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Gini Dietrich

Responding (Or Not) to Blog Comments

By: Gini Dietrich | June 19, 2012 | 
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Earlier this year, I traveled to Norway to share a stage with Mitch Joel, Valeria Maltoni, Chris Brogan, and Maggie Fox.

During our stay there, we ended up having a conversation about blog comments and replying to them. In fact, it’s a conversation Mitch and I have nearly every time we talk.

You see, he writes to write. It’s like a disease for him. He has to get the words out of his head and onto the computer screen. He figures he’s had his say by doing that and the comments are for everyone else to have their say.

Valeria, who is one of the smartest people I know, rarely gets any comments, but her blog is one of the go-tos for nearly everyone in marketing. It’s one of a handful of blogs I have come into my email (instead of my RSS feed) so I don’t miss it every day.

And, of course, Chris gets a gazillion comments and he replies to nearly every one of them.

Is it Scientific?

So we have three camps:

  1. The blog is widely read, but no one comments (Valeria);
  2. The blogger has his or her say and leaves the comments open for everyone to debate, argue, or agree with one another, but the blogger rarely responds (Mitch); and
  3. The blogger replies to every comment left on his or her blog post (Chris and me).

I wanted to see if any of the camps leads to a scientific analysis of how well a blog does and I did it solely based on the AdAge listing.

According to the seven scores they use to compile the listing:

  • Chris is #4
  • Mitch is #31
  • Valeria is #52
  • Spin Sucks is #69

So that doesn’t really tell us anything, at least not from a numbers and science perspective, about which way is the right way.

To Reply or Not

It really just depends. If you’re like Mitch and you write for yourself, building community and replying to blog comments isn’t as important. But, if you’re like me, building community, debating ideas, and listening to other people’s perspectives is as equally important as putting the thought onto the computer screen.

Take, for instance, the conversation we had a couple of weeks ago about Warren Buffet buying 63 local newspapers because they’re cashflow positive.

Of course, I wrote that blog post from my perspective. I live in a big city where we have two daily newspapers and the local news is really national news. But many of the comments were from readers in smaller communities and they see huge value in their local paper and their local news.

This is not something I’d considered before I wrote the blog post. We all write from our own perspectives and listening to, debating, and really opening your mind to new and different thoughts is how you grow.

I’m not, by any means, saying those bloggers who don’t respond don’t grow by reading the comments on their blogs. I’m simply saying I learn more by actually having the debate with some of you, in the written word.

So Where Does that Leave Us?

Your blog is your home. You can do with it what you like. Sure, I have some days that I’m traveling or swamped with meetings and I can’t check on the blog throughout the day. Those are the days I find one or two readers is asking as host (without my asking) and baiting people into conversation.

I love that.

But I also love the days where I can check in multiple times and do my own baiting. And, trust me, sometimes I debate people just to see if they’ll come back for more (they don’t always).

But it’s entirely up to you, your blog’s vision, and what you’re trying to achieve. Going into 2014, I’ll be blogging, and commenting for a very specific reason (cough, writing another book, cough) and you’ll discover I’m starting conversations around things I want to use later.

It will be almost more important for me to hear your perspectives, for that purpose, than for me to get my ideas in front of you. Of course, that will be the conversation starter, but it won’t stop there.

None of the three camps is right or wrong. You figure out why you are blogging (or want to blog) and you do it in a way that works for you. Find a blogger who does it that way you do, someone you respect and admire, and emulate them. Don’t do it because of their AdAge ranking or their popularity score.

Do what works for you.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

265 comments
Tony Escobar
Tony Escobar

I'd add that responding to comments tells readers the author is listening. That fact alone will surely encourage more (and better) conversations. But you're right, there is no right or wrong. There's only what works for you. Good stuff :)

Latest blog post: Free Thoughts

AbsoNarcissism
AbsoNarcissism

If my lil' ol' blog got 162 retweets, I'm not sure I would even know where to go with that. I'd be too busy grinning ear to ear! :)

msrasberryinc
msrasberryinc

I respond to all comments on my blogs- positive or negative. I feel it's the least I can do to acknowledge someone who's taken the time to not only read my post but to also comment. Granted, I don't get hundreds (or even dozens) of comments per post. If that were the case I might reevaluate. At the very least I think someone who is putting their writing out for public consumption should attempt to care about feedback, even if you can't respond to every single comment. It's like the folks on Twitter who promote but never engage - what's the point?

