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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.

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?”

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

Blog comments go in and out of fashion and in many respects, it's considered only important for bloggers. However, it's just as important for small business websites who publish.

Blog Comments for Small Biz – Not Just for Bloggers

Blog comments go in and out of fashion and in many respects, it’s considered only important for bloggers. However, it’s just as important for small business websites who publish. That’s you, right?

Postmatic – We’re about conversations reimagined.

By now you know we’re all about blog comments and make them a true part of the blogging/content experience as opposed to just an afterthought. This isn’t just for bloggers or affiliate marketers. It’s also a great business tool.

From our flagship plugin Postmatic, through to Epoch and Elevated Comments, as well as Crowd Control and Postmatic Social Commenting (and now a little thing we like to call Replyable), our goal has always been simple: reinvent engagement and make commenting fun again, for content creator and commenter alike.

We’d like to think we’re well on our way to doing that if the feedback and praise from our users are anything to go by.

But as much as we’re happy to see how well our reinvention of commenting has been received, there’s much more to Postmatic than “simple blog comments.”

What’s our Why?

It’s a little-known story that Postmatic came about in the same way most services and plugins do — there was a problem that needed a solution. Postmatic is that solution.

Back in 2013 we were working with Global Citizen Year – a program for high school grads to spend a year overseas doing aid work before college. The destinations were remote and internet connectivity scarce.

As a way to share how the students were doing, and the work they were carrying out, each student was required to blog at least weekly about the experiences they were having.

The problem was, not all the parents (or grandparents) back home understood how RSS worked. There was no easy way to receive much anticipated updates.

We came up with a solution by asking – what if email could be used to not only publish posts and send the updates but allow parents, grandparents, and students alike to comment back and forth on the post via email?

After all, pretty much everyone with even rudimentary connectivity knows how to work email – it’s why it’s seen so many attempts to pronounce it dead year after year.

So we came up with some ideas, put together a proof of concept, and set it to work. Soon, posts and comments were flying around left, right and center. Not only did this let the students share their endeavors with the world, it gave the parents and other family members back home peace of mind, as their child was now only an email away.

From that small moment of need and experimentation, the idea of Postmatic as a wider service was born.

Your customers want to participate, too.

Small business owners have websites and often make the mistake of creating brochure sites they never change. For findability (SEO), you need to publish regularly. This is done on the blog.

Engaging with your customers, updating them on your new offerings, and answering their questions and concerns is an important part of any small business marketing. Sure, you can post to Facebook. But what if it shuts down? Though unlikely, the more likely move is that your customers tire of Facebook’s ongoing privacy issues.

Owning your content and articles on your WordPress site and engaging with your customers in a way that is easy for them (email) and you is a win-win.

Create Your Own Community

One of the reasons Facebook continues to remain valuable, is because of their universal user experience and through the way it encourages private groups. Private or closed groups allow communities to thrive and gives a small business even more opportunities for engagement.

Whether users need a safe space to talk about private or sensitive matters or they want a haven from political posts, Facebook groups are essentially micro-networks within the bigger social network.

The problem is, users are signing away so many layers of privacy and data collection just by having a Facebook account. And let’s not be naive in thinking their algorithms aren’t continuing to build your personal graph in the confines of a private group.

This is where Postmatic comes into play.

By using the password-protected feature of the Private setting for a WordPress post, you can publish content that only those you invite will be able to see.

Now, instead of the post being public – and, by association, all the comments being public, too – the content is only visible to your invited guests. This goes for the comments too.

It’s a simple yet hugely effective way of creating your own mini-network of like-minded people around pretty much anything you wish to share:

  • Early, exclusive access for beta users of a new web product, where the comments are the ongoing feedback hub
  • An exclusive video performance of your indie band’s latest song, with comments being used to pick a CD cover, and plan special intimate gigs in the hometown of these “super fans”
  • A political discussion board where commenters adhere to a strict policy of open but fair dialogue
  • A draft post of a sensitive topic, where invited commenters can discuss where the topic may be encouraging the very thing it’s trying to counter.

These are just some ideas on how you can create a mini-network of commenters, creators, and everyone in-between, and truly foster open dialogue in an environment and communication method that everyone knows well.

All without the privacy concerns of Facebook groups.

Comments are just the beginning

As you can see, these are just two simple examples of where we go a little bit beyond simple comments on a blog, and actually create experiences around a multitude of uses.

But we’re not stopping there.

We’re always looking at ways to continue to push the boundaries of what we think blogs, comments, and engagement looks like, especially in political and societal climates where free and open speech is challenged.

We’ve been noodling away on an idea around this for a while, and we’re almost ready to share.

For anyone that believes like we do that comments are just the start of a two-way discussion and more, we think you’ll particularly like this “new use.”

But that’s for the future.

For now, we’re here simply to make your website and its blog the true engagement platform it deserves to be. If you haven’t taken a look at how we do that yet, maybe now’s the time.

Let’s get the conversation going.

Major contribution of this piece by Danny Brown. Many thanks.

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:

Why comments matter more than ever

Disqus: Is Your Data Worth Trading for Convenience?

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

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.

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.