Commenting
Photo by Viola Jen

Commenting on the web is one of the most important factors that lead to the Internet social revolution, from the last few years. In the not so distant past, commenting and public social interactions on the web was more or less exclusive on forums and was limited by a series of complications. When blogs first became popular in the early 2000s, they were hailed and highly praised, not for their particular concept, but rather for their social innovation; a never before seen connectivity between the readers and the article authors. Readers could now freely and easily interact with the authors, publicly share and discuss the post’s ideas and form a bond with the blogger. In short comments from behalf of the readers made blogs what they are today.

Since then, a lot of things have changed on the web and in the blogoshere particularly. Commenting has also more or less changed, thanks to the ever expanding issue of spam, that’s lead to steadily decline of quality in blog comments.

Commenting For Bloggers

Artful comment
Photo by John Suler

As bloggers, commenting on blogs should be a top priority for building and expanding your reach, so that your voice may be propagated to as many minds as possible. Let’s not forget the huge networking possibilities as well. I’ve managed to get in touch with so many bloggers, who eventually became my friends (both on the internet and in real life), thanks to blog commenting that I’ve long gone lost count.

It’s been used as a promotional tool for years and guess what, it still works like a charm. However if you truly want tot harness the fruits of blog commenting you have to know how to properly do it. Bellow I’ll lay down a few unwritten principles of proper blog commenting, that are based more on common sense, then on any particular social skill.

