What is the true value of a comment on a blog?
If you go back in time (a little over a decade ago), the mainstreaming of blogging as a publishing platform brought with it a couple of unique features. Initially, these instant publishing platforms were seen as simple online journals for those who wanted to keep them. Eventually, additional features like the ability for a reader to comment on a post and the introduction of RSS (a syndication feature that would notify readers by email or web-based readers when the blogger updated or published to the blog) helped to propel the platform to the mainstream. To this date, there is a constant slew of criticism and discourse on the importance of comments. Simply put, there is a strong legion of new media pundits who believe that a blog isn't a blog without comments and the back and forth between the key blogger and the readers. There are some famed bloggers (like Seth Godin) who don't even allow comments on their blog posts, there are people like yours truly who allow people to comment freely but rarely add to the discourse, and then there are those (like Gini Dietrich, Chris Brogan and Mark W. Schaefer) who spend a lot of time playing in the comments.
There are no wrong choices, so long as they are tied to a strategy.
Blogs are a publishing platform that allow anybody to have an idea and to publish said idea in text, instantly and (mostly) free to the world. Individuals and businesses need to best define how this type of media drives the overall strategy and adds true economic value to the brand. People like Godin, are simply looking for a way to share what they are thinking with their readers. Personally, blogging is a publishing medium that enables me to publish a thought, idea or perspective with the world, in the hopes that others will take it and add to it. For people like Dietrich, Brogan and Schaefer, they are trying to build an engaged community in the spirit of peer-based communication on their own platforms. Each individual is, hopefully, acutely in touch with what the end game is and laser-focused on ensuring that their blogging matches the strategy.
The conversation is everywhere.
The truth is that you no longer need Seth Godin, Chris Brogan or my blog as a destination to comment. As social media continues to expand, individuals interested in leaving a comment for a Seth Godin blog post can do so on their own Facebook page, on Twitter, on YouTube or even on their own blog. That's what makes the non-hierarchical and disintermediated publishing platform that social media affords us so fantastical. If something's upsetting to you, if something has inspired or if you feel that you just want to acknowledge something that a blogger published, you don't need their platform or their validation to add to the discourse. The idea of a centralized receptacle for everything surrounding one, particular, piece of content seems both silly and counterintuitive in these hyper-connected platforms.
Sharing and sharing alike.
A personal story: often when people leave a comment on my blog, I do not respond. It's not a policy. It's not the law. It's probably a character flaw. Ultimately, I feel like I have said everything that I need to say on the topic, and I'm hopeful that the comments from readers are additions to that piece. Some agree, some add perspective and some disagree with my content. There are many instances when other readers respond to comments left by other readers. There are instances when I jump in. All comments are being read, digested and considered, but the need to leave the digital equivalent of a high five doesn't fit with my personality. It's not an indication that I'm not appreciative of the discourse (quite the opposite, I'm extremely thankful that individuals read the content and feel compelled to comment). I've had people leave a comment, then post to Twitter that they have left a comment, then posted a link to the blog post with an additional comment on LinkedIn, Google + and more. There are many social media "experts" who feel that every comment must be acknowledged on a blog post. Does this mean that bloggers must also acknowledge those additional comments, shares and more on every other channel as well? The power of social media and blogs comes from the ability to easily share something that matters. The additional content that gets bolted on by others (including comments) help turn this content into a more three-dimensional piece of text-based content. In the past, the amount of comments to a blog post used to be a major metric for success. In a world of abundance, perhaps the more important metrics should be:
Let's get over the comments.
Comments are great. They add perspective and personality. But, they may no longer be a key metric for success. At a more macro level, social media affords brands the opportunity to create unique and new metrics that aren't universal. An ad is about an impression, the amount of people who saw that impression, the amount of attention it created and, ultimately, did people buy and talk about the brand. Blogs can do a myriad of other things, and those metrics should not be dismissed or admonished simply because certain individuals feel that a blog (and the comments that go along with it) all need to act and play a certain way as a metric for success.
What's your take? Is a blog merely the sum of its comments and commenters or is it time to redefine the value of comments on a blog?
