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Social Media Won’t Kill Blog Comments – Bloggers Will

Last week on my blog, I published a post about the difference between writing and blogging.

Because I’d shared my thoughts on what that means earlier this year, I decided to open up the question to the readers and subscribers of the blog.

The result was that the post itself was a mere 60 words (seemingly breaking almost every “blogging rule” out there when it comes to content length).

60 words.

You’d think such a short post would receive crickets, or lack of interaction, right? After all, if there’s no in-depth wisdom on display, why should anyone comment?

58 comments and counting later, I guess that train of thought has been blown out of the water. And these comments aren’t just “great post”, or “well, because a blog’s a blog and not a book”.

No, these are some of the most thoughtful and insightful comments I’ve seen about this topic – all despite a post of only 60 words starting the discussion, all within the context of “blog comments are dead” from a very vocal majority online.

So why did that post counter much of what we’ve been told about blogging, and blog comments in general?

Why indeed.

The ROI of Showing Up and Caring

To throw that question into better light, a tweet by Craig DesBrisay sums it up perfectly:

Craig’s “surprise” at the comments outshining the post show a lot of what’s “wrong” in blogging today, and why I started this Pure Blogging movement that you’re currently reading.

Recently, a lot of blogs have closed down their comments section, citing “too much spam”, “the conversation is on social now”, “it’s too much work to moderate”, etc.

For me, though, it’s less external issues that have caused these sites to close down comments, and more internal ones – namely, the blogger (or blog owner) stopped showing up and caring.

I used to follow a lot of the blogs that closed their comments section(s) down, and something that became clear as they were getting close to that decision was the blogger was seen less and less in the comments.

Whereas before they’d been very active in helping build community and hold active conversations with commenters, now they were only replying to comments that praised them or their post.

That’s if they even showed up at all.

Instead of a thriving, interactive comment section, there was simply comment after comment without a reply, either from the blogger or other commenters.

In that kind of environment, of course blog comments are going to suffer – after all, how long would you stay talking to someone on the phone, or in-person, if there was no reply coming back?

Not long.

Now, compare that to blogs where the blog author continues to be present and active in the comments, and you’ll see there remains a very robust comments section – and not just between blogger/commenter, but also commenter/commenter.

It’s what happens when you simply show up and care.

Good Things Are Never Easy

I get it. We’re all busy, and we all have finite time in our days. There’s only so much we can allocate to our blogs versus elsewhere, and remain effective on both sides of the coin.

But then isn’t that true for everything in life?

Don’t we make decisions based on what we want and how to get there, as opposed to giving up because the work to get there is a little more than what we want to put in?

  • Yes, conversations are happening on social. But guess what? People are complaining that there are less opportunities for conversations on social now the marketers and brands have taken over.
  • Yes, blog comments need moderation. But guess what? Do the legwork early on (blog comment policy, banning offenders, making the comments a fun place to be, etc.) and you’ll actually get a better community.
  • Yes, community growth needs interaction. But guess what? Interact and build that community, and you have a wonderful “base” to build from when you do have something to sell, or need to get your message out to a wider audience.

It’s easy to blame social media for blogging’s woes. Much like blaming others for our own failings in life, scapegoats are more attractive than self-analysis.

But it’s not as clear-cut as “all the conversations are happening on social media”. They may well be happening a lot – but guess where that traffic will come when they want to see the source of that discussion?

Once that traffic arrives, if they find a comments area that looks as fun and inviting as a McDonald’s restaurant does to a food snob, of course they’ll leave immediately.

If, on the other hand, they see a blog that opens up to others, and – imagine this! – actively converses with them, they’ll stay. Comment. Reply. Subscribe.

Social media won’t “kill” blog comments – bloggers will.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Unless you let it be.

By Danny Brown

Husband. Father. Optimist. Pragmatist. Purveyor of not settling for the status quo. Aspiring to be many things. Never says no to a good single malt.

Comments (33)
  1. Mark Longbottom October 26, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    Perfect, and the reason it worked is because you talk back.
    The reason spammers don’t join in, because you talk back.
    The reason people close comments sections, they feel they don’t have to talk back.

