Building an Audience with Commenting Communities: Smart, or Sleazy?

Comment strategies

This is a guest post by Danny Iny.

Have you heard of comment trading communities?

It’s a new fad that seems to be sweeping the blogosphere (or at least a few corners of it). Basically, the idea is that a bunch of people get together and agree to comment on all of each others’ posts.

Some bloggers are experimenting with the idea, some love it, and others hate it.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. A short while ago, I emailed a successful blogger whose audience I thought would be interested in a post I had written, asking for a link (this wasn’t out of the blue – I’ve corresponded with this blogger on a few occasions).

The blogger responded that I could go ahead and post the link in the comment community – everyone else would take a look and comment, just so long as I did the same for them.

I thanked the blogger and said that I would head on over, but I didn’t – and I probably never will.

Okay, before we go any further, it’s time for full disclosure: I had participated in one round of this blogging community, which means that I commented on nine blog posts, and nine other people commented on one of mine.

It wasn’t a great experience, for two reasons:

  1. A few of the blogs really stunk. Most were pretty decent, and some were great, but I felt very uncomfortable being committed to leave a comment on a blog that I was completely unimpressed with.
  2. A few of the blogs were about things in which I have no interest. They were good blogs, near as I can tell, but they were about subjects that I neither know anything about nor have any interest in exploring. And yet, I was committed to leave a comment.

So what did I do? Well, I had made a commitment, and I take commitments seriously – on the good blogs that interested me I left solid comments, and on the others I left comments that were friendly and encouraging, but vague and non-specific.

I feel like I’ve littered on the blogosphere.

Contrived, but reasonable?

My experience was mixed, but I’m not ready to make blanket condemnations. I discovered some really great blogs through it, and sparked a couple of great online relationships. And I’m not the only one.

The most commonly heard argument against these communities is that if people have to leave a comment, then that comment isn’t really worth anything, but I’m not sure that I agree.

I mean, sure, if people leave crappy, fluffy comments, then there’s no value to them, but if the comments are well thought-out, and insightful, then what’s the problem? Bloggers want others to read and interact with their stuff, and at the same time they’re looking for blogs for whom they can do the same. Isn’t this just a way of formalizing and adding some structure to what they want to be doing anyway?

In other words, some might see it as contrived, and I agree – it’s a contrived solution to a very specific problem, but maybe it works?

My hesitation from doing it again is that I’m not comfortable having to comment on blog posts that I don’t like, or have no interest in.

Maybe this is a solvable problem…

Niche-specific, approval-required communities?

What if a blog commenting community were created that met the following two criteria, to address the main issues that I had with my comment community experience:

  1. Each community is around a specific niche, so that everyone is – at least in principle – likely to be interested in everybody else’s writing.
  2. Each community is moderated, and blogs are reviewed before being admitted into the group. This will make sure that terrible blogs never make it in.

If these two criteria were in place, I would give it another shot, and my guess that a good number of other bloggers would do the same. But I may be wrong…

Now I’ll turn the conversation over to you – I had a feeling that this post would spark a lot of debate, which is why it’s being published here, where the microphone is a little bigger that over at Firepole Marketing.

What do you think? Do you think this middle ground solution makes sense? Do you think blog commenting communities are a false economy, or the best thing since sliced bread?

Let’s get the debate going!

About the author: Danny Iny is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, and proud co-founder of Firepole Marketing, the definitive marketing training program for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and non-marketers. Visit his site today for a free cheat sheet about Why Guru Strategies for Blog Growth DON’T WORK… and What Does!, or follow him on Twitter @DannyIny.

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110 Comments

  1. Dino Dogan May 9, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Congrats on passing off the Tribal Chief duties over to Ingrid :-) How was that experience for you?

    I am very interesting in this topic because I think there is an opportunity here to build commenting tribes around the existing Triberr tribes (which addresses both of your concerns I believe.)

    We are building some stuff into Triberr that would facilitate easier commenting by the tribespeople.

    Would love to hear your thoughts on how you think this should look like within the context of Triberr?

  2. Dino Dogan May 9, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Oh dude…wrong Danny :-) lol

    Same question tho :-)

  3. TrafficColeman May 9, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Comments regular can get people to notice you, so be consistence and helpful.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  4. Danny @ Firepole Marketing May 9, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Danny (Brown), thanks so much for running this post – it’s an honor for me to be here!

    I’d like to point readers to Heather Stephens’ response to this post, over at Clever Marketer:

    http://clevermarketer.com/commenting-tribe-controversy.html

    (And also to my own post on the subject, at Firepole Marketing!)

    • Danny May 10, 2011 at 4:58 pm

      Honour’s all mine, mate – fantastic topic and way to go on creating a conversation around it.

      And great job on coming back to reply, mate, much appreciated. :)

  5. Fred Leo May 9, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Unless there is a real mutual interest in each other’s site, I don’t see how comment trading would help anyone’s site. I want to build relationships with other people who want to build RELATIONSHIPS.

