Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
April 2, 2010 8:12 AM

The Power Of Engagement And Blog Comments

Engagement is not an absolute. There are many layers and ways to engage. Your engagement may not be my engagement.

On the Blog post, You're Connected, But Are You Engaging? (March 30th, 2010), Jeremy Epstein asks in the comments section, "...haven't you said many times in the past that you don't respond to comments on your blog? Are you then missing out on an engagement opportunity and, also, losing out on possible loyalty from your readers?"

Actually, no. I never said that :) Here's my take on Blog comments: I try to pump out a substantial piece of content every single day. If I miss a day, I do my best to publish seven pieces of content every week. I also spend the time to really think about what I want to say, then I usually ask what your opinion is. More often than not, I don't have much more to add. If someone agrees with what I'm saying and adds their own perspective, that's awesome. If someone disagrees with what I'm saying, I usually don't have the impulse to argue because I don't necessarily disagree with their differing perspective... and that's the whole point of a Blog: a platform to share different and dissimilar views. In fact, I read all of the comments and think to myself: "nice one!" (even the ones that have a differing opinion). The ones that totally disagree with my point of view usually spark an idea for a new Blog post (like this one!).

Thanking someone for a contribution or starting a text war may not be engagement either.

Remember, your engagement may not be my engagement. In this space, the engagement is the thought provocation in the core Blog post and the added thoughts, values and insights that everyone (like you) adds to it. For me, filling up the space below with, "thank you!," "spot on!," or "I don't see things like you do," creates a different type of engagement. On a personal level, it also makes the page feel long and clunky. But, that's a personal opinion, and if you look at a Blog like Jason Falls' most excellent, Social Media Explorer, you'll see him thank, comment and acknowledge almost every single person who comments on his Blog. It's not only an impressive act (because he has such a large audience), but it probably goes a long way in making his readers feel validated and acknowledged (it is probably also part of the reason why he has so much traffic and community). Again, there is no "right way" or "wrong way" - they're both different ways to engage with a community.

Everybody reads everything.

In a world of Google Alerts, RSS feeds and news readers, you can rest assured that anyone with their own publishing platform (be it a Blog, Podcast, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc...) is paying close attention to everything that is being said about them, their brands, their employees, their competitors and the industry they serve. On top of that, all of the platforms provide different levels (and ways) for there to be engagement. And yes, sometimes I do comment - when I have something to say or add or whatever. Like you, I'm human (well, at least half-human and half-Lycan, but that's for another Blog post) and the impulse to add something simply because this is my space can be overbearing, so instead, I fight that impulse and find engagement through the comments and ideas that you add and share and riff off of.

Does that make sense? Or, do you think that engagement means constant acknowledgement of your presence?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Tim Gier
    Mitch Joel

    Glad to see you address this issue and I appreciate your views. I too have wondered whether you are missing out on engaging with your audience. As a relatively new reader, I also wondered if, because of the focus of your blog, you engaged more with business associates & colleagues rather than casual visitors like myself - in other words, was I an interloper? Your explanation has cleared that up, so thank you.

    On my own blog, I answer every comment, because my readership is small, the blog is new, and I do want to make personal connections. It is difficult sometimes though to respond with more than just a superficial "You're Right!"

    In the same way, I have been thanking every person on Twitter who either mentions, DM's or RT's me, but I wonder if that isn't more self-indulgent than I initially thought. One can create an endless loop of thanking and mentioning without adding any value to anyone's day.

    Thanks for giving me a forum to air my thoughts. It is very engaging of you.

    Reply
  • Posted by Rich Lazzara
    Mitch Joel

    If your asking me a question does that mean you'll answer :) jk

    I think it works either way. For me however I like to ask questions and continue the dialogue. I think it really depends on who you are and what you do. In your case for what you do there is nothing wrong with putting the thought out there and letting others add, disagree, etc to it. Your blog is about the industry not necessarily directly about Twist.

    I will tell you that actively engaging in comments for my yacht company is very important. The dialogue usually revolves around answering direct questions about the product. Now perhaps thats not the best place for the dialogue to take place but its nice to use that forum to continue the dialogue and hopefully pull out insight that will help others.

    Keep up the good work, comments or no comments, I really appreciate the amount of free insight you put out.

