While there may have been times I switched Livefyre off and reverted to native WordPress comments, this was mainly due to a design and implementation hiccup with my redesigned theme, as opposed to anything wrong with Livefyre itself.
It’s why their service was installed again with my latest design, and why I’ll be doing my damndest to make sure it remains through any future updates.
Actually, that’s a little bit of a misnomer, since Livefyre Sidenotes isn’t really a blog comment solution – more an enhancement to any content on the web today.
They also feel incredibly natural to anyone that’s read anything, ever. That’s not an overstatement – think of the little notes you make on Post-Its on your favourite books; or annotations on college papers; or side comments on a suitably-equipped eReader for further research/discussion later on.
In Livefyre’s own words, this is what their new Sidenotes solution is all about:
We kept harkening back to our college days (no not the booze part), when we annotated and highlighted passages we wanted to discuss with classmates or just pass down to future used book aficionados.
We also looked at similar experiences that exist today, Kindle Highlights for example, which enables us to see and share insightful sections in the books we love. It was clear that the ability to engage directly with content makes for an engaging conversation specifically around what people are reading.
For an example of how that looks, here’s an example of a Sidenotes discussion from the Spin Sucks blog (click to expand).
As you can see, by clicking the little speech bubble at the end of the paragraph, you can see annotations around that particular copy. This helps encourage contextual discussion around a particular thought or point, as opposed to waiting until the comments themselves and referring to the paragraph from there.
Which is why I’m going to experiment with Sidenotes on here for a little while, to see how they complement the main comments section (which will remain at the end of each post).
How Do You Want to Use Livefyre Sidenotes?
From the very first post I published on here, your voice has always been an equal one to mine – and that’s why I’d love your thoughts on how you’d like to see Sidenotes used.
Some ideas I have include:
Use the word “Discuss” at the end of a particular paragraph, to focus on that thought or viewpoint while still top of mind;
Bold any sentence when encouraging readers to use the Sidenotes option at a particular point;
Insert the first Sidenote as a discussion starter on a certain piece of content.
These are just basic ways to use Sidenotes at the moment. The release is only Version 1.0, so deeper functionality will come in future updates, and much of that will be based around user and reader feedback like yours, so fire away!
Are there perhaps content topics that you feel would be better suited to a Sidenotes discussion versus a discussion in the comments at the end of the post? As I mentioned, I really want you to drive your experience here as much as possible, so I’d love to help Livefyre understand where the user experience can be enhanced even more.
In the meantime, feel free to play around with the Sidenotes option here and let me know what you think. To leave a Sidenote, you can either sign in using your existing Livefyre account if you have one, or your preferred social sign-in (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, etc.).
I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
Update May 7, 2014: I’ve decided to switch Sidenotes off for now. While I love the concept, and think it’s the natural evolution of commenting, there needs to be more user control/optimization on usage and placement. Having chatted with Livefyre about future integrations, I look forward to switching Sidenotes back on when there is extra end-user functionality.
One of the things I’ve always been a huge proponent of is fostering true brand loyalty for the long tail – strategic and continuous and growth – versus getting quick buzz hits then using the rinse and repeat formula.
This stems from various reasons but the core overall one is simple – create a loyal army of consumers-turned-customers-turned-advocates, by providing solutions that meet their needs, and much of your marketing will be done organically.
This creates three benefits:
You have a true two-way relationship with your customer;
You have word-of-mouth from trusted resources that no amount of money could buy;
Your brand has an immediate advantage for new innovations, feedback and growth through shared ideas.
Loyalty also has another added benefit – more often than not, the cost of new customer acquisition versus existing customers satisfaction is much higher. Not always, but mostly.
If you can reduce the spend on acquisition, you can re-allocate that to reducing churn of existing customers, enhancing the loyalty and appreciation factor immensely.
When I switched over to WordPress hosting experts BlogOnCloud9 back in 2010, I wrote a post then on how happy I was with the move and service. Almost three years later, nothing’s changed – except the service and approach of Dana and Karen, the founders of and partners in the service, is even better.
Last weekend, on a Saturday evening, I was tinkering with my blog to add some CSS code in order to change the email sign-up box I have at the end of every post.
Because I’m not a CSS guy, I messed up the copy/paste and completely borked my blog. Since I’d changed some code in the functions.php file, it messed up the rest of the site and all I had was a scary blank white screen of death.
I resigned myself to the fact I did something stupid on a Saturday night, and pinged Dana and Karen an email saying what had happened, and if they could help resolve. This was done not expecting anything until Monday at the earliest.
