Not a purple cow

Note: Not a purple cow

I thought this issue had been settled years ago, but apparently debating it is back in fashion (old skool Twitter poll). So, let’s have at it. You are not Seth Godin. Your corporate blog needs to allow comments for you to get the most out of it. Sit down and grab a sandwich. I’ll explain why.

Businesses and corporations enter the blogosphere for a lot of reasons. They do it to increase mind share, to establish expertise and to show their support for whatever industry they are a part of. And though it sounds cheesy and over hyped, they’re doing it to help build a community around who they are. Businesses don’t create blogs because of some altruistic mission to spread good information. They’re doing it so that people notice, so that they engage and so that over time that company can transfer some of those blog readers into customers or clients.

Essentially, you’re creating a presence today to land a customer tomorrow.

Can you do that without comments? Maybe. But it’s a hell of a lot harder and the connections you form won’t be as strong.

There’s a shift going on in the blogosphere where a lot of my favorite bloggers are turning off comments. Spam, increased riots, lack of quality, and the Seth Godin Mystique are among some of the most cited reasons for why. They’re all very credible. However, I still don’t think they justify having a commentless blog. If you’re running a corporate blog, you need to enable comments.

I look at blogs a lot like I look at conferences. People go to industry conferences to learn and to network. The blog post you write is the day part of that conference. It’s where the scheduled knowledge takes place and what everyone says they’re there to see. However, your comments are the bar later on. That’s where the real conversations happen, where business is done and where lifelong relationships are formed. Anyone who has ever attended an industry conference will tell you that the real value comes from the relationships you form in the early, blurry mornings. Blogs are the same way.

Your comment section allows you to achieve things you’d never be able to do without it. Like?

Create a community

If you’re a new blog looking to build a natural community, you need to allow comments. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for a very difficult journey. Can it be done, yes.  Have we done it? Yes. But it’s quite a bit harder if you’re trying to do it on your own. People want to know that you care about them, that you’re listening and that you’re talking to them instead of at them before they invest in you. They don’t get that impression when you don’t let them speak. There is nothing worse than reading a really great (or awful) blog post, being all fired up about it, and then getting to the end to find they don’t allow comments. We’ve had some clients in the past who were still reluctant to add comments to their blogs. And though we still saw a strong response to their content, the purist in me still wishes they’d add them. If they were doing that well without them, enabling comments could only take them to even higher levels.

Have better conversations

You want to do one thing today that will immediately improve the conversation on your blog? Open up comments. Let your readers share their thoughts, insights, and even their criticisms. It will add a sense of authenticity that was never there before. And to be honest, a lot of your commenters are probably smarter than you. They’re going to offer up ideas and theories you never thought of and take the conversation to new levels. When I first started blogging at Bruce Clay, we didn’t allow comments. When we finally opened them up, it was incredible and we never looked back.

sales guy

Schmooze future customers Meet your readers!

The comment section of your blog gives you the chance to meet the people who choose to spend 10 minutes of their day with you. That’s where you establish real authority by answering questions, by getting a bit more intimate and by participating in the natural back and forth. Without comments, you’re cutting yourself off from these relationships. You may make your readers smarter or more enlightened, but you’re never going to know who they are. You won’t know them by name. You won’t recognize them in your Twitter feed. In a world where people do business with those that they trust, creating that relationship is more important than it’s ever been.

Learn how to market to them

Okay, fine, let’s just say it. If one of the goals of your blog is to convert readers to customers, then you absolutely need to enable comments. The knowledge you gain about your readers through their contributions to your blog will allow you to get insights about their wants, needs and fears in a way you couldn’t before. You’re like Google out there collecting information on them that you can use at your will at a later date, only less creepy (hopefully). You create relationships that you can piggyback off later once the trust is already there.  Blogs are great, great marketing tools.

Declaring yourself Seth Godin and insisting your blog doesn’t need comment is how you miss out on all that.  I know that Seth is your idol and that he doesn’t allow comments, but you’re not Seth Godin. Seth Godin already has his brand and audience developed. He’s not a corporate blog still trying to create a community or banking on that community to bring in new business to keep him alive.

If you’re a corporate blog using that blog to sell, you need comments. That’s how you create “blog posts” instead of “articles”, how you get people interested in what you’re talking about, and how you show the community you’re not afraid to put yourself out there and be part of it.  Today’s a great day to take the plunge. Open up comments. make yourself part of the conversation, and meet the people who are out there waiting to engage with you.

