It seems to be especially animated on Twitter, which ironically is quite the limiting tool for comments. At least for mine.
Twitter resembles micro-snippets of moments rather than thought. Although I have seen thoughtful tweets.
FriendFeed is a much easier and friendlier environment for seeing conversations, if you seek that in a micro format. I promise a more in depth look at FriendFeed next week.
Generalizations are hard to make. And that is the point. Some of the most common questions I have seen on comments are:
- How do you get comments?
- Should you respond to comments?
- Do you open your blog to comments?
- Should comments be portable?
I am no expert (another hot topic these days), even as the Conversation Agent. I have my days with comments. Especially since I tend to write in long form and provide a lot of connections in my posts, the feedback I receive is that people tend to want to set aside time to consider implications. Often there is no time to set.
Anyone who has ever commented here has hopefully felt welcomed and included - it's important to me that you'd feel that way. You are a valued guest. The other reason why I love your comments is that I learn from you - often you help me take the conversation to the next level. In that sense, we are a team.
The best way to get comments that I know of is to be open to them. Yes, there are things you can do with your writing to solicit input - asking good questions, being controversial (it works), being the intelligent contrarian (not just for the sake of it), building community, reciprocating with comments on other blogs (this alone will set you apart, it's rare these days), writing unfinished or raw posts, writing short posts, surveying your readers, writing about topics that resonate with the community, using humor, being real and personable, and many more.
Sometimes though it seems that you are doing all the right things, and yet people are not leaving comments. Why? Stop trying so hard. Think about giving and place no expectation on getting. That's the secret.
I'm sure you've noticed that many of those who receive a lot of comments do not respond to them. Scalability is a real issue there. If you're like me and put time and thought into what your readers are telling you, you'd scratch your head trying to think how you'd be able to keep up with 50-150 comments per post. How would you do that and remain productive content-wise for your readers?
There is a way. Take the stance of the facilitator - encourage your community to have a conversation about the posts with each other. That is an effective use of everyone's time. Those who are most passionate about a topic, will take the lead.
The issue of scalability is also important for businesses that intend to join social media. Clearly, if you dedicate time to these activities, you need to show results for your business.
Every so often the conversation comes back to whether you'd consider a blog a blog if the comments are closed. Are comments an optional feature or are they a benefit? And whose benefit are they? This becomes especially controversial when it is a company that starts a social media program and does not seem to be responding to the community.
Moderated comments can also be discouraging. We live in the here and now these days. Instant gratification is almost expected. If you go this route, make sure you set a reasonable time frame to approve comments. Often the best thing you can do is set expectations - post a comment policy, define clearly what you are going to do.
In the end, the world is wondrous and interesting because we are different from each other. Accepting and respecting the decisions of others signal your willingness to participate. Worry about what you do.
To Disqus or not to Disqus
This is the question. We've already talked a little bit about the portability of comments and where conversations are taking place. There have been discussions around the fragmentation of social media and comments as social currency.
It is our choice, again, whether we are willing to engage where others are ready to engage with us. In the physical world, people often make accommodations to meet me near my place of work for a social or business lunch. In the same way, I am willing to go where the conversations are. It's a give and take and whenever I have the ability to do so, I prefer the former to the latter.
Plus, many tools like Disqus, FriendFeed, and Twitter can be integrated with your blog to provide transparency to the conversations and convenience for your readers.
Overall, what I have learned is as valid online as it is in life - go with the flow, don't resist it. Be flexible, adapt, be curious, learn, be willing, give and you will find your way. Swimming downstream is a lot easier and often a lot more fun.
What about you? What have you learned/found for yourself? Are comments the point of social media or aren't they? I'm listening - and joining in the conversation, wherever that may be.