Not one hour later, Dana emailed to say he had found the bad code, fixed it, and that the site was now fully operational again. This was at 8.00pm on a Saturday night!
I was floored. BlogOnCloud9 isn’t a massive hosting company employee-wise, but that service and response at the weekend outdid competitors far “larger” than Dana and Karen’s baby.
Brand Loyalty: Livefyre
Ah, Livefyre. Regular readers and subscribers here will know I’m a huge fan of the Livefyre comments system. There’s just something about the platform that behaves like a true comment system should.Social integration; real-time chat functionality; community fostering, and more. It’s just an awesome platform.
Recently, I moved away from Livefyre and reactivated Disqus following a crowdsource survey of my subscribers, who preferred Disqus over Livefyre (although Livefyre had a huge amount of fans in the responses too).
But I began to have issues with Disqus. Mobile load time could be slow; Reactions (how your post has been shared on Twitter) were unreliable; and valid comments were getting caught in the spam filter.
I knew Livefyre were working on a major update to their platform, Livefyre 3. The beta version is on this blog, with the public release due imminently. And I knew that I still loved the platform, even though I’d made the move away from them recently.
So I emailed Livefyre support, and the awesome Dhara Mhistry was immediately on the case. No reprimanding (even in jest) for being “disloyal”, simply happy to help get Livefyre back on the blog.
Not only did Dhara and the Livefyre technical team ensure none of my Disqus comments were lost, she also answered all my questions regarding styling the comments to be more in line with the colour scheme here.
And, just like BlogOnCloud9, Livefyre was there testing the comments on the weekend to make sure the change back over had been a smooth one.
The really impressive thing? I’m not even a paying customer – Livefyre Comments is free, although it does offer premium features for businesses and media properties.
Building Loyalty Really Isn’t That Hard
What’s key in both these examples are two things that both BlogOnCloud9 and Livefyre clearly understand:
Customers (and/or users) mess up, and being able to clear a way through that mess together fosters trust and loyalty;
Losing patronage for a while doesn’t mean the brand has lost an advocate or loyal user – you have to find out for yourself why you loved that brand in the first place when compared to someone else.
A lot of brand struggle to understand loyalty – true loyalty. Offering discount vouchers and early usage of a new product may win you favours – but what you do after that to build on that quick-hit loyalty is what will define your long tail success.
BlogOnCloud9 and Livefyre already know this. Now it’s up to your brand.
Note: BlogOnCloud9 recently launched BlogDroid (affiliate link), for a seamless WordPress experience no matter what level of knowledge you have.
So, if you’re a regular reader of this blog (and thank you!), I think I owe you an apology for any dizziness I may have caused you in the last couple of months.
As a regular visitor, you’ll know that I’ve been experimenting with what comment system to go with – native WordPress (in use for the last couple of weeks), Disqus (in use for about 6 weeks prior to that), or Livefyre (in use again now, and a system I’ve raved about many a time).
The reason for this was simple – user experience here is key. You take the time out of your day to come and spend some time here, when you could be choose from a million other blogs at that given time.
For that, I thank you. And to extend that thanks, if you like, I want to try and make your stay here as enjoyable and user-friendly as I can.
That’s the reason behind choosing the Genesis framework and the Optimal child theme (affiliate links). Since activating them a few months back, folks have been kind enough to comment on the easy navigation, and the responsive design makes it very easy to read on mobile browsers.
That user experience extends into the comments – I want to encourage you to share your thoughts, and extend the conversation beyond the post and with each other.
This is kind of where native WordPress comments falls down, and leaves both Livefyre and Disqus ahead. All you need do is compare a post where there are a lot of comment threads, and you can soon get lost with native WordPress, wondering who’s replying to who.
Not so much Livefyre and Disqus, where you can clearly see the thread and who the conversation is aimed at.
And, for a while, I was thinking of sticking with Disqus as I experimented with the new 2012 version – it’s very slick. Community comments, popular conversations elsewhere and a beautiful interface make it a very tempting platform. And yet…
Here we are, back with Livefyre, and this time it’s for keeps, for a few simple reasons.
Livefyre Support is Awesome
If there’s one area that Livefyre excels at, it’s their customer support and community support team. It must be a culture they have over there – from Jenna Langer to Jeremy Hicks, and current Community Manager supreme Dhara Mistry, Livefyre clearly encourages interaction at a very high level.
While I was experimenting, I had some issues on switching Livefyre back on, due to a minor conflict with Disqus and some WordPress avatars. I also couldn’t fully sync comments over that have been left during my activation of Disqus.
