As I was heading home from Search Exchange earlier this week, I stumbled across an interesting post on BlogHer where Janna asks if bloggers become hypocrites once the comments start pouring in. The basic premise is that most new bloggers do everything they can to nurture their comment section when they’re just starting out. They refresh the page by the minute hoping for a new comment and immediately respond to anyone who dares interact with them. However, over time, their comment numbers begin to grow and they stop being so diligent about interacting and making time for everyone. Typically, it has nothing to do with their love for their community, they’re just busy.
Is that necessarily a bad thing? Janna asks:
At what point is a blogger exempt from responding to each and every comment and reading long lists of blogs?
I thought it was an interesting question because it hits on an evolution many bloggers will ultimately face in their careers. This may not win me friends, but I don’t think it’s my job to respond to every comment, every tweet or even every email that comes my way. [Jana seems to agree, BTW.] It’s my job to share information and connect my audience, doing that creates a much more interesting conversation.
Don’t get me wrong, I do my best to respond to comments, especially from new commenters. I want people to feel welcome here and to see that there is life behind what we’re doing. I bleed this community and I stay as involved in the interactions as I can. However, I think it’s more important to connect community members so they can answer each other’s questions and become resources for one another. To me, that’s the goal. Because then the community has nothing to do with me. It becomes about the people here and thrives on its own. And I think that’s much more valuable to everyone involved. It also means I don’t live in a perpetual state of guilt when it’s Friday, we’re criticizing Facebook and there are magically 50 new comments to respond to. Because as much as I’d love to debate everyone, sometimes there are these people called “clients” that require the bulk of my attention. And, even rarer, there are “friends” and “relationships”.
A few months ago, inbound marketer at readMedia (and friend) Amy Mengel wrote a post about her Twitter Patient Zero. Essentially it was about the one person who was the trigger for her meeting everyone else in her network. I remember that when I tweeted it out, many people responded (much to my surprise) that I was their Patient Zero. Through the Outspoken blog and through Twitter, I had helped connect them with the people that were most valuable in their networks.
I thought that was awesome. And I think it’s where most bloggers want to be – that connector. That’s valuable.
You want to be the one that’s connecting people to the information and relationships that they can benefit from. You do that through:
- Interacting with your own blog.
- Connecting people through Twitter.
- Asking “who can I help today?”… and then making good on it.
- Sharing information through social media channels.
- Introducing your audience to people smarter than you, people doing cool things, and people that should simply be on their radar.
- Sending email introductions when appropriate.
- Getting off your own island and sharing what you know.
- Pointing people off your blog.
Most of that has anything to do with blog comments. Connecting your audience to the information they need makes you incredibly more valuable to them than simply being around to answer every comment or reply thrown your way. It also helps the blogger to grow larger satellite networks. If you’re tied to your blog responding to the 100 comments left there, then you’re not out reading, sharing or finding new sources to direct people to. You’re not forming new relationships in other people’s houses, you’re just sticking to your same core group. After a while it starts to get stagnant and smell funny around your house. And the content begins to suck.
As a blogger, I think you need to find the balance where you’re present in your community without suffocating it. If you’re not there to respond to every comment, other people in your community will pick up the slack. And I think that’s an important evolution to take place. You can grow your community without getting ‘stuck’ in it. I’d argue that you have to.
What do you think? Are well-read bloggers who don’t respond to comments hypocrites? Or is time we stop looking at comments as the end-all/be-all to engagement and success?