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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

Can We Stop Calling It Blog Commenting Now?

Online conversations, just like offline ones, are just that — conversations. Why do we call it blog commenting? Can we stop?

Think of the last time you got together with friends, or family, or even colleagues from work.

You enjoyed the company, you laughed, you caught up on missed life events, and basically had a really good time. Hopefully, right?

As you reflect on that time together, there’s probably a good chance that the key takeaway for everyone is that you all enjoyed the great company and conversations.

Because, let’s face it, conversations – and those that help make us more educated, or filled in, or even better people – can make all the difference between a drab experience and a fun one.

Conversations - especially those that help make us more educated or empathetic - inspire us as individuals and businesses.Click To Tweet

So why don’t we treat blog comments the same way? In fact, why do we continue to even call them comments when, in truth, they’re very much the same as the awesome conversations we have offline?

We Don’t Just Comment Our Way Through Life

Ever since blogs were set up to enable comments in the Web 2.0 era, they’ve been a mainstay of many a blog. And rightly so.

From opening up an extended dialogue around the post itself to fostering friendships within the blog’s community, blog comment sections have been one of the unsung “heroes” of the blogging world.

And yet, all too often, they’re either looked upon with disdain due to the belief it’s just a breeding ground for immature trolls or spammers or they’re ignored as being a tacked-on surplus area that no-one really cares about.

The first reason is down to the blogger – yes, there are trolls and spammers, but if you really care about your blog and your audience, you’ll handle these issues the way they should be dealt with. The technology exists to solve that problem.

The second reason is a fair one – and, for me, it’s all down to the use of the words “blog comments.” Specifically, comments.

Think back to the opening part of this post, and the example of a great time with people you like, and the wonderful conversations that sprung from that.

Now, imagine if, when looking back, you’d described the evening as “oh, yes, we all commented really well together, and left such great comments after everyone had said their piece.”

How ridiculous does that sound? Right? Stupid ridiculous!

So why do we take conversations after our posts and call them comments? Because that’s exactly what we should be calling comments — conversations.

Blog comments are true conversations, pure and simple. It's time to start treating them as such.Click To Tweet

Comments, by perception, are throwaway snippets of soundbites that are soon forgotten.

Conversations, on the other hand, are true one-to-one and one-to-many sharing of thoughts, agreements, disagreements and more, and can live as long as there’s a new thought shared.

And comments as email? They don’t get much more conversational than that.

It’s Time to Shift the Comment Mindset

Although a couple of years old now, there’s a reason The Atlantic called email “the best thing on the Internet.”

“Email is a refugee from the open, interoperable, less-controlled ‘web we lost.’ It’s an exciting landscape of freedom amidst the walled gardens of social networking and messaging services.” Alexis C Madrigal, The Atlantic

Simply put, it’s the simplicity – and, most importantly of all, privacy – of email that enables true conversations to take place, as opposed to the guarded, stilted ones that can be found on social media and groups.

Email’s usage is ubiquitous across so many cultures and generations, and the buy-in is minimal. And that fact you’re sitting in a comfy spot to send and reply to an email makes it easier to settle into a “this is a personal conversation” mindset.

We’ve seen it with both Postmatic and now Replyable.

Comments are thoughtful. Caring. Educational. Raw. Real. Honest. Fun. Happy. Encouraging. And so much more.

Because if there’s one thing we truly believe here, “blog comments” are deserving of so much more than the reputation and perception they have.

They’re more than a breeding ground for waste and hostility. They’re more than a throwaway line at a second-rate comedy open night.

Blog comments are true conversations, pure and simple. It's time to start treating them as such.Click To Tweet

They’re true conversations, pure and simple. It’s time to start treating them as such. Those bloggers that already know that are seeing the benefits, with deep, long, and connected conversations that make their content rise to a new level.

We’re here to help you start reimagining conversations on your blog and what that can mean for your business goals.

Ready to get started?

A Spring Postmatic Update

The sun is finally out here in Vermont! I hope the snow has melted wherever you are. Here is a quick update about everything going on in the Postmatic world.

