Blog Advice 2: A Comment On Comments

Blog comments

I remember receiving my very first blog comment. I was absolutely elated that someone had not only read what I had to say, but had taken some of their time to be able to let me know that they had enjoyed it. While I always, and will continue to, write for myself, it inspired me to keep going.

Since then, the comments that I have received from so many people across the blogosphere have helped me through some extremely difficult times over the last few years.

Comments, in my opinion, are one of the driving forces behind building a community – they forge connections and relationships and can be instrumental when increasing traffic to your posts. Last year, when things were particularly busy, I was pretty awful at replying to comments and I lost followers because of it. This year, I made a promise to myself that I would try to reply to as many as possible, and I’ve done my best to keep up with it.

I am often asked questions about comments:

1. How can I encourage people to comment on my blog?
2. How can I find the time to reply to comments that I receive?
3. How do I deal with negative comments?

However, before I begin, I would like to point out one thing: comments should be in response to something that you have written, not the basis for how you blog and what you blog about. It is your space of the Internet and at no point should a reader dictate the content of your posts.

Encouraging and responding to comments

I like to encourage discussion and as many comments as possible on Suzie81 Speaks, and I do this in several different ways:

I ask a question at the bottom of my posts: What about you? How do you feel about…? Have you ever had to deal with…? This is an open invitation for others to leave a comment and share their personal experiences.

I read and appreciate all of the comments I receive, and I try to reply to as many as I possibly can, often asking questions or requesting advice.

I read a twitter conversation a few months ago between two bloggers that focused on comments and how often they responded to them. Both were in agreement in that they shouldn’t reply if all they were going to do was just say ‘thank you,’ because of the length of time it takes and the fact that they were just too busy. I clicked on their blogs, expecting to see hundreds of responses, only to find that one of the bloggers had received two or three comments on their posts, while the other had maybe ten or fifteen.

On an average day Suzie81 Speaks receives thirty to fifty comments, and sometimes this will increase to nearly a hundred at the weekends. That doesn’t include tweets, facebook messages and emails. In the last month this little blog has had over 1,100 comments, including replies I have left.

While it is hardly setting the blogging world on fire, I try to respond to as many as I possibly can, depending on how busy I am in my work schedule. I may not reply on the same day, or sometimes in the same week, fortnight, or even month (!) but I personally feel that if someone has responded to something you have written, they deserve your acknowledgement and gratitude for doing so, even if it is just a simple ‘thank you.’ Wouldn’t you expect the same? If you are inundated with comments and want to reply, then you need to find the time. I have found that I have had to create one less post a week and then use that time to reply to comments instead.

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Leaving comments on other blogs

There are two reasons to leave a comment on another bloggers post: sharing your thoughts about the subject they have discussed, and increasing your own traffic. I usually only leave comments on blogs that I follow – using the comment section purely for traffic boosting purposes is not wrong in any way, but isn’t particularly genuine.

Rather than discuss how to leave a comment, I thought that it might be fun to create a list. There are several different types of commenters that I have seen within the blogosphere over the last two years. Which category do you fit into?

The Conversationalists: These are my favourite! They have thoroughly read the post, formed an opinion about it and wish to share what they think with you. They may want to know more, or share their own experiences of that topic. They are polite and respectful, even when they disagree with something, and offer support and advice when needed. Their comments often result in conversations and the development of relationships over a period of time.

The Minimalists: These usually consist of short, seemingly supportive but generic sentiments. Good post! Nice job! Good luck! Well done! I like and appreciate these, but can only really respond with a simple ‘thanks!’ in return.

The Cryptic: These usually consist of a random question or quote from a dead celebrity that bares no relevance to the content of the post. When asked to explain their meaning, it’s rare that the commenter will reply.

The Wrong-End-Of-The-Stick-ers: These skim, or only read a section of your post, they have taken it out of context and will then proceed to rant in outrage in the comment section. They will usually back down or change their tone when the context is explained, but I often get frustrated with these as I have to waste time almost justifying what I’ve written, which I hate to do.

The Traffic Builders: These are generally people who have seen that a post is doing well, they will write something short and generic such as ‘I really enjoyed this,’ and will then leave a link to their blog with a demand for you to go an read it, for the sole purpose of building their own traffic through yours. I often reply to these comments last, and usually just with a ‘thank you.’ If I don’t have a connection with that person, it is also rare that I will visit the link.

The Antagonists: These people can’t quite be classed as trolls, but are not far off. These are the people who are consistently argumentative with whatever is posted. There are two or three people that I have seen doing this on several blogs, including my own, and it always leaves me wondering why they follow them in the first place? Of course, everybody is entitled to an opinion, and I certainly don’t expect everyone to agree with everything that is written all the time, but surely if our content is not to their taste, why do they not just unfollow? My response to these sorts or comments is to be as polite as possible and not take it personally unless they turn nasty. Then I simply ignore or send to the trash.

The Trolls: These don’t require much explanation. Their comments are specifically designed to hurt and should be ignored and placed in the trash folder. This is really important to remember: don’t respond, ignore, send to the trash and blacklist their URL in your settings. If it persists, report them to WordPress. I had to do this with one individual, and they were wonderful.

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Want to know more?

Here are the Do’s and Don’ts of comments, either on your own or on other people’s blogs.

1. If you don’t want to deal with comments, turn off the comment option on your post.

2. Ask a question at the end of your post. Encourage others to share their thoughts with you.

3. Set your comments so that you have to moderate it before it is published. This way, you can check it first and have to option to send it to the trash folder if it is inappropriate.

4. When leaving a comment, don’t leave a link to your blog demanding that someone ‘checks out your post,’ unless is it relevant to the topic. Your blog can be found through your Gravatar and blog name if you have linked it correctly.

5. You don’t have to write an essay, but at least try to be a bit more expressive than ‘nice post.’ You’ll probably get a ‘thank you’ in return to a short comment, but it isn’t likely to build a connection.

6. Reply to comments as often as you possibly can. I love receiving replies, and I know others feel the same.

7. If you find that you are struggling for time, write one less post a week and take the time to reply to the comments instead. You don’t always have to do this, but it might mean that your following grows and your community becomes stronger.

And most importantly…

8. Don’t change your blog or it’s content based on the comments of others. If you’re happy with it, keep doing what you’re doing!

What about you? Have you got any advice for developing the comments that you receive on your blog?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to hop on over to my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks