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It's one thing to build a community and another to build an engaged community. Blog comments do this very well.

Building Community Through Comments

It’s one thing to build a community and another to build an engaged community. Blog comments do this very well. So why don’t we take advantage of it?

We want our customers to engage with our brand. Ideally, our customers would be sharing our articles on Facebook and Twitter. Of course, we want our audience to like our stories on Facebook and Snapchat and Instagram. If we build a community, our brand will prosper, right?

However, one of the oldest forms of online community-building is being ignored by more and more companies.

Increasingly, bloggers with a large audience are turning off comments on ther blog articles. I think that’s a grievous mistake – one that shuts the door on an opportunity to build real community.

Remember When Blogs Were Important?

Long before social media existed, blogs, RSS feeds, and comment sections were the places where you would build a following and a community.

Most of the well-known marketing brands of today were built using their comment sections to have a conversation with the author. That type of access seems increasingly rare.

What changed in the last 5 to 10 years?

Why are so many prolific bloggers no longer enabling comments on their new blog posts?

Turning Away From Blog Comments

Today, many bloggers are disabling blog comments because there are other means of building communities. Facebook groups, Slack channels, and private memberships have risen in popularity.

Blogs without comments enabled are simply one-way conversations.

However, if the first taste of your brand is an unreciprocated relationship, your would-be-community may not take the next step to gain access to you. There’s simply no incentive.

Why not make your website and your blog the central hub of your brand once more?

Nothing Happens Without a Conversation

By leaving comments enabled and replying to each and every comment that you get on your blog or YouTube channel, you tell people something very important about your brand. You show that you’re listening to your customers and your audience. You show that you’re willing to engage with them and have a conversation with them.

What could be more powerful than this?

By demonstrating that you care enough to listen and respond, you drive people into your tribe, telling them that they matter, and that their words do not go unheard.

When Too Much Success Is Harmful to Your Brand

Do some brands get to a point where they feel they are “successful enough?” Does attaining a certain number of followers give you the right to no longer acknowledge the people that helped build your company up to that point?

It’s tempting to fall into the trap of thinking you are “too busy” to respond to comments on your blog, social media, or YouTube. However, this week, I received a personal response on Twitter from Chris Do, who has 22k Twitter followers, and runs a YouTube channel with 230k subscribers. My friend Nathan Allotey recently made a video about how he got a personal email response from Seth Godin, one of the most famous marketers in the world.

The point is not to humblebrag about people who respond to another person’s comments. The point is to highlight that most of us can find the time to respond to comments and build a community – if we choose to do so.

Ignoring comments on our blog or on our social profiles, because we choose not to build a community — anyone can do that.

What is uncommon is when a brand responds to all the comments on their blog or YouTube channel. Very few “influencers” or even large brands are doing that in 2018. As Gary Vaynerchuk once said, by scaling the unscalable you stand out and draw people to you.

Own Your Community – Comments on Your Site

What I like about blog comments is that they keep everyone on your website. There is no fracturing of your channels. People can ask you a question directly from the source material. Responding to comments remains one of the most effective ways demonstrate your brand cares about their customers.

Postmatic and the GDPR

As a Postmatic customer you may be wondering how using our products affects the GDPR compliance of your site. The quick answer is that Postmatic was built from the ground up to respect privacy and user data, so we’re already way ahead of most email-related services.

We’ve put together a guide to what you need to know about ensuring your site meets GDPR compliance guidelines in respect to both Postmatic and Replyable.

What’s GDPR?

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) is a comprehensive data protection law that came into effect on May 25, 2018. It replaced existing EU Data Protection law to strengthen the protection of “personal data” and the rights of the individual. It’s a single set of rules which governs the processing and monitoring of EU data.

Does it affect me?

Yes, most likely. If you hold or process the data of an any person in the EU, the GDPR will apply to you, whether you’re based in the EU or not. This is especially true if you use either Postmatic or Replyable.

