Blog Comments Are Not Currency

My friend Marcus Sheridan wrote a good post about whether Livefyre is destroying the value of a blog comments.

You see, I don’t even know if ‘commenting’ platform is a proper description for Livefyre. It’smore of a conversation/awareness tool that happens to be used by many bloggers in their comment section. And when one looks at all it does, with its many notifications, real time ‘new comment’ alerts, ‘likes’, etc—it’s no wonder so many bloggers have embraced this new platform.

But that’s the thing about Livefyre- It’s too good with garnering comments.

You really should read the post and come back but I’ll try to sum it up for those who don’t.  Marcus goes on to discuss whether tools like LifeFyre and Triberr have artificially inflated tweets and comments to the point where they have been devalued. He also says that he expects that one day he will move from the native WP commenting platform but that for now he won’t because he thinks that people might be intimidated by it.

Marcus is a sharp guy and quite successful but I think that he is missing the boat on this one. The majority of most blog readers never or very rarely comment on posts. They don’t for a multitude of reasons that often have little to do with the system and more to do with other things. Some people are intimidated by posts that have large numbers of comments or appear to be populated by cliques. Some people don’t comment because they feel that they have nothing to add to the conversation or just because they don’t.

People like to think that they act based upon logic and reason but most of the time we do things for arbitrary reasons that are based on feeling. But that is a topic for a different day.

Blog Comments Are Not Currency

I do things here differently than some other bloggers. I believe in building my community around me. I want you to play an active role here. You are welcome to comment here, on my Facebook page and to follow me on Twitter. I respond to people who contact me through the blog and or email because that is the right thing to do and I appreciate your time.

But it is important to me to mention that I don’t measure the success or failure of a post based upon the number of comments it received. I see that as being soft and lacking substance. Some posts are 100 comments of people cracking jokes and or screwing around. That doesn’t bother me. Most of the time you’ll find me stirring the pot and mixing things up.

That is all fine and good but it doesn’t always advance the conversation. It doesn’t necessarily make that post more valuable than others. Sometimes a third or more of the banter comes from a very small group of commenters. The question I ask myself is does any of this really matter.

That answer varies and is contingent upon your goals.

For me I like the idea of building a community and I think that Livefyre does a good job of facilitating it. I liked what Danny Brown had to say in the comments.

I don’t see Livefyre as a “one-sentence commentary” option; far from it. Yes, it’s great for that type of comment, but it also fosters amazing discussion too. I’ve seen amazing, in-depth conversations take place via Livefyre, while the bloger can “take a backseat”, because it encourages more than just the initial readers to take part.

I’m biased, obviously, but I love the way my readers use Livefyre, and I’ve seen the same cool interaction elsewhere on other Livefyre-enabled blogs.

If the blogger hasn’t put in the effort to be welcoming and encouraging from the start (and helped with questions about changes to their blog), that’s their “fault” if they’re not enjoying the conversations they want.

My job is to make people feel comfortable here. My job is to provide content that makes people want to read and comment. My job is to make the comment section inviting.  The way that I do it is just like I said above- I build my community around me. I write about the things that fire me up. I share my thoughts and my life and along the way others who appreciate it and or feel similarly have shown up.

It is a slower path. It doesn’t build the comment section as fast as some other ways could but I suspect that it makes for more loyal readers and does a better job of developing relationships. I write for me first and then for you because that is what works for me and makes all this fun and interesting.

Stream of Consciousness

This post is all stream of consciousness. It is a 15 minute exercise in which I have tried to share some thoughts and ideas about this. They may not be as well formed as they should be or as I would like but I am ok with that.  Because with a little help from my community we’ll jump on this in the comment section and hash some of it out. I may even decide that I need to modify my stance, who knows.

What do you think about all this? Should bloggers view comments as currency? What do you hope to do at your own blog?

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  • Celebrity News Buzz

    I built it, but now, how do you make them come. I installed commentluv premium about 2 weeks ago & had just installed LifeFyre, and think I’ll remove it now based on the above. The one thing I know for sure is it is very confusing!

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @israel.kendall There is something to be said for that.

  • http://www.gnarld.com/ israel.kendall

    If anything, CommentLuv is destroying the value of comments, because it makes people use them as currency! Love LiveFyre, it gets better all the time.

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  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @bdorman264 Bill, I’ll join the echo chamber and say that you have done a great job of building community. I think it is because you really do read as what you see is what you get. People appreciate that you are honest and open.