      • Ferris Stith May 10, 2011 at 9:59 am

        I agree with Fred and Davina. I don’t have the time to read a bunch of blog posts (especially one’s that are off topic or don’t interest me) AND comment on them. Whenever I leave a comment, it really comes from my passion or knowledge on the subject, I don’t want to fake it. I’ve been approached on this before and I didn’t take up the offer.

        However, I have done something similar to this within LinkedIn groups and it’s been pretty successful. It’s a little different than blog comments because in LinkedIn groups, I’m commenting on a questions or discussions that are relevant topics I know.

        I met a guy within one of the groups (I noticed he posted a lot of active discussions) so I commented on one of them. He then private messaged me, told me about all the groups and discussions he posts and that if I commented on them, he would comment on mine in return. Since I knew what he talks about and how it relates to my content, I figured why not?

        Doing this helps spark a lot of questions and discussions from others within the group and I’ve built a lot of new relationships and leads!

        • Danny @ Firepole Marketing May 10, 2011 at 10:08 am

          I think the context makes all the difference; if the structure is good, and it connects you with the right people, then so much the better. It’s really just a matter then of rigging it so that it attracts the right audience.

          • Ferris Stith May 10, 2011 at 10:31 am

            Absolutely! I’m all for helping others by commenting on stuff when it’s something that I know, is relevant to the company I work for and I really do have something to say. I just don’t like feeling obligated to post something if I don’t feel comfortable doing so.

            Ya know what I mean :)

    • Danny @ Firepole Marketing May 9, 2011 at 2:24 pm

      Fred, couldn’t this be a viable way of finding people who want to build relationships?

      Do you feel that the problem is with the structure of the mechanism (i.e. it has to be built differently, or have different rules) or with the whole idea?

  6. Judy Dunn May 9, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Hey Danny (Iny),

    I actually did this as an experiment and blogged about it. I think that it is so important to get the right bloggers together. We were not in the same niche but we had the same TARGET AUDIENCE. (We were all B2B businesses. I’m a blogging coach and content marketing specialist; they were marketing specialists, sales coaches, and business coaches.We knew each other, had worked with each other and were comfortable with the quality of our businesses and blogs. Makes a huge difference.)

    I was the moderator/manager. And there were written guidelines—for both participation and commitment levels.

    I wrote a post about the experience. I learned a lot about the concept and process and wrote a post about the experience:

    http://catseyewriter.com/2010/12/04/how-to-bring-hundreds-of-new-readers-to-your-blog/

    Nice job of presenting the pro’s and con’s here.

    • Danny @ Firepole Marketing May 9, 2011 at 2:21 pm

      Hey Judy, that’s very cool. I’m going to head over and read your post later this evening – thanks for sharing it.

      For the benefit of the readers here, what were your conclusions? Was it a good experience? Would you repeat it? What would you do differently?

      • Judy Dunn May 9, 2011 at 3:16 pm

        Danny,

        First of all, I rarely find a blog that I can’t leave a constructive thoughtful comment on. But as I worked with bloggers in our Blogging Buddies program, I realized that they are bloggers but not necessarily WRITERS. I think and write all day, every day. So I now understand the concerns of bloggers who are afraid their comment will be “fluffy” or not add value to the conversation (especially if the blog post topic isn’t related to their exact niche).

        You asked about the overall experience. I surveyed the members of the group after the 90 days were over, but didn’t get around to publishing the results. Basically, as the moderator, I feel a formal agreement is absolutely necessary for commitment and buy-in. I might also revisit the 90-day requirement and perhaps start with a smaller chuck of time.

        The participants? On the upside, they expressed: an increase in traffic; more new readers from the inking going on; caused them to be more “intentional” in their commenting strategy; studied and learning about diverse blogging styles; improved their content from the “real insights/questions from real people;” became more skilled at writing a value-added comment. Downside: “commenting is hard and at takes so much time.”; a disappointment that not all bloggers kept their part of the bargain; and one blogger said she would like to be part of a smaller group next time (5 or fewer instead of 8).

        Okay, mini-novel here. But you asked! : )

  7. Sara Goldberger May 9, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    An interesting subject, however I admit I jumped a bit when I read your proposals at the end of the post. It might be that I simply have misunderstood your intentions, but for me it sounds that you are proposing to rebuild the silo walls that have taken so long to pull down.

    Personally I feel that that would be an unfortunate development; whether you call it communities or the funkier tribe.

    Anyway, communities tend to be self-constructing – people go where they find something that interests them and if you want to monitor your blog you are free to do so.

    But recreating silo walls?

    • Davina K. Brewer May 9, 2011 at 12:49 pm

      I get what you’re saying, not wild about limits and caps, things too niche-centric and as you put it silo’ed. Hmm..

    • Danny @ Firepole Marketing May 9, 2011 at 2:27 pm

      Hi Sara, I can see why it might seem that way, but no, I’m not talking about building walls, or anything like that. I’m just saying that, to borrow an example from Heather’s response post, if I have no interest in and nothing to do with auto repair (which is a good example in my case, since I know nothing about it, and don’t even own a car), it doesn’t make sense for me to be comment swapping with someone running an auto repair blog.