If you do allow comments on your blog and you’re just not *getting* any, that’s another issue. You may want to check out our blog consulting services.  We can help.


About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.


42 thoughts on “You Are Not Seth Godin. Your Corporate Blog Needs Comments


  • Lisa Barone on said:

    John: You missed it, but I just severely rolled my eyes at you. :)

    Yeah, people are going to spam your blog and you’re going to have to monitor and watch it, but the community benefit far outweighs that, in my opinion. I wouldn’t trade the minutes I spend clearing out spam and double checking Akisment for the communities I’ve been able to watch grow on blogs like Outspoken. There’s going to upkeep to whatever you do, but you have to weigh it against the value. For me, the value to blog comments and responding to them, is high.

    Smartass. ;)


  • Chris Drinkut on said:

    “Businesses don’t create blogs because of some altruistic mission to spread good information. They’re doing it so that people notice, so that they engage and so that over time that company can transfer some of those blog readers into customers or clients.” – Well said.

    Someday corporate might get a clue, but the money trail will likely lead to another location by that point.

    And to be honest, a lot of your commenters are probably smarter than you.
    Hi Kenny! (“i’m kidding)

    Blogs without the ability to comment seem like a pretty self-serving sort of thing. I will say that we don’t allow comments on press releases, but that’s different.

    I’ll soon find out what your thoughts are about reviewing comments before they are posted, but that’s my policy. I’ll approve comments whether they’re nice or not, so long as they aren’t spam.


  • Stuart Foster on said:

    If you don’t have comments on your blog: You look weak.

    If some company doesn’t allow them I immediately assume that they suck. Why else? If you had nothing to hide you would let me comment on your blog…period.

    I can’t over emphasize this to clients. You need to enable comments.


  • graywolf on said:

    with all do respect BULLSHIT!!!

    If you’re one of those old skool blogging zealots who believes that it needs comments to be blog, you need to step away from the VW love bus and grow up a little.

    your blog doesn’t need comments, because depending on your followers to make your blog more interesting, important or meaningful is casting your fate to the wind. You need to be interesting on your own, without comments, period end of story.

    If you’re building community blog, then yes you absolutely do need comments, but if you’re a thought leader in your space, absolutely not, in fact the last thing you need is comments.

    Remember there are as many ways to run a blog as there are ways to make tomato sauce or in some places gravy. Everyone has different recipe for success the key is finding the one that work for you. There is no one size fits all solution in life or blogging.


  • Chris Garrett on said:

    Wow, I am going to agree with graywolf (gasp!) ;)

    Seriously, I do agree. Not every blog needs comments, especially corporate blogs. Lots of folks are happy to read without commenting anyway.

    I prefer blogs that have comments because, well, I am opinionated that way ;) but they are not always necessary


  • netmeg on said:

    I’m in the process of setting up some corporate blogs for clients, and I gotta say, I come down on the @graywolf side of this. To begin with, we’re not going to have comments enabled. In these particular spaces, our goal is not to build a community (mostly this is B2B stuff) but to impart knowledge and spread information.

    There are plenty of situations where you may want comments or feedback – but I don’t think it’s appropriate everywhere.

    Glad this one allows it, though!


  • Derek H on said:

    I am going to agree with Graywolf on this one. Blog comments are a joke most of the time and I’m going to tell you why.

    Most people don’t comment. And while this metric applies varies case by case, the people who do comment usually make up less than 1% of your loyal audience…

    …And why would you let a small subset of your audience govern what you do?


  • DangerMouse on said:

    The majority of content on 99.9% of blogs is so far away from being thought leading its almost absurd to think that its a suitable medium for that purpose. Blogs are about influence and false celebrity when thought of in this context (without comments), not true thought leadership.


  • Dan McCarthy on said:

    Funny, I just blogged on a very similar topic. I think prohibiting comments reflects an old school approach to a new marketing medium.

    Traditional media was largely content-driven. You wrote a brochure or produced a television ad, and distributed same. End of transaction. Static media like that is blind: It must assume a relationship with customers.