TonyBennett
TonyBennett

Cough, as a reader, I appreciate and frequent bloggers who engage with their audience, cough. I guess I didn't really need to cough there. Also, sounds like I'm missing out on Valeria's blog.. cough, I'll go visit it, cough.

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

Like everyone else, Your Mileage May Vary.

 

-- Why are you blogging? Is it business or pleasure, to grow a community, to make yourself king of the Lecture Circuit or sell a few books? YMMV.

-- What are you writing? Is it all thought leadership? Is it lead generation and inbound marketing? SEO and links and lists? Are you writing for comments, a little debate or controversy? YMMV. 

-- Who is really reading? Who is commenting? Lurkers lurk. Maybe you're going after the business owners and communications managers, but it's just 'us' SM and PR types doing all the commenting and tweeting? MMV. 

-- Is a blog a passion - or obligation? MMV. If you're selling a grapefruit and pistachio diet, you gotta be seen eating that, losing weight with it right? It's why so many agency blogs are unread, uncommented IMO - they're just going through the motions.

 

Not naming names but it doesn't escape my notice when I leave what I think is a smart comment that somewhat disagrees/debates doesn't get a reply, but ones that build on the original post get something in reply. It also doesn't escape my notice when bloggers hype, preach, rant about twee notions of engagement, listening, of participating and community (audience being different, h/t @JayBaer ) and then they don't walk that talk. YMMV.

 

Many of the people you've listed - I sometimes read what they post, I respect what they have to share. If I find what they share valuable, that's up to me if I want to take the time to comment. Clearly I'm in love with the sound of my own typing, can't help myself. ;-)

 

As for my blog I don't have the luxury of 100 comments per post, so it's very easy for me to say that I'll reply to comments. If I put something out there for the world to see, it's b/c I want it to do something (see the list above) and b/c I'm interested in seeing if anyone else either feels the same or totally hates it - and can help me learn something new. Fact is: if someone honors my blog w/ their eyeballs, a link back or gives me the time and consideration of a smart comment, least I can do is reply. FWIW.

jennwhinnem
jennwhinnem

I find it hard to buy the whole "I write for myself" thing when that writing is appearing on a public blog. If you just "need to get it out" why do you need to do it in a public forum? Clearly there's something more at work.

Marcus_Sheridan
Marcus_Sheridan

Wonderful and thoughtful post G', as always, and you know this is something I've thought about like 1,435,677 time to this point.

 

Here's the bottom line for me: Comments are great, conversation is healthy, and words from others can certainly inspire....Not withstanding, you (or me, or anyone else) should never feel guilty if business and life simply don't allow for responses.

 

And readers should respect that.

rdopping
rdopping

 @ginidietrich   Juicy content for sure. There is no way I have time to read 202 comments. Guess that's your job. I dunno, it seems like if I put something out there then if someone actually takes time out of their busy life to leave a comment that I should respect that and acknowledge it.

 

Also, I blog to learn and comments are where you gain some perspective on what you wrote and the repartee is where the cool stuff happens. That's where I would love to be and is what I am aiming for in my blogging.

dillon_smart
dillon_smart

Just Thought I Would Comment, Head to www.wereadyourmind.com for the latest in blogging and tech news, no just that there is my some what personal blog too.

Andrea T.H.W.
Andrea T.H.W.

First thing to consider, for those having an offline life, is time and answering to comments if there are many is really time consuming especially if someone is also logged in on FB. But many times I think it's a matter of respect for readers who take the time to leave a comment and not just to enflate the blogger Ego.

 

Probably stating the comments policy is the best way to go so readers don't get upset by writing a comment and waiting ages for a reply, imho. :)

 

As you rightly say also it depends from circumstances and personal tastes or styles.

wabbitoid
wabbitoid

Comments are what make us better.  My humble li'l blog is absolutely nothing more than the things I simply have to get out of my head if I'm going to have a chance at doing something considered "productive" in a world that has no use for what's on my mind.  And I get a fair number of comments on it, too, which is great.  But through the discussion these diversions of mine become more clear, crystalline thoughts that sometimes add up to something far more than they were when I had to clear them out.  

