Have you ever wondered if you should allow comments or shut them down?
To learn about why blog comments are valuable to your business, I interview Mark Schaefer and Tim McDonald for this episode of the Social Media Marketing podcast.
More About This Show
The Social Media Marketing podcast is a show from Social Media Examiner.
It’s designed to help busy marketers and business owners discover what works with social media marketing.
The show format is on-demand talk radio (also known as podcasting).
In this episode, I interview Mark Schaefer, who is a college educator and author of four books. His blog is called Grow and his latest book is Social Media Explained. Tim McDonald is the director of community at the Huffington Post, founder of My Community Manager and a member of the No Kid Hungry Social Council.
Mark and Tim share what comments mean to their blogs, and some of the challenges they face with moderation.
You’ll discover the upside of blog comments, how you can use them to improve your business and moderation tactics for different-sized blogs.
Share your feedback, read the show notes and get the links mentioned in this episode below!
Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:
A long time ago, Seth Godin shocked the industry when he decided to shut down comments on his blog. He didn’t really care for comments—for him it was more about generating daily content.
More recently, Brian Clark and his team at Copyblogger decided to shut down their blog comments. As a result of this, there has been a lot of interesting dialogue in this space.
The upside of blog comments
Mark explains how there are a lot of different business reasons behind blogs, and it’s up to each individual business to make the decision whether to have comments on their blog.
He says that there are probably some very good economic reasons why Copyblogger decided to remove comments, but Mark thinks that blog comments are the economic engine.
The community that Mark has built on his blog has led to many different business benefits for him and his community. You can get to know people in the comment area, which can lead to collaborations, customers and suppliers.
Mark feels that a lot of influence takes place in the blog communities, where you can develop strong relationships compared to the ones you make on Twitter or Facebook.
You’ll hear other great benefits that come from comments on your blog, and why Mark sees them as a gift every day.
The Huffington Post has a little bit of a different viewpoint, just because of their sheer size. They face a bigger challenge because of the number of comments they get every day. It’s hard for them to actually interact and engage with every single commenter.
Tim explains at this point, it’s a matter of them looking at some of the prolific commenters on their site and working with them. They’ve found that some commenters don’t want to write for them, they are happy just commenting.
Listen to the show to find out the cost of engagement, and why you can engage yourself broke.
Some of the challenges the Huffington Post faces with blog comments
Tim says that the biggest issue for them is to figure out how to allow people to share and express their thoughts on content, while appreciating that the standard for commenting is different from their editorial standards.
They have to find ways to moderate this effectively with the different languages, countries and time zones.
You can’t replace a human when it comes comment moderation. You need to find a balance between using technology, combined with what people can do.
You’ll hear how the Huffington Post deals with heated dialogue and negative comments on their blogs.
When it comes to dealing with spam, last year they made all commenters authenticate themselves with a verified Facebook account. This helped cut down spam and trolls significantly.
Listen to the show to hear why Mark wonders if spammers are taking the social out of social media.
How smaller blogs can deal with moderation and spam
Tim explains that they are currently experimenting on a couple of their verticals with the Facebook commenting system. With this method, you have the option to show all comments, moderate them or not have any show up but still allow people to leave a comment.
The benefit of this is that the comment still shows up in that person’s news feed, and it provides social referral traffic for you.
Tim believes it’s a great way for a small business to get the benefit of having conversations happen on people’s Facebook profiles. It’s one way for you to avoid moderating the comments or spam, as they’ll never show up on your site.
Listen to the show to find out why Mark likes to use Disqus for moderating his site’s comments.
When to make the decision to delete a comment
Tim explains that they have their 10 commandments of moderation. They all have different kinds of litmus tests for whether a comment is approved or deleted.
Their first line of defense without a doubt is to look for specific words, word combinations, misspellings or characters that create a bad word, which they don’t want to show up on their site.
The second one is to use the same kind of word mentality in addition to their computer program, called Julia. Julia actually scores the comments on different content such as blogs, news articles, sensitive pieces or content that allows them a little more freedom.
