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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Danny Brown
Co-author Influence Marketing: How to Create, Manage and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing. #1 marketing blog in world as per HubSpot. Husband. Father. Optimist. Pragmatist. Never says no to a good single malt. You can find me on Twitter - Google+ - LinkedIn.
246 comments
Cynthia Leighton
Cynthia Leighton

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

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

Cynthia Leighton
Cynthia Leighton

Oh! You too? That's encouraging to know. Thanks. by the way: I like the confirm human or alien!

Cynthia Leighton
Cynthia Leighton

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.

Cynthia Leighton
Cynthia Leighton

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.

Melissa
Melissa

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?

Melissa
Melissa

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?

Brad Harmon
Brad Harmon

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.

Brad Harmon
Brad Harmon

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.

Brad Harmon
Brad Harmon

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.

Sonia
Sonia

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.

Sonia
Sonia

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.

Sara Goldberger
Sara Goldberger

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

Sara Goldberger
Sara Goldberger

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

Sara Goldberger
Sara Goldberger

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

Sara Goldberger
Sara Goldberger

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

Sara Goldberger
Sara Goldberger

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?

Sara Goldberger
Sara Goldberger

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?

Sara Goldberger
Sara Goldberger

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?

Sara Goldberger
Sara Goldberger

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

Sara Goldberger
Sara Goldberger

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

Alex Aguilar
Alex Aguilar

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.

Alex Aguilar
Alex Aguilar

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.

Keith Davis
Keith Davis

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.

Keith Davis
Keith Davis

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.

Danny @ Firepole Marketing
Danny @ Firepole Marketing

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?

Danny @ Firepole Marketing
Danny @ Firepole Marketing

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?

Danny @ Firepole Marketing
Danny @ Firepole Marketing

"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"?

Danny @ Firepole Marketing
Danny @ Firepole Marketing

"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"?

Danny @ Firepole Marketing
Danny @ Firepole Marketing

Oh, no worries at all - I like it when people disagree with me online. :)

Did you grow up in Sweden? I have good friends in Lund, near Malmo...

Danny @ Firepole Marketing
Danny @ Firepole Marketing

Oh, no worries at all - I like it when people disagree with me online. :) Did you grow up in Sweden? I have good friends in Lund, near Malmo...

Danny @ Firepole Marketing
Danny @ Firepole Marketing

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. :)

Danny @ Firepole Marketing
Danny @ Firepole Marketing

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. :)

Keith Davis
Keith Davis

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

If they say no, that's fine.

Danny @ Firepole Marketing
Danny @ Firepole Marketing

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
Keith Davis

Hi Sara No coercion - just make contact and ask if people are interested. If they say no, that's fine.

Danny
Danny

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?

Danny @ Firepole Marketing
Danny @ Firepole Marketing

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

Danny
Danny

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

Danny @ Firepole Marketing
Danny @ Firepole Marketing

That's too bad, Keith, but yeah, there are still a lot of industries that are very concerned about competition, and very "closed" in that way...

I think it's a great idea, and might be worth trying for you.

Danny @ Firepole Marketing
Danny @ Firepole Marketing

That's too bad, Keith, but yeah, there are still a lot of industries that are very concerned about competition, and very "closed" in that way... I think it's a great idea, and might be worth trying for you.

Alex Aguilar
Alex Aguilar

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.

Alex Aguilar
Alex Aguilar

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.

Keith Davis
Keith Davis

I could be wrong about the reasons Danny, it may just be that they think that they should have a blog but really don't know how to use it properly.

Conversation, interaction is non existant for most of them.
And these are guys who communicate for a living!
It's beyond me.

Keith Davis
Keith Davis

I could be wrong about the reasons Danny, it may just be that they think that they should have a blog but really don't know how to use it properly. Conversation, interaction is non existant for most of them. And these are guys who communicate for a living! It's beyond me.

Keith Davis
Keith Davis

You're probably right.
No more ranting - got it off my chest. LOL

Thanks for listening.
Cheers Danny.

Keith Davis
Keith Davis

You're probably right. No more ranting - got it off my chest. LOL Thanks for listening. Cheers Danny.

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