    You don’t treat them like commodities and that goes a long way too.

  • http://billdorman.wordpress.com/ bdorman264

    Yes & no; how’s that for an answer? If I see people show up at my place I hope it’s because whatever I posted was readable and they felt comfortable leaving a comment. I have no commenting system per se and people probably have to work a little bit harder to stay around my place. The fact that some do is currency to me.

    In the big scheme of things? Probably doesn’t have much significance. On a personal level; it is very much appreciated and means a lot to me so I guess that’s all that matters, huh?

    I’m more interested in community and engaging and whatever comes with that is what it will be.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @NinaBadzin Hey Nina, how are you feeling? I don’t think that there is one single answer to how to handle your community and your comments.

    For me I try to do my best to answer all that show up here. I figure that it they take the time to comment I should try to respond. I don’t always do as well as I would like to, but that is how it goes some times.

    Mostly I try to just make sure that everyone is having fun.

  • NinaBadzin

    Hey Jack! I think when you first installed this system I was one of your complainers. I can’t remember why I didn’t like this system, but I have a feeling I’m about to find out when I try to make this comment post. But you’re more pertinent issue of blog comments in general is interesting! I think about this from time to time . . . I’m more concerned about whether or not to respond to every comment and how to be a good blog community member (getting around to other blogs, retweeting, etc.) There’s definitely more to blogging than just adding our own thoughts to our own blogs. I think the people who truly “get” that stand out from those who don’t. You are definitely a stellar community member and a great example. I mean it!

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @ChopperPapa Your honesty is one of the reasons why I frequent your blog. I may not comment every time, but I always appreciate what you have to say. It makes a difference.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @adamsok I suppose that my message here is just that, the value of a blog shouldn’t be determined based upon comments.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @Joanne Cipressi Joanne, that is how I do it too. If they resonate with me and I feel like I can learn/grow/laugh that is usually enough for me.

    LF has some definite quirks and things that I am getting used to and formatting is one of them. I also miss the Commentluv feature for all parties and not just other LF users.

  • http://SocialMediaDDS.com/ SocialMediaDDS

    @TheJackB@Lori …I am still pondering all of this. And I am wondering…maybe another way to look at the value of comments is more as a tool by which the author can monitor their strong points and weak points instead of measuring the blogs success? I agree with so many of the comments here that say I don’t measure the success of my blog by the number of comments but what I do get personally from comments are lessons and growth as a “writer”. I value the comments that I do get and can get from them a sense of what works and what doesn’t work with my “style” my choice of topics, etc. And I agree with Jack that Lori’s blog is a great example of really knowing how to get people engaged in conversation!

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @marianne.worley I often wonder how many people have established goals for their blogs and have systems in place to measure them. I suspect that not many do and this is something that is underused and or undervalued.

    Part of what I like best about LF is how it can be used to pull people into discussions that they might otherwise miss. marcus sheridan

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @Lori Hi Lori. Content always comes first. It is the fuel, the fire and the motor that runs the blog. Without solid content a blog is like an empty shell.

    In this conversation I am referring to using comments as a measure of success. I see it as being a misleading statistic and something that doesn’t provide as much value as some people attribute to it.

    You have done a great job of building a community at your blog. Every time I visit I see a lot of familiar faces and many new ones as well. So it seems to me like you are seeing success on most if not all of the areas that we have talked about now and in the past.

  • ChopperPapa

    There have been times when I’ve debated dropping the comment thing all together. I often catch myself judging the posts success on the commets. I am getting better however. And to, I find that many comcmenters are bloggers themselves hoping for the author to return the favor. ( this isn’t one if those).

  • http://www.sunrisesigns.com/ adamsok

    @TheJackB Nice to hear your thoughts on this topic. I don’t know that I understand the concept of comments as currency. I can see this being the case with tweets, or likes, and the such.

    I will say that I’ve seen many terrific blogs that aren’t receiving many comments. Is a blog really great only if it is being commented on. I’m thinking no.

  • http://www.joannecipressi.com/ Joanne Cipressi

    Jack,

    I have been blogging for about 8 months now and receive very little comments, but I average about 6500 visits per month and the numbers continue to grow…and many are repeat visitors. I receive many emails, tweets, and messages elsewhere from readers instead of comments. So, I know I am adding value to my readers. So, when I visit other people’s blogs, I never judge by their comments or lack of. I determine their worth by whether they resonate with me or not. Regarding commenting systems, for now, I am not loving LiveFrye. My paragraphs never stay formatted as paragraphs. So far, I prefer commentluv because everyone can share a post on my site when they comment.

