Tuesday, December 02, 2008

When and how often should a blogger comment?

One of the things I love about Beth Harte is her inquisitive nature when it comes to social media. Recently, she got an interesting discussion started on her blog around how often bloggers (be it individual or company) should respond to comments left by their readers. Beth believes that every comment from a reader deserves its own response in the form of a comment.

Here are my thoughts: I have always considered this blog to be 'co-created content' between you and I. As a result, I look for ways that I can give you, my readers, more ownership over the content here. This is a big reason why I have the MyBlogLog widget on the side, have a huge blogroll, and add poll questions. All of these are about my readers, either putting the spotlight on you, or giving you more control over the content created here.

And when it comes to comments, my view is that the comments belong to the readers. That's your chance to have your say. As such, my view is that the fewer comments from me, the better. Now I do try to comment on every post that gets comments, but I am very mindful of how many comments I leave. If a post has 10 comments, you might see that 3 of them are from me, possibly 4, but that's pushing it. My feeling is that if there are 20 comments and 10 of them are from me, then I am talking WAY too much. I don't want the conversation to revolve around my opinions, but yours. I stated my opinions/thoughts in the post, the comments are where you have your say.

So it's a bit of a tightrope to walk. Now one area where Beth and I are in complete agreement is when bloggers, especially popular bloggers that are considered 'thought leaders' NEVER respond to comments on their blog. I hate this because these bloggers are viewed as being 'thought leaders' by people that are new to this space, and by companies that are wanting to get involved in social media. They could see how these bloggers never respond, and think that's the best way. But I'll go ahead and put my soapbox back under the bed, as that's a post for another day.

What do you think? Do you prefer Beth's method of responding to every comment, or do you think that less is more when it comes to bloggers responding to readers. Do you think I need to be leaving more comments here, fewer, or is it about right? How do you handle leaving comments on YOUR blog?

Pic via Flickr user crazytales562


Anonymous said...

I think less is more.

I used to comment back to every comment but I found that my comments weren't genuine anymore.

And I knew my readers could sense that. I still definitely comment but they are addressed to my readers as a whole, unless one comment really gets me going.

But I've noticed that if I don't comment when someone has left a negative comment, my readers come to my defense and start their own conversations and it's nice to give them the space to do so.

Great topic Mack!

Anonymous said...

A lot depends on where your blog is. If it's just getting known, host's presence is important. As you said though, absent hosts of popular blogs make me wonder. I followed the tweets about this & agree that as host, responding to content rather than the individual is the way to go.

I think there's a way to comment nearly as much as your readers without making it about you. Some posts allow that. Key is to be part of the conversation & not the say so much, there's nothing left to say.

Beth Harte said...

Am I allowed to comment since I was included in your thoughtful post?! LOL. BTW, LOVE the post graphic...it speaks volumes! :)

Okay, here's the thing, if I have 10 comments, I don't leave 10 comments (well, okay, maybe in the beginning or sometimes...depends on the comment or if I feel I need to clarify or add more info.). Most of the time, I leave one, rather long, comment that addresses all 10 comments. Is this wrong or right? I don't know.

As a result of the debate, I am going to try something I never do tonight. I am going to not respond to everyone individually, but as a group. Not sure I am comfortable with it, but will test it out. I am interested to see if it's okay with people.

Hubert said...

Personally, I think that if you are starting out that it is good to build a rapport with your readers, so I don't think it would be bad to at least say "thank you" to each person that comments. The likelihood is that you probably don't even get enough comments to really seem overbearing anyway.

But as you grow, I still think you should comment, but only to things that will allow you to elaborate on a particular item or tackle something you didn't address that a reader had a question regarding it.

I guess in the end, less is best, but this is when you've got like 500+ subscribers and people commenting on every post. The average blogger doesn't have such traffic though.

Mack Collier said...

Alaina this is the thing I come back to as well. If I have five 'great post!' comments, I want to acknowledge the feedback, but there's really not much I can say other than 'thanks guys!'. So I might comment once to all of them.