      Whereas if these are blogs in niches related to mine, or that would interest my target market, it is fair to expect that I would have something meaningful to say or add about a post written on such a blog; at the very least, I would understand what it was about, and it would interest me.

      So yeah… I’m actually not sure where the silo walls would be coming from… can you clarify that?

      • Sara Goldberger May 9, 2011 at 2:37 pm

        Hi, put it like that – no there would be no silo walls. Well, in a sense but they are chosen by us based on our own interests. However, that is human nature – to group in congregations based on interests, beliefs etc.

        It’s just how I read the last part of your blog.

  8. Davina K. Brewer May 9, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Danny, Gonna go with my gut reaction: sleazy. It’s too much followback, too quid pro quo. The forced nature of it, the back scratching well past professional courtesy. IDK.. I get the changes you propose, much the same with Tribrr, but at the end of the day it’s not for me and I’d also feel like I’ve littered and spammed the Interwebs.

    Like you said you discovered some really good blogs but then, also some things not your brand of vodka I’d guess. I don’t want to limit myself or even part of my community to a style or a niche. Clearly I blog with purpose – promoting and marketing my business, which happens to be PR and SM. I read others and always welcome thoughts from outside that silo or niche or dare I say it, echo chamber. I prefer the communities that develop naturally, organically via common interests, writing, commenting goals, etc. FWIW.

    • Danny @ Firepole Marketing May 9, 2011 at 2:23 pm

      Hmmm… interesting. :)

      I get what you’re saying, and it does feel a little contrived, but that’s because it is – it is a contrived solution to a very specific problem.

      The issue as I see it is that there are tons of small bloggers out there – good ones, that we just don’t know about. Wouldn’t this be a good way for people to mutually discover each other?

      After all, they wouldn’t keep coming back to leave comments if the blogs weren’t any good, would they?

      I’m still figuring this out for myself – thank you for weighing in! :)

      • Davina K. Brewer May 10, 2011 at 3:36 pm

        Contrived is a good word for it… still savors of following anyone and everyone, of the blind, retweet-o-matic – Oohh, gotta TM that one 😉 – when you take everything @Bigname has ever written and turn your feed into a broadcast channel. I’m still figuring it out too. I’ve found good bloggers that read and share good bloggers, so they act as filters, curators. Many folks do summary lists of folks, then the comments often become a treasure trove of even more good bloggers. It takes work and time, which admittedly is the biggest challenge. Happy to add my two pennies, Danny.

    • paul wolfe May 11, 2011 at 8:58 am

      LOL Davina

      I was reading your reply quickly and had to double take…because I THOUGH you wrote that your business was PR and S&M!

      Of course when I double took I realized it was my smutty mind. Ha ha.

  9. Heather C Stephens May 9, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Hi Danny & Danny,

    Thanks for sharing this post here. I have to say that as the one with the tribe Danny Iny is talking about here, I see both sides of the story very well.

    I looked at joining a community the first time like joining a fraternity or sorority. Some people hate them and feel like it’s buying friends, others look at it is a great way to network and meet others with similar interests.

    Through the blog commenting communities I’ve been a part of, I have made some incredible friends as well as met people through the connections in the community that I never would have otherwise. We’ve mastermind together, helped each other overcome challenges and we’ve been there to encourage each other. I’ve learned more and achieved more since being a part of these tribes than I did when I was trying to do it all on my own.

    There will always be pros and cons to these types of practices online. If the concept excites you, come join us, you’ll be welcomed. If not, there are a gazillion ways to drive traffic to your blog, pick a couple that sound fun to you and master them.

    Thank you Danny and Danny!

    Heather

    • Danny @ Firepole Marketing May 9, 2011 at 2:29 pm

      Hey Heather, thanks for stopping by and weighing in.

      I think you’re right, and the fraternity/sorority example is a good one. It’s not buying friends per se, but it’s not too different, either.

      But then, there are relationships formed in fraternities that don’t last, and relationships that last for years – as is the case with relationships formed in all other environments.

      This is still a pretty nascent sort of thing on the internet (to my knowledge, at least), so it makes sense that there would be kinks left to work out. Thanks for being so involved in doing that. :)

  10. Jeanine Byers Hoag May 9, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Great post, Danny! As a part of Heather’s community, I have benefited already from the comments thrown my way, even those from people who weren’t interested in my topic.

    when I left a comment about buying a house when I am currently renting or any comment on a topic I wasn’t that interested in, I hoped that by doing so, I would be helping the blogger. To me, that’s worth it!

    I believe we’re all in it together and if we can help each other, it’s good to help.

    • Danny @ Firepole Marketing May 10, 2011 at 8:46 am

      Hi Jeanine, thanks for joining the conversation here, and for raising such an important point.

      You said that “when I left a comment about buying a house when I am currently renting or any comment on a topic I wasn’t that interested in, I hoped that by doing so, I would be helping the blogger” – I think the real question is how valuable that sort of comment might be.