    And yet this practice is what you’re seeing carried over into social media. And you’re right, it completely misses the point. Social media platforms enable relationship marketing, where relationships aren’t assumed, but built and cultivated. Done correctly, it can help generate more qualified and better educated leads. Done brilliantly, it can turn customers into advocates.

    But all of that requires companies to give customers a voice, and to demonstrate a willingness to listen to that voice. Can’t say I would assume a company sucks if its blog eschews a comment section. But I think it’s safe to say their grasp of social media does.


  • Rebecca Kelley on said:

    I think it kind of depends on your end goal, but I lean towards the “comments are good” side of things. I do see Graywolf’s point, but I think most corporate blogs would benefit from having comments enabled–they help to humanize the corporateyness of things.


  • Lisa Barone on said:

    Graywolf: With all due respect right back atcha, get off it. I don’t think a blog needs comments to be a blog, I think corporate blogs need comments to reach out to the industries they’re trying to promote and market to. I think that’s how they’re going to find the most bang for their buck.

    A little while ago you hailed yourself a “thought leader” and haven’t hopped off that train yet. I get it. Your readers need you more than you need them. You’re “cutting edge”. You’re too controversial for comments. How very cool kids of you. Personally, I like to build community blogs. I think businesses (not CONSULTANTS like you or Seth Godin) need to be opening up comments to find that person who’s going to be a customer in three month. If you’re a business and NOT interested in forming a community, WTF are you doing in the blogosphere? Writing to show people how smart you are? You keep riding that “thought leader” bus and you’re gonna find yourself on the lunch line with Scoble.


  • Lisa Barone on said:

    Of course it depends on your end goal. Does every blog in the world need comments turned on? No. A corporate blog intended to build customers does. Unless you’re a “thought leader” and then you can just throw tantrums for clients. Or Google moon logos.


  • Andre on said:

    Thank you Lisa! The comments on a blog are the best part! Even though 90% of the time I simply read them, I do not want a single opinion on an important topic of viewpoint. I want to see a dialog, differing opinions. If you close your comments you are missing out on that.

    Lisa, you are slowly growing on me. Keep up the solid blogging.


  • Shawn Hooghkirk on said:

    I second that! I always find myself diving into the comments section, taking up more time than the article!

    Spam is a hassle sometimes, but it’s a matter of marking it spam or disapproving it — not a reason for disabling comments..

    Thanks again Lisa!


  • Michael W. on said:

    I’m gonna side with Lisa here, actually.

    Why?

    1) Spam filters are good these days. And when they’re not, moderating with brainpower is.

    2) Disabling comments on your corporate blog is either cowardly or ignorant, however you choose to look at it. You’re essentially telling your audience that you are either afraid of or don’t care what they have to say. And I think that’s pointing a magnum at your foot in the social media realm, especially if you’re a bigger company.

    Reputation management is one thing, reputation bunkering is another.


  • todd on said:

    Comments dont build customers. Though this post would have been completely useless without them.


  • Lisa Barone on said:

    John: It’s almost as impressive as your trolling of Outspoken.

    I don’t think I turned this into a hotbed issue, though. I think that was Graywolf entering the conversation yelling “bullshit”.


  • Alysson on said:

    “…And why would you let a small subset of your audience govern what you do?”

    The most loyal and most likely to comment 1% are also likely to be your strongest supporters and biggest champions. And it’s better, in my opinion, to offer your readers the opportunity to comment and have 99% of them pass on it than to deny the 1% that have something useful to contribute the chance to do so. You may as well put up a sign that says, “Thanks for reading…don’t forget to subscribe to my RSS feed, but I really don’t care what you have to say.”

    As has already been said, it depends on the company’s goals in starting the blog – and that’s the important thing for any business to consider PRIOR to launching a blog. Have goals. Understand your audience. Act accordingly. If you just want to shout at people, disable your comments. If you want to build a rapport with your core audience and build some brand loyalty along the way, consider enabling them. Are there other ways to build rapport and brand loyalty? Sure…but none so simple as giving your readers a place to share their thoughts with you. I think the pros outweigh the cons.


  • Maureen on said:

    I personally agree with the “one size does not fit all” methodology in this respect – however I personally like having an opportunity for my clients to engage with me hence having my comments turned on and taking the extra time to mark all those male enhancement/erectile dysfunction comments with SPAM.