Find out more at our GDPR compliance page on gopostmatic.com.

The Geneva Shore Report uses Postmatic among their tools to gain subscribers and distribute content, successfully.

Journalism Use Case: Geneva Shore Report

Journalism captures the power of a story and the printed word. So how do we do this online? The Geneva Shore Report uses Postmatic among their tools to gain subscribers and distribute content, successfully.

We recently had a chat with journalist and editor Chuck Bartok of The Geneva Shore Report. He has seen success building up a community using Postmatic, among other tools, and was willing to chat with us.

The Geneva Shore Report is a local newspaper from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, that publishes every week — in print and online. It’s on the street every Wednesday morning.

“The Geneva Shore Report came into being, and continues to exist, for the purpose of building, assisting and continuing the efforts of those living or visiting a small geographic place on the planet called Geneva Lake. A deep belief in causality, entropy and entertainment theory are at the heart of the attempt by the paper’s ownership and staff to organize and illustrate what it means to truly care about how this small lake, and the people that surround it, proceed into a blissful future.” Geneva Shore Report

So how do they distribute online?

In addition to social media, The Geneva Shore Report Chuck uses a few tools to collect subscribers and to distribute content. He uses the free version of Sumo.me to generate signups. He has 200 subscribers with Postmatic. The publication also makes use of Aweber for a customized digest of the week’s publications.

“Our businesses have been built for 55 years with heavy customer service.” Chuck Bartok

Though Postmatic subscribers get email delivery first, Chuck uses Aweber to address those subscribers personally. They feel that maintaining both is the best for them at this time.

Why did they choose the service?

“I make choices based upon what I like,” Chuck Bartok said. “I liked that those people could get a synopsis once a week from the newspaper and take it from there.”

Commenting is open but they appreciate the distribution service rather than the commenting.

What impact does The Geneva Shore Report have?

The Geneva Shore Report has five reporters and do not sell ad space. They fell this keeps them impartial. They are quite proud of the campaign they had against the former mayor, exposing crime, and true journalistic effort.

The people who comment are a good mix of males and females generally over the age of 50. Their mission is to communicate the power of being involved locally and use reason to insight passion in one’s own community.

Publications and Postmatic

We also have a passion for publications and truth bearing in news. It warms our heart to see that we’re one of the tools Chuck has chosen for The Geneva Shore Report and hope to encourage other local papers to distribute their journalistic efforts as well.

The Current State of Blog Comments

We’ve been sharing our thoughts on where we see blog comments (or, as we prefer to call them, conversations) in the current business landscape over the past couple of years.

From posts about whether or not they offer any business value (both financial and insight), to posts about the long-term “survival” of comments themselves, it’s been interesting to see how these posts have been received.

While we firmly believe there is, and will remain, value in blog comments for more than “just” having something to say after a post, we know many people would say the opposite.

So here’s a little recap of what we’ve been discussing lately and some extra thoughts on the topic.

We’d love to hear your take after this post — in a comment, of course.

Blog Comments Add Business Value.

We’ve already shared success stories here about how our users are seeing a return on engagement when using Postmatic (not to mention monetary return), but how about comments in general?

How do we measure value, and for those with business goals for their blogs, gauge any financial outcome?

We looked at the first part of that question in our post Do Blog Comments Offer Any Business Value?

Value is much more than a dollar amount. Blog comments bring more to a business than adding to the bottom line. Insight into customer thinking, illuminating pain points, and how to better craft your content marketing can all be derived from comments. There’s much more to business value than money (although they’re not mutually exclusive).

For example:

  • A vibrant conversation can encourage brands to work with bloggers on sponsored posts/campaigns. You only need to Google “blog comments and influencer posts” to see how comments can encourage opportunities.
  • Businesses can get inside the minds of their customers through a blog comment (product defect, brand perception, buying signals, etc).

These are just two quick examples. You can also find advocates to share your blog, build up an affiliate network through regular commenters, and more.