Replyable launches – affordable two-way commenting to all WordPress sites

After our fall retreat in Michigan we spent the early part of the winter developing Replyable – the mini version of Postmatic which starts at $3/month. It’s been nice to have a lower-end and simplified product out in the wild. Replyable seems to offer immediate value to any site which installs it – and the simplicity has kept support requests at a minimum.

If you use Postmatic just for comment notifications and need something cheaper and simpler to manage definitely check out Replyable.

We started a new blog to focus on WordPress commenting

With Replyable’s focus on just commenting we thought we would take a lot of the ideas we have on the subject and write about them over on replyable.com. We launched a new blog there and post weekly about the comment scene, new plugins (ours and others), and best practices. Danny Brown has been doing much of that heavy lifting. While he has long been our #1 evangelist it’s great to officially have him on board via his new venture: Social Media for Your Business. I’m increasingly convinced that nobody has their thumb on the WordPress commenting space more than Danny.

Here are a few posts from the Replyable blog you might want to check out:

Updates to Postmatic

With Replyable in the wild we can now shift our focus back to Postmatic. We will be working throughout the summer to build features aimed at content delivery and publishing. Last week we pushed a quick update which introduced some filters for better customizing category-based digests. Apologies for the rapid succession of releases. It was our first update to Postmatic with a new package control system (that feeds both Replyable and Postmatic) and we hit a few snags. That shouldn’t happen again.

Next up will be a new replies-only mode for comment subscriptions in both Postmatic and Replyable. Users can subscribe to comments and receive only direct replies via email. I’m not crazy about the idea but it’s been such a huge request for so long we ought to make it happen. I like to think that our comment intelligence and daily digests are the best solution for healthy conversations.

After replies-only we’ll be getting to work on incoming webhooks for better integration with other services – especially optin packages like OptinMonster (and our new favorite, ConvertPlug (seriously, worth checking out).

Postmatic Press supports a healthy democracy

Our initiative to offer free services to journalists has wrapped up the first round of applications and implementations. We’re excited that the first Postmatic Press sites will be rolling out in the next few weeks. Expect an announcement here. We have more capacity in that program so please, spread the word to your news organization friends:

Does your newsroom run WordPress? Get free content delivery and commenting services from @gopostmaticClick To Tweet

 

Migrating to native WordPress commenting and keeping your Disqus users happy is easy when you leverage Postmatic's commenting system.

Native WordPress Comments And the Ease of Disqus

One of the most exciting parts of blogging is comments from your audience. Feedback is great. And many of us also love the benefits of a service like Disqus. Then again, when you use a third-party commenting system like Disqus you don’t own your own data. For WordPress users, this is a major turnoff.

In fact, we are proud to be powering commenting on the top WordPress news site on the internet. Since working with WP Tavern, other WordPress news and community sites have started using Postmatic as well.

Commenting Made Easy

Have you recently migrated from Disqus to native WordPress Comments? Cool. We’re glad to have you back.

One feature your commenters probably liked best about Disqus was that they could comment easily on your site without having to fill out their name, email, and website. Disqus lets users sign in using their social profiles from places like Twitter, Facebook, and Google. That’s pretty handy.

You can recreate that experience on your site using any number of social login/authentication plugins such as our own Postmatic Social Commenting. That said, we ran across an interesting idea that is especially nifty if you used to use Disqus.

Let users log in with their Disqus account to leave a native comment on your site.

WordPress Social Login with Facebook and Disqus enabled.

WordPress Social Login is a plugin that allows users comment using their social profiles. It also now supports Disqus logins. If your commenters used to enjoy signing in using their Disqus account, they still can. But you can use native comments and still own your data. Win. It’s kind of the best of both worlds.

Engage Your Community

Native WordPress comments is an untapped opportunity. Increased blog engagement raises awareness, strengthens SEO performance, elevates your brand, and builds a community around your ideas. Postmatic allows your readers subscribe by email when they leave a comment. Subsequent comments and replies will land in their inbox just like with Jetpack. The great news is with Postmatic, you can actually have a conversation with your readers — just by hitting reply.

Did you switch from Disqus? Let us know your thoughts?

The featured image to this post is a recent weekend here in Vermont. Spring is a bit grumpy this year.