And I am lucky in that I don't receive too many negative/nasty comments, but I agree, usually my readers will come back 'now wait a minute!'. Disagreement is fine, but no one likes someone that's disagreeable.

Mack Collier said...

Ok Beth I stressed this last night and want to do it again here, but in the end, you have to do what works best for you. I don't want you to look at how I (or anyone else) handles commenting and think 'Well...I like my way but maybe I should change because they are doing it differently'. Experimentation is fine, but if a certain way works best for you, that's what you should run with!

I think this kinda goes back to what GaryVee said at the MPDMM, he mentioned how when he first started out, he would write pages back to emails, but now he gets so many, that he can only answer each with 'thanks dude, you're rad!' or something like that. We all have to scale as we can, and prioritize as we can.

I would just hate to see you change something that's working for you, because you think that the way I or anyone else does it might be 'better'.

Anonymous said...

I don't comment on every comment. As you suggested, Mack, the blogger can then end up dominating the discussion. And the comments can become ingenuous, as single mam said.

Here's a possible idea for company blogs -- Have a few standard thank-you's ready to send as an email to commenters, so they know they're being heard even if you're not commenting on every single comment.

Anonymous said...

Opps. I meant to say... comments can become disingenuous. (Too fast on the Send button)

Beth Harte said...

That's right, it's MY blog dangit! LOL! But seriously, this isn't about me. Really.

It's about companies and bloggers who stop responding because they can't scale and how does that effect the community that THEY'VE created. What happens when the community is left to converse amongst themselves and how long does that last?! And how long will the community put up with not being conversed with before they move elsewhere?

@DarkRadiance said it best: If you don't engage/respond from the beginning, that's fine. But don't disengage/stop responding mid-way through.

I think companies need to really consider this (and a plan for scaling) before they go down the social media path.

Tools scale, people and time do not.

Uh, no need to comment back. ;-)

Mack Collier said...

Beth I agree, if readers are expecting a certain behavior, and you give them something less than that, they won't be happy. Totally get that and I agree, companies have to consider if they can keep up with this, or if they will need to. I believe it's Ice Cream Journal where the posts get dozens of comments, but the main blogger rarely replies. But the readers always use the comments to talk to each other. I guess they expect that the blogger might not reply, and just talk to each other.

Sorry, you got a reply, and I'm gonna shut up for a while now cause I am breaking my own rule about commenting too much ;)

Pamir, Hubert and David, thanks for your comments as well!

Unknown said...

There is no wrong answer. I just do what comes naturally to me. Sometimes I comment after each other times I don't comment at all.

Anonymous said...

This question is dear to me.

I think so much depends on the audience and the audience can change from one post to another.

Some comments spur me to a complete response. Many do. I read them and think, I have something I want to say back to this individual about what's been said here.

Some people have the same effect -- it's their tone or their manner or the fact that they've never been to my blog before.

Other comments are not so moving. They point and one that follows carries on that same point. I often answer them together.

And some days an entire discussion occurs while I'm gone to a meeting. I comment on the whole thing when I return. I think readers have room for that.

I try to comment the way I might if I was visiting folks at that party we always refer to.

I agree with everyone -- the only "wrong" way is to stand outside the conversation or above it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mack,
I don't think there is a right or wrong, and there may not be a mathematical answer. As a new commenter and reader of blogs, I REALLY appreciate the blogger taking moment to comment on my comment. It is NOT expected, but if I have added something of value to the conversation or your readership, it is helpful to have the blogger, who is the LEADER to foster that along.

The blogger is the Leader, which is what this boils down to for me, the blogger is Leading their community,

Anonymous said...

Beth is wonderful about commenting on comments. So is Drew McLellan. They are both amazingly attentive. It works for them, because, well... it *is* them. They are totally, 100 percent, sincere and interested and engaged.

I can't say it works completely for me. But I, too, am totally and sincerely interested and engaged. I comment back when I have something to say, but sometimes -- like you, Mack -- I'd rather leave a little more room for the community to take over.