      Ostensibly, we want comments on our blogs not just to rack up the comment count, but because comments are an indicator of community engagement. If you rent and have no interest in buying a house at the moment, then you aren’t going to be subscribing to the real estate blog, or engaging in the community on a regular basis – you’re just leaving the comment because of the commitment.

      I think that’s where the problem is – in that case, all that does is mess with the numbers, and mean that the number of comments that a blog gets is no longer as good an indicator of how engaged the community really is.

      What do you think?

      • Jeanine Byers Hoag May 10, 2011 at 6:00 pm

        Hmm. I see your point! And I guess here is where I would need to bow to the expertise of others.

        In my thinking, numbers of comments might not be the gravy, but if it happens often enough to help the person build enough of a following to get genuine engagement then I am glad to help do it.

        I guess I don’t know if in the long run, that is helpful or not. Is it?

  11. Jan Beery May 9, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Hi Danny,
    Good discussions here. I’ve met some great people through Blogs. It’s a great way to network and build strong communities of people helping and encouraging people.
    We met YOU this way! 😉
    Enjoy your presentation with Gini. You’ll both do a fantastic job, I have no doubt.

  12. Brian Driggs May 9, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    I can see how such actions could be argued either way, but it seems disingenuous to me. We all want the comments, but for different reasons.

    What I’ve found, in talking to various members of my community, is that they don’t comment on blogs because A) bloggers seem to be in it for themselves, and B) blog comments are seldom conversations (unless there’s an argument). Now, I see the blogosphere a little differently, but that’s the feedback I’ve received time and again.

    Quid pro quo comment arrangements like this seem a facade, and I don’t see how one can build genuine, meaningful value from something like that.

    One genuine comment is more valuable than a hundred contracted pieces of “content.”

    • Danny @ Firepole Marketing May 10, 2011 at 8:50 am

      I agree with you, Brian. Absolutely. So what if instead of an ongoing sort of agreement between bloggers, you’re paired up with a handful of new bloggers for each round – that way your content is exposed to new people (and vice versa), and there is an opportunity for new readers to stick?

  13. Gail Gardner May 9, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    I started writing a comment here and – as sometimes happens – it turned into a post. There may be other communities of bloggers who love CommentLuv and commenting that have requirements but that is NOT what most of us are about – at least not the bloggers with whom I personally collaborate and interact.

    We do NOT require anyone to comment anywhere. We DO identify other blogs related to our own and as often as we can make the time we read, comment and share what they’re doing with our social followers.

    I explain in depth why communities of bloggers are so important in the post I just published in response to this one.

  14. Kristi Hines May 9, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    I think that’s the flaw in these groups. Even if the blogs are in the same niche, not every post will resonate with you and lead to a great comment.

    There are sites I love, from the super authorities to people just getting started, all within my niche and my RSS feed. But I don’t comment on them every single post because not every single post is something I can get into.

    It doesn’t mean the posts are bad, it just means for whatever reason (maybe I’m just having a bad day even) the posts don’t work for me. And if you force yourself to make a comment just because you feel like you have to or you are supposed to, it makes commenting as a whole that much more difficult.

    My vote is skip the circles – find blogs in your niche you love, comment when you see a post that interests you, branch out from that blog post’s comments by finding new sites within the comments, and continue.

    Then you’ll grow a more natural community that really wants to be there, and the overall atmosphere of your own comments and discussion will change for the better too!

    • Danny @ Firepole Marketing May 10, 2011 at 8:53 am

      I agree with you, Kristi – but then how do you discover the smaller blogs?

      (okay, there are other ways, like the ones that I wrote about on your blog: http://kikolani.com/kick-start-your-blog-by-embracing-the-nobodies.html)

      But seriously, Kristi, would you find value in this practice as a way of discovering new talent, rather than swapping comments on a regular basis?

    • Marlee May 10, 2011 at 10:42 am

      I’m with Kristi on this one (again). I do think, however, that this could work for a mastermind group or some very small (less than 5 people) closely connected group. I think in that instance this could work because hopefully you’d trust the work of those in your group and you already want to support their work. In that instance I would definitely be on board. Great food for thought Mr. Iny!

      On a side note. I think if your leaving sincere comments on blogs you like the rule of reciprocity kicks in naturally and you don’t need to create this comment circles. Okay, now I’m done.

      • Danny @ Firepole Marketing May 10, 2011 at 11:31 am

        “I think if your leaving sincere comments on blogs you like the rule of reciprocity kicks in naturally and you don’t need to create this comment circles.”

        Marlee, I think this is the biggest argument against the comment swapping practice – if the content is good and the intentions are solid, then it just becomes unnecessary.

        But what about bloggers who are just starting out, and whose content hasn’t reached your stellar levels of quality? In that case, would it be helpful to have these communities, admittedly as a bit of a crutch, to help them get on their feet?