    Reply
  • First off, new reader and enjoy the conversation so I'll be back.

    Second, the 3rd sentence of your subhead above explains why it might make sense to reply to comments via the comment stream instead of just in your head.

    "Your engagement may not be my engagement." I think that's true. But if my engagement is not your engagement, then you choosing not to engage with me when I continue the conversation in the comments could definitely make me think you're not listening or don't find value in my comments. Maybe it shouldn't but it does because, as you say, "you're engagement is not my engagement."

    That said, setting expectations for the community like you've done in this blog post should alleviate most misunderstanding.

    Interesting topic and I won't take offense if you don't reply :).

    @jgoldsborough

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    The power of blogging is the community that is created with these millions of conversations taking place at the same time. In general, you want to engage people who come to comment on your blog.

    By writing a whole post about one blog comment, what you are doing is continuing the discussion, and adding a twist. It acknowledges that you do read the comments section of your blog and is far more valuable than thanking every individual reader.

    Like you said last night at the Montefiore, it's not about you, it's about me. I am better served by seeing the discussion being moved forward than just to see you thanking everyone and changing the channel. The community is further engaged and they benefit as well.

    Reply
  • Posted by Tamsen McMahon
    Mitch Joel

    What I find fascinating is that, somehow, some folks seem to have decided on one definition of engagement.

    But that's false.

    The power of engagement is in the engaging itself. There's not one way to do it. The way that's "most successful" is contextual based on who's engaging, and with whom. As long as there's an alignment between how one engages and how people like to be engaged with, the engagement (in whatever form it takes) will be successful.

    I'm frustrated that the response to a different style of doing something is so often, "You're doing it wrong," full stop, when what we're actually saying is "I don't recognize (or sometimes, respect) your way of doing things."

    It seems there might be more productive avenues, likely to move the conversation (both at the micro and macro levels) forward: "So you don't engage this way. How DO you engage? Why do you choose to do it that way?".

    Curiosity, rather than judgment.

    Reply
  • Posted by Joe Sorge
    Mitch Joel

    This post makes all the sense in the world actually. And it answers some questions that I've had about the various styles of engagement that many popular SM personalities like yourself employ. Thanks Mitch.

    Reply
  • Posted by Ian M Rountree
    Mitch Joel

    Justin Goldsborough's comment about engagement is quite astute - but I'll add a note about scale.

    Jason Falls' level of engagement is a lot like Chris Brogan's - being accessible in unique ways is part of both of their hallmarks. We don't all need to be this way; sometimes it's about looking for that one diamond among many shiny jewels. Making a connection, engaging, communicating - it doesn't come down to the same thing.

    How availabe you make yourself can be telling. Mitch, we've emailed back and forth - which is fine. I've traded comments with Brogan, but never once had an email answered - which is also fine. Both of you have done a good job of managing the expectation in both arenas; I never feel slighted, and I doubt anyone else does, when you don't comment back. Nor do I feel bad when the Amazing Traveling Chris fails to email - it's how he works, and it's in public.

    The trick about engagement I think people could learn more about is the setting of expectations as limits for yourself, as well as for those who communicate with you. It eases a lot of the pressure people (commenters, emailers, 4square stalkers like Joseph Jaffe talks about) who would otherwise feel unrequited.

    Engagement - especially meaningful engagement - benefits from limits on channels. But you still have to address the channels, so people know out front, what to expect when they attempt to find you there.

    Reply
  • Posted by Jeremy Epstein
    Mitch Joel

    Well, I guess the fact that you blogged about my comment shows some engagement ;-)

    I think there's a middle ground. While I agree that the "you're right!" or "great point" is kind of vapid, I tend to view the blog (and yes, this is my engagement, not necessarily yours) as a conversation, not a presentation (Godin being the obvious exception)

    You, as the blog owner, are the one who "introduces the topic" (as if you were hosting a seminar), but in that capacity, you are also the one who has the responsibility (maybe not the best word) for facilitating. Often times, commentators will ask clarifying questions or make points that you didn't address in your opening remarks, so when you comment back, you give those who come later a deeper, richer insight into the original post and help sharpen their own thinking.

    Plus, while you may cite a comment in a later post (as you did with mine), if I land on the original post, I don't see the answer. So, in this case, I'll see the original post and my comment, but no response from you on that permalink.