That said, I do try and acknowledge commenters in other ways -- with a quick "thanks" DM on Twitter, maybe, or a personal email back.

In general, one size doesn't fit all. I think it's about being responsive in SOME way. How...? I'm not sure that matters all that much.

Anonymous said...

I think it comes back to authenticity and engagement.

Just as I think that ideally every commenter should be adding to the conversation with meaningful insights rather than just noise, so too should a response from the original poster.

I worry too that a one:one response will almost appear like the poster is being defensive. They had the first word (the post) and they are holding onto their right for the last.

Anonymous said...


I like your approach to commenting on comments. I don't get nearly as many as you (or Beth, for that matter), but I don't think the blogger *needs* to reply, 1 to 1, to every comment. In fact, a comment stream in which 10 of the 20 comments come from the blogger himself/herself would strike me as a little much.

But really, it just depends, right? It depends on the blogger's preference, method of acknowledgment (I like Ann's suggestion of a quick Twitter DM to say thanks), and the volume of comments.

Bryan Person | @BryanPerson

Mack Collier said...

Guys thanks again for all the great comments. I agree completely with the general sentiment that everyone has to figure out what works for them. But many of the readers here are people that are new to social media, and maybe thinking about launching a blog for their company. So this would be a question they might wonder about, and to read how the experts such as yourselves handle this is invaluable to them.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this post and the comments! We just launched a blog and I have been debating this very issue. I think my takeaway is that we need to do more on our site but still keep it on the lower side.

Thanks again!

Amber said...

My guidepost is that I comment when a particular comment moves me to respond. It's that simple. The comments to me are a continuation of the dialogue, so if I have something additional to contribute, or something someone says prompts me to respond, that's when I do.

I'll be honest that sometimes I *want* to comment back and I forget to. It's something I'm learning to rebalance as my readership grows.

But I don't think it brings value to the conversation just for me to say "hey, thanks for commenting." I've said my piece in the post, and my further comments should be just one voice in the ongoing discussion. If there's an especially compelling dialogue, I try hard to show up and thank everyone for lending their voice to the discussion because without them, it wouldn't be half as interesting.

Anonymous said...

I side more with Beth on this as I'm more prone to reply to almost every commenter. My take is that I want my readers (however few they may be) that I care about their opinion and that I'm reading every single one of their thoughts.

Would it be different if I got Chris Brogan-like comments on every post? Maybe but one thing I would always keep constant is to email every commenter to thank them. I appreciate bloggers a lot when they do either or.

Anonymous said...


I think that GOOD comments deserve and equally good response.

I usually don't respond to comments that just say, "I agree," or "Great post!" because, I mean, what's that?

To minimize my comments on my own blogs, I will sometimes tackle several reader responses in one comment of my own thus reducing the number of "ego comments".

I actually, wrote a post about this very subject on the Marketing Prof's Daily Fix blog, called "Bloggers on Blast", you might want to check it out: http://www.mpdailyfix.com/2008/12/bloggers_on_blast.html

Anonymous said...

If you have a regular crowd, then you know pretty much how they think, and so responding directly becomes far less necessary, (unless they bring up a point which needs addressing). In that case, I throw a topic out there and let them have at it.

But someone new will usually get a response from me if they make a good point. (If their response though is negative, then I address that until I think the issue’s resolved.)

Anonymous said...

Some great comments. Is it fair to take it on a case by case basis? Here's the thing, if you wrote the post and had say 2-6 comments, I think it's a good idea to respond to the comments. If it's 50+ like a Brogan, It's virtually impossible. Especially if that occurs every day. Now sometimes, if I have taken the time to craft a good response to a post, I would like a response and when I don't get it.. I won't say I am miffed as much as I might be thinking, "Did I say something wrong"? That's why I think. Its case by case. I think bloggers who are just starting out should be inclined to respond to every one. Here's one thing no one brought up but I know Beth does very well. She responds twice. Once on the post and once in email. Sometimes I do either or, sometimes both-The question is: In which forum should you respond?