Step up Livefyre, and Dhara and her team of engineers.
They worked way beyond what any support would normally offer and ensured all the glitches were fixed. Not only that, Dhara kept me up-to-date at every touchpoint, and even recommended I hold off until they locked down a fix for my specific needs.
All this while rolling out a brand new version of their commenting system, as well as fielding questions and support tickets from users with Livefyre currently installed on their sites.
This kind of service and constant communication is a huge factor for me when it comes to any business, and the fact Livefyre don’t even charge the majority of its users, yet still offer that kind of support? I’m sold.
Livefyre Is The Natural Evolution of Blog Commenting
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been a rabid fan of Livefyre since it launched, and was one of the early users of the platform.
But that was Livefyre back then – the recently-released beta version of Livefyre 3 shows you exactly where this platform is heading, and I love it. You want your blog comments to be truly social and interactive? Check out what Livefyre has for you.
Social Comments Integrated
With the previous version of Livefyre, they already had a pretty cool way to bring conversations from Twitter and Facebook into your comments section. If someone tweeted about your post, and added extra commentary, or it was shared on specific Facebook Pages, these would be pulled into the post at the end of the comments.
Now, however, they fall neatly into the comment stream itself, based on timestamp. And, if you reply back via the comment, it goes back to Twitter automatically, to answer the person that shared. Further conversations continue to fall back into your comments – very cool.
Rich Text Editor
One of the biggest “gripes” of the previous version of Livefyre was the inability to make your comment more dynamic. While the likes of WordPress and Disqus allowed you to drop HTML in to add bold, italic or other font edits, Livefyre was stuck with its standard font.
Not any more. Now you have a rich text editor that allows you to choose bold font, italic, underscore, insert a hyeprlink, bulleted lists and numbered lists.
Additionally, and one that a lot of commenters and bloggers were asking for, is the ability to edit your comment if you make a mistake. However, this only works if the blogger with admin duties enables this feature on Livefyre.
It may be small changes, but these features make comments more dynamic and highlight the parts that need to be highlighted.
Livefyre Supports Rich Media
Probably one of my favourite new features is the way Livefyre 3 truly turns your comments into a fully-fledged multimedia experience.
Normally, when you leave a comment on other blogs that don’t have Livefyre, and you want to show a video or image, you have to grab the link to YouTube or Flickr, and then the reader of your comment has to click through to see what the video or image is.
Not with Livefyre.
Instead, they keep your readers engaged on your blog by embedding the rich media directly into the comments area.
Currently supported platforms include YouTube and Vimeo (video), Flickr and Instagram (images), Slideshare (presentations), SoundCloud and Spotify (music), animated GIFs from MySpace and Wikipedia (the articles appear in-stream).
To show this media content, simply grab the URL of its parent page and drop alongside your comments, and Livefyre does the rest. It’s pretty damn cool and can make for a very entertaining comments section.
Livefyre and Multi-Site Admin
One of the new features that came out before the current beta version of Livefyre 3 was the revamped admin area for bloggers.
Now, instead of having to hunt through reams of comments to filter one out, you can search directly by username, IP address, if it was a user logged in via Twitter or Facebook, keywords, and much more.
You can choose to do this while having all your sites open, or just one domain at a time. You can also quickly check if any comments have been filtered into pending or spam, ensuring all comments you want approved are done so.
It’s a slicker version of the previous admin area and a very welcome addition to the product.
So Is Livefyre Perfect?
Is anything? Okay, I know, glib answer and I apologize, because we all know Jessica Alba is perfect… Moving on!
As I mentioned, Livefyre 3 is currently in beta, so the version being used on blogs currently is one that will experience some hiccups as the platform moves into a wider public release.
Some of the current glitches, from my own use and conversations I’ve seen online, include:
The SocialSync tagging doesn’t always work the way it should, meaning you can’t tag your friends on Facebook and Twitter (by using the “@” symbol and then typing their name until it appears). For a social commenting system, this is a core part of Livefyre’s appeal.
Sometimes it looks like there’s no comment box, whereas it’s just Livefyre rendering. The load time has been improved from the previous Livefyre, but could sill be optimized further.
Styling Livefyre to suit your blog design requires CSS, and not every blogger is comfortable with this. The advantage of Disqus in this respect is it inherits the font, style and design from your blog, so should match up every time.
It’d be great to see your commenters’ activity across the web without having to click on their profile. A lightbox when hovering over the username would be great, and encourage commenters to visit other blogs in the Livefyre family.