    Anyone suggesting there is a format that works for blogs is wrong, yes they’ll sell you a book on how but you’ll not make as much money as them.

    A blog is just like any form of interaction between people, but it has to show that. So 60 words or 4 words it can always create that magic number 58 [ check my creative network search #PLATFORM58 ] if people are connected and know you care about he relationship and the community.

    There are no rules only the ones we create each time we fall off the surf or skateboard to work out how to stay on till we do something more exciting and fall off again.

    The people living by rules will never lead only be led.

    • Danny Brown October 26, 2015 at 1:13 pm

      OK, first, why have I not heard of @Platform58 until now??? Grrr…

      You know, it’s funny – the very folks you refer to that are selling advice on “what to do if you want to be successful” should perhaps take a little bit more of their own advice.

      The best one was a post I saw a few months back, from a blogger who wrote about advising clients why engagement and feedback from your audience is key. This same blogger closed his blog comments down, and rarely interacts on social.

      Now, yes, I know there are other ways to interact, but it doesn’t ingrain confidence if the public face of you isn’t following through on the advice you’re trying to sell.

      Ah well.

      • Mark Longbottom October 26, 2015 at 1:56 pm

        Why you’ve not heard about P58 lol I’m no good at selling haha, started in 2008 had 20,000 MySpace friends 1000 on a Ning community of 13000 pages both went down as I hit 2.5 million views on Issuu zines. Went to Facebook got more engagement from 2000 now 5000 page likers but nothing compares to under 12 months 670,000 Instagram likes and it yet 6000 followers nothing scheduled all manual.

        Supporting artists, some of whom I’ve known but not met since the mid 80s. The Twitter feeds off tumblr so don’t expect too much it’s all around IG and a FB group called P58. Every week abusiness bid tells me how to monetise but always based on fleecing the artists that make it sociably successful.

        One day it’ll grow but right now I’ve no income so all I can do us online and build the community 😃

        That advice and the blogger selling themselves is so widespread and all down to confidence, people believe people even the blaggers and so it goes on.

        In a rare trip to linked in I’ve been told business people who use mobile aren’t good at business as its for kids and social interaction not serious business.

        What can you say it’s a wonderful comedy routine – but this person has a group of 106,000 and gets 3000 emails a day therefore she right – derrrrrrrr I don’t think so

        • Danny Brown October 26, 2015 at 8:55 pm

          Well then I look forward to finding out more about Platform 58 – followed on Twitter, and will hook up on Instagram shortly too, sounds like a great initiative.

          Wait, someone seriously said that about mobile? And that was this year? Not that that matters, mind you – hell, it would have been a stupid thing to say in 2012, never mind 2015.

          And we wonder why business (and entrepreneurs / solopreneurs) struggle when that’s the kind of “expert advice” being doled out. Grrr….

          • Mark Longbottom October 27, 2015 at 10:49 am

            Thanks Danny, once seen on twitter you’ll see why I may drop that but everyone tells me keep the id – it’s fed from other sources. The most productive is Instagram, then the FB group P58 and FB page PLATFORM58 and the issuu profile now with 111 publications.

            Yes someone seriously said that about mobiles yesterday, she backed it up with being misquoted, although I cut and pasted it. She was trying to say long form interactions can’t really be done seriously on phone aaaaaargggggghhh.

            Then came back with more belters around the whole theme, always falling back on having a LinkedIn group with 106,000 members and 3000 emails a day and how could all that be done on a phone? Simple really, and if LinkedIn listened they’d have been on the ball in 2009 making an effective mobile app instead of chasing it now in 2015 when it’s a lost cause.

            Similar to G+, both are behind the users and didn’t realise they already had a uniqueness in what they were doing – which meant they don’t need to try be like the others lol.

            I think the chatter from said person has dried up. Oddly I have had interest from all kinds of people after my comments lol.

  2. Benson October 26, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    This is a great post, Danny. I really liked your point about how bloggers apparently stopped responding to their commenters before they decided to close comments completely.