  • http://www.marianneworley.com/ marianne.worley

    Like you, I don’t judge my posts by how many comments I receive. As long as a post fulfills at least 1 of my 5 blog goals, I’m satisfied–even if it receives zero comments.

    I see LiveFyre as a commenting facilitator. It pulls you back into the conversation, even after you leave, which encourages you to keep contributing. Yes, sometimes it’s frivolous and fun, but at other times, it leads to an interesting discussion.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @Leon Leon I still say that I am a bigger curmudgeon than you are. I appreciate the effort and willingness you show in returning to comment. I am sure that you are not the only person to have issues with commenting on LF.

    I have kept it because I find their support to be better than other commenting systems and because it seems to be doing a better job of building that community that I am looking for here.

    It is certainly not fool proof but nothing is.

    While it may sound contradictory, I don’t let the number of comments on a post dictate success or lack thereof. It is a subjective thing and I feel like my blog is successful. Sure, there is room for improvement but if there wasn’t I would be disappointed and bored.

    As long as we have fun with this I am going to be happy.

  • http://SocialMediaDDS.com/ SocialMediaDDS

    @Cracking Confidence Coach You are right…I didn’t take into consideration the organic growth that will ensue BECAUSE of active and genuine community involvement. And the bonus, of course, is getting to “meet” some very fabulous people and read some absolutely delicious blogs. So, thank you for your insight and for giving me a different perspective.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @BenMcNulty Coming right up with a batch of tens and twenties.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @BetsyKCross Betsy that is the sort of approach that I appreciate. I can’t make people talk, write or read. All I can do is try to provide the tools for them to do so if they so choose.

    I understand that if you make them jump through too many hoops they won’t leave a comment and expect that I have lost some comments that way.

    But I understand that livefyre is working on changing things so that it is easier to comment and expect that will help open things up.

    Based upon my experience with LF here and elsewhere I expect those issues will be adjusted and that we’ll fall back into the “old” excuses for why people do or do not comment.

    Your last line makes me laugh- we really can’t fix unwillingness to talk now can we. :)

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @SocialMediaDDS Hi Claudia. I wander among dozens of communities online. I visit lots of blogs that have “established communities.” Sometimes I am a part of them and sometimes I am just a visitor who who frequents them upon occasion.

    I try not to spend too much thinking about the who, what and why of blogging. I have been doing this for so long now I can spit out these posts pretty quickly but if they took much longer I wouldn’t bother writing them.

    It is easy to over think and over analyze this. People do or do not for a million different reasons many of which don’t make any sense. So I don’t spend time trying to understand that.

    Instead I just focus on trying to make sure that I enjoy what I am doing. That usually generates good results and benefits all parties.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @Cracking Confidence Coach I am in agreement with you regarding the benefits of growing a community organically. There is something special and rewarding about knowing that your community is being built because of your efforts to reach out and connect with others.

  • http://www.lifeforinstance.com/ Lori

    Hi jac,

    I’ve been following the conversation over at Marcus’s place. I’m of the mind that Livefyre, though it may intimate people who don’t want/know how to register, doesn’t encourage comments. I believe it’s the post that inspires the comments. People have to feel comfortable and want to respond. That’s why I respond on other blogs – the writer makes me want to LOL

    Should we view comments as currency? When you say “currency” do you mean use it as a measure of the success of a post or a blog? I think that perhaps the number of comments might be one of the legs of a table which holds up the blog: comments, the actual engagement of the readers (i.e. not to count the banter, though it can be fun at times), the number of subscribers and the number of readers. It’s a lot of numbers and I like to see them all rising :o but maybe we shouldn’t count – maybe we should just read WHAT people say and judge by that?

    At my blog one of my goals is community building so I focus on that. I want to create a safe place where people can talk about life and delve into issues. So conversation (not just comments) are very important. But I hope that a reader who isn’t feeling compelled to comment will also get something out of the post and conversation. If one comes away feeling less isolated, if they feel validated, inspired, revved up, then maybe I’ve done what I’ve set out to do. None of this depends on a certain comments system, by the way, but I do love the LIVE aspect of Livefyre. It makes it even more real.

