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My 10 Comments on Blog Commenting

Greetings from inside the SEOigloo!
During the past year or so, we’ve begun building blogs for our clients. Once we’ve created a blog for one of them, I spend an hour or so teaching them how to use the blog and what its functions are. One of the things most of my clients have really wanted to know about is the purpose of the comments field most blogs provide.
Enabling comments on a blog is beneficial to both the blog owner and the blog reader. Here is a basic run down of why:
For the Blog Owner
1) A traditional website gives you the opportunity to present your business to the public. But it’s a one-sided presentation. You speak…they listen. A blog turns oration into conversation. The comment portion of a blog post means that your readers can instantly reply to what you are saying. Suddenly, what was once a static website has become a place of interactivity.
2) The comments left on your blog can become a vital part of your business plan. Readers will ask questions that can become part of your company FAQ. Readers will praise what they like about your business, and also, tell you what would improve your services. Those requests for improvements can be taken into account so that you can find solutions to what your clients are looking for. For example, if you make baby garments and a bunch of mothers leave comments saying that their children are allergic to any fiber besides cotton, there’s your clue to the fact that cotton garments are in demand and should form a good portion of your inventory.
3) Comments can help you predict trends. If your readers are buzzing about something for which there isn’t a good resource elsewhere, you can create whatever it takes to become that resource. Let’s take the baby garment site again as our example. Goodness knows, folks in the U.S. are starting to get it that our buying habits are causing some serious damage to the economy and the environment. Supposing your readers start saying that they want to buy ‘green’ for their baby because they don’t want their child involved in the legacy of over-consumption. They want to buy something local, organic and handmade. Would it then be possible for you to start a branch of your business that serves your local community with exactly these commodities? You can keep your global operations going, but if you were to become the San Francisco Bay Area’s best local supplier of green baby clothing, you could be riding high at the top of a growing trend, thanks to paying attention to what your customers are saying.
4) Comments prove to readers that your company is run by humans, not machines. As familiar as the Internet has become to so many of us, the end-user experience is still one of sitting in a chair in front of a monitor and keyboard, interacting with tools, not people. While having a blog is not the same as standing in someone’s kitchen chatting with them, it is the Internet’s approximation of this. A new reader finds your blog, reads a post and comments on it. You respond to their comment promptly and courteously. In so doing, you have just let that new reader know that there is a real human being on the other side of all those cables and wires who is ready to be attentive to them and who wants to talk to them.
Post-WWII America became the breeding ground of the big business mentality that did much to convince Americans that corporations provide the best, shiniest, most quality goods and services. This replaced the older belief that dealing with Mom and Pop was an assurance of good business, because Mom and Pop were personally accountable for their goods and services. I believe I am now witnessing a trend (that I love!!!) moving away from trust in big business. It may even be that our constant use of machines is what is driving humans to a stronger desire not to deal with machines or be treated like numbers. It’s the corporations that treat customers like numbers because of their structure of allowing customers to be handled by a staff of low-wage employees rather than by the founder or serious stake-holders in the company. By contrast, Mom and Pop are answering those phone calls themselves and put their hearts into what they are doing because their business reputation, personal reputation and livelihood depends upon it. A blog, with its interactive comments feature provides a new and convincing way for small business owners to say, “I’m Bob, this is my business, and I want to talk to you.”
5) Lastly, the comments feature of a blog provides an opportunity for the small business owner to create ‘marketing evangelists’ as the Internet marketers have begun calling them. Your response to your readers’ comments can be so good, so informative, so compelling that your readers will go out and spread the word about you and your brand because they are so impressed with your knowledge and attention. For the sake of example, let’s go back to the baby clothing store. A mother comments that she wants to use cloth diapers on her baby because she doesn’t want to contribute to the landfill problem that plastic diapers create. She knows a source for cloth diapers, but she can’t find those big safety pins with the little duckies on them that all mothers used a couple of generations ago. She’s not even sure what they are called
In your response to her comment, you not only tell her what these pins are called, you tell her that you are getting some in stock next week (aren’t you smart?). The mother is so excited about this that she goes to her baby’s playgroup next week and tells all of the 20 other mothers there about your company. In other words, she ‘evangelizes’ for you, voluntarily, because you were a big help to her. 5 of the mothers she’s spoken to then come check you out, leave comments on your blog, become readers, become customers. Bingo!