In fairness, the last two are personal choices as opposed to glitches, but I feel they’d make the platform even more complete than it is currently, and its current iteration is pretty damned impressive.
So, Livefyre Is Here to Stay Then?
As I mentioned at the start of the post, if you’ve felt a little dizzy recently with the comment system changes, I apologize. But it’s the last time it should happen.
I’ve been an early supporter of Livefyre and the platform has continued to grow way beyond its potential from its early days. That continues to be the case as new features and slicker processes get added, and it’s definitely my commenting platform of choice.
Mind you, I have to take my hat off to Disqus – they’ve really upped the game with Disqus 2012, and the interface and integration is very slick. Plus, they also sent out a very fun Welcome package of Disqus goodies – thanks, guys!
But, I have to say, Livefyre just feels what a comments system should be – live, interactive, media-rich, socially-enabled and much more. Simply put, it feels like home.
And, as a blogger, that’s all I can ever ask for from a comments system. Here’s to the conversation.
However, along with it not really fitting into the blog’s redesign at the time, there were some features that Livefyre lacked, which saw me revert to the standard WordPress comment system (albeit one that was heavily optimized by Bonsai Interactive’s Creative Director, Lisa Kalandjian). But I’ve always kept eyes on the system, and met the team at a conference earlier this year.
And I’m glad I did, because today’s Livefyre is a completely different beast from when I was test-running it, and the features that weren’t around then have made it into the new version. So the time seemed right to switch it back on. So what’s new?
Latest Post or Conversation
Perhaps one of the biggest things that Livefyre lacked previously was the latest post option (or Conversation, as Livefyre calls it). This is what the CommentLuv plug-in offers – the option for anyone leaving a comment to have their last post visible as a link back to their blog.
Where Livefyre’s version differs is that it’s (currently) only for those with a Livefyre account. While it doesn’t offer the same benefits of CommentLuv because of this limitation, it’s a clever way to encourage sign-up. And the cool thing is, if you have multiple blogs, it pulls the last post from the newest publication, so it gives all your blogs an equal amount of promotion.
Simple Site Wide Moderation
When I first had Livefyre switched on, its dashboard area was pretty basic. There were your account details, and the blogs you had registered, and that was pretty much it. It didn’t really allow for analytics or moderation (something the Disqus platform was better at). Not any more.
With the new and improved dashboard, you have much more control. This includes white-listing commenters, banning spammers, marking comments that are offensive so Livefyre can learn them, and more.
It’s a far better system, and makes running the back-end of your commenting system a much easier task.
Improved Social Sharing Options
A lot of bloggers – myself included – have wondered about the effect social networks have on blog comments. Do tweets and Facebook conversations mean fewer comments on the blog (though more overall)? And will the freestyle comment stream of Google+ affect this even more?
Either way, there’s no doubt that a lot of conversations about a post are missed, because they’re taking place on Twitter, Facebook, etc, and not everyone has an account on these platforms. This is where Livefyre is stepping in, to really cultivate the conversation around a post.
Their new SocialSync feature gives you the option to have tweets and Facebook posts become a part of the post’s comments. This is similar to the Reactions feature on Disqus, with a difference – Livefyre’s way of doing things seems better suited to social conversations being part of the comment stream.
For instance, simple retweets aren’t counted (or shoudn’t be). Instead, only extended conversations around a post are pulled into the comments. The same goes with Facebook – if you share a post on your Facebook Page, then any wall posts by your connections will be pulled over to your post.
It’s not perfect – for example, I’d love the option to be able to reply to Facebook posts from the blog comment (much like you can with the Twitter sync). Additionally, the SocialSync conversations currently split the comments if there are more than 50, as opposed to being at the end of the comment stream (although Livefyre have said they’re looking to fix this). But as a first attempt at really integrating all conversations around a post, it’s a great start. Especially if Livefyre can work a way to include Google+ comments.
The Little Things
So these are three of the main differences in the Livefyre system since last being activated on here. They’ve also added some nice little features – more sign in options (Google and LinkedIn), along with the option to view oldest comments first. Couple these with more CSS options, so you can code Livefyre to suit the design of your blog a bit better, and Livefyre has pretty much got most options covered for a one-stop commenting system.
There are some more features on the way, too, with perhaps one of the most-asked for additions due imminently – the option to allow guest commenting, where you don’t need to have one of the current sign-in options to leave a comment.
I was a big fan of Livefyre before. I think it’s fair to say that, with the new features, I’m pretty much sold on them as the best commenting option out there. Obviously there might be some hiccups along the way, but I’ve always found the Livefyre support to be second-to-none.