Mining for Gold in Blog Comments

Two blog posts caught my eye today. The first was The Art of Blog Commenting by Arik Hanson, and the other was The Time for Location-Based Marketing is Now by Gini Dietrich.

Two different blog posts – Arik’s (as the title suggests) is about blog comments, while Gini’s is about platforms like Foursquare and Gowalla and acts as a rebuttal to a recent Forrester report.

Yet despite being different, they’re both very much tied together by one defining factor – blog comments.

You see, what both blog posts confirmed is something I believe in wholeheartedly – it’s not the blog that offers the most bang for your buck, but the comments that follow once published.

Digital Gold

While a blog starts any conversation, that’s all a good blog should be – a conversation starter.

Think about it – why do you blog (either personally or as a business)? To extend your brand? To promote products and news? To increase your search rankings? All of the above? None? Some? Others?

It doesn’t really matter, since all you’re doing is opening up a conversation.

  • Customer to sales.
  • Potential client to marketing.
  • Job-seeker to new employer.
  • Website to Google’s algorithms.

All these and more are simply conversations between two entities – the blog and whatever shape the audience takes.

So if you’re opening up a conversation to connect to your audience, then there’s only one place that happens – the comments section. And that part of your blog is where the digital gold is melted into shape.

Look Beyond the Blogger

One of the things I hear a lot when speaking to new clients about their existing social strategies is the advice to “read bloggers X, Y and Z to learn about your business.”

Good points. Bloggers X, Y and Z are writing some great stuff and there’s no doubt there are useful nuggets to take away.

But the real juice? That’s not necessarily from the bloggers, who often stop at the crucial point of ideas without offering real-world ideas or examples to let you take away and put into action. Maybe that’s just for paying clients…

Which is why I always advise to go beyond the blogger and read more into the comments if you want to find the real gold.


Take Gini’s post about geo-location marketing, for example. She makes some excellent points on why Forrester are off the mark with their report, and uses figures and ideas to show why. But Gini is a marketer – that’s her job (and one that she’s damn good at).

But in the comments, there are even more ideas that show businesses what their customers want. If I’m a marketing or promotions manager at Starbucks, for example, I’d be looking at Rob Reed’s comment and putting that on the agenda at my next brainstorming meeting.

Who knows, I might just find that Rob’s suggestion saves me thousands in focus groups but makes me millions in sales.

That’s just one example – considering there are at least 133 million blogs in the world, think how many other examples there could be.

Content is the Apperitif

What both Arik and Gini’s posts show – and many others like them – is that content (while still great) is no longer the king.

Yes, it’s hugely important, and not only shows your thoughts on a topic, but your expertise to a potential client, employer or customer. And as a marketing platform for your business, a blog is hard to beat.

But the real meat is in the comments. That’s where the creativity can really be let loose, and ideas bounced off others and taken to new heights. There’s no limit to a comments section, but there is a finite amount to what makes a readable blog post.

So think of the blog as the apperitif. A great cocktail to ease you into the main course ahead – the comments.

If you’re a business, think of who you want to have a drink with (your customers), and then get out to the restaurant (blog) they frequent the most. And then listen to what they’re ordering.

Because order filling is what you’re good at, right?

Creative Commons License photo credit: damo1977
Creative Commons License photo credit: lusobrandane

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  1. Gini Dietrich says

    Danny, as usual, brilliant post. I JUST had a conversation with a client today on how easy it is to come up with new content when you really read the comments on your own blog. and, taken a step further, the conversations started in LinkedIn around a discussion. This gift Al Gore has given us in the Internet is really making us smarter and companies can do really great research by paying attention to comments. Which leads to an entirely new idea in letting people actually tell you what they think: Good, bad, and ugly.

    Now if we could get Starbucks to read the blog…and get to Rob’s comment.

    • says

      And the great thing with the good, bad and ugly approach is that if you use that feedback properly, there’s less bad and ugly to worry about.

      Wait – Starbucks doesn’t read Spin Sucks?? 😉

  2. says

    Great advice and so very true. After reading a great blog post, I make sure I spend time reading through the comments. Sometimes that’s when I find the most valuable insights and thought-provoking conversations. Thanks for the post!

    • says

      Hi Annie,

      Funnily enough, the title of your last blog post is another way that comments can help too. You never know what relationships you can build from them. :)

  3. says

    Great insight Danny. In some ways it is like a blog post acts as a great billboard or television commercial but with one difference… you get to hear and engage in the talk around the water cooler.

    I think comments on a popular blog act as some of the best market research around. Whilst checking a few boxes and writing compulsory comments is ok, getting voluntary comments from people on specific topics is invaluable.

