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

 

It’s a Small World. Sometimes, It’s a Little Too Small

Oh. Dear.

Oh. Dear.

After nearly a decade of working in the British Education System I have recently noticed just how many contacts I have made in my adventures, to the point where it is now a rare occurance when I don’t run into someone when I am out and about in my personal time.

I walked into the staff room a few days ago and was greeted by a visitor – a very attractive woman who was about the same age as me. I knew that I hadn’t met her before, but as I said hello there was something oddly familiar about her face, and I asked her what her name was. When she told me, an image of her smiling face in a photograph flashed before my eyes, and it clicked where I had seen her before. A very handsome friend from university (that I still occasionally play in a string quartet with) was in a relationship with her, and had promoted her picture many times across his Facebook page when she had made it to the finals of an acting competition, with the prize being a part in an Aussie soap. I got very excited at remembering this, and this was the conversation that followed.

Me: Did you have anything to do with Neighbours?

Her: (rather shocked expression) Erm… Yes. How do you know that?

Me: You’re M’s girlfriend! I went to Uni with him and I remember your face from the competition pictures he used to put up.

Her: (awkward expression) I was his girlfriend.

Me: Ah. Ok.

I quickly changed the subject. However, as I was in the middle of this conversation, I suddenly had a further flashback. That wasn’t the only reason why I knew her.

For my 30th birthday, I invited a large group of people to a party that was taking place at an 80’s themed nightclub. While it isn’t most of my friends favourite venue, to their credit they all turned up and threw themselves into drinking, dancing and general debauchery, and I was having a brilliant time. I had been surprised at several points throughout the night by good friends that I hadn’t expected to show, and half way through the night M arrived. I was really pleased to see him, as were lots of my female friends (he really is extremely attractive, I can’t emphasise this enough). One in particular thought he was lovely, and it was obvious that the feelings were mutual.

I don’t remember that much of the later part of the evening, but I do remember that there were lots of photographs taken, most of which appeared on Facebook over the next few days. I received a phone call from my friend, who told me that M had gone back to her house and spent the night. I was quite shocked with him – I knew that he had a long term girlfriend, but my friend had no idea. It was a douchy thing to do on his part…

I panicked a little in case his girlfriend found out and caused trouble for my friend, so I went onto M’s Facebook page, and through that, clicked onto his girlfriend’s page (the woman that was sitting in my staff room the other day) and promptly cyber-stalked her to see if anything revealing had appeared. She didn’t have any privacy settings, and so it was easy to navigate around it.

To make matters worse, I didn’t just click on her page on that day, I must have checked it out on several occasions over the next week. Nothing appeared to have surfaced after a while, and so I stopped, and haven’t thought about it since. Am I a bad person for not saying something? Yes, probably, but the news wouldn’t have been welcomed, she probably wouldn’t have believed me and my friend would have received unnecessary trouble. Her relationship was none of my business, despite the guilt that I always feel in those sorts of situations. I’ve learnt from experience that it is always best to mind your own business where possible.

When I remembered this, I blushed furiously, to the point where one of the other staff commented on the colour of my face. I didn’t say anything about what I remembered and I won’t – I don’t know the circumstances of their break-up, but I’m assuming that she must have eventually found out that, while he is actually a lovely bloke as a friend, he isn’t exactly boyfriend material.¬†Yes, the world is a very small place. Sometimes, it’s a ¬†little too small.