    It’s a weird, “one-way, you have to passively listen” point of view, which runs counter to what blogging should be, sharing ideas, encouraging discussion and broadening your own horizon as you expand someone else’s point of view. And I have to wonder if in our rush to discount all disagreement as “haters gonna hate,” that too many bloggers are willing to envelop themselves in a self-congratulatory cocooning echo chamber.

    • Danny Brown October 26, 2015 at 1:23 pm

      Hey there Benson,

      First, thanks for expanding on your Facebook comment over here, very much appreciated (and how meta, given the context of the post, hehe).

      That’s an interesting point about the “haters gonna hate” blogger. I guess when you use that soundbite often enough to silence those that dare critique (and you see your sheep repeat ad infinitum to any who will listen), you probably do begin to believe that only your opinion counts, so why bother with anyone else’s?

      Except, like you say, the echo chamber gets filled pretty quickly that way, and then we have the kind of web that we see so many bloggers complaining about. It’s a vicious circle, but one I can’t help think bloggers only have

  3. Joshua Wilner October 26, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    In the ‘good’ old days when I would get 20 plus comments on a post I would always do my best to respond, but I admit that sometimes my responses could be a bit short, primarily because of the time factor.

    I may be slow to answer now, but I always do and try hard to do my best to make it clear I read the comment before I responded.

    Bloggers have a responsibility here, it is not just a plethora platforms creating the issue.

    • Danny Brown October 26, 2015 at 1:19 pm

      Hey there mate,

      This part really stands out:

      “Bloggers have a responsibility here.”

      Exactly. There are millions of blogs online. Millions of destinations someone could go. Millions of blogs someone can subscribe to. The fact they’ve chosen to come to your part of the web AND interact? At least show the “respect” that deserves and take acknowledge their time, if nothing else.

      And bloggers wonder why they’re losing relevance (or appearing to). Hey ho.

      • Tim Bonner October 27, 2015 at 4:10 am

        I have a similar outlook to Josh on blog comments.

        I am slower at responding to them but often I feel like I need that time to think about my response – to give the commenter a response worth making.

        It’s always an aim to respond within 24 hours otherwise the conversation kind of becomes less relevant.

  4. Nancy Davis October 26, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    You might remember me as the one who took an unpopular stance on the “Twitter unfollow” that certain gurus did. I thought it was bullshit then, and I still feel that way.

    As far as blog comments go, I love them. To me, it is cool to see what others are thinking.

    Closing the comment section makes as much sense as showering fully dressed. I never understood it. Good luck getting rid of me.

    • Danny Brown October 26, 2015 at 1:26 pm

      Haha, you know I read your opening sentence with the voice of Troy McLure from The Simpson’s in my head, right? 😉

      It does seem to start a domino effect, and usually in the same circles.
      “Oh, so and so unfollowed everyone and then wrote an angsty post explaining the reasons – I’ll do the same.”

      Replace “Twitter unfollow” with “closed blog comments” and, yes, the same crowd, same reason. Go figure.

      • Nancy Davis October 26, 2015 at 3:17 pm

        Hahaha. At least I can make you laugh. Not responding to comments makes me think you are a snob. That kind of attitude I will not follow. If you want to sell things, you really need to make everyone who comments feel important.

        Who would be the person I would hire when my finances improve? What if you have something I want, but you are a jerk? I can live without it, or get it from someone else.

        • Danny Brown October 26, 2015 at 8:45 pm

          And that’s the thing, Nancy – current goals may change (tactics of a blog, for example) but the overall strategy (sales, brand awareness, marketing, connection, thought sharing, etc.) remains the same.

          How you act when the former changes dictates how successful you are at the latter.

  5. Frank October 26, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    Man I hate to be on the other side of the fence on this one but I don’t think there is an overall right or wrong answer.

    Every blog may serve a different purpose and while commenting does have the ability to create community, it also adds an additional responsibility to the writer, another metric to compare oneself to others, and may reduce ROI or for lack of a better term in time capital.

    In the past when I had active comments, my conversations were only surface deep. I interacted with the people only in the context of my message. I felt I wasn’t creating relationships or community but it was more like a never ending cycle of reciprocity. People would read and comment on my posts because I did the same for them.

