You Are Not Seth Godin. Your Corporate Blog Needs Comments

July 21, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Content Strategy

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.

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.

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