        • Marlee May 10, 2011 at 11:38 am

          Wow Danny, speedy reply.
          Your quoting me makes me realized that I should re-read my comments before I click “comment.” LOL. But, I probably won’t.

          As to your question. Yes, I do think they are great for startup bloggers under the same conditions I suggested previously. Blogging is really hard at the beginning. Especially, when you feel like your blogging in a vacuum.

          I think the psychological benefits (and social proof) of having a supportive group of fellow bloggers to get you to your tipping point can go a long way.

          As for content quality. It will kill itself eventually no matter how many commenters agree to help you out. Crappy content dies. Just the way it is.

    • Jack @ TheJackB May 11, 2011 at 5:22 pm

      I am no different than many bloggers in that I would love to have more traffic and more comments. But if I have to make a choice I would rather have 50 committed readers than 1000 fly-by-nighters.

      • Danny @ Firepole Marketing May 11, 2011 at 5:24 pm

        Amen, Jack.

        So… does that mean you feel that comment swapping communities would necessarily be fly-by-night traffic?

        • Jack@TheJackB May 11, 2011 at 5:36 pm

          I am skeptical about it. It is relatively easy to get people to visit your blog but far more difficult to retain those readers.

          Much depends on what your goals are for your blog. That begs the question of whether people know why they are blogging.

          I have that conversation on a regular basis. I know more than a few people who are blogging because they think that they should.

          I think that is a ridiculous reason. To do this properly there is a substantial investment of time/energy so you might as well know why you are doing it.

          • Danny @ Firepole Marketing May 11, 2011 at 6:13 pm

            I agree with you, Jack. I actually wrote a post about exactly that on Problogger last week: http://www.problogger.net/archives/2011/05/01/should-you-even-be-blogging/

          • Paul Sylvester May 11, 2011 at 9:31 pm

            So your saying that just because some think they should is really saying they shouldn’t? I know I loved to write in highschool and that is my reason for blogging because I enjoy journaling and not just blogging. I also like to commune with other readers in a way that is public and private all in one. My readers are my family and I like to think that they support me because they like to be a community. That might just be me but that is why I blog, I don’t do it because I should but because I want to!!

            • Jack@TheJackB May 11, 2011 at 9:39 pm

              It all depends on what your goals are. Some businesses start blogging because they think that they should but they don’t have a clue as to why they are doing it or what they hope to gain.

              I think that they create a lot of work for themselves that might not be necessary or beneficial.

              Personal blogs are a different animal altogether.

              The one thing that I can say with certainty is that personal bloggers don’t last unless they love what they are doing.

  15. Kira Permunian May 10, 2011 at 4:28 am

    Very meaty article! For me, I usually give comment on a blog post that catches my attention. I give a feedback because I wanna be part of the community. I want to learn from great bloggers, such as what I am doing now. You’re all great here and I am sure I am learning in every word you guys stated here.

  16. Cindy King May 10, 2011 at 6:59 am

    Today I’m very much in line with Kristi’s comment above: I find it’s more worthwhile to develop my own blogging community in a more natural way because real relationships develop better that way.

    BUT, I thought I’d share something I did in the past. In 2008-2009 I was part of a private tweet group. We all wrote daily on our blogs and were in the same niche. There was a structure to the group and new members were voted in. When thinking about these blog commenting groups, I prefer the tweet group better. Committing to tweeting out one tweet a day per member was easier. I knew these tweets fit in well with my Twitter stream and it brought the articles to my attention. It was then up to me whether I wanted to comment on the blog post or not. I made some fantastic online friends through this group. It was great to see how we all grew and these are people I care for. The only reason why I left this tweet group was because my online focus shifted and this niche was no longer a good fit.

    I’d probably be open to joining a small tweet group again, if the niche was relevant and if it was a small number of committed bloggers… Because I think tweets are easier to commit to (and it’ll naturally grow into a good commenting and social networking group), without the downsides of committing to commenting on several blog posts each day. And although you can build this sort of thing organically with socially-minded people online, a formal group sometimes helps to deepen those relationships.

  17. Paul Sylvester May 10, 2011 at 8:04 am

    Building a Community is essential because with Google introducing Panda, you are going to be able to depend on search as much as you used to. You will need to be able to collaborate with the other bloggers in your niche to be able to survive!

  18. Lisa Gerber May 10, 2011 at 8:35 am

    Hi Danny (ies),
    I’m going to have to agree with Davina. Very contrived. Call me naive but I see it happening naturally within our own blog spheres. Why not continue that natural evolution meanwhile making a point to visit someone new either daily or weekly? (thereby still continually expanding your circle)

  19. Amy Putkonen May 10, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Hi Danny,

    It’s been awhile since I have visited. This brings up some good points. I never quite feel right about leaving a comment somewhere unless I am actually saying something that adds to the conversation. Although, add to this that I often feel as I should read all of the comments as well before commenting but that is a bit challenging on your posts!

    • Danny @ Firepole Marketing May 10, 2011 at 11:33 am

      Amy, I’m guilty of rarely reading the comments – I read the post, and if I have something to add, I leave a comment, but I’ll only read everyone else’s comments if I’m really curious how people might respond to the content.