    Since eliminating commenting, the people who were really listening to what I was trying to say reached out to me personally and these relationships have been deeper and more meaningful.

    Not to say one is better than the other but my hope is that I can make a deep lasting impact. I now can comment in other conversation and spent that time connecting and searching for like minded individuals through other channels.

    Commenting had become a backlinking, time consuming, reciprocity driven, time suck.

    I love people, I just don’t see the value in fake “Great post.. I really like what you said comments.” Here’s the thing, I may also be completely wrong and be missing a huge opportunity. I guess only time will tell.

    I can’t wait to follow this discussion. I’m curious if I’m the only one who found value in ditching the comment section

    • Danny Brown October 26, 2015 at 8:51 pm

      Hey there Frank,

      First, thanks for commenting, very much appreciated as I think this might be your first one here? So thanks!

      I think you answered your own question, which is kinda cool. Like you say, the comments you were experiencing were skin deep, and only after reciprocation. Any (“true”) blogger would say that’s the kind of commenting that gets frustrating and wearisome.

      But by your own admission, perhaps you didn’t put as much into the commenting in order to meet the hopes you may have had for that area of your blog (and are now receiving via email). The emails you’re receiving now about your content show the willingness was there by the readers to get deeper – but the reciprocal, half-hearted approach to the comment experience may have put them off, and the opportunity was lost?

      To the point of ROI and capital of a blog comment versus other interactions, that can be true, for sure (especially on a business blog).
      But I’d probably counter that comments can be a huge part of ROI too.

      Swap blog commenters for customers in your local brick and mortar store (or ecommerce online). Swap blog comments for FAQs online, or – even better – one of these live chat boxes that pop up.

      For in-store, swap comments for the sales area the customer is in.

      Now, if the customer has questions, you have two choices. Answer them there and then (answers=blog comments), or ignore (don’t show up, or don’t interact).

      I’d hope no-one chooses B in either setting. 😉

  6. Marcus October 27, 2015 at 4:02 am

    Hey Danny

    I have been involved in two main areas of discussion over the years being the Paleo diet blogs and the SEO / Internet Marketing crowd. Both of these areas benefit hugely from discussion of the original points made as it is the experience of individuals that enriches the original post and allows people with similar goals / problems to join up.

    So it seems somewhat a sad sign of the times that sites like Search Engine Land have nuked comments. Sure, there was a lot of crap and comments were often driven by some misplaced marketing intention but there were some strong discussions there. Especially in search, where one persons experience does not make something fact or even sensible to have counterpoints and discussion is not a nice little extra but rather it’s essential.

    I don’t buy the whole lets discuss on social media thing. Maybe I am just a bit old school and would rather have blog comments and a good, old fashioned discussion forum with user generated content that can be a lot less transient than social. There is just something about social discussions that feels very throw away to me. It’s rarely well visible in search engines, it is rarely built upon, we just have the same high level discussions on repeat. No one really digs in.

    Again, in the health world, there are so many ‘experts’ that comments become essential. My experiences or my wife’s experiences with a Paleo diet to help her MS have been hugely positive. But who am I to make bold statements about the suitability of our interpretation for other folks? It is good to share our experiences though but it needs to fit into a wider discussion to really have value.

    Maybe this is the natural order of things – bloggers kill their comment feeds as they can’t be bothered. New bloggers come along and actively encourage and engage in discussion. The old guard falls away. The new guard rises. Where there is a real passion for discovery and sharing knowledge comments are essential to that as they stay anchored to the post.

    Blogging is dead – long live blogging! And commenting. 😉

    • Danny Brown October 27, 2015 at 10:41 am

      Hey there Marcus, and welcome to the blog, mate!

      You know,. these are two perfect topics where comments more often than not add more to the original post. I recall leaving a comment on Julien Smith’s blog way back in the day, questioning his dietary advice on a fad diet he was trying, and whether his post was setting a dangerous precedent by advising everyone should do it (the diet).