The above posting is my twice-monthly column for The Huffington Post. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:Tweet
As you alluded to, the question is, do the comments add value? Most bloggers, including myself will check comments to make sure they are not spammy or of poor taste. I usually don't mind leaving a comment, I'm there anyway and if I have something potentially useful to add I'll offer it. But that's blogs. Youtube on the other hand is a completely different beast. It gets dirty, racist, crazy and rude on youtube, and I'm not entirely sure why.Reply
I guess to some extent comments aren't necessary since a blog is just another medium for communication and believe the only reason for a comment is if you want two way communication.
Perhaps blogs are diminishing in popularity and other platforms are becoming the norm thereby eliminating the need for comments altogether.
BTW, I commented so therefore still relevant :)Reply
Hey Mitch! A couple of thoughts:
First, I love that you mention that whether a blogger does or does not comment on their own blog is fine, as long as that action or inaction is TIED TO A STRATEGY. Simply put, too many bloggers don't invest enough time in creating and cultivating their blogging strategy. Glad you hit on this need for this.
Second, I think that too many bloggers get caught up on 'noisy' metrics. If a new post averages 5 comments, what exactly does that mean?!? Going back to your point about having a strategy, if you are going to focus on getting comments on your blog, you need to understand what value comments have for you. You need to know that more comments leads to......more sales, or more referrals, or more connections, etc etc. It needs to lead to something past comments. Unless your blogging strategy is to simply START and grow a conversation, then you're golden. But I see so many businesses using social media that are 'measuring ' their success in the number of comments, Likes and followers. Misguided, IMO.Reply
I don't miss having commenters. I started blogging just a few years ago and got immediate feedback from social media. I even got emails right away. Times have changed, but seeing your loyal following commenting does make my heart twinge a bit. A little jealous.Reply
Loved the post. I even shared it on my various social media platforms. Don't worry no need to comment back on those other platforms. As Seth Godin recently said, keep delighting the true believers.Reply
As a reader, rather than a blogger, I really enjoyed your article and agree with the fact that bloggers do not need to respond to every comment. The digital equivalent of a high five from a blogger I admire really is meaningless on this end. It feels rushed and fake and ... what's the point? However, I do get excited when the blogger (or other readers) react to my comment in a way that either furthers my opinion, or opposes it. Reading different viewpoints helps me understand the digital space better and is one of the main reasons I venture into the comment section in the first place.
However, I also use the comment section as an outlet to not only explore, but practice writing, through my opinion on the matter.
If commenters are only commenting to say "hey, look at me", and if bloggers are focused on the quantity over the quality of comments, I think they're missing the point of the blogging community.Reply
Posting a comment is part of my strategy. That is, starting and or continuing a conversation on any platform is part of my strategy. Making friends and sharing ideas about the digital world is my goal.
Sure it's feels like a win when the blogger responds to a comment I leave but I have no hard feelings if the blogger does not respond. When I leave a comment on a blog I don't feel owned a response (unless its customer service related). I actually find it a fun challenge to write a comment worth replying to. Nothing troll like, but adding something worthwhile to a blog post can be challenging if the blogger has already covered all the bases in his or her post.
You once replied to a tweet I made and I am still giddy about that. One, Mitch Joel saw and replied to my tweet and two, I wrote something that Mitch Joel would see and reply to.
As someone who is more likely to comment on a post, or direct a tweet to a blogger, i too have to weigh the value of the replies and comments to my comments.
I don't think commenting is as important or as popular now. There will always be a place for it but I get much more response from tweets nowReply
If I enjoy a blog post, I always read the comments to see if the readers have something to add. Sometimes I'll even stumble onto an interesting debate or two!Reply
After reading this I had to laugh when I read the last lines;
"What's your take? Is a blog merely the sum of its comments and commenters or is it time to redefine the value of comments on a blog?"
So, the call to action at the end of the post was a call for comments!!!!
It appears you still believe in them enough to call for them, even though you say don't think there's any point in them and that they have no value.
I think I would have believed in your own belief of your own message if you had not allowed comments on this post. As it is.......(remainder of comment held back as it has no value)Reply
I completely agree with you about comments! I have built blogs for companies, nonprofits and universities and I can tell you that there are far better things to measure your success than comments. Thank you for sharing your expertise, I'll be back to read more, I really enjoyed this article. :)Reply
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