Short answer. For most of us, no.
I was listening to a favorite podcast this morning and the subject turned to blog and article commenting on websites. The podcast panel expressed their frustration and exhaustion with mundane or moronic blog and website comments. They have become the norm, rather than the exception.
Good points were made on all sides of the discussion. Some of the panelists pointed out that you reap what you sew, while others went the opposite direction and said that there’s simply no point with blog comments anymore – the idiots and machines have taken over (trolls and comment spammers). From a practical perspective, I agree with the latter.
My own experience is that commenting on websites is about social give and take (you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours) and less about an honest reaction to the content or a true desire for conversation. We stray from honesty and clarity in our comments because we have bills to pay and people or customers we don’t want to offend. Or, we get trolls or enemies with a bone to pick who are similarly biased, just with a negative tilt. Either way you sidestep reality.
Today you don’t need a comment system on your website to have engagement. People are engaged by good content. Good writing is engaging. Good video is engaging. Good products are engaging. Good design is engaging. What you need is a person to engage with, therefore an active social network, an email address, a phone number, a physical location, or an easy to find contact us page does the trick.
Even if you allow commenting on your website will anyone see it?
Imagine you saw a beautiful whale breach the water or some similarly rare and exciting event. What’s the first thing you do? You turn around to share the experience with anyone around who may have seen it. Even if they’re a stranger you want to share the experience. Have you had the experience of no one else seeing what you did? It’s a little sad. You can’t interact in an empty forest when you’re the only one around to notice the tree fall.
My point is that if you want to interact with people do it in a venue that has reach, social relevance and immediacy. Five years ago you could do that on a blog. Today, forget it. All but the most popular of blogs are desolate islands when it comes to interaction. If you enjoy what used to be possible on blogs in terms of community, friendship, sharing of ideas or values then migrate that behavior to a new venue.
But what about my blog?
If you’re talking about commenting on your blog it may well not be worth your time to have commenting enabled given the administrative headache of dealing with comment spammers. Just the time you spend fending off comment spam (even with myriad plugins and comment spam solutions) makes you question the investment of time for the occasional quip from a friend or associate. Can’t they interact with you elsewhere anyway? Won’t ten times more people see it on a social network if they do?
A great alternative to blog comments these days is to employ an old world method made popular by magazines and newspapers. Publishing reader mail. Done even moderately well, this is comment moderation and content curation that is superior to blog commenting in every way except one – immediacy. But, that’s more than made up for by the value a well curated weekly post with reader comments can have.
Publishing a weekly or monthly reader email post provides much the same benefit that blog commenting once did – it shows you care about other people and ideas and that you’re open to opposing views and dialog. And I’m confident you’ll be able to sleep at night knowing that you edited out a trolls latest diatribe, your readers will too. Given today’s time and attention starved individual a post of reader email shows you’ve taken the time to moderate and curate your own community of ideas – giving your readers quality and additive information versus troll babble, comment spam, or just plain old crap content.
Got something to say? By all means give me a shout.
Julian co-authors EXCELER8ion with his better half Shannon Seery Gude. EXCELER8ion is a blog about digital engagement.
Most of his time Julian works on behalf of his clients at exceler8 and LOCAL Na8ion. Julian is launching an evolving digital engagement practice called Brand Trampoline where his first client is John Sumser of HRExaminer.com.