The missing link in your social media toolset

Among the methods and technologies that are often heralded as the key to being an influencer within social media you seldom hear “Comments” mentioned as an integral piece of your online presence. Blog comments are underrated and unsexy in these days of new media but you’ll do yourself a great disservice if you overlook their importance. To understand their critical role we must consider the method and technology of blog comments.

Technology: Spread the word

Using the right blog commenting platform can make or break your reader interactions so it is vital that you make the right decision about the underlying technology. Commenting systems come in 2 main flavors, they exist as a standalone systems built inside of a blog or they are integrated via a 3rd party.

Stand-alone systems are installed by default with any blogging platform so they require little to no setup, unfortunately they also have a dreadful Achilles heel. Stand-alone commenting systems are an island that only exist within your blog. You’ve trapped a major reader input system within the confines of your own site. Islands are by their very nature not social and limit conversation. In addition, your system may be unfamiliar and if you require registration prior to commenting you force your readers to create yet another account to simply comment on your blog. This requirement alone will probably scare away over half of potential commenters. It is simply a hurdle that most of us aren’t willing to cross.

The value of 3rd party systems lie in their ability to take the conversation and extend it beyond your blog while still tying it back to your original content. In this arena there is only one true contender, Disqus. I’ve tried all 3 major commenting platforms (Intense Debate, Backtype, and Disqus) and I can say for certain that using Disqus is a major shortcut to increasing your social media interactions. To examine how Disqus excels in as a commenting platform let’s consider blog comments as inbound and outbound entities.

Inbound refers to lowering the barrier of entry to potential commenters. As a blogger you want to provide an easy and inviting commenting system that offers several avenues of access. Disqus makes this process dead simple. The vast majority of your readers already have a Facebook, Twitter, or OpenID account so why not leverage this ubiquity into your commenting platform by allowing your readers to leave a registered comments via their existing accounts. As an added benefit many readers already have Disqus accounts and surf while logged on so they are already in a position to comment. The platform and technology is already in widespread use and by offering logon by existing accounts you’ve offered your readers a system they are already familiar with and in turn you’ve drastically lowered the barrier to entry.

Disqus takes “inbound” a step further by gathering fragmented conversations across multiple platforms. Disqus calls this system “Social Media Reactions” and its defined as finding and displaying mentions and comments about your post from other services around the web. Supported services include Friendfeed, Twitter, Digg, Blogger, WordPress, YouTube, Vimeo and more. This collection system gives your readers multiple ways to respond or mention your comment and you don’t miss a thing. One of the most important aspects of this inbound integration is how Disqus brings Friendfeed comments back to your blog post. Friendfeed can spark some excellent conversations and its an awesome benefit to have these conversations brought back to your blog. Disqus+Friendfeed is undeniable synergy. In total, these inbound reactions are crucial to judging response and visibility.

Outbound speaks to the ability to extend the conversation beyond the confines your blog and this is where Disqus really shines. What if you could leverage your comments as external outposts that increase the visibility of your content? Sounds like the easiest marketing plan ever right? Well Disqus has done a great job of integrating comments with Twitter, Facebook, and Friendfeed so that it is very easy for a reader to duplicate their comment on another social network while linking back to you. This integration works in a number of ways. To illustrate let’s use some common examples of these external outposts:

  • Friendfeed Integration – Many users import their Disqus comments into their Friendfeed stream. I’ve often found interesting posts by reading a Disqus comment from someone I follow on Friendfeed and because of their reply it piqued my interest and then I click the link back to the original article. I may never have heard of your blog but through an outbound source I’ve been introduced to your content. This recognizes an important realization that good comments are usually good content themselves and by allowing a reader to spread their good content they are in turn giving my post visibility.
  • Tweet this Comment – A reader can checkmark a simple option at the bottom of a Disqus comment box and Disqus will post an excerpt of my comment as a Tweet in @reply to the author. This is an excellent way to bring your comment to the attention of the author as well as giving the original content visibility in my Twitter stream.
    • A perfect example of this is a conversation I had with a friend a few months ago concerning giving certain venues ratings on UrbanSpoon and Yelp. A blog post encouraged our community to leave ratings for a venue but he was concerned that we were tilting the scales to get positive ratings for venues that had hosted our group. That was not our intention but since we both tweeted our replies we had the conversation in a much more public forum and allowed others to see the conversation that was taking place. It educated everyone and without the Twitter component might have gone unnoticed.
  • Facebook Integration – Disqus has provided the easiest method for allowing users to comment using the Facebook connect platform. This super simple integration allows Facebook logon but also allows a user to republish their comment to their Facebook stream

Disqus invites readers to leave comments with little hassle and allows them to use outbound sources to not only bring comments to the attention of the you but to a larger community. It’s a Win/Win

Method: Say the Word

In rediscovering the value of comments you must realize that most bloggers read almost every comment they receive. Judging from their reader interactions even the titans like Chris Brogan, Louis Gray, and Robert Scoble are very active on their own comment threads. This is the most important lesson on comments:

  1. Leave Good Comments
  2. Read and Respond to your Readers
How do you leave a good comment?

READ: The first requirement to leaving a good comment is reading the entire article. We all have a tendency to skim a post and then leave a comment with our own opinion. DON’T Take time to read the entire article, digest it, and think about it. Then leave a comment about what it means to you, what you learned, what you agree with, what you disagree with. Don’t simply state “Good post”. While the author will appreciate the compliment you haven’t sparked a conversation. I’ll often leave a few sentences of my reaction and then