    I hope you didn't take the comment as an attack, but as a clarifying question. You just chose to answer it in a separate blog post versus the comments.

    Anyway, I'll end by saying "great post!!" ;-)

    Reply
  • Posted by Jaky Astik
    Mitch Joel

    To me, engagement means speaking out. Telling what they think and openly give their opinion and act upon issues that matter.

    Reply
  • Posted by Suzanne Vara
    Mitch Joel

    We blog to share our thoughts, knowledge, ideas, etc with the online community and in doing so we are inviting readers to share their thoughts, ides, knowledge, opinions, etc to what we wrote. Some do and many do not - that is their choice to write or move on. For those that choose to write and have a good point or ask a question etc I think should be responded to by the author. I like JasonFalls' method of responding to everyone however it gets to a point where how many times can you say thank you to Great Post.

    If the goal of the blog is to interact with the readers to get more readers then responding to them is going to help achieve that goal. I do not ever think that the author does not care nor is intentionally not engaging with their readers. Time becomes a problem as when a blog is popular and getting 30 or so comments day it is not easy to go and respond to them - especially people who do comment daily.

    Truly I think that people have set expectations upon bloggers as a whole based upon other bloggers. Just because Jason answers all of his comments quickly does not mean that every blogger should be expected to do the same. It comes down to what works best for you and your audience.



    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Mitch, this post is spot on.. as are the comments, no snark intended. Most everyone has seized up the difference of "engagement" but this is what speaks to me: "there is no 'right way' or 'wrong way' - they're both different ways to engage with a community."

    Some people do not allow comments on their blogs; others choose not to respond directly; others like Jason or Amber Nasland do a fabulous job moderating their blog comments. Part of that has to do with their individual styles of blogging, and are they broadcasting ideas or starting a discussion. The comments on blogs like those do get lengthy, but often take the conversation in new and even more rewarding directions.

    There's no right or wrong. There's your way, Tim's way, Jeremy's way, .. and my way. Suzanne nails it: " it comes down to what works best for you and your audience." FWIW.

    Reply
  • Posted by Suyog Mody
    Mitch Joel

    Engagement can have various levels-
    1. Engage actively on every comment
    2. Engage on thought-provoking comments
    3. Engage on extensions of your thoughts

    There's also a question of all the other channels, other than a blog, where you may be expected to engage (Twitter, Facebook, Podcast etc). How much can you keep up?

    Reply
    • Mitch Joel

      Suyog, that last question was my thought exactly. I'd be worried after amassing thousands of readers amongst multiple social platforms about having to respond to every single post.

      On the flip side, not responding at all could be taken the wrong way - and surely a missed opportunity for Mitch or whichever blogger has to cultivate relationships further.

      What a unique dichotomy.

      Reply
      • Agreed and that's the issue I'm raising here... I don't know how to respond. Almost 100% of the time, I read a comment and go, "yup... that's awesome." Nothing more to add or detract from. And, based on the feedback from everyone here and how no one jumps on the threaded comments, I can't be the only one ;)

        Reply
  • Posted by allan isfan
    Mitch Joel

    You know I respect your work and opinion. Hey, I even bought a box of your book and have been handing them out. I read every post you publish and listen to your podcasts.

    However, your lack of involvement in the comments has often puzzled me prevented me from posting my comments here. why bother?

    I have often been surprised by the low volume of comments on this blog post relative to the quality of your posts. They should often launch a firestorm of discussion ... they're that good ... and yet it doesn't happen which is a shame for everyone because there is often gold in the comments.

    Bottom line is, having you involved in the comment will provide value for everyone, even you, by growing the community and making the discussion more vibrant.

    Reply
    • Posted by Jeremy Epstein
      Mitch Joel

      I share these sentiments actually. If you make a comment and the author doesn't acknowledge your effort and contribution of time, sometimes you feel like you have wasted it and are left w/a bad feeling.

      I think Mitch's post are some of the best out there, but in terms of the "relationship," (for whatever that is worth), I don't feel the loyalty that I do to others who acknowledge my effort.

      Still, I'm a big fan (and glad to see that Mitch commented on this one), but my comment amount is lower here than on other blogs for this reason.