      That set off a whole chain of back and forth between myself and other commenters (not Julien, though – go figure), and because of that, I made some wonderful connections and found people to have excellent debates with.

      Like you say, mate, we need to have the option of not only sharing the experience, but enhancing or debunking it afterward. If we lose that, we may as well all go back to reading newspapers and hoping our letters to the editor get picked up one week or another.

      Here’s to open form blogging and commenting.

  7. Tim Bonner October 27, 2015 at 4:20 am

    I was surprised when Chris Brogan decided to shut the comments section on his blog. I used to follow his blog diligently but since he did that, I barely visit the place.

    It’s not even that I used to comment very often. It just felt like it was a one way conversation and he didn’t want anyone else cluttering that up. I know he’s a busy guy and probably couldn’t get to answer the comments too. But hey, I’m busy too and I want to hear what others have to say!

    I spend less and less time on social media. That’s maybe not the norm but Facebook doesn’t hold the interest it once did. Twitter still holds my attention to a certain extent but I also spend less time there than I used to. So moving the conversation to social media doesn’t work for me.

    I know what Frank means about the reciprocal commenting thing. I felt the same way for a long time but that was more about commenting on other people’s blogs. Now I will comment if I feel I want to add to the conversation and if I don’t and I enjoyed the post, I’ll just share it. There’s no requirement for reciprocity. Those kind of comments become a love fest and are often banal and meaningless in my opinion!

    • Danny Brown October 27, 2015 at 10:33 am

      Hi there mate,

      You know, ironically, I was glad when Chris shut his comments down. He was one of the bloggers that appeared less and less, and also allowed tons of spam comments to remain, along with commenters that bullied and harassed other commenters. One of the things any good blogger needs to do is look after his or her community, so the fact Chiris let this slip meant closing the comments down there ensured that kind of non-moderation didn’t get out of hand.

      It’s funny – I’m finding a lot of great conversations on Facebook these days, but that’s probably more down to the fact I limit who I connect with there, as opposed to chasing huge amounts of faceless “followers”. That way, it’s akin to a blog where you encourage open discussion, as long as it’s respectful and on-point. These discussions then give ideas for blog posts, so it’s a win-win all round.

      Twitter sucks, though.

      • Mark Longbottom October 27, 2015 at 10:44 am

        Instagram too is great for talking, yes you get the spam but that clears up quickly, what you do get are people who want to talk about what you are posting not the faceless business bored in shiny suits selling last centuries rubbish.

        It is interesting when a blog gets to big to cope with like the one mentioned, even more interesting watching how people cope with it as people or automatons of who pays them 😉 joking kind of

        We all should gravitate where t makes sense to us and who we want to talk to not our neighbours or gurus.

        • Danny Brown October 27, 2015 at 10:47 am

          I’ve been starting to use Instagram a bit more recently (never really got into it in the early days), and it does get pretty cool if you manage to hit the right spot for an image share (I find ones involving my family do that). Definitely on my bucket list to be more active there (both in sharing and connecting) in 2016.

          • Mark Longbottom October 27, 2015 at 10:55 am

            Obviously instagram suits my creative network as discussed and the near 700,000 likes in 12 months and still not got 6000 followers shows a level of interaction [and genuine not just people clicking like for the sake of it] that i can’t get near on facebook with near 6000 likes on a page. FB and Zucker won’t mind as FB has it’s area of the internet so does IG with 400 million users and he’s also got the FB messenger which i use more than text.

            I don’t really do family anywhere at all online, my kids got bored of all the arty crap as i was told when on MySpace in 2007, lets see what my granddaughter will make of it all soon hehe.

            The thing with any of it is to just grow relationships then communities that make sense, see so many desperate to make money first and they’re all falling by the side. I want to work with design and marketing agencies on how to be effective on IG – so many just post 100 images pretty cute kids in whacky office or doing charity things. So what do their clients see as their experience on Instagram from that? Yet they still employ them rather than me at this point to help with Instagram – it’s ok i’m not bitter lol

            Forget the bucket just do it, I’m grabbing that hashtag back from nike lol

      • Tim Bonner October 27, 2015 at 11:02 am

        I’ve got to be honest mate, I don’t remember his comments section being like that. Maybe I didn’t read through them as much as I thought I had? It wouldn’t surprise me! You’re right that he very rarely appeared though and that was a mistake. In any case, I kind of lost touch with his blog since then. I still subscribe to his emails but for whatever reason they don’t resonate so well with me.