    @Gini I thought you did a great job of putting the Geo-Location figures into perspective. My personal issue with factual based reports, sometimes they can be made to appear in a biased light. Saying 4% of people use Foursquare will always get a negative reaction compared to saying 80 million people use Foursquare.

    • says

      Hi Jay,

      Agreed, fella. That’s exactly the phrase we use a lot in client meets. We ask how much they spend on target and focus groups, and then show them examples of blogs where comment feedback is just as valuable (if not more so) than any paid focus group will ever give.

      Particularly since your readers aren’t biased by the participation fee of a focus group… 😉

  4. says

    It’s all about engagement, Danny. Without engagement, social media is at best a monologue.

    Comments is one great way to make meaningful connections – and as you said – harnessing the insights and wisdom from our networks. Best of all, it’s free!

    On the sidelines, how easy do we make it for our audience to share “rich” comments? The richness here refers to using multiple channels – images, audio, videos et. al.

    A picture is at times worth a million words – and the easier we, as bloggers make it, the more rich comments will flow in.

    • says

      Great points, Kapil.

      A call-to-action is only as good as the person (or platform) offering the call in the first place.

      You’re not going to ask folks to glue their hands together and then try applaud your actions; so why restrict on your blog?

  5. says

    Many blogs do not start a discussion for me. If they post any bullet-proof tutorials or guides then you usually can only answer ‘thank you’ in the comments.

  6. Rich Pulvino says

    Insightful post, Danny. You can’t be social without having a conversation, or else you’d just be talking to yourself.

    I’d say it’s a 60-40 split between who’s more vital to the conversation: the person who starts it, or the people who drive it. Like you said, you have to be talking about something interesting if people are going to join in.

    I think the best way to help drive the conversation is for the blogger to end the post with some questions. The questions don’t necessarily need to be addressed in the comments, but hopefully it will get readers thinking.

    • says

      Would you encourage readers to take away action points for their own needs,and maybe “report back” on their results? And then almost extend it into a co-project, if you like?

      • Rich Pulvino says

        Absolutely. Nothing wrong with collaboration. A writer working with the readers is not something that was a part of the relationship in the past.

        Instead of having a content flow of writer -> content -> reader, you now have writer -> content -> reader -> additional content -> writer. Hopefully the flow of content is educational and beneficial to both the writer and reader.

  7. says

    One of the reasons I read your blog Danny is to witness how you spark conversations. Those conversations are the gold. You ask some provacative questions and are not afraid to put your opinion up front. As you have pointed out in earlier posts, the gold is in the listening. Getting folks to comment allows that listening to happen. Without comments, there is nothing to listen to. How do others here spark those comments?

    • says

      Cheers Rich, appreciated sir.

      I guess it comes from the curiosity factor – the wish to know what makes my readers tick, and challenge thinking as much as they challenge mine each time. :)

  8. says

    Danny: Thanks for the shout out. And thanks to Gini for the heads up.

    The writing is on the proverbial wall with location and smartphones. Fortunately, we have the experience of social media (and the resistance we hit) as a way to help CMOs understand that they need to get ahead of the trend. If they don’t go beyond the Forrester report and into the comments, then they won’t be CMO for long.

    • says

      Couldn’t agree more, Rob. Almost every client we’re speaking to at the minute, we’re making sure they’re, at the very least, aware of the opps in mobile as part of an integrated approach with social and other marketing strategies.

      Every single huge success started off as a tiny idea – nothing ever began huge.

  9. says

    “While a blog starts any conversation, that’s all a good blog should be – a conversation starter.” Great quote. Many people write blogs to share their ideas on a topic. The beauty of communication today is that I am not only sharing my ideas so people will listen, but because I want feedback. Comments allow for a continuous feedback loop where everyone benefits from the conversation. Instead of preaching to the choir, why not leave the doors open for everyone to share?

    • says

      Exactly, Jenna.

      The best learning process is the shared one, not the one mouth out approach. I’ve found some great ideas for client needs in comments – why would I want to restrict that?

  10. says

    You know what I find interesting, every now and then, I tend to get lots of responses/comments via email as opposed to on the actual blog itself. Mostly it’s from readers asking questions to something I’ve shared… This makes for good content in future posts and/or the newsletter that goes out weekly.

    For me, reading other blogs and the comments that ensue is a great way to find new things to write and talk about. Often times, there’s great content to be found in there.


  1. […] As a blogger, you might think that who you are as a person doesn’t matter as much as the brilliant way you string words together but I have seen comments grow rapidly on posts that share something personal about the blogger. When Danny Brown had health issues and wrote a post called Taking time out for health reasons, 114 comments were left to wish him well. His community stepped up to say that they cared. Danny talks more about commenting in his post, Mining for Gold in Blog Comments. […]