Wednesday, November 16, 2011

4 Things to Do with Comments

On Monday I talked about the launch of my new website design + build business, Atmosphere Websites, and I said I would talk about why I think migrating to an all Wordpress web site ultimatley strated making sense for me--and I think the reasons for it are good for writers--but I'm totally not going to talk about that today.

Monday I was bummed to have to uninstall Intense Debates, my comment system, which meant losing over a year's worth of great discussion and making all my back posts look really pitifully silent. :( But Intense Debates had stopped working for a lot of people. I don't know what it was and I felt like there was little I could do, so it had to be emptied. The nice thing about Intense Debates was that it had threaded comments, so you could reply to a specific comment and thus actually generate a discussion--which is what social media is all about. I also liked that you were emailed when I replied to a comment, which meant that you would know for sure that I saw, read, and replied on a comment.

Comments on blogs are funny things. Bloggers covet them; they're the holy grail of blogging success in my opinion. Sure, 100 comments on a post could mean you have a lot of spam or people just going "great, yeah" so that their voice is logged, but 100 comments typically means you have great content that moved people enough to stop what they are doing and comment. And that is not a small thing.

The subject of getting comments is mysterious and I don't understand it at all. I suspect that commenting on lots of people's blogs means they'll come comment on yours. And, of course, have good content and you'll get comments. I mean, I don't know. I've never really known the answer to that. (If you know, please comment and tell me.)

But here's what I do know: how to act properly as a blogger when it comes to comments:

1. Read all your comments. Both Blogger and Wordpress have settings that allow you to be notified by email if someone leaves a comment. For goodness' sake, check that setting! Getting emails when you get a comment ensures you'll read them.

2. Reply when possible. You may not have time to reply immediately, and maybe the commenter will never check for a reply, but do it anyway. It's gracious. And it's nice. And it's social.

3. When you get a dissenting comment, rise above it. It's a great pity that I lost Intense Debates because one a post a few weeks ago I got a super flamey comment left by someone who apparently had not actually read the post and who accused me and all my readers and other commenters of not understanding grammar or marketing, which was funny because he used poor grammar throughout the comment. A thousand pithy and rather sassy retorts went through my mind, but in the end I left it and let its stupidity speak for itself. And besides, I didn't want to get into a public argument with someone who didn't get it.

In another example, someone (a reader who may recognize herself) once left a comment about a post that was critical. Not bad critical, but critical. I could have been a bitch about it but that wouldn't have served any purposes. I thanked her for the comment and said I'd think about her points. (Which I did.) And I think that resonated with her. (She said it did.)

4. Don't expect. Treat all your comments like what they are--people, taking time out of their day to interact with you and leave their thoughts. They're gifts. Don't get complacent. Love the one or two you get. :) I do.

Do you have any to add?


Linda G. said...

Ugh. I had the same problem with Intense Debate several months ago, and had to uninstall it. Lost tons of comments, including the ones on the post where I announced my book deal. *sobs* They were so sweet--that just about killed me.
So, no more Intense Debate for me. Not risking it.

I have seen the "Disqus" commenting system around the blogosphere, which looks like it does the same thing. Not sure if it would come with the same risk, though, so I'm hesitant to try it. I may just have to switch over to Wordpress.

Re comments in general: I like all your points. The only thing I would add would be to go around and comment on other people's blogs as often as you can manage, because as much as they might appreciate you responding to them on your blog, they'd probably prefer a visit to theirs more. :)

Laura Pauling said...

Wonderful comments. I love that my blog comments come through email and I can respond there too! I wonder if sometimes we overestimate blog comments. Some posts definitely draw more comments. But sometimes I try and stay away from controversial posts b/c I'm tired of the back and forth "bickering" going on at times.

Anne Gallagher said...

Very good advice. I'd also like to add, if I do take the time to comment, I would appreciate some kind of response.

There are two or three bloggers that I comment on, who never bother to respond in either their comments, through email, or by commenting on my post. I think that's just rude. I mean, if I took the time out to read and comment, then I think it's only polite to at least acknowledge it.

I've come to the conclusion that if they don't respond with one more try, then I'll definitely stop following them. It's not worth it. There are other things I could be doing.