        For as long as I could, I had the criteria that I wouldn’t connect with anyone on Facebook unless I knew them in real life. I kind of let that slip a little when I got to know a few bloggers but I still always have that in the back of my mind when anyone asks to connect with me on my personal account. It still doesn’t make me want to use Facebook as much as I used to though! Twitter is where it’s at…

        • Mark Longbottom October 27, 2015 at 12:02 pm

          Interesting point Tim and nobody can say you are right or wrong.

          I was recently speaking about this at an event and did a section on people following/connecting/liking people they didn’t know, and were never to meet, simply because it makes me smile how unsociable it can get.

          I fully understand the profile on facebook and people wanting to be private etc. Then open on twitter and professional on Linked In, sorry starting to laugh again as it all starts getting complex and standing back I wonder why people can’t be online like they are offline.

          I started accepting invites to interact from people I didn’t know or would never meet in 1983, through the mail art network and do know that what I did then, Gary Vee usually covers everything I have ever done in the way he inspires people with logic.

          I’ve been followed by The KGB in conversation with people on death row, engaged with groups of everyday artists, got to know people as if second parents, helped families raise money for children with terminal illnesses and the list goes on.

          One thing I noticed since being involved in business networking since 2003 – I’ve still to find people in business who I can say I am as close to like the people I will never meet, and yet am still talking to 30 years on.

          There’s something about a lot of people in business [ not all ] that makes real people look so different and yet they could be the same.

          There’s no amazing one place has all the answers, but for me not talking to people I will never meet is so important. Otherwise I’d be stuck with the inward looking locals wherever I live, and they are the ones with massive problems as they haven’t a clue about people ten miles away let alone 10,000 miles away .

          Just a thought or two…..

          • Tim Bonner October 27, 2015 at 12:51 pm

            I hear what you’re saying Mark. I guess I see Facebook more as an extension of what’s going on in my life. I share more there than I would on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or any other social network.

            I also prefer to get to know a few people really well rather than lots of people on a superficial level. Although, I realise that might sound contradictory when it feels like I’m doing the complete opposite on Twitter!

            To me, my personal Facebook account is more about keeping in touch with people I’ve met and/or have become friends with on or offline. It’s not about business contacts. That, I think, should be kept to Facebook pages even though they’re not as effective as they might once have been.

          • Mark Longbottom October 27, 2015 at 1:12 pm

            All makes sense Tim I always send a disclaimer to business contacts as my 1500 Facebook friends are part of my creative network and so on.

            I suppose you could do you FB private stuff on G+ as its a ghost town – only joking 😃

          • Tim October 27, 2015 at 1:38 pm

            I can’t remember the last time I logged into G+!

            It never really felt like a sociable place to me. Maybe that’s why :-).

          • Mark Longbottom October 27, 2015 at 3:51 pm

            I actually liked it’s interface but even Google people are saying only Google people are there these days.

        • Danny Brown October 27, 2015 at 12:46 pm

          Well, I had firsthand experience, so probably why I recall the change in tone there a while back. And that was pretty much the last of that.

          Yeah, I’m very finicky who I connect with on Facebook. I see that as the personal space for me and my family/friends, whereas other networks are the playing fields where we can all have fun. My blog? That’s the pub, pure and simple.

          • Tim Bonner October 27, 2015 at 12:59 pm

            That I can understand! I’ve had run-ins on other blogs including mine and you always remember those!

            If you could find a way to serve real pints on your blog Danny, I’d never leave :-).

          • Danny Brown October 27, 2015 at 1:02 pm

            Ooh, maybe a Blab and a Pint can be a new series… 😂

          • Mark Longbottom October 27, 2015 at 1:09 pm

            I’m sure there’ll already be a Blab from a pub somewhere in blab.com haha

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