      I’d love to say that I read everybody’s comments on other people’s posts before commenting myself, but I don’t think that would be practical time-wise. How do you manage it?

  20. Steve@Internet Lifestyle May 10, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Danny I.,

    I am somewhat on the fence about this idea. (As I assume many are)

    I think for someone starting out, it can be a great way to teach them to interact and get those needed first comments/reviews.

    Hopefully those comments will be a lot more than, “great article”
    ——-
    Personally I am at a point where I do not want to comment on every article I read. It may not resonate with me. It may be great, but I have nothing to say, it may even be “bad”, but I wouldn’t go to someones site and trash them publicly.

    I just don’t like the feeling I “have” to comment.

    Now unofficially I do follow this strategy -a bit-. I try to go to the sites of people who comment. I will try to comment. Sometimes it may even be a little “forced”.
    But if I REALLY have nothing to say… I do not feel like I am not holding up my end of the bargain.
    —–
    Like you said, I think it comes down to the fact that I take commitments really serious and I do not want to do more than an “unofficial” comment trading personally, but I can see where it could be very beneficial to someone starting out

    • Danny @ Firepole Marketing May 10, 2011 at 11:34 am

      Over on Heather’s blog, she suggested that a good solution to this would be to give people the option of sending an email explaining why they didn’t leave a comment, rather than leave one. For beginner bloggers, I think that email would sometimes be more valuable than the comment would have been. What do you think?

  21. Riley Harrison May 10, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Hi Danny,
    To me smart is something that works and sleazy is something that doesn’t feel good. So if I can comment in a way that works and feels good I’ve nailed it. And giving thoughtful comments meets that goal for me. Authenticity play a part in the equation, a half hearted insincere “good post, thank you” really doesn’t benefit either party nor feel particularly good.
    Riley

    • Paul Sylvester May 10, 2011 at 3:17 pm

      Riley,

      I have noticed that those types of post make me feel like they are spam and no actual person. I also feel the idea of Great Posts with an explanation to be not be bad but to be truthful. I could be wrong what’s your stance on that?

      • Riley Harrison May 10, 2011 at 4:10 pm

        Hi Paul
        Yes, they do feel spamish (if there is such a word), but sometimes they might be sincere and it’s all the person has to say. I can think of some bloggers I would never pay a short compliment for fear that my intentions would be misconstrued.
        Riley

  22. Jk Allen May 10, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    Danny,

    This is one good topic you brought up here. I first learned of these communities from Jon Alford on a post he did back in March.

    Personally, it’s not for me. With the limited time I have, I want to read stuff that interest me. It’s the learning that drives me to follow blogs and to comment.

    And, interacting on blogs typically leads to reciprocity back to my blog…if not immediately, typically at some point.

    So, that’s my take. I don’t have a problem with someone using the blogging commenting community as their way of growing – but it’s not one that I have the attention span for. My comments be null/void because I wouldn’t have anything to say – if I wasn’t truly interested.

    Reading posts like this always brings about a natural comment from the heart.

    Danny B – thanks for hosting Danny I. Killer Danny combo!

    PEACE

    • Erica Allison May 10, 2011 at 5:19 pm

      Agree! Hi Danny B and Danny I…I left 2 comments earlier, the first lengthy, the 2nd, not so much. Blog was undergoing scheduled maintenance. Short version: I prefer to comment and tweet those items that interest me and that I think may interest folks in my network or potential networkers. There’s a beautiful reciprocity that happens when folks visit your blog; you tend to visit theirs and while there, you usually comment. I like that. Systems/strategies like this one mentioned today, as well as tribrr, tend to automate that process and speed it up. That can be very beneficial for folks who want to ramp up their social presence. At the end of the day, however, content is still king and if it’s not happening, neither are the comments.

      I appreciate the post and the perspective! Thanks for sharing both…

      • Danny @ Firepole Marketing May 11, 2011 at 9:26 am

        Hey Erica, I’m sorry you had trouble getting the comment in, and I’m glad that you made it through, because you’ve added value to the conversation.

        I’m like you most of the time – I don’t want to share or comment if I don’t like the content, if I’m not inspired to do so.

        One thing I have noticed, though, is that when I’m looking at blogs that I frequent, of bloggers with whom I have a relationship, I do make more of an effort. Even if a post doesn’t grab me at first, I know that my friend made an effort to write this, so I’ll give it more of a chance, and look for the good in it – whether it’s the good idea to comment on or share, or the value that might be brought to someone that I could pass the article along to, even if it isn’t super-relevant to me.

        I think this is what we naturally do with our friends, and I think the comment community might be a good way of creating that critical support for beginners.

        What do you think?

