep talking.

Also, let people know that if they find your thread months down the line, it's still okay to post their opinion.

Oh, and congrats on making it through this incredibly long and tangent-filled post...


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