It's always best to talk these things through and be social about it.  So why not respond and be a part of a discussion?  I've been blessed with a community that rarely gives me "great post!" or other BS comments and they rarely stray far off the topic at hand, so why shouldn't I be a part of the discussion?  

Good comments make us better - as writers, as philosophers, as humans.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@CraigMcBreen The crazies are out in full force today!

ikepigott
ikepigott

@ginidietrich What is this "blog" of which you speak?

accuconference
accuconference

@ginidietrich Spin Sucks isn't out of control - You are!

margieclayman
margieclayman

I try really hard to respond to comments - I figure someone took the time to read my brainz and respond to my brainz. They should at the very least get more of my brainz. A crappy reward, no doubt, but it's the thought that counts :) (So I tell myself). 

RmSorg
RmSorg

I love how you break it down into 3 different styles! I blog for community involvement and conversation ... Great post!

Kristi Hines
Kristi Hines

Sometimes, it can come down to having the time to either reply to all of your comments or continue to create content that helps your readers and gives them something to discuss.  Personally, I'd rather take the time to create the content - although I'd love to reply to the comments that comes with each piece, it's tough, and if I have to choose, I choose to create.  :)

Latest blog post: Featured

EdenSpodek
EdenSpodek

I think I'm going to have to read @mitchjoel 's post and any from the others names who decide to weigh in on this discussion. Not that I'm blogging much these days but I agree with @DannyBrown  in that if someone takes the time to post a thoughtful comment, I'd like to show them I'm listening. Like you, I also find what they have to say is valuable although I'm not sure I'm as comfortable with confrontation. 

JBBC
JBBC

@CraigMcBreen i read it earlier. Think if someone goes to trouble of leaving a comment you should reply to them

Tinu
Tinu

I'm a responder, or at least I try to be. Sometimes a post gets responded to weeks or occasionally months later and I miss it. But the ones I see I like to respond to ASAP.  I don't think there's something inherently wrong with folks who don't respond, but I *do* appreciate blogs by authors who have no intention of responding who link to their forums instead. Why waste the comments space (and in my opinion, waste my time) if you have absolutely no intention of responding? It truly does depend on what your goals are though. 

Hajra
Hajra

There isn't nothing more lovelier than a good comment or just any comment - debate, discuss, agree, disagree. But having the author respond to it makes it all the more worthwhile somehow. I always feel that if the reader has taken the interest and the initiative to read one's post and then have their ideas about it, it makes more sense to respond to it. Well, comments like  "Nice post, come visit my blog at so and so dot com" can be left as they are; but the others do need to be addressed. At least an acknowledgment, but I would always comments to be responded to. 

 

For me its like someone coming over to my place, I offering them drinks and then leaving them with the drinks and going back to my room... poor souls would probably never come back.... Just sayin'...

wonderoftech
wonderoftech

Hi Gini, I'm in the respond to comments camp, like you and Chris. To me it seems that if someone takes the time to visit my place and leave a comment, then I should respond. If someone came to my home and talked to me, I would respond back, so I guess I feel as if my blog is my virtual home in a way. 

 

I have visited blogs where the content is mostly informational and the author doesn't respond. That's fine but it doesn't build a sense of community and that's a big part of the pleasure of blogging for me.

lizreusswig
lizreusswig

As a reader it's enjoyable to interact with the blogger on an interesting topic, but I agree there is no one right way to handle comments.  I think what's really brilliant though, is that a single blog post like this (and you are brilliant @ginidietrich ) is that it has sparked so much more conversation not only in comments, but in other blog posts as well - like @mitchjoel who recently "commented" via his own blog post on this topic.  Now that's interaction &  community!!  

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

I love all of the conversation- and additional blog posts!-that this has spawned. I think the only unique thought (and perhaps this has already been said) that I can add is sometimes you don't know and can't predict the outcome of engagement. Case study- I sell.  Yet I read Spin Sucks because I like it- well written, informative, funny. Then Gini follows me on twitter, which encourages me to comment, she responds, we add on linked in, I comment more, we become FB friends, she buys zombie garden gnomes, I feel she is my soul sister and I can't wait to meet her in person. Aww, unicorns and rainbows and puppies all around! But what has the value been for Gini up until now? Sure, I bought 1 copy of Marketing in the Round (which she WILL autograph!). I chose to use my PD funds on Social Mix this year for a chance to see her live.  Still not earth shattering.  But what Gini does not know is because of this I have submitted her name to speak at a conference held by Canada's top business school. Perhaps she will be invited, perhaps she will not, perhaps she will decline the invitation if it is offered. But I don't think either of us would have been able to predict that this opportunity should arise, whatever becomes of it.  I thank you Gini for making me feel welcome in your community.