If the comment does pass all of the other tests and is scored adequately by Julia, then it can be automatically approved on certain posts. Otherwise it is then passed onto a human moderator to make the decision.
You’ll hear what status you need to get to so that the Huffington Post will approve your comment at a certain level. Your comment is then allowed to appear as formatted text with links.
At Social Media Examiner, we use Disqus for comment moderation. You can set up a restricted word list and blacklist and whitelist people.
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Listen to the show to hear what Mark’s view is on negative comments, and how he deals with them.
How the Huffington Post manages the huge number of comments
Tim says that no matter the size of your business, you need to look at the members who are really active in your commenting community—those who are in it for the right reasons.
You’ll hear what they call this type of member at the Huffington Post, and how many Tim actually interacts with on a regular basis.
When you get to a point where you can rely on certain members of your community, they can be of great value to your business. For example, the Huffington Post has found it very powerful and valuable to have peer voices in the comment area rather than the brand voice on certain occasions.
These community members can also help moderate the conversation flow.
This is a great way to empower members of your community and give them some exposure.
Listen to the show to find out how Michael Hyatt acknowledges his community members on his blog.
Steps smaller bloggers can take to manage their blog comments
Mark says that he has recently had to take steps to limit the comments that have links attached because of the increasing level of spam on his blog. He feels this is a shame, because there are a lot of great commenters who add legitimate links.
To avoid upsetting his members, he now takes extra time to go through these comments and quickly approve them.
Listen to the show to find out why 95% of the time, Mark can let a comment go live.
The risk of moving conversations to a platform you don’t own or control
Tim says that people will have conversations, regardless of whether you have a commenting platform.
He says that the Huffington Post relinquished control a long time ago, and now actually embraces the new environment. They call social the new front page. People find their content via all of the other people who share it on social, which drives referral traffic back to the site.
You’ll hear why Mark feels that it’s disrespectful to the commenters to move comments away from your platform, and the disadvantages of doing this.
One of the reasons to get people to your site is to sell advertising. In the case of Social Media Examiner, if people don’t visit our site, then they don’t sign up for our newsletter, which leads to no customers.
Your blog and your website are the only things that you own on the web. You shouldn’t give up your voice of authority to a social platform.
Listen to the show to hear why all three of us agree that it’s very important to remember your community.
Discovery of the Week
At Social Media Marketing World 2014, we decided to take the opportunity to use Instagram more effectively.
This app allows you to do some really cool things. When you enter a hashtag, first it shows you a map of where you are in the world and where most of the photographs were taken.
What I love about Instagram, and in particular Gramfeed, is that they allow you to very easily put in your hashtag and see the total number of photographs that were taken. In this particular case, there was 3,200+ pictures. You can see who took the picture and interact with all of these pictures.
If you only do a search on a hashtag, then you’ll be limited to the number of photographs you see, but you can take it to the next level and create an account. All you need to do is log in with your Instagram account, which allows you to see all photographs for any particular hashtag.
This is a great way to manage and maintain a hashtag or even monitor a competitor’s hashtag.
I strongly recommend that you check it out.
Listen to the show to learn more and let us know how this works for you.
Key takeaways mentioned in this episode:
- Connect with Mark Schaefer on his blog.
- Check out Mark’s blog, Grow, for some free sources to help you with your social media journey.
- Listen to the Marketing Companion podcast with Mark Schaefer and Tom Webster.
- Read Mark’s book, Social Media Explained.
- Connect with Tim McDonald at the Huffington Post and on Twitter.
- Head over to My Community Manager, which is a community for community managers.
- Read why Copyblogger decided to shut down blog comments.
- Find out how to verify your Facebook account.
- Discover more about the Facebook commenting system.
- See what Disqus has to offer for comment moderation.
- Check out how Michael Hyatt highlights his community members on his blog.
- Try Gramfeed to keep track of all photographs for a particular hashtag.
- Contact Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you’re interested in sponsoring the Social Media Marketing podcast.
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What do you think? What are your thoughts on sites shutting down comments? Please leave your comments below.