Many people view the comments section of a website as the tenth circle of hell. Instead of an area where readers can talk and connect, it’s become the place where civilized conversation and intelligent discourse go to die. Check out almost any video on YouTube, even one as innocent as a kitten riding a Roomba, and it won’t be long before people start arguing about politics, religion and one another’s basic worth as a human being. This is the reason “don’t read the comments” has become the Internet’s loudest battle cry, with “don’t feed the trolls” as a close runner-up.
Before social media, however, comment sections were the only places people could share their thoughts and feelings. It was a little bit like the “Letters to the Editor” section of the paper, except there was no editor holding you back. Sometimes this was a good thing (users were more honest) and sometimes it was a not-so-good thing (users were too honest). As digital advertising and content marketing became more popular and effective, businesses began adding blogs to their websites as a way to connect with their customers and increase their visibility. While this method was successful, it raised a question: Should businesses also include a comments section? It depends. If it turns out that the comment section isn’t the best place for camaraderie, don’t worry. With a little creativity, you can still connect with your audience, and in many cases the conversation will be better than ever.
All the World’s a Stage
Turning off comments on your blog or website doesn’t mean readers won’t interact with your content. It just means they’ll have to find other places to do it – places like Facebook or Twitter. This is actually a good thing, because their personal social networks tend to have a much wider audience than your niche website. By removing the option to comment on your blog, readers will be more inclined to share their thoughts with their friends and family. Think of it this way: commenting on a blog is like singing in front of a mirror, but tweeting or Facebooking about a post is like performing on a stage. Give your readers a spotlight, and then get out of their way.
Is This Thing On?
Scroll through a blog and take note at how many posts have the dreaded words “no comment” at the bottom of them. Your post may have gotten a lot of attention on Facebook and been retweeted hundreds of times, but all new visitors see is a ghost town full of tumbleweeds, and they’re left thinking your blog is irrelevant, uninteresting and not worth their time. Instead of an empty comment section, consider installing share buttons instead. These make it easy for readers to share their thoughts – and your content – with the click of a single button.
Try Facebook Comments Instead
Installing Facebook comments has a few benefits for your business. First, readers are forced to use their real identities when they comment, which can help cut down on spam and trolls who want to cause trouble. (People tend to be much nicer when they have to use their real names.) Facebook comments can also be good for building community, since commenters can see each other’s photos, names and (depending on their privacy settings) a few other details. Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll even be invited to the wedding of a couple who met in the Facebook comments of your article. Stranger things have happened!
Less Commenting, More Creating
Humans love attention and validation. It’s part of our chemical makeup and one of the driving forces behind everything we do, and that includes the Internet. How many times a day do you check your Facebook page? Do you measure your success by the amount of “likes” you get? Does thinking about Twitter’s notifications page keep you up at night? While it’s important to monitor social media and keep an eye on what people are saying about you and your business, it’s also important to stay focused on what really matters – creating a product or business that makes you proud. If you find yourself obsessed with how many comments you’re getting, remove the temptation and pour that extra time back into your business.
It Depends on Who You Are
While it may seem that I’m anti comments, this isn’t the case. The point I’m trying to make is that comments have been the default for so long, but in reality the decision to include them should be a thoughtful part of your marketing strategy.
For example, shutting down comments made sense to Popular Science, which got rid of them in 2013 after realizing certain comments were skewing readers’ understanding of articles. Copyblogger removed comments for a number of reasons, but one of the main ones was because more than 90 percent of the comments they received were spam – unhelpful, irrelevant and requiring hours of moderation. Still other sites, like the New York Times, are trying to find ways to increase comments and engage their readers more robustly, embracing journalism as a conversation.
So should you allow comments on your blog? This might be a good question to ask your readers. Watch and listen to how, when and most importantly where they answer. That will tell you all you need to know. As for Sage Island, we’d love to hear your thoughts on comments, with one catch – you have to share them with us using Facebook or Twitter.
Mike Duncan co-founded Sage Island in 1997, and since then has evolved the agency’s scope to include marketing strategy, creative design, technical development and a wide range of digital marketing services. With an integrated approach that leverages the power and measurability of the internet, the savvy Sage Island team develops strategies, builds brands, writes killer copy and delivers to clients all over the world. And they have an awesome time doing it. Sage’s collaborative working environment keeps creativity and innovation at the heart of the concept. With a 17-year history in Wilmington and beyond, Sage Island shows no signs of slowing down. To learn how Sage Island can grow your business, check us out at www.sageisland.com. To stay updated on the latest in digital marketing, follow Sage Island on Facebook at
www.facebook.com/SageIsland, and on Twitter at twitter.com/SageIsland.
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