Blog comments offer so much more value than just being an afterthought.Click To Tweet

And that’s not even diving into the loyalty aspect of responding and engaging in a conversation with your visitors.

Let’s Call Blog Comments Conversations

One of the topics we’ve been diving into a lot over the last few months is around the re-languaging the term “comments.” Reframing comments in the context of a conversation changes everything.

Blog comments are a conversations. Unless the content author ignores the comments and leaves his content as one-way thoughts, a comment is the start of a conversation; but that’s another discussion.

Public Relations Pro Gini Dietrich once stated (and we’re paraphrasing a little here), “You know you’ve built a great community when you no longer need to be there to nourish it.”

Gini’s takeaway is simple – a great community doesn’t need its “leader” to thrive. Conversations will continue normally, between other members of the community.

This ties in perfectly to our line of thinking and main goal. Building conversations and relationships through respectful, organic, and healthy dialogue.

Respectful, organic, and healthy dialogs are built through conversations which happen in blog comments.Click To Tweet

We took a look at our goal, and why we believe that comments should be renamed to conversations to remove the negative connotations around the words “blog comments” on our post Can We Stop Calling It Blog Commenting Now?

You Have to Give to Get

In our post, If You Want Better Comments, You Have to Care About Your Commenters, we discussed both protecting and nurturing your community of commenters. The comment area should be a safe place for conversations — it’s the blogger’s responsibility.

We shared an example of a leading content creator who’s left his comment area a hotbed of spammy and questionable links. Now, if you were a new visitor to his blog, and you saw all that crud in the comments, of course you wouldn’t comment. Why even bother?

Some bloggers think that they’re owed a comment, but that’s not true either. It takes work to build a community. Nurturing your audience is an act of hospitality, as commenter Peter alluded to in his comment on that post. .

“The difference is in lazy blogging and active blogging, there is also the long view and short view.

Too many bloggers expect people to comment because they posted and that is lazy. You don’t get that privilege until you are famous and a vast majority of people value your opinion (think Matt Mullenweg’s blog).

That is when it is okay to post and let your people chatter amongst themselves. When you aren’t famous, you’ve got to mingle and use that as an opportunity to lead, and position yourself as an expert on whatever it is you are writing about.

As you said, serving the wine and chatting people up.” Peter

You’d think this would be second nature, but it’s not the norm. You’d be surprised and possibly disappointed with how many content creators miss this simple yet vital fact.

Show the same respect your commenters give you by reading and responding.Click To Tweet

Want more comments? Start as you mean to go on and show the same respect your commenters give you by reading and commenting on your content, as opposed to someone else’s.

Slack’s Recognition of Comments

One of the internal communication tools we use at Postmatic, Slack, keeps teams together while working on projects.

Ironically, it was also hailed as “an email killer” which – given our product – might make you think we wouldn’t want anything to do with it. Not so fast! 🙂

They realized the value of true conversations, which is why they brought threaded comments to their platform, too.

Bloggers and content creators have utilized threaded comments for, oh, a long time now. So it’s cool to see newer tech catch up traditional human behavior.

Regardless of the tools we use in life, storytelling, or business, human behavior remains the same. We like threaded comments. We thrive on conversations. It comes through in music (think call and response), in live performances we want applause, in everything — we want a reaction and approval — or at least discussion. On websites, that happens in the comments section.

Comments & Conversations – We’re All One Happy Family

No matter how many times we hear people proclaim that “comments are dead,” we still see them, thriving, adding value, and sharing knowledge.

Comments may be dead to the marketers who do nothing but tweet all day or the bloggers who want to be a single voice versus a conversationalist. But for everybody else, us included, they’re a vibrant and collaborative piece of the content puzzle.

As you can see from the posts included above, they’re not going anywhere fast.

And that’s alright by us.