        • Erica Allison May 11, 2011 at 9:55 am

          Danny,
          Nice to chat with you! Had my original comments made it in (no problem, it happens!), you would have seen more on the topic you bring up. Yes, I agree, there’s a huge amount of support out in the blogging community that encourages comments simply because your friend put forth the effort to post. I totally get that and welcome it. And yes, your comment community would absolutely do that. So, would your target market for the comment community be new bloggers? If so, definitely a help and quite possibly something that your initial group may ‘age out of’.

  23. Extreme John May 10, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Sounds like something I have zero interest in. I comment on the posts I enjoy reading, and then I usually turn around and add those posts to my Sunday Smash collection of great finds, share on Facebook and RT. In other words, the excellent articles I read get the full monty, I have no interest in commenting on anything because I need to based on the “club” and I have no interest in commenting on articles I don’t care for in topics I don’t care about.

  24. Mark Harai May 10, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Hi Danny, it’s great to see you here on Mr. Browns blog :)

    For me personally, within the current network of friends and bloggers I like a lot, I don’t have time to give them the love they deserve. They have given so much to me over the last couple of years I just want to give back to them and support their efforts.

    There’s only so much time in a day.

    For new folks, this could be a viable way to get some traction for their blogging efforts; but is it the same as getting to know someone over a period of time?

    I’ve come to trust folks based on their actions and behavior’s in the community and it seems like this would take some of that away from building genuine relationships and admiration.

    There’s always a sacrifice of substance when you try to accomplish things faster than they normally would take if you just did them the old fashioned way so to speak.

    Interesting topic Danny and congratulations for landing on one of the best blogs in the world :)

    Cheers!

    • Danny @ Firepole Marketing May 11, 2011 at 9:29 am

      I hear you, Mark. I’m struggling with that as well. There are so many great people out there in the community, and I feel guilty when I realize that I haven’t been over to someone’s blog in nearly as long as I should have.

      I don’t think the structure can replace those ongoing relationships, but I think the structure can be a good way of kick-starting those relationships when you’re getting going.

      And yup, I’m honored to be on one of the best blogs in the world! 😀

  25. Diana Simon May 11, 2011 at 4:28 am

    Hi Danny,

    Thank you for this thought-provoking post. I am part of Heather’s tribe and think she is an amazing leader. I am a beginner blogger and I strong feel that blogging communities are necessary for someone like me who is starting out. I wouldn’t be where I am without them.

    In communities, I get the chance to get more visibility but I also love learning from other bloggers who are further ahead than I am. On top of this, I am more than happy to leave my comments on their posts which I can really relate to.

    The point you bring across is very relevant because writing a comment for the sake of writing a comment doesn’t make much sense. I always feel bad doing so and it’s worse than pulling teeth.

    There are other blogging communities which I am also part of that don’t require you to comment on all blogs. You can pick and choose a couple which is great. It is based on an honor system!

    I agree with Kristi that once you get to know other bloggers, you don’t really need to be part of a community. You subscribe to their RSS and when you feel a post is worthy of a comment, you leave one. More often than not, the blog owner returns the favor.

    However, when you beginner blogger with no clue about what you are doing, blogging communities are the best place to be as members are often very supportive.

    • Danny @ Firepole Marketing May 11, 2011 at 9:32 am

      Hi Diana, thank you so much for getting involved in the conversation here – the more perspectives on a subject we have, the more likely we are to reach a more enlightened understanding of it.

      You make some good points, and I agree that especially when you’re starting out, the communities can be very valuable.

      I like the solution that you hinted at – that of the total number of blogs in your “thread”, you only have to comment on some of them, and it works on an honor system. I think that would be a great angle for it.

      Thank you for sharing, Diana. I checked out your blog, and I really like your clean look and design. I’ll be back. :)

  26. Emma Hobes May 11, 2011 at 11:16 am

    Great insights in this post, Danny. I, too, believe that moderating comments will have to be made for such efforts. Considering that it is a commitment for all parties involved, and that each have their own followers, it would be much beneficial to all if the conversation has quality and credibility in it. I mean, if I were following my favorite blogger and “know” him already, and then I happen to read a half-baked post from him (not knowing that he was “supposed” to comment on it anyway) I am sure to be disappointed. Others might take notice of this too and so on and that would just be sad.

  27. Frugal Living May 11, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    I think it is smart business because they have control of the social sphere and can spread your messages virally

  28. Keith Davis May 11, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Hi Danny
    I’m going to post my comment before I read the other responses, don’t want to be swayed.

    “If these two criteria were in place, I would give it another shot, and my guess that a good number of other bloggers would do the same. But I may be wrong… ”

    I blog on Public Speaking and the community of Public Speaker bloggers is hopeless at forming any sort of network.
    Maybe they see each other as competition.

    I had thought of contacting a few Public Speaking blogs and suggesting that we get together and support each other.
    Sounds a bit like your idea.

    I haven’t done it, but it sounds as though I would support your blog commenting community.

    So now I’ll see what everyone else is saying and if there are any Public Speaking bloggers out there… pay me a visit.

