How I write responses that provide value


Now that you’ve got the value upfront, lend me four minutes to explain why I try to leave valuable responses, and how I got to my cheat sheet.

Why leave responses?

I can’t claim to know how Medium’s algorithm works. But I can claim this from first-hand experience. Your articles won’t surface much when you're new.

That’s completely fair, you have no proof that you’re good, but it does make growth slow. To combat this, you have to push your content proactively. Shout, wave your arms — let them know you exist. Engaging with others is how you grow a wider audience.

On Medium, there is one way to engage. Leave responses.

If you leave a good comment on a big author’s story, it will rise to the top of their response section and act as an advert for you and your work. You’ll have people flocking to your articles in no time.

As long as your comments are good… but what is good?

Providing value

When people don’t know who you are, they don’t care what you think. This is the most important thing to remember when trying to grow an audience.

If you want people who don’t know you to pay attention, you need to provide value. I believe there are two types: entertainment value, and helpful value.

Entertainment value looks like a humorous comment that makes people laugh. Helpful value could be a reference to an outside resource that the author of an article hasn’t considered. If you can blend the two, you’re onto a real winner.

Who’s your audience?

Providing value starts with knowing who you’re trying to help. I believe you should consider the following:

  1. The author who wrote the piece.
  2. Your fellow readers.

Author

I’m an author, you’re an author… hey, I wonder if we all want the same things? Let’s see. Here’s what I want:

  1. Praise, it can’t hurt. A pat on the back for writing a helpful story.
  2. Feedback. Perhaps there was a specific part of the story you liked the most, or least. Perhaps there’s a grammatical error or a poorly flowing section. Personally, I would like to know these things, because I know they’ll help me improve.
  3. Ideas or engaging commentary. It’s nice to know people like your work. But far more interesting if someone shows they thought about it by sparking a conversation. Especially if that leads you to a new idea.

Readers

Wait, we’re all readers too!

This one’s a lot more dependent on the article, but I believe there are things we usually want:

  1. Confirmation. We have an opinion on the article that we’d like to see confirmed in the comments.
  2. Extra Information. We feel that the article didn’t fully cover the topic and we’d like someone to fill in the gaps.
  3. Curiosity. We enjoyed the article and are curious about other people's thoughts and ideas.

Who and how to target

Unless you’re trying to catch the author’s attention, targeting the readers is best. There’s a lot more of them!

To do this, you should ask yourself the following questions when you finish reading:

  1. If I had to summarise this article in two sentences, how would I do it?
  2. Is there anything interesting in this article that was touched upon, but not expanded upon that I know about or could find out about?
  3. Did this article inspire a new idea in me that others could derive value from?

One question is enough, but if you can answer all of them, that’s ideal. Turn your answers into a comment, and send it away.

Improving

Once you’ve committed to this, you should track your responses like your stories. What’s working? What’s definitely not working? How can you make all your responses as good as your best response?

If you do this, your comments will get better, you’ll build trust in your community, and grow your audience. You may even make some friends along the way!

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