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The threat to blog comments isn't social media, it's apathy toward your audience. Caring about your commenters through engaging in conversation is the way to build affinity and loyalty.

If You Want Better Comments, You Have to Care About Your Commenters

The threat to blog comments isn’t social media, it’s apathy toward your audience. Caring about your commenters through engaging in conversation is the way to build affinity and loyalty.

A little while back, I wrote a post over on my own blog about how it wasn’t social media that would “kill blog comments,” but uncaring bloggers.

It was in response to a lot of bloggers complaining about their reduced comment counts and how they were primarily blaming social media for the lack of engagement on their own blogs.

Blogger Apathy Kills Comments

My primary takeaway was this — it’s a lack of empathy.

It’s not as clear-cut as “all the conversations are happening on social media.” They may well be happening a lot – but guess where that traffic will come to when users want to see the source of that discussion?

Once that traffic arrives, if they find a comments area that looks as fun and inviting as a McDonald’s restaurant does to a food snob, of course they’ll leave immediately.

If, on the other hand, they see a blog that opens up to others, and – imagine this! – actively converses with them, they’ll stay. Comment. Reply. Subscribe.

Social media won’t “kill” blog comments – bloggers will.

The post sparked a very thoughtful conversation around the topic of comments and bloggers in general. The key consensus was bloggers who either close down comments or, worse, ignore their commenters are the ones that will lose out more in the long run.

So it’s a little disappointing to see, a full year after that post, so many bloggers who still don’t seem to value their commenters.

Unmoderated Spam Is a Liability

I was doing some research for a future post on the state of commenting today and a bunch of results popped up about comments and their place in today’s content ecosystem.

(For the record, my own take for the last year or so is that perhaps “blog comments” as a description for conversation is the issue, but more on that in a future post).

One of the results that popped up was this post by Jeff Goins, entitled Seven Types of Blog Comments and How to Respond to Them.

It’s a guest post by blogger Jeremy Myers that shares the most common types of blog comments, and how to respond to them (or if you even should).

As of writing this, the post has received 337 comments and counting. Pretty impressive, huh? Until you start going through the comments themselves…

As you can see, this comments section is a spammers paradise.

Your blog is your responsibility.

While there are some genuine comments about implementing the advice in the post, most are back-links to the commenter’s own site.

Some are questionable – the Facebook video downloader app, for example, and the link to an escort site – while others could land Jeff in major trouble (the one about a realtor from RE/MAX being accused of being a pedophile).

Why would Jeff get in trouble? Blog comments are the ownership of the blogger and it’s up to you (the blogger) to make sure there’s nothing illegal or libelous within them.

Did you know that you're legally liable for comments left on your blog? Click To Tweet

In fairness, this particular post was published back in 2011, so perhaps Jeff simply doesn’t monitor it anymore. That being said, a libel suit wouldn’t really care when the post was published, if false statements are left unchecked in the comment section.

Continue the Way You Started

One of the more common “problems,” for want of a better word, is that a lot of bloggers start out with good intentions when it comes to commenting and then let that drop off as they focus on other things.

When they first started blogging, for example, they would respond to all relevant comments (ones that go beyond a standard “nice post!” variation).

Then, they either feel less need to reply and leave the commenters to talk to each other. Or they simply give up replying full-stop and request commenters to find them on social to discuss the post.

While there’s nothing inherently “wrong” with either approach, for the most part, both lead to a sense of disappointment for the commenters.

Blog Hospitality — Engage Your Commenters

Most commenters leave a comment because the post moved them to reply. Can we just stop there?

As a writer, moving your audience to respond is the brass ring. Honor that.

Commenters share their thoughts with the blogger expect feedback directly from the blogger. It’s a matter of hospitality.

When that doesn’t happen, it makes it less compelling to leave a comment. It’s true, some of the best exchanges can come from the community taking the topic in a new direction.

The latter example, though, often invokes a strong reaction. In the comments of one of my recent posts, a long-time commenter on my blog shared her thoughts on “taking the conversation to social media.”

If you invite me to your house and I get all dressed up, fill the tank with gas and head out, only to get there and see a note on your door saying, “I’ve decided to go over to XYZ’s house, you know where she lives, follow me there.” I would politely scribble “screw you” on the note and leave.

It is so arrogant for bloggers to believe their subscribers will follow them where ever they go.Click To Tweet

It is so arrogant for bloggers to believe their subscribers will follow them where ever they go. If I’m subscribed to your blog, why do I need to follow you somewhere else? It’s ridiculous.

Not a lot more I can add to that! But she makes a great point – you’re forcing your commenters through extra hoops just to engage with you.

And what if they moved away from social media channels because of abuse they were getting there or some other reason? Not everyone wants to put up with the noise of social media just to be able to converse with their favorite blogger.

Your blog is your property, where you can control the environment for your visitors. Why force people away from that safety net?

You Have to Care. Really Care

Blogging has come a long way since the 1990’s and as blogging has evolved, so has commenting.

From non-threaded design that took a masters degree to follow to the various commenting options we have today, there is something for every kind of blogger (and commenter).

But to make commenting work, you need to work on it yourself.

  • Don’t take the easy route and force commenters to be elsewhere.
  • Own the conversation and take ownership on making comments a welcoming place.
  • Clean your comment area instead of leaving open to spam, crud, and potential legal issues.
  • Most of all, respond. Commenters have chosen your part of the web over millions of others – respect that accordingly.

And if you really feel taking care of comments is too much hard work, you should talk to us. We have resources and plugins to help and are always here to do so.

We’ll see you at WordCamp US 2016

We’ll be in Philly later this week for WordCamp US 2016 and hope to see you there. If you’re in the northeast, don’t have plans this weekend, and love WordPress as much as we do… then come meet us!

it's a secret!Say hello and hear about our new product

Look for Jason in a Postmatic t-shirt. He’ll be handing out early invites for something new we’ve been working on. It has a logo which looks a lot like what you see here. 🙂

Oh! Tacos and beer!

On thursday night we’ll be co-hosting the first annual WordCamp US Taco Club. We’ve teamed up with CalderaWP to put on a laid-back and non-exclusive event for fellow WordPress enthusiasts to talk shop, dream up products, and maybe even hack a bit. You can RSVP if you think you’d like to join us.

Help us test our new blog monetization platform

We’re about to launch a zero-configuration monetization platform built on Postmatic.

It works by inserting contextually appropriate ads in the header and footer areas of your Postmatic emails – For posts, newsletters, digests, and comment notifications. The ads are tailored to both your content and your subscribers – ensuring an experience that is smooth, makes sense, and generates revenue.

The goal is to make you money while giving you free Postmatic service.

We’re calling it Postmatic Pays.

Interested in trying it out? If you have a WordPress-based site with an active commenting community and subscriber list of at least 500 email addresses get in touch. The beta is open now.

Join the beta