[This is part of a series following on from a post called “Business Blog Design“]
Being able to open up a dialogue between author and readers by leaving comments is one of the key aspects of a blog and one of the elements that make them as effective as they are. They open a door onto the interactive side of the web and give the opportunity to engage with people, start conversations and create connections.
However, just as in the real world, its important to show that you are willing to talk with people rather than turning your back on them (proverbially or otherwise) or give the impression that you are unapproachable and arent looking to engage with them.
Allow and learn to love comments
You should always allow people to comment on your blog, unless you have very specific reasons why not at the same time, you should make sure that you have the ability to deal with the comments that come back. I dont just mean in terms of time (for most that will not be an issue – and if it is, it’s often a good one to have!), but also in terms of responding appropriately.
Whether the comments you receive contain information, praise or criticism, you need to deal with them openly and correctly. You can achieve a huge amount by doing this, gaining respect in the process, especially when responding to negative comments. You will also encourage additional comments by the way that you have dealt with previous ones, so take the time to do so.
Actively encourage comments
Creating dialogue through getting responses is a key element to a successful blog, so dont sit back and wait for comments help to initiate them, either on your own blog or on those of others. Dont be afraid to openly ask for comments you should feel comfortable enough to encourage or challenge people to reply, or ask them for information. Basically, start that conversation!
You can also encourage comments simply by the way that you write, either through inspiring people to respond, goading them or by opening up a discussion on an area that you know people will have an opinion that that they want to express. Some other ways might include:
- Asking for opinions in general or asking a direct question at the end of your posts;
- Challenging people to put their point of view forward on the topic;
- Writing in an open ended style which allows people to add further thoughts on the topic rather than consider you’ve covered all aspects of it;
- asking for additional information to help build up a bigger collection of thoughts and ideas on the subject
- Running a competition (prizes help encourage participation!)
- Starting group writing projects such as a Metaphor for Blogging
- Drawing attention to comments made either by referencing them or by displaying “Latest Comments” in your sidebar
Make it easy to comment
We want people to comment, so make it easy for your readers to do so and don’t put barriers in their way which may put them off. Probably the biggest barrier in this regard is where you ask people to register before they can leave a comment – while I recognise that comment spam is a very real issue, there are other ways around this which will not impact on the relationship between author and reader.
How to deal with them
You should try to respond to the comments that your readers leave where appropriate – in most cases, you are looking to engage with the people who leave comments, so if they respond and ask a question then make sure that you reply to it.
Of course, there will be cases where the comments will not be favourable this is to be expected. You cannot please all the people all of the time. You should still try to respond to their points and present your point of view – its best not to ignore this type of comment because at least on your blog you have the chance to put forward your side. Elsewhere, negative comments will go unanswered. You will also often gain greater respect by handling objections with grace and tact by doing it this way.
How to avoid Spam Comments
Spam comments appearing in our comment section doesn’t give a good impression, but luckily there are a number of ways to avoid this. So what are our options – other than turning off comments all together, which I don’t advocate.
The main ones you might consider are:
- Specialist Software: like email, there are providers of specialist software which can help us and here, in my opinion, the leader in this respect is called Akismet. It identifies the comments that it believes are spam and impounds them – free of charge, except for commercial use and very good.
- Comment Moderation: moderating out spam by looking at each comment which has been left and allow genuine ones to appear on your blog while deleting the spam comments. This can become very time consuming (not to mention frustrating!)
- CAPTCHA methods: this is the distorted series of letters and numbers which appear on the page and that you have to type in to prove that you are a human and not an automated visitor. Good but a bit of a barrier to readers.
- Registration: only accept comments from people that have already logged in to a registration system which you run on your blog secure but can dissuade people from commenting.
Designing your business blog to encourage and display comments appropriately will hopefully help to develop more and more feedback, thereby developing an ongoing dialogue or relationship with your readers. This in turn should have a positive effect in terms of both reputation and trust.
Learn to love comments (positive and negative), encourage readers to leave them and make it easy for them to do so!