  • SEOmofo on said:

    Lisa,

    Do you possibly have any facts/data about the BC blog, back when you guys enabled comments? I’d be interested to see if there was a significant increase in blog traffic (or other metrics) as a result.

    -World’s Best SEO


  • Lisa Barone on said:

    Darren: I don’t have the stats, no. Not sure I’d even be able to get them at this point.

    I know during the year or so I was running the blog and we didn’t have comments, it’s all I heard from folks like Michael Gray (seems his tune has changed…), Matt Cutts and others. People really wanted us to enable comments so that they could chime in and participate. They liked what we were doing and they wanted to get vocal about. When we did finally allow them, people were very happy about it. Or, at least that’s what they told us. Like I said, I’m not withholding numbers. Bruce Clay IT may still have that, though. :)


  • graywolf on said:

    >Michael Gray (seems his tune has changed…)

    no no no I’m saying not every blog needs comments, but part of the goal at BC was to engage the community so adding comments helped.

    However that’s not the case everywhere, which is my point.


  • Lisa Barone on said:

    If you’re a corporate blog and you’re relying on that blog to build your business, what is the point of it other than to build a community? To amaze people with how smart you are?


  • Yawn Webmaster! on said:

    Hello!

    “I think corporate blogs need comments to reach out to the industries they’re trying to promote and market to. I think that’s how they’re going to find the most bang for their buck.”

    Basically, I think the point you are trying to make, which is valid, is that if a blog is being used as a tool to promote products and services, then it should have comments switched on. I agree with this.

    The problem is that the function of a blog is not always about selling, and that’s where people like Graywolf managed to pick at your post. Just frame who you’re talking about better at the start, and you’ll come up trumps. I’m guessing that, as with many online media services, Outspoken deals with clients that are looking for financial ROI rather than brand ROI, and so just take a step back before you write and say, “is this topic relevant to one specific industry”.

    :)

    ps. you can always moderate the comments and just have a clear policy that states that comments are reviewed and added every month…two months or whatever you fancy.


  • Roger Dooley on said:

    Who can disagree with Michael? Not all blogs have the same purpose, and appending reams of inane commentary onto a really good post can only dilute its impact. Look at this comment, for example – seen any brilliant insights yet? ;)

    Still, I have found that in non-community blogs with modest comment volume, sometimes a visitor will, in fact, provide an interesting viewpoint, a relevant reference, etc. that really does make the page more useful.


  • Barry Welford on said:

    Of course you can have comments in a Google Friends Connect social bar if you wish. That avoids any SEO problems, if that was a concern. Surprisingly few seem to be using that solution however.


  • Joe A. on said:

    The best way to say it I believe, every blog and it’s purpose is fairly unique, even if it has a same general back idea. Some blogs may not need comments neccesarily in order to benefit a company, but for some companies more comments mean more business.

    I do agree with Yawn Webmaster though, you can always moderate the comments and leave a note saying that they are all moderated then added if needed.


  • Lauren (@beebow) on said:

    Awesome post. I enjoyed the back and forth with graywolf. And not to sound like a groupie, but Lisa – high-five – you smashed the debate with downright logical goodness.


  • Matt Cheuvront on said:

    Pretty surprised to see this post cause such a debate. Do you NEED comments to be a successful blog, corporate or otherwise? No. But as Lisa has said, when you are building a community around your brand, you need engagement and interaction, you need your readers to do more than absorb the content. You need absorption and response. A blog is (usually) a much more interesting read when the conversation following a post adds as much/more value than the article itself. Being able to read about a topic and hear 20 points of view is always more valuable (in my mind) than being exposed to only one. Interesting debate here – I think a blog can and should focus on BOTH content and community to see the most success.


  • Anna on said:

    This all seems so obvious to me, that it’s amazing that some people need to be told! But I do see the occasional medium-sized to large organization thinking it is too good for – I mean, can turn off :) – comments. Great post, I will remember this in case I need to show it to somebody. :)


  • Computer Tech on said:

    Building a following is one of the most important aspects of blogging. The give and take relationship that you build with that following gives you a unique opportunity to develop loyalty. The value of that loyalty is simply beyond measure in my opinion.


  • Superstar on said:

    I think blog comments are great as long as they are moderated and you can use a tool to sift through spam. I think wordpress has tons of options for this. I have seen a CAPTCHA one that will probably keep the little blue pill guys at bay really well.


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