Happy 2018 from Postmatic

Hi there. Long time, no blog. Things have been quiet here due to the team working on other projects and that tendency life has to grab your ankles, shake you upside down and remind you that your plans are nothing, tiny human.

We’ve made it through. We had a successful launch of Replyable in 2017 and Postmatic continues to see steady use and love from the WordPress community. We’re looking forward to 2018 with some new development, new faces, and fresh ideas.

Bridget Willard joins us as Director of Marketing

You may have noticed things have gotten busy lately on our Twitter feed. And soon, there will be a lot more blogging happening as well. That’s all thanks to Bridget Willard lending a hand.

Bridget is a marketer and strategist who has been working in the WordPress world most recently as Marketing Manager at GiveWP. We are over-the-moon delighted to have her help with Postmatic and look forward to starting 2018 with her on board. Check out her blog. WordPress geeks should especially read her recent piece on the economic impacts of Gutenberg.

Some new features are on the way for Postmatic and Replyable

We have some development planned for early January that will help with compatibility with a ton more popup packages and 3rd party services. Syncing your Postmatic lists with other services will be a breeze. Look for that soon.

We’ll also be giving some attention to Replyable in the form of a few experimental add-ons to increase compatibility with plugins outside of the commenting sphere.

It’s great to be able to shift focus a bit back to Postmatic in the coming months. Look for some new features soon.

Flexible comment subscriptions and inbox previews come to Postmatic in version 2.1

We continue our march to being a comment notification system for sites of any size with the release of Postmatic 2.1.

This release sees the addition of two new models for how comments should be delivered to subscribers as well as improvements to email previews in Gmail and most email applications.

Replies-only mode for the busiest conversations

By default Postmatic uses a smooth combination of comment frequency and machine learning to decide which comments are worth emailing to subscribers.

  1. Comments are checked for reading level, length, and relevance. Only the best are deemed worthy of an email.
  2. If a post gets too chatty in a short period of time we withhold new comments and save them up for a daily digest. Direct replies are still sent immediately to the person being replied to.

This system works very well for posts with hundreds of comments, but what if you are subscribed to dozens of posts? Even under the best circumstances you would still be getting dozens of comment digests in your inbox each day. For large sites this is a problem.

The new Replies-only mode solves it. In the Configured Comments tab of the Postmatic dashboard there is a new toggle which enables it. Once enabled, subscribers will only receive direct replies to their own comments. It’s a good solution for certain kinds of sites.

How to enable replies-only mode in Postmatic 2.1

The risk of going replies-only

Danny Brown says it best in a comment on our Spring Postmatic Update:

I’m not too keen on the Direct Replies Only option – for me, it’s essentially reverting blog conversations to siloed conversations, which benefits no-one. A number of times I’ve had extra conversations spring up after a comment digest has gone out shows the value of open conversations.

That is a fair word of warning, but which brought us to our next idea…

Replies-only + Daily Digest mode!

As a kind of middle ground between replies-only mode and the default behaviour we’ve made it possible to send direct replies to comment subscribers, but also keep them in the loop at the end of the day with everything else they missed in the conversation. We’ll probably make a tidy checkbox to enable this in the future, but for now all you need to do is set the trigger for Comment Digests to 1. That will do the trick.

By setting Comment digests to 1 you can send replies-only but also deliver a daily digest of new comment activity to each subscriber.

Inbox previews for increased open rates

We made some crafty improvement to the way Postmatic emails display in your inbox. Most modern email clients display a list of your emails and prominently show who the email is from, when it was sent, what the subject is, and the first 2 or 3 lines of the message contents – which is handy for seeing if a message is worth opening.

In Postmatic 2.1 we take advantage of message previews to display the post excerpt or, in the case of a comment notification, the first few lines of the comment. It’s a small tweak that should make things easier for those of you who live in your inbox. It looks like this in Gmail. Notice where the excerpt is showing up:

Message previews now display the post excerpt from the inbox view in all major email clients. Gmail is pictured here.