    Lori

  • Leon

    G’Day Jack,

    I’ve commented on this on Marcus’ blog. Now it’s your turn. As a commenter, I don’t like Livefyre. I’ve had lots of issues with it over the last year or so. I don’t have it on my blog because, as a commenter, I’ve found it unfriendly.

    As far as I’m concerned, there are many people, both bloggers and commentators, who are just a tad too precious about this whole blogging caper.

    I’ll continue to comment as I see fit. It’s up to the blogger to tell me to desist. As a blogger, I wont put LF on my blog because of my experience with it as a commenter.

    To everyone else I simply say, “hang loose.” And give your egos a break. They’re overheating.

    Regards

    Leon

  • BenMcNulty

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  • http://www.crackingconfidence.co.uk/ Cracking Confidence Coach

    I’m pretty sure Claudia that your building your blog by building communities has only the greatest of benefits to the organic growth of your site. Ok, there might be the odd one or two people who don’t comment because they feel they’d be muscling in on something that’s already built up… but to be fair, most blogs will organically grow this way anyway. If you do nothing to raise awareness of your blog, no-one is going to come and visit… building a community and actively participating in other people’s communities is a sure-fire way to raising the profile of your blog.

    Having done both, I can say that for me, it’s far more motivating and rewarding to participate in different communities, plus, the more traffic and activity on your blog, the better you are seen by google and they reward you with more organic traffic which is the mainstay of your organic growth!

  • Faryna

    Ever since WordPress.com upgraded their comment system to allow comment log in from non-Wordpress users (Twitter and Facebook), I’ve seen a modest increase of comments from people. Including the usual suspects.

    I have to say that no comments suck. Been there and done that for years and years. But like you say Jack, when I had no comments, I still had readers. 10k/month. Now that I have comments, I enjoy the blog more. The traffic, however, hasn’t doubled now that I’m having conversations and comments. In fact, I don’t think it increased by more than 10 percent.

    I should move my blog to a self-hosted situation where I can add one of the popular comment platforms. Dino has been telling me that ever since he first stopped by my blog. Livefyre and Discus offer some gamification. CommentLuv looks interesting too.

    But why can’t people just leave a signature with a link to their most recent blog post in a simple comment platform?! It’s how we did it in the forums back in the old days. That was acceptable – long before the rise of the blogging class. [grin] Does everything have to be automated and gamified to be relevant?

    Nowadays, hand-written signatures are considered spammy. But, honestly, when did handing out your business card at a social and professional event become spammy? It became spammy when people who didn’t do much business or didn’t do the social events in real life… became a dominant influence on blogging culture.

    [shrug]

    Not sure where this comment is going. This comment is all stream of consciousness.

    Anyway, when my blog post gets one or more comments that touch my heart, I consider that the blog post was worthwhile. That’s my two cents and now I’m going back to bed. Good night, Jack.

  • http://betsycross.blogspot.com/ BetsyKCross

    I think this is all so funny! I had no clue about how restrictive or confusing some commenting systems could be, but you know what? If I have something to say I’m going to jump through hoops to say it. If someone doesn’t want to do the same I figure they just have a different temperament than I have. When I first read about Livefyre (that post you’re referring to) I questioned using it AFTER I’d already installed it! I didn’t want to do something wrong. But I thought about it and came to the conclusion that I’m pretty stubborn. I want to find out for myself what works and what doesn’t. I like comments because they let me know where I’m reaching people in their family history endeavors. So the only reason I’d change anything is if it was legitimately broken. I can’t fix unwillingness to talk! LOL !

  • http://SocialMediaDDS.com/ SocialMediaDDS

    I am a livefyre user on each of my sites. That disclosure being made, I agree with your points. It is kind of funny because any social media “expert” will tell you that the way to increase the visibility to your own site is to become active in the commenting on other’s sites. And I believe that to be true but, what I also see is a supportive community that goes from blog to blog to stimulate engagement (albeit genuine) and activity within their own communities. There is a part of me that wants to become part of that close knit wandering community and so I am actively and, might I add, sincerely, commenting on many blogs. The other part of my spirit wonders if, by doing that, have I decreased the organic nature of the growth of a blog well tended….does that make sense? Am I over thinking this? I absolutely love the concept of @livefyre and have shared sincerely on Twitter my love affair with Livefyre. So, for me it isn’t about the commenting platform so much as it is about way we build community…organic vs. created. What are your thoughts?

    Claudia