Let’s talk about blog comments – again.
Because back in June 2016, I made a public announcement that I was turning off the comments on this blog. Here’s the post where I explained the why:
Blog Comments: Buh Bye. Why I Turned Off Comments On This Blog. (opens in new window)
In that post, I spelled out several reasons, including:
- Blog comments have no material impact on revenue.
- Blog comments aren’t really the best avenue for trying to get support or answers.
- People are more on social networks anyway.
- Blog comments add a lot of “clutter” to the site’s design.
And to be clear, I still believe these are all legit points.
Ironically, toward the end of that post, I said this:
This is a new decision for me, as of June 2016. I don’t promise that I’ll never reverse myself. I certainly don’t anticipate it, but never say never.
Well, I’m here today to tell you that I’ve reversed myself. Comments have been turned back on.
My Change Of Mind On The Public Facebook Group
When I disabled comments on this blog, I spun up a brand new Blog Marketing Academy Facebook group. A public one, separate from the private mastermind community we have for the Blog Monetization Lab.
The idea was to divert conversation over there and use a medium we’re (almost) all using daily as a more convenient conversation platform. Plus, there’s some cross-promotional benefits to the group because Facebook shows and recommends groups inside of other related groups and their search bar.
Surely, there are others in my industry who are proponents of having a public Facebook group. I believe I’ve heard Chris Ducker talk about it several times on his podcast, for instance. I also have a friend in my local mastermind group in the fashion space who has done very well with a public Facebook group.
But, then you have people like Stu McLaren, one of the original founders of Wishlist Member who has now moved on and recently launched Tribe. Stu was a guest on James Schramko’s podcast in August and one of many things he talked about was the risks associated with having a public Facebook group alongside a paid members-only group.
Ironically, when I go and look at the public BMA Facebook group, look at this:
This was a Lab member posting a support-related question into the public group rather than the Lab group. So right there, I know we have some confusion between the two.
That wasn’t the majority of conversation. In fact, there really wasn’t much conversation in the group.
People join and then lurk. Occasionally, people would respond. But, it wasn’t a thriving group. Now, I take blame for that. Anybody who has done this knows that fostering a group doesn’t happen automatically. It takes work and proactive management. I could have either done it or had a VA do it. But, several concerns come up for me:
- There remains that potential confusion with the Lab group.
- It could actually cannibalize value from being a member of the Lab group.
- I have to take valuable time from both me and my VA to foster this group – time that I should spend delivering to Lab members.
- The group had a bit of a spam problem, too. We had many instances of reported posts because people would come in, link drop, and leave.
- I don’t own the platform.
The net effect was that conversation more or less stopped. When I posted something to the blog, there was no structured platform to respond.
The X Factor Of Having Blog Comments
Everything I said initially about the drawbacks of blog comments remains true. Yet, there is this X factor to them that is hard to deny.
A website just seems more… human… when there are people posting comments. It makes things more approachable.
Especially as my blogging has become much more focused here (see the Redwood Strategy), I’m not exactly posting little conversational pieces here. Blog posts on this blog are designed to be full guides that stand the test of time – primarily. Doesn’t it make these guides feel more living when there are people actively discussing the topic on that post? Yes.
Does it help make me more approachable when people can clearly see that I’m there, that I reply to comments on these big guides? Yes.
Does it increase the value of any guide I create because people can add to it and/or clarify things on it via user-generated content, rather than it being a top->down channel where I just “lecture” you and you just read? Yes.
The X-factor might not lend itself to revenue – or perhaps it does in a way that can’t be quantified. But, that X-factor makes the site more valuable and makes it more… human.
Apparently, Some Readers Felt The Silence
I found this interesting, but I posted a blog post. I emailed out to my list about this post. In the PS of the email, I made a little casual note that I said I had turned comments back on, so if they had anything to say, go do it. 🙂
Here are some of the comments that came in on that post:
There was also this comment, from one of the co-founders of Digital Access Pass…
Such a sweet comment. Also doesn’t hurt to have it sitting there in the public, if I’m being upfront. 😉 And yet, she could never have said that if I didn’t turn the comments back on. Thank YOU, Veena!
So, Moving Forward From Here
So, yes. Comments are turned back on. The X-Factor outweighs my original concerns and I guess I didn’t see it that way at the time.
Now, Jeremy up there in that comment asked me about my choice of comment system. And the answer, as of now, is that I’m just going to use the built-in comments that are built into Wordpress. I don’t see a major compelling reason to integrate a third-party comment system.
But, I am going to make a few minor changes to how we handle comments:
- I’m going to tighten up on my standards for what comments are allowed to stay in place. Simply not being spammy won’t be enough. The comment needs to clearly be written by a real human and should add some value in some way. If not, I will delete it. I have no vanity-driven need to have a bunch of blog comments on any post I write, so I’m only going to allow comments I think add to the value of the post in some way.
- I’m likely going to set up some page numbering or otherwise limit the quantity of blog comments any blog post allows to be displayed. I don’t want long comment lists that make people scroll forever. I just don’t think it is a user-friendly experience. While most of my posts don’t get so many comments to be a problem, a few do.
In fact, on that last point, we may actually go back into the comment archives and delete some comments that now don’t meet my standards.
This doesn’t mean that people have to be a kiss ass to me to get posted, or that they have to type out a novel. I’m not doing this to be pompous. Its just that I put a lot of work into this site and I want it to be valuable, and I have no interest in letting people take up screen space on the Blog Marketing Academy who aren’t adding something fruitful.
The public Facebook group is being shut down. The Lab Community obvious remains a thriving real-time discussion platform.
By the way, I’ll end off with one little related comment on all this…
Even after as many years as I’ve been in this business, you can clearly see that I try things. Sometimes they don’t work and I change my mind.
You know what? Other people do that, too. Even the “gurus”. In fact, some people have assigned me “guru” status in this regard, even though I’ve never proclaimed such and never will. Because I’m still trying things… learning things. And only a total snob would claim to know it all already.
I post stuff like this so that others can see why I do things and learn from the logic of it. Maybe. Not so that people can just blindly copy me.
The Blog Monetization Lab has the word “Lab” in it for a reason. Because, we TRY things sometimes. And stuff is subject to change as experiments are done and we get new data.
See ya in the comments. 🙂