  29. Alex Aguilar May 12, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    I don’t see the point of people being obligated to comment on a blog because of some kind of a cross promotional scheme. It strikes me as weird and counter-intuitive. I’m sure there are many people who are taking part in this scheme and are benefiting from it, but I’d never use it on my own blogs. I prefer genuine interaction with my readers.

    • Danny May 13, 2011 at 10:09 am

      Hey Alex, thanks for weighing in. Are you sure that this sort of starting point can’t lead to a genuine interaction?

      • Alex Aguilar May 13, 2011 at 3:31 pm

        Oh it definitely can lead to genuine interaction, but only among writers of blogs whose actual agenda is cross promotion. I prefer interaction from my users who stumble upon my blog through Google or wherever, and not through some kind of a link exchange program.

        Once again these are my personal preferences… if somebody else finds the comments exchange program useful then more power to them! I am all for people using whatever methods they can to market their blogs.

  30. Sara Goldberger May 13, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    How can acts undertaken under some kind of coercion – however mild – ever lead to something genuine?

    • Danny May 13, 2011 at 3:16 pm

      Coercion? That’s a very strong word, and I don’t think it’s fair… when we agree to help each other, is it coercion?

      When my brother asks me for help, I have to help him, because he’s my brother. Does that “constraint” make it any less genuine?

    • Keith Davis May 13, 2011 at 3:20 pm

      Hi Sara
      No coercion – just make contact and ask if people are interested.

      If they say no, that’s fine.

  31. Sara Goldberger May 13, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Well, pick your preferred synonym, Danny. But if I have read your initial post correct you weren’t talking about helping out you spoke about something I understood as if you post a comment on one post you “have” to comment on the “other’s” too. Hence leading to the situation where you felt you were littering cyberspace with comments on posts/blogs with little or no interest for you. So were you not then “coerced” to comment?

    And should this be meaning of your first post, I see that as a certain amount of “forced behaviour” involved.

    So I reiterate my question, how can a forced situation like this ever lead to something genuine?

    • Danny @ Firepole Marketing May 13, 2011 at 3:28 pm

      Well, it’s forced behavior just like any transaction is forced; I agree to do something in exchange for you doing something as well. Nobody is forced into the transaction, though.

      I understand your perspective, and it’s a fair angle, but the language seems unfairly harsh to me. Just my opinion, though. :)

  32. Sara Goldberger May 13, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    Terribly sorry if I don’t get the nuances correct, Danny. My mother tongue is Swedish.

  33. Sara Goldberger May 13, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    I did. And in fact I grew in Malmö and went to university in Lund.

  34. Sonia May 15, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    This is something I hate the most, fake comments. I will admit, I will use the “delete” button in a minute if the comment is fake or vague. You can just tell when people really read your post or just skimmed through it. I want people to leave a comment because my post resonated with them deeply.

  35. Brad Harmon May 17, 2011 at 1:46 am

    I have mixed feelings when it comes to these types of arrangements, Danny. In many ways, these arrangements happen naturally. Even when they don’t, how are they any different from the local chamber of commerce or networking group?

    I think your suggestions are a great place to start to improve these formalized arrangements, but it seems unfair to put all of the onus on the leader to determine qualified members. Ideally, I think members should vote on who to let into the group. After admission, each blog should have a periodic review by fellow members to ensure quality.

    Heading over to Heather’s post now. Thanks for the great guest post.

    • Danny @ Firepole Marketing May 17, 2011 at 9:12 am

      “how are they any different from the local chamber of commerce or networking group?” – Exactly! But there’s no controversy around chambers of commerce or networking groups. Is the blogosphere really such a “different animal”?

  36. Melissa May 17, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    Hi Everyone,

    I’m new to blogging. I created a blog site and I have yet to get substantial feedback on the articles, only a bunch of comments with backlinks. I understand the concept of blogging and I think it’s a great way to promote service. There have been several offers emailed to me about “swapping” comments. So I tried it, I have to agree with Danny. If the blog is about something I am interested in and presents a good argument or point of view then I will comment on it, otherwise I think I am going to stay away from swapping. My question is, do I allow others to comment on my blog if it isn’t a substantial comment? Does having those comments help or hinder my blog?

    • Danny @ Firepole Marketing May 17, 2011 at 8:34 pm

      Hey Melissa, welcome to the blogging scene. I tried clicking through on the link to your blog, but it didn’t seem to work – what’s the address?

      To answer your question, I think it depends on how you’re defining a substantial comment. If you mean a spam comment that just wants the backlink, then delete them – most people would agree there. If you mean that it’s just an empty comment like “great post”, then you can try to engage them, or not – it’s up to you.

      Fundamentally, it’s a matter of what the intention is of the person who left the comment. If they’re interested in some way, then you should encourage that.

      Does that help?

  37. Cynthia Leighton June 20, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    interesting… not familiar with the trading concept til today. hmm. I’d guess it’d confuse me. As in, who is interested vs. who is, well, just commenting for the sake of commenting.

  38. Cynthia Leighton June 20, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Oh! You too? That’s encouraging to know. Thanks.

    by the way: I like the confirm human or alien!

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