      Reply
      • Are we confusing the words "engagement" with "acknowledgement"? Think about it this way: The Blogger posts and someone comments. Isn't that the engagement? If it's nothing more than an acknowledgement, is it fair to even call that "engagement"? Let's push this further: The Blogger posts and someone comments. That is engagement. Isn't it now incumbent on the person making a comment to be interesting or thoughtful enough to push the engagement - whether it comes from the Blogger or other people commenting?

        It's interesting how this conversation is revolving around The Blogger/Commentor and not on the entire community. Maybe the Blogger isn't responsible for the engagement, but the entire community is, and those who don't elicit a form of response aren't all that engaging?

        Because, in the end, if all of this is nothing more than acknowledgements, I'd argue that there's not much engagement either.

        Reply
        • Posted by allan isfan
          Mitch Joel

          I think acknowledgment is part of the engagement. Try to have a conversation with someone that doesn't answer or even nod. Not engaging.

          Of course, if a comment does not elicit a response, I certainly wouldn't suggest you respond just for the sake of acknowledgment.


          I still find this blog valuable enough to read every post and reader comment. All I'm saying is that the value of this blog is heightened when you participate.

          Reply
  • No comment.

    Just kidding.

    I think it's an organic issue, i.e. it's not a matter of commenting or not commenting.

    If, after writing a post, you find the comments for the most part simply echoes of your main points within the post, then really there's no need to comment yourself - unless self-congratulations makes up part of your personal style. Those comments are simply affirmations that you've made your point and people get it. Mission accomplished.

    However, if you scan your comments and someone has raised a point, questioned an insight or made an observation that you may not have considered, then by all means comment and further the conversation. After all, that's what we're all about, right?

    Take this comment for instance. I'm fully expecting a response from Mitch. And if I don't get it immediately, I'll hold my breath until he does...

    So there.

    Reply
  • My take -- if you don't dive into the comments at least at some level, you're not engaging, you're broadcasting. If you don't participate in your own community, you might as well be Walter Cronkite writing, and then reading aloud, the evening news.

    Everything we do -- and everything we don't do -- communicates. So what this communicates about you is, I have neither the time nor interest to be involved in my community.

    Hope that helps.

    Reply
  • After reading my own comment, it may come across as a bit snarky. That was not my intent. I love your blog and respect the genuine intent behind the post, Mitch.

    Reply
  • Posted by Corey James
    Mitch Joel

    I think you're missing out. To me, it reads like you don't care what your visitors have to say - you've had your say and that's all that matters.

    Here's a question - when you're working with a client, do you hand off the reins once you've come up with the strategy? Now switch that to giving up your blog (strategy) to the client (reader).

    I go with Mark above, you come across as not caring, and this post doesn't really address that, merely confirms.

    Reply
    • Posted by Mike G.
      Mitch Joel

      I totally disagree. I've been engaged with Mitch and his content for a while. It's pretty astonishing to see what he gives and how much he connects here, on Twitter and Facebook. He even shares what he's reading through Google Reader.

      Just because he's not tinkering in the minutia of the comments, it's abundantly clear that he's reading everything and riffing off of it. I'd much rather see him focused on the thinking and publishing he's doing than making everyone who leaves a comment here feels validated. It's also pretty clear how thankful he is for the comments and additional thoughts.

      This is one of the few truly great Marketing blogs out there. Real deep thinking and - on top of that - he allows everyone to share their perspectives and insights. I think it's a misnomer to say that he doesn't comment. He does... when it matters and when it's important. As he says above (and I do agree), that many times the comments simply add or push the idea in a different direction and that doesn't require any more comment from Mitch.

      My opinion is this: Mitch isn't missing much at all so long as he's Blogging from his heart, allowing others to add their side and actively doing what he can to stay connected (whether he comments or not). He's one of the few that we should be holding up as a "poster boy" for engagement instead of vilifying him because he's not doing it the way others are. Like he said: "your engagement is not my engagement."

      Mitch, I find you amazingly engaged... thank you!

      Reply
  • Posted by Deni Kasrel
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch,

    I am forever impressed that you are able to write posts that so explicitly beg for comment. Seriously, it is a major feat and you are to be commended for having the knack.