For the Blog Reader
1) The opportunity to make comments on a blog can be good in several ways for the reader. The first is that it implies that I, the reader, am important to your company. You’ve given me a super easy way to contact you and to ask my questions and make my opinions known. I’ll use an analogy of a restaurant here. Popular restaurants often have a little anteroom where guests waiting for a table to open stand around until they can be served. Some restaurants provide seating in this area, and I know I’m always grateful when they do. I have fibromyalgia and one of the things that aggravates it is standing on my feet in the same place for more than a few minutes at a time. If I have to stand like this for 10 minutes, I’ve got some serious aches by the time I get to the dining table. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of a restaurant owner who provides a seat for me (and the elderly, handicapped, or anyone who just wants to sit down) while I’m waiting. This choice on their part sends a subtle message that I, the customer, am important and that a place has been set aside for my convenience.
The blog comments field does exactly this same thing. It is a special space set aside specifically for the use of your readers. It’s a mannerly thing that promotes a good feeling about your company.
2) Blog commenting enables community. One of the first things I do when I find a new blog is to look at the comments. In my own industry, I’ve gotten to know a lot of my virtual colleagues. If I see that they have left comments on this new blog, I figure it may be a place I want to check out. It may be kind of funny, but seeing my colleagues paying attention to a specific blog automatically counts in my mind as a sort of authority vote. Every day, I make a circuit of blogs I read and it has, indeed, created a sense of community over time for me, in that I see that Matt was at this place earlier, and so was Kim, and Bill, and Sophie, and Lori, and Christina, and Randall, and Elizabeth. I’ve never met any of these people in real life, but I run into them so often in the blogosphere that they have come to represent a community of people with like interests.
If blogs only had posts and no comments, I would never know who else is reading them. They would simply be documents. Because of the communities blogs create, a great deal of word-of-mouth marketing takes place among sets of blogs in the blogosphere. A kind of perpetual tag game is going on out there in my industry where ideas and buzz are the commodity that is being passed around in the comments fields of the popular blogs.
3) Apart from the fun and education that results from the community aspect of blogs I comment on, there is a second benefit to me, the blog reader, that comes from the comments field. Human being have been creating graffiti since we were all living in caves. One of the driving forces to do this has remained a constant through the millennia: leaving your personal mark says ‘I was here’. When I leave a comment on a blog, it says that I have stopped by and, basically, is a documented proof that I am a player in my industry. Our American grandparents, who thought using European phrases made them sound savvy, called this being ‘au fait’. Our groovy parents would have called this being ‘with it’. In summary, being part of the commenting community of a blog shows that the commenter is keeping current with what is going on in the industry.
For any small business owner, being visible in the community that pertains to your business is a smart move that keeps you in touch with the people who care about what you care about.
4) There are several bloggers in my industry who are so smart, so talented and so educated, it’s a bit like a dream come true having the opportunity to talk to them via their comments field. These are men and women who charge upwards of $100/hr for consulting time, and I think blogs can lead us to overlook just how generous these experts are being with their time when they enable commenting.
One of the bloggers my husband and I appreciate most in our industry is Bill Slawski. This is a man with a seriously bright mind, and his blog focuses mainly on delving into search engine patent applications that, quite frankly, can be kind of daunting to interpret. Bill does such a fine job of interpreting these, but sometimes, I still don’t get what he is saying after reading one of his posts. Thanks to his comments field, I have the opportunity to ask him to clarify something so that I can understand it. This ability adds untold value to the situation. If Bill only posted articles, I probably wouldn’t understand a good many of them and would have no way to further my education by asking questions and getting answers. Doubtless, I would end up spending less time on Bill’s site because of this. But, as it is, I can read his blog with the pleasant feeling that if I just don’t ‘get it’, Bill will be there to explain it to me. What a benefit!
As the small business owner, you are the expert about your field of specialization, no matter what you do our sell. Many of your website’s visitors won’t quite ‘get’ something about your business. The comments field eliminates this communication breakdown so effectively, and this is one of the very best incentives to comment on blogs.
5) Lastly, the comments field gives me the power of applause. When I see that one of my colleagues has put serious effort into writing something of great value to me, I really enjoy being able to praise them. Leaving “great post” and “me too” comments has gotten a bad rap even here in the dark ages of blogging. I can empathize with the sentiment behind this, but at the same time, I know it feels really good for me to have people acknowledge that they’ve found a post I read to be useful. I assume that other bloggers share my feelings on this, and know the loneliness of 0 comments resulting from effort they put in to write something good.
I enjoy knowing that a reader stopped by and liked a post I’ve written, even if they don’t have anything to add to what I’ve said, or a question to ask. While it’s true that many of the best blog posts launch a big discussion amongst the readers that leads to deeper and greater insights on the topic, basic recognition is still a positive thing, and should always be appreciated.
So, there you have it: 10 great things about the comments field. It’s a powerful function with great potentials. Do you have anything to add to this that I’ve missed? Any further points? Any comments?