Comments and How They Can Make You More Successful (In Just 10 Mintues) – Part 1

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on October 31, 2010 in: Business - Plain & Simple, Social Media Marketing, Tips in 10

Long before the internet was around, the way we got a lot of our information was mainly through newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, and books. But these were not very interactive. Certainly there was some interactivity – you bought or didn’t buy the book; you could call in to some radio or TV shows; you could write in to magazines and newspapers and they’d sometimes print your letter. Other than that, the information was one-way with little input from you.

The early web was not actually that different: It was just an electronic form of newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, and books… again, with very little interactivity.

But slowly that started to change. I think forums helped. So did the ability to vote up or down a particular article. Then blogs came along and people could comment on them. And later, social media helped to transform the concept of interactivity, making the web a true conversation.

In today’s article of Tips In Ten, I want to talk about comments – specifically receiving comments on your blog. In the next issue I want to talk about leaving comments on other people’s blogs. Both are important. I believe this is a huge opportunity and although many people do comment on blogs, many more don’t do it enough. I think we need more blog commenting. We need it because:

  • It promotes interactivity, which is what makes today’s internet great
  • It builds a community around people who comment regularly on a blog
  • It helps to position you when you comment on other people’s blogs
  • It provides some backlinks for your site.

Today’s Tips In Ten (Getting Comments) will take 10 minutes per day. And, the next article of Tips In Ten (Leaving Comments) will also take 10 minutes per day.

Getting comments on your blog

Obviously this assumes you have a blog (and if you don’t, then you may want to start one!)

Comments on your blog help to build up a community and create some interactivity. Although you should never write content just to get comments, you should encourage and embrace comments and use them to help you become even better.

A commenting system
Start by making sure that you have a good commenting system in your blog and that it is activated.  I’ve seen two systems that I really like, although there might be more out there.

The first one I like (and use on my own site) is CommentLuv. CommentLuv lets commenters leave a bit of information about themselves and CommentLuv adds their image and their last blog post to their comment. I like it because it’s easy to use and because it encourages other people to click around and find new and interesting blogs to read simply by reading through the comments on a blog.

The other one I like – and I know many people who use it – is Disqus. Disqus is a nice and clean commenting system and it is very feature rich (especially the premium version) including threaded discussions, multisite moderation, and semantic-editing to help keep non-family-friendly comments to a minimum.

Let me encourage you to choose one of these and use it, as it enhances the basic commenting system that your blog already has.

Encouraging comments
Once you have a commenting system in place the next thing you should do is encourage comments. You can write blogs and just let people comment as they feel inclined, and that’s okay. I do that a lot on my blog and many other bloggers do, too. But there are other things you can do to encourage comments.

For example, use your blog to talk about your position on an idea and encourage commenters to give you feedback or tell you their position. This makes it somewhat two-way in that you ask and they respond. You can do this simply by ending your blog with something like “I’d like to hear what you think” or similar.

Or, you can go a step further and try to create discussion. For example, you might discuss all sides of an idea and then encourage commenters to debate. You can get some really lively conversation from even just a few commenters, depending on what the topic is! If you don’t have a lot of active participants commenting your blog, you might want to wait until you do; otherwise the silence might get painful.

Another way to encourage comments is to participate yourself. When someone comments, be sure to reply. Thank them or disagree or ask another question. As your comments grow, you won’t be able to do this for every single comment but you should still continue and try to comment on several key comments. But while your blog is starting up and if it hasn’t gained a huge following of active commenters, you can easily reply to all of them.

Moderating comments
This is a controversial issue and I’ve heard compelling arguments on both sides of the spectrum: Some people say you should moderate your comments and others say you shouldn’t. Let me first say that I’m not talking about spam. It’s okay to moderate spam and no one would accuse you of bad comment moderation. I don’t even consider spam-elimination to be moderation. It’s just basic housekeeping! (By the way, if you’re running WordPress, add the plug-in Akismet which is a great must-have spam-fighting system that eliminates a lot of spam moderating work).

Instead, when I’m talking about moderation I’m talking about dealing with comments that are negative. We all love to get positive, insightful comments. But once in a while someone shows up on our site with an attitude or a chip on their shoulder or something against you and they have less-than-nice things to say.

Here’s my stance on the issue: I do some light comment moderation and I encourage my clients to do the same. But only LIGHT moderation. If the comment gives negative feedback on your topic – for example, if they disagree (and even if they disagree strongly with relatively harsh words) – I’d leave it. It’s relevant, even if you don’t agree. This is a great comment to reply to and thank them for their insight and tell them why you disagree. It might start some healthy debate and it won’t drive away business simply because someone disagrees with you. (What will drive away business, though, is if you respond less-than-professionally!)

I do think that some moderation is okay if someone shows up on your blog and says something nasty about you or about another commenter or is off topic. If a comment falls into any of those three areas, I seriously consider deleting it. (I don’t always, but that’s the “flag” for me that prompts me to at least think about it). Yes, that’s not always an easy line to draw but you have to pick a line somewhere and I’ve been happy with it. I’m all for free speech but on a business blog I want to encourage relevant and constructive conversation and debate and I don’t want some commenters making personal attacks especially to other commenters.

Measuring
It’s nice to go onto your blog and see that you have a lot of comments. I still get excited even when I see just one comment on a post. However, I don’t want you to get hung up on the number of comments you have. Quantity is good but quality is better. If you go look at blogs that are commented on frequently, some of the comments are good but many lack substance. My opinion is, if we all sat around and complimented each other all day, we might feel great about ourselves but we’d never get anything done.

Instead, a conversation is started and ideas are debated and businesses are made better because of constructive dialogue. So, although I understand perfectly that 1 comment on a blog is good and 2 comments are better and 10 (or 100 or 1000) are glorious, that’s not the point. Instead, enjoy that you are building a community and participate in it. Focus less on numbers and instead grow the value of that community.

So, inviting and managing comments on your blog can and should only take 10 minutes a day.

Okay, your homework for this week is to open up your blog comments and get interacting, and plan blogs that will help to encourage your community to speak up.

Heather Recommends:

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