    You often stir up a nice passel of comments. That's engagement, even if you're not in the thick of it after penning the original post. I guess if no one read your blog or left comments that would be a sign you're not doing things right in the social space. And we know that's not the case.

    Meanwhile, at least one high profile blogger (another bloke with a smooth shiny pate) does not even leave the option for comments. This policy seems to work out fine for his purposes.

    On a personal note, I generally like to reply to comments left on my blog. I appreciate that someone took the time to leave their thoughts and try to create some repartee with my audience where possible. That's my choice, and I am not cranking out posts are your rapid rate -- such high production can put a crimp on one's ability to respond to everyone. The posts themselves become the engagement. That's cool.

    And lastly, if we're calling out folks who do a good job of responding to comments, take a gander at Tamar Weinberg's blog -- she is also notable in this regard.

    Reply
  • The size of the audience does dictate how much engagement one can offer and Mitch does have a large audience and an agency to run.

    Sure it would be very nice to feel important - in my time following Mitch's content I have rec'd a DM on Twitter from him which I really appreciated and those acts do build stronger bonds.

    I do know that constantly posting all that non-sense like "great post" and "your right on" is annoying to anyone - especially Mitch. I am confident that when there is something to be said I will eventually hear about it from Mitch and his team.

    No need to reply to this, you (Mitch) read this and likely have nothing to say - that's just fine by me because I also appreciate and learn from the content you put out, and that is why I am here.

    Reply
  • Posted by Xurxo Vidal
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch,

    In practical terms I agree that it may not be possible to answer every single blog comment or to thank everyone who took the time to comment.

    If you do have something to add to a comment or see that someone is furthering the discussion you started with your post, then I think that it is a wasted opportunity not to re-engage the conversation by responding to the commenter.

    I think that many people who leave comments do so because they were impacted by a particular post in some way - good or bad. And yes, some may just be looking for attention without adding value to the discussion. But most look forward to the opportunity to interact with the blog author and take the time to comment in hopes that the author will re-engage the community and continue the discussion.

    Perhaps more visibility is gained by pumping out new content on a consistent basis, but I believe that responding to comments solidifies loyalty to a blog and gives readers an added satisfaction outside of consuming and commenting on great content. It also shows readers that the author cares enough about what they publish to take the time to respond.

    I however can see how producing as much content as you do on a regular basis, can make it difficult to get to everyone's comments on each post. I guess it comes down to a choice - maintain the posting schedule at the detriment of responding to your community or take more time to respond at the detriment of the posting schedule...

    If there's another option, I've love to know what it is!

    @xurxovidal

    Reply
  • Posted by Scott Donovan
    Mitch Joel

    I comment therefore I exist.
    (i think therefore I exist - Descartes)
    The difference is : thinking is just limited to yourself.
    Commenting exposes you to a large audience.

    Reply
  • Posted by Marc Poulin
    Mitch Joel

    It is true that a simple "Yes I agree" or something like that does not contribute much to a blog article. On the other hand, when I take a few hours to write a blog post and someone, anyone, takes a moment to comment, any comment, it makes me happy. If writing was easy for me and if I received numerous comments, I might have a different view. That is not the case. BTW, keep up the good work.

    Reply
  • Posted by Andy Weir
    Mitch Joel

    Hi Mitch,

    As others have said, I'm glad you've addressed this *issue*. Not that it was an issue.

    It totally comes down to your choice on how to interact with people. You're not Jason Falls. Glad you're clear about that.

    As you said - there's a difference in acknowledgement and engagement.

    I think we, your beloved fans (!) would just like a wee wave now and again!! We used to get some of that in the podcast, but that's moved on (and we can understand why). You do run on the border of being a broadcaster, which is great as you do give a lot, and I'm not complaining.

    I don't think there's a question over your credentials, just because you don't interact in the way others might - do you?

    Interestingly, I think as you mention where your inspiration comes from (like in this post) you DO acknowledge people. And that's always good.

    I guess it comes back to being *nice* - like you blogged about recently.

    Reply
Add a Comment

Please complete all the fields below, including the spam filter (to prove you're not a robot).

  1. Fill in your email address to have your Gravatar photo included with your comment.
  2. Please type the word pixels here:
TrackBacks

TrackBack URL: http://www.twistimage.com/movabletype/mt-tb.cgi/1963