  1. Consistency. Most bloggers who comment on other people’s blogs, do it only with the interest of getting quick traffic and then they’re never to be seen again. This is by far no way to do it and you should avoid hit and runs as much as possible. Forming a bond with the blogger, like any other relationship, takes time. This means you have to regularly comment on the respective blog. If you get a reply to your comment or get directly addressed, be sure to comment back. However, this doesn’t mean you should comment on everything a blogger posts. Just comment on anything you truly and sincerely find interesting; don’t do it just for the sake of commenting.
  2. Value. If you want your comments to get you new readers, brand recognition and awareness, then you have to make them count. A comment like “excellent post” or “thank you!” won’t get you anywhere and will basically only waste your time, but the sad thing is it will waste other people’s time too. To make valuable comments you have to be contributive to either the article in cause, adding further points or elaborating on those already present, or to the discussions already based in the comments section. Actually I’ve read a lot of blog posts who’s comment section contained more valuable information then the actual posts itself; this says a lot.I, as well as many other fellow bloggers, greatly appreciate thoughtful comments. It shows that you, as the commenter, spent a good chuck of your time to read my post and then discuss it, in an intelligent and constructive manner. So whenever I get such a comment, I nearly always check his blog out in return, read it and if I find anything interesting, I immediately comment. I know this a time consuming process, but this is how it’s properly done, if you want to build a successful blog and build lasting and fruitful relationships with other bloggers.
  3. Personality. Be sincere and personal with your comments. Remember that comments are a lot less formal then regular posts; this is the place where your true personality should shine and where you can build better relationships with the blogger. I didn’t mention that comments are awesome networking tools for nothing. So to build relationships you obviously have to build and showcase your presence. This means commenting on all the blogs with the same name, preferably your real name, not your pseudonym or blog name (and definitely not with a keyword name, that’s lame). Also the way you write in your comments, has to evidentiate your personality; acting as natural as you can is recommended.Anonymity is really common among Internet folk, as it gives a sens of protection against any kind of repercussions that might follow their actions; it’s a shield against responsibility. However, anonymity is not very well seen, with good reason too. I for one like to know whom I’m talking to and if someone anonymously comments on my blog, I certainly won’t take him serious, no matter how good the comment is. Thus it’s extremely important you emphasize in your comments who you are and where you’re from. Also, remember sarcasm, irony or any other expressive action can be pretty hard to spot on the web. People can’t see your facial expression, tone of voice or anything, so your actions, if not well inputed, may be misinterpreted. A quick tip would be to faithfully use emotions, I know I’m quite fond of them :D.
  4. Succinctness. To actually get your comment read by the blogger and the rest of the respective blog’s readers, you need to make yourself quick and to the point. Express your ideas and opinions as clearly and briefly as possible.
  5. Opinion. One of the basic principles of commenting is expressing your thoughts and ideas around a particular matter. Now you can either agree or disagree with an subject, but that’s not enough; you have to further develop the ideas and build up from there with your own thoughts. Don’t be afraid to voice out anything you disagree with, after all what society what that be if we’d all agree on everything.
  6. Politeness. A blog is just like someone’s home, consequently you can’t just barge in and act like you own the place. Be respectful and polite towards, the blogger and the rest of the readers. Ever so often you’ll encounter posts with which you terribly disagree or that make you feel resentful, it’s important not to break out in a foul manner. If you’re going to criticize, do it in a mannerly and orderly fashion, constructively pointing out where you believe he’s wrong. I’d advise you first speak out the points with which you actually agree, if any, before starting listing those with which you disagree. I’m a firm believer of critique. I feel like it’s very important for any individual’s evolution and progression, after all we learn through mistakes and by pointing them out, helpfully, you aid the blogger a great deal.
  7. Thoughtfulness. My old man always used to say to me whenever I made a mistake “Think before you act!.’ That little piece of advice followed me for the rest of my life, in the sense that I’ve always been calculated with my decisions, although I love taking the occasional risks. Getting back to blogging, whenever you reply to comment or even e-mail, be sure you’ve thought a lot of things through; if the respective person has damaged your ego somehow, you might get angry and post some nasty stuff. Calm down, take a few minutes to cool down and then get back on the horse. Also never, I mean ever, post comments or most importantly blog posts, when you’re emotionally unstable, angry, drunk or on drugs. The end result may be fun when you post it, but, like a bad hangover, it will sting in the morning.
  8. Comprehensiveness. A few lines above, I stated that it’s very important you keep your comments brief and to the point, however they have to be clearly readable as well. How can you expect people to respond to your thoughts, if they can’t figure out what they are? So, make an effort and properly voice your opinions, by using adequate grammar and spelling, as well as language. You don’t want to go all elitist on people and start writing a thesis in the comments area; it will only make people think your a snob.
  9. Lawfulness. Most blogs have rules, be it a blog privacy policy or a commenting policy. Be sure to read it and respect them before commenting, to avoid any unwanted complications.
  10. Ignorance. Sometimes its just for the best you close your eyes for particular blog posts or comments, you may encounter on the web. Getting involved in conversation, that clearly won’t go anywhere, won’t help one bit. If you find an article that is clearly wrong, dishonest and so on, politely point out that they’re wrong, however if its clear the respective blogger is a total douchebag, it’s for the best you spare yourself the time and effort. Also, you may have probably noticed this, but no matter how beautifully and artfully an article is written, there will always be people to criticize and throw mud. These guys are universally called trolls on the internet and it’s recommended you avoid them. Don’t fuel them by picking on them. If you get provoked, ignore them.
  11. Perspective. I mentioned before that you shouldn’t comment on every article a blogger posts, unless you truly believe each of them are interesting, subsequently, however, in addition to knowing when to comment, you need to know where to comment as well. Commenting on big blogs, like boing boing, engadget, problogger and so on, won’t get you very far. Because the blogs are so popular, they naturally get a great influx of traffic and comments, that make you very unnoticeable. Thus commenting on more medium sized, emerging blogs is more recommended; at least you can have a decent conversation with the blogger and fellow readers, unlike having one-way chats in the popular blogs.

Handling Comments On Your Blog

Raptors
Photo by Mark Witton

I’ve talked about how a commenter should act and behave on a blog, but I think it’s only fair we analyze how a blogger, in term, manages his comments. I always like to think of a blog as home, if you keep that in mind then commentators are your guests. They have to behave and be respectful, to remain in your “home,” however you in return, as the host, have to at least show them the same favors in return. Also there’s always the delicate issue of moderating comments. If you’ve been blogging for long enough, chances are you’ve had your share of haters, trolls, flamer, spammers and overall bad guys, who’s comments more or less profaned your blog’s integrity.