These improvements will be making their way to Replyable later in the week. Use that new replies-only mode wisely 🙂

Photo credit: Rusty Russ Under the Boardwalk via photopin (license)

Regardless of how comments are perceived, the fact is that blog comments add business value in social proof, sponsorships, and for an internal resource.

Do Blog Comments Offer Any Business Value?

Regardless of how comments are perceived, blog comments add business value in the form of social proof, sponsorships, and as an internal resource.

Comments can be hit and miss affairs for many bloggers — business and affiliate.

Often, we publish a post and think, “Damn, I nailed that one!” and then see little to zero comments afterward and feel deflated.

Or we can publish a quick post that we feel is almost like a throwaway, as opposed to the more thoughtful example above, and it gets hundreds of comments.

To be sure, the science of blog commenting can be anything but scientific!

However, content aside when it comes to attracting comments, there’s a key reason why we should be looking at comments more seriously and that’s in the way they can be used to add business value.

Social Proof and Sponsorships

In recent years, the attraction of sponsored posts has resulted in a whole new industry, that of influencer bloggers and affiliate marketers.

In the past, this may have solely meant bloggers with huge online followings and “leading blogs” — you know, the ProBloggers and Copybloggers of the world.

Now, however, thanks in no small part to influencer platforms like InkyBee and Triberr, everyday bloggers can be influencers, as brands realize it’s less about the followers and more about the interaction.

For example, a mommy blogger that has an engaged community in the comment section and a relevant target audience is far more attractive to a brand than a “celebrity blogger” who’s just doing it for the money with zero brand affiliation.

To help identify these “micro-influencer” bloggers, influence platforms score blogs based on a variety of metrics,  which increasingly include an engagement score.

A healthy comment section can be a key metric for brands looking to sponsor bloggers. Click To Tweet

And you don’t even have to have hundreds of comments; just a vibrant conversation area with discussions that enable sponsoring brands to truly learn about their customers.

Which leads us to the next point.

Comments as a Business Resource

When social media grew in popularity, it was lauded for its ability to connect customers to the brands they shopped with.

That was all well and good – until social essentially became a trolling marketplace. Now, businesses are missing a lot of the conversations they could be having because they’re too busy trying to put out non-essential fires caused by trolls.

Ignored comments make customers feel like they’re not being heard. This is  the worst feeling you can give customers (especially when it’s not your fault) in any business.

If a visitor arrives on your blog and sees a back-and-forth discussion, it immediately instills a perception that this is a business that cares about its customers.

In addition, it offers a valuable insight tool to the business itself:

  • Pre-sales questions are answered in public which leads to warmer sales opportunities;
  • Feedback on product launches are gathered and optimized;
  • Current customers offer their take and give a better referral than any ad ever could.

This isn’t just for big business blogs, either. Independent authors, freelance designers, beach diner owners, etc. All of these business blogs, and more like them, can benefit from a healthy comment section.

Email to Comments is a Perfect Fit for Business

So, by now hopefully, you see the value of comments not only to personal bloggers, but business blogs as well. But, like others before you, you’re not really sure where to start in fostering these comments.

This is why our vision for comments is so tied to email. Email is still the #1 communication tool for businesses and the buy-in is minimal for both content creator and reader.

Email is still the primary communication tool for businesses. How do your customers see your blog?Click To Tweet

After all, pretty much everyone knows how to use email. It’s familiar, it’s easy, and it allows for more thoughtful sharing of ideas and opinions. The ease of email is exactly what a healthy comment section needs.

It’s also really easy to manage, from phone to desktop and everywhere in-between – which, for any business not too familiar with the nuances of social media, makes for less work, which is always a good thing.

We’ve seen with our own users just how they’ve utilized our comment plugins for their business goals – let us help you, too.

It’s not as daunting as you think, and we’re here every step of the way for you.

Featured image credit: Rusty Russ Sunrise Over Manhattan Again