Do You Value Comments?


Microphone

Do you respond to comments to your posts? Do you spend time making comments on other blogs? Have you set comment guidelines for yourself?

Yes, people comment, they don't converse online.

Show me the money

Why do we care (beyond "social proofing" our sites)?

Are comments still valuable?

Whenever I read posts, I also read the comments. There have been many discussions about lack of comments on blogs now that people use social networks more. You've probably also seen what happens when the comment box is overtaken by a mob.

Tech blogs and mainstream media digital publications tend to have more extremes in opinions, and language. Gawker media introduced a new commenting system recently, and much discussion ensued. Is this a good thing? What is he trying to accomplish?

Beyond those two broad categories, I see some communities where the comment area is thriving — where it gets closer to conversation.

Where entrepreneurs gather

AVC blog — entrepreneurs discuss the issues they face, learn about running a business, evaluate technologies, and use the opportunity to learn about others like them to then meet them in real life.

A nice side effect of the online activities is the community spilling over to adjacent blogs like Gotham Girl and those of community members.

The best example of the value of commenting is the investment Fred Wilson's firm Union Square Ventures made to support the development of the social inbox Engagio build by community member William Mougayar. (here's my review)

Where the small army that does world domination gathers

This is the blog by Chris Guillebeau who set out to help people take over the world and is literally putting his money where his mouth is. Which is the reason why the World Domination Summit sells out in minutes (1,000 seats).

Guillebeau is a successful infopreneur, a new generation of enterprising professionals who make a living by providing useful and timely information to the people who need and value it. (here's my review of his latest book)

From day one, he focused his content to tell people what he was going to do, then tell them he was doing it, then following up with the results of what he did. In the process, he continues to feature members of the community and their success.

There is a there, there

Some of the take aways from the 2012 Engagio survey was:

  • Building and nurturing online communities is the #1 cited benefit of commenting online, whereas promoting your product or services is the least important benefit.
  • Top 3 most annoying things about commenting systems: low quality of comments, author not participating, delayed moderation.
  • 62% of users seek out online communities of interest to discover conversations that impact work, travel, lifestyle, real estate, or product purchases, and 42% make purchasing decisions based on these visits.

Comments are feedback, one of the main reasons why conversation is still so important in business.

They help build relationships for doing the important stuff offline: like going from readers to buyers then customers, making friends, meeting business partners, getting financing, etc.

The best way to get comments, if you are not going to go the controversial route, in which case you will need to have strong moderating skills (and time), is to build content that speaks and is useful to a specific community you're looking to serve.

Being open to comments is a good start.

Yes, there are some "how to" things you can do with your writing to solicit input:

  • ask good questions
  • be the intelligent contrarian (not just for the sake of it)
  • build community as in the examples above
  • reciprocate with comments on other blogs (this alone will set you apart, it's that rare these days)
  • write unfinished or raw posts
  • write short posts that start important conversations
  • survey your readers
  • write about topics that resonate with the community you built
  • use humor
  • be personable

You can think of others that appeal to you. The important part is being consistent with your writing, keeping your appointment, your promise to readers. In an increasingly crowded marketplace, doing what you say you do counts more every day.

Responding to comments helps show your readers that you are listening. That’s important especially if you are in the service business. The action of referring to the content readers share with you and addressing questions sets you apart. It shows your commitment and earns permission.

It may also be worth revisiting how you think about leaving comments in other blogs.

What more can comments add?

I’m sure you’ve noticed that many blog posts often gather the “great post” and “‘atta boy/girl” in the comments. That is when you are fortunate enough to get comments to your posts.

If you are leaving comments like those in other blogs, I encourage you to reconsider. You may be missing an opportunity to develop relationships with the blog's author(s) and with other members of the community.

The main reasons why commenting is often left out of content marketing strategies are (the obvious link bait using a company name and a suspect email excepted):

  • being time starved. There is only so much time you can dedicate to writing at other people’s bogs. You need to tend your own sites and client work.
  • testing the waters. You're not sure who else will be reading and commenting at that site and are still getting to know the author. Will they respond? Is this going to be a waste of time?
  • being afraid of not sounding knowledgeable. The more popular the blogger, the easier it is to feel intimidated.

There is also the issue of negative comments, and getting emotionally tricked into making larger statements than intended. Things like: "I'm the only blogger who brings this up…" forgetting that the mark of a professional is being appropriate, regardless of the circumstances.

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I value comments because I value building long-term relationships and comments are a good first step to signal interest and potential involvement. Many of the people I value as friends and colleagues I met in the early days of blogging.

Admittedly, I used to comment on other blogs a lot in the early days and have since slowed down to a crawl.

Partly because during the life spam of this blog I went from being the corporate executive to the agency side, then to consulting while exploring new opportunities, which is where I am now. There has been an evolution of my thinking to go with that as well.

Do you value comments?

 

[baseline idea for the article from a post I wrote for The Blog Herald four years ago]

[image by Ben McLeod]

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Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her for a speaking engagement click here.

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