say it loud

We can’t promise you good things will happen when you put yourself out there. But we can guarantee that nothing will happen if you do nothing.”
Oren Sherman, Artist and Marketing Consultant

Beth Kanter asks:

What is your feeling about the value of comments to blogging?”

I responded in her comments, and felt moved to expand on the theme here, on my own time and bandwidth.

The short answer is yes, of course bloggers should keep comments open. It’s what makes a blog a blog. Sure, other distinguishing features include reverse chronological posting, and a combination of text, links, and other media. But comments are what qualifies blogs as social media. Comments distinguish blogs from other websites.

Certainly, there are excellent blogs that don’t, or rarely, open up comments. This seems mostly to be a matter of scale; some blog writers with very large readerships don’t want to respond to, deal with, or lend bandwidth to hundreds of comments on every post.

But this is hardly a concern for bloggers who are just starting out — their problem is often too few readers, not too many. Instead, it’s usually the fear of negative comments that impels novice bloggers to keep comments closed.

This fear is multiplied when it’s a CEO or Executive Director blog, or a corporate blog at any level that faces the public.

What you don’t know until you try is that:

  1. Most comments are supportive, especially when you are just starting out;
  2. Supportive comments are excellent motivation to keep writing;
  3. Motivation to keep writing cools rapidly without that positive feedback.

Without comments, it’s hard not to feel like nobody is listening. It’s also nearly impossible to know what’s working, and what’s not.

Rachel Happe wrote a very clear and useful post today about how to assess if your company is ready for social media. She encourages organizations to ask themselves what their internal “political” climate is regarding social media (how do most people in the organization view blogs? social networks? forums?); what resources do they have available for social media (staff time, money, and planning tools); and process (what is the process for responding to feedback? how will feedback be processed, internalized, and used?), among other highly relevant questions.

If a new blogger isn’t ready to open up comments, for whatever reason, it may be that they are simply not ready to blog. There’s nothing wrong with that.

And if they do want to test the waters, and just try getting into the rhythm of writing every day without the added element of comments, then they should be able to do that, too.

I don’t think it’s particularly useful to take a purist stand on this issue. What’s right for one person won’t be right for another. What’s scary to a person one day might very soon become less frightening as time goes on. Fortunately, it’s a very big internet out there. There’s room for lots of different variations on the theme.

3 Thoughts.

  1. I wonder what the default setting is on blog software – comments opened or closed? :-)

    These are great points, Beth. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Hi Beth –

    I couldn’t agree more and it is, in fact, the difference between Madison Avenue-style marketing and conversational marketing. Do you want to close your ears and broadcast out…and just assume you know your market or do you want to engage and actually respond to your market. Blogs – with comments or not – is just the individual version of this choice.

    Rachel

  3. In my experience helping people or organization start a blog, the comment default is on, just to clarify for Beth’s question. :)

    One thing that I would add for new bloggers who aren’t ready just yet for public feedback in a comments section: set up a new email account on gmail or something and at the end of blog posts and in a side panel, let people know they can send their feedback/comments/ideas/etc to that email address. It will let people provide feedback and feel that there is a “social” media side to the blog, but let the new blogger get a feel for what kind of reactions their posts generate and how to deal with/digest/respond to comments.

    Thanks for the great post, Beth!

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