 

 

ShakirahDawud
ShakirahDawud

@pmswish Post was a thought-provoker. When I visited Mitch's blog for the 1st time, I commented. Haven't since, but haven't stopped reading.

mitchjoel
mitchjoel

I started writing a comment and I kept writing and writing and wouldn't you know it, a new blog post was birthed. I've added my thoughts right here: http://bit.ly/PlBeEd (you many want to pack a lunch).

 

Thanks for always insipiring, @ginidietrich

Craig McBreen
Craig McBreen

Hi Gini,

 

I'll be honest. If someone goes to the trouble to write a well thought out comment I feel I owe it to that person to at least respond, but that's me and I might change my view on this as I go. Commenters add to the conversation and a great comment is often the catalyst for a new blog post.

 

But like Danny said, there is no right answer.

 

For me, as a relatively new blogger (ahem, Bill Dorman will jump in and bust my chops for this statement) comments are Extremely important. Why? Well in my case they've helped me clarify what I want to do here. Comments turn into great conversations which often move to Skype or email. They've helped guide me.

 

Also, I met some great people at BlogWorld and those relationships started on the comment sections of their respective blogs. Still amped-up by the event.

 

Comments:

--Build community;

--You help others and they help you;

--Lead to friendships or  business relationships;

--I could go on ...

 

Okay, enough, right? Time to gather 'round and sing "Kumbaya" :)

iparcel1
iparcel1

@jaybaer @ginidietrich Yes!

KristenDaukas
KristenDaukas

Aha!! Got in. 

 

There are posts that I write that really don't warrant comments, so when I don't get them I'm okay with that. But there are ones that I write that are VERY open to comments & that's what I want and when I don't get them, it bothers me. Well, not in the "cry myself to sleep, throw in the towel" sense but still... And NOTHING makes me crazier than when I make a comment on someones blog and they don't respond.

Latest blog post: Joie de Vivre

KristenDaukas
KristenDaukas

@ginidietrich The irony? I can't leave a comment because I can't login to @livefyre ... and it was a good one, too.

AaronStrout
AaronStrout

@jaybaer i try to. but you are the master. one of the reason why i think you have such a large and dedicated following. #smartblogger

sydcon_mktg
sydcon_mktg

I really enjoy the blog comments, interaction & banter. I feel it adds character to the blog as well as the article. You can also learn a great deal about the author thru comments.  I find the comments to be a extension of the blog itself, many times giving more insight into the topic and thought process that was behind it. 

 

Our blog isnt one that gets many comments, but I find I enjoy it more when there are some, almost motivates me to write more.  Its like discussing a book in a book club.  I would rather have a discussion, than feel like I just rambled on to dead air. 

ShakirahDawud
ShakirahDawud

I usually think people are commenting because they want to start a conversation, so I respond to offer that. Most of the time, that single comment was the single thing they had to say. But there are comments I really want to just Like (I have Livefyre) and leave alone because they really don't require a response.

 

I read and share @mitchjoel because I appreciate his thoughts. I just don't comment, because when I do it's because I want to start a dialogue (albeit brief) with the author, not just speak my piece and go.

 

No matter how responsive a blogger is to commenters, if the content isn't worth the time, it won't grow regardless. If the content is wonderful, everyone will be all over it regardless. So I think as readers we learn the rules at everyone's blog; we'll take the good stuff however it comes to us.

Mark_Harai
Mark_Harai

If you just want to write and serve up valuable information, that's all good, and effective too. If you want to connect with people in the same way and develop deeper relationships with folks you're drawn to - that can only happen by joining in conversations with them.

 

For me, I prefer the relationship benefits that social media provides. That does take an investment of time, just like the personal and business relationships you've developed offline. After all, they're just as real and valuable as your offline relationships, and often even more so.

 

These relationships can develop into much more than just a reader of your valuable content.

 

If you don't happen to be a Mitch Joel, Chris Brogan, or Gini Dietrich, it's also the best way to establish trust and develop a relationships with people who don't know you, but would like to.