  1. Respond to comments. This is one of my golden rules of blogging, that I live by. Lately I’ve noticed that a lot of bloggers don’t really respond to comments, think most of them don’t even read them. This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a blogger. Your readers are the one’s that make your blog, not the other way around, otherwise you’re left just with an one way journal. Whenever you get a question via comments or a reader starts a conversation in the comments section, be sure to answer. Don’t leave them in the dark. It’s just plain rude, not to mention that it will greatly hurt your blog. After all to gain a readership, it’s imperative your first build a community of loyal followers. To be a good evangelist in your field, your first priority should be tending to your flock.
  2. Show your appreciation. Comments are very valuable to any blog’s growth. The number of comments a blog gets to every post, is viewed by many as a sign of popularity. When a reader leaves a comment, he is actually making an invaluable contribution, by spending a good portion of his limited time. The least you can do is say a simple “thank you!.”
  3. Make a comment policy. People can’t universally know what’s allowed and what’s not on a blog, unless you tell them. A set of rules on commenting, is thus very necessary, unless you plan to solely rely on people’s common sense. I say it’s better to avoid any future complications and make one asap. You can view mine here.
  4. Publicize your comment policy. After you finish writing up your comment policy, be sure it’s clearly visible to your readers. Put a link to the policy, right in the commenting form, so there’s no doubt about its existence. Ultimately you might as well inform your readers of the blog’s commenting rules through a blog post.
  5. SpeakModerate your comments. I don’t necessarily mean you put your comments on moderation, but rather state you keep an eye on everything that gets through. Look for anything suspicious. If spam gets through your akismet (or whatever spam block tool you use), it will very easy to spot, so that’s not really a problem, manually submitted spam, however, can be a little harder to trace. These comments are usually relevant to your content, being manually submitted, however they’re of low quality, hastily written and most of the time they contain a keyword in the author’s name, with a url leading to a devious website (viagra, high cost SEO services, weight lost products etc.)
  6. Take care of the trolls. Make sure your blog doesn’t contain any sign of profanity, unrest or otherwise what could be described as bad vibe, in your comment section. This usually happens when controversy is sparked by a discussion in the comments area or by the article itself, the reason isn’t important, what’s important however is how you can deal with the situation. You can either: (photo by lazy eye exposure)

    • Ignore. An option is to completely ignore anyone wanting to stir a conflict or flame war on the blog. However this leaves the comments visible to the rest of the readers, who in term might feel offended and ming react, feeding the trolls’ provocations. I don’t like to treat these kind of things indifferently, but I’ve seen a lot of bloggers practicing this method.
    • Delete. Then there’s always the option of deleting malicious and provocative comments, but then you always getting labeled as blog dictator. No matter how stupid that may sound, a lot of trolls get pissed when you delete their comments and get even more effectuated in their quest for a good quarrel., constantly leaving comments, trashing on forums about you or at their own blogs. You blog is your own private property and you may do as you wish with it. If someone trespasses or shows disrespect I see no reason why you shouldn’t offer him the boot. This is my favorite method of dealing with large mouths and trolls, fast and clean.
    • Address. If you’re feeling more diplomatic you can always try to address them and see what’s their beef with you or another reader. Try to mediate the situation, if you succeed, you’ll get a pretty sweet bonus of getting better credentials in the eyes of the community. This can be pretty time consuming though and frankly more or less useless, depending of course on what kind of negative comment it is (criticism or down right bash).

Sunset
Photo by Automania

Ours blogs are one of our most personal possessions. They’re the place for our thoughts, reflections and views upon the world and reality we live in. Comments are a blog’s complementary part. Comments aren’t made by blogs, they make the blog. I always get a bit dishearten when I see lack of commenting from bloggers, because I know it’s simply foolish no to do so. Many advocate lack of time or, well, laziness, but what they should realize though, is that they’re locking in thoughts. By commenting you are not only sharing thoughts, but also voicing them, and in doing so you free them from your brain’s inner barriers. So, by commenting, you actually further expand your horizons on the commented subject. There’s no good reason, not to comment, so common folks, let me hear your thoughts!

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