DL Hammons said...

I agree that comments are the true measure of a blogs penetration. One particular blog I follow has 1000+ followers, but only averages a dozen or so comments per post.

I've cut back on my own comments since coming back and tend to only respond to post that really resonate with me. I set up a favorites folder on my reader and anybody who comments on a post of mine will be included there. That means I will read their blogs regularly, but not necessarily comment.

And it really REALLY makes it easier to respond to comments when the blogger puts their email address in their Google profile. That way I can address a personal response straight to them, and sometimes a dialogue starts up.

MissM said...

Disqus works great for me on both of my blogs.

A pet peeve? Bloggers who respond to a blog comment via email. I mean I guess it doesn't matter if I got a response, but I go to blogs for interaction. If all I see are comments on a blog, but no response from the blogger, I am less likely to leave a comment. IMO, that blogger appears to not interact with their audience, even though that isn't true, since I always get a response via email. I don't get what is difficult about logging into your blog and answering comments there?

Even with DISQUS, you can answer via email and it will show up on the blog.

Sarah Allen said...

Very interesting post! Good tips for getting comments.

I noticed MissM's comment about answering via email, and I was wondering if other people have the same opinion. I feel like that's the best way to make sure the commenter gets your response, but I see the point that it decreases blog interaction. Hmmm...something to think about. Perhaps doing both is a good idea?

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Sierra said...

Linda-- I've seen Disqus too, but like you had the same reservations about it because Intense Debate is such a bastard.And I agree about the commenting on other people's blogs-- that's a great way to show thanks. (Heading over to yours now!)

Laura, yeah, I don't know the answer either, but I agree that I tend to stay away from bickering posts because I don't want to get into a fray. Thanks for the comment.

Anne--I agree, and those bloggers who NEVER respond are tough, huh. You never quite know whether they care about interaction or not, because there's no way to know, so you kind of just...stop interacting. Thanks for the comment!

Don--I totally agree, and since the baby was born, I have to be quick with commenting, too. Great idea about the Google email address.

MissM, maybe I should give Disqus a try?

Sierra said...

Hi Sarah! It's tough because I want to make sure everyone knows I read their comment and replied, but how to let them know unless they randomly check back here? Emailing is also good but then it becomes a time thing. I don't know the answer. I do know that blog interaction should be the priority because that's one of the reasons we blog...for community.

Thanks for the comment!

Diane Henders said...

I love my commenters! Most of the time, the comments are more entertaining than my posts, and I feel hugely flattered when readers use their valuable time to interact with me.

I always come back to see what the blogger's response has been when I've commented, too - the dialogue is what makes it fun. I usually just keep the blog up in a tab and hit the refresh button off and on until the new comments appear.

I agree with all your points, but I think the first two are vital. If a blogger never responds to comments, I stop commenting after a while. I don't like to feel that I'm just flapping my virtual gums. Or would that be fingers...?

Thanks for a great post, as usual! :-)

Ghenet Myrthil said...

Great discussion! Right now I reply both by email (if an email address for the commenter is available) and in the comments. It is a time-suck but I agree that it's a great way to connect with readers of your blog.

Travener said...

I try to comment on others' blogs at least once a week, if I can, so they know I'm still active and that I care about them and what they're thinking. And I try to be provocative with my blog headlines, if I can, to pique followers' interest in commenting on my bloogy-poo.

Murugi Njehia said...

This is great! I sometimes get those "mean" comments but i do try to rise above them...I am a new follower. :)

Sierra Godfrey said...

Diane, I have to agree, my commenters are more entertaining than my posts too! And I return, too. I should do a poll asking who has come back after commenting, looking for that interaction. Interestingly, because Intense Debate emailed the commenter my comment, I think people were less likely to come back and re-reply to that. It's the validation people want.

Gehnet, you are good to email as well! Connecting is what it;s all about.

Trav, and you're great about it. You've always been such a consistent commenter here and I always appreciate it.

Murughi, thanks for following and commenting! Mean comments suck, don't they.

Patricia said...

Very good tips, Sierra. I seem to be reading a lot these days about how some bloggers have made the mistake of refuting comments that were negative or inflammatory. Your advice is good and sound. Thank you.

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