 

Hope all is well in Gini's world : )

 

 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@ScottMonty LOL! Nice, Scott. Way to get me in trouble! @mitchjoel

maggielmcg
maggielmcg

I'm in Mitch's camp and glad to see I'm not the only one who feels like that. I write because I love writing. Period. I don't get paid to blog, I don't do it to generate business or leads (I have a full-time job), and I'm not on any lists nor do I aspire to be. I write when I have time, and while I occasionally try to respond to comments, most of the time I just...don't. I sometimes feel guilty about it and worry that I should do better...then I remind myself that blogging is a hobby for me and the people I need to worry about interacting with live in my house, not on the interwebs. I'd rather get it wrong by not optimizing the community I could have through my blog if I were more interactive than get it wrong by spending even more time online than I already do at the expense of my husband, kids and IRL friends.

bdorman264
bdorman264

So, is the repetitive response 'who are you' I get here baiting? Oh, I have plenty of responses but now that you are a high falootin' published author with a legitimate audience I try to stay on my best behavior so I won't get banned like @skypulsemedia has at Mashable. 

 

Of course, you are still waiting for an intelligent, informed response from me you can actually respond to, but it's all about the points to me; I think I'm over 2,000 now. 

 

Yes, it's your house and you can do as you like. In my humble opinion, the people who don't respond might as well be a snooze fest; very similar to following a one sided tweet from an athlete or a celebrity. Boooooorrrrrinnnngggg..........

 

I would give you a hall pass however, just because; and Jenny Lawson @TheBloggess gets one, just because too. Everybody else............fuhgetaboutit. 

 

Even if you are crazy busy you seem to be able to respond; I just hope it never gets so overwhelming you have to change that part of your model. It makes you uniquely you and it's why everybody loves Gini. And that's a fact..........

Shonali
Shonali

Um... why did you skip a year... or is 2013 already accounted for? 

It's like you said - to each their own, do what works for you, etc. I will say this, however; for me, you (speaking generally) have to be Seth Godin to get away with not replying to blog comments. I don't care if you do it late (I'm guilty of doing this), but do it.

Outside of the fact that you write and publish a ton of good content on SS, one of the major reasons people flock here is because YOU respond to them. Not anyone else - YOU. This is not to start the personal branding debate, but 99% of the time, there is one persona that is more closely associated with a blog, even if it publishes from a variety of authors. That is the persona that drives the blog community, and that's what you do really well.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Quick separate note - do you have enough sharing options at the end of the post? ;-)

 

There's no right answer. For me, I like to respond to all comments that warrant a response (i.e., not just a "great post" type of comment), because that person has taken the time out of their day to visit my blog as opposed to the millions of others out there. So the very least I can do to thank them is offer a response to their comment.

 

But, it's entirely down to the individual and their goals.

tjohansmeyer
tjohansmeyer

@lisagerber @spinsucks I usually ignore them -- they're all nuts ;-)

sometimesicing
sometimesicing

Totes: "My industry has a specific capability in taking smart and able people and burning them out to the point of no return." - @mitchjoel

mitchjoel
mitchjoel

@scottmonty @ginidietrich @SpinSucks She's still my Social Media Wife...

Communic8nHowe
Communic8nHowe

I think if responding to comments is incredibly important to blogging. It's what makes it a social media platform by making it interactive. But it needs to include the author.

 

No offence to Mitch and Geoff but if you don't respond to comments either individually or a group of them collectively, you might as well turn off the comments like Seth Godin does. At that point, I don't consider it to be a blog but rather a series of articles--but if you're writing for yourself that's pretty much what you're doing anyhow.

 

I believe blogging implies taking your approach. I think Jay Baer is bang on with his comments. But then again maybe I'm only commenting so that I can retweet the post so that people see my "smart" comments. But isn't that worth something?

Trackbacks

  1. […] This is the type of thing that really does help build community, and what Gini Dietrich was talking about the other day in her post about responding to blog comments. […]

  2. […] Responding (Or Not) to Blog Comments –  One of the biggest debates in the blogosphere is whether you should respond to every comment on your blog, some comments or not at all. You are allowing comments, right? Gini Dietrich opens up the debate at Spin Sucks. Take time to read through the discussion there about how different people approach it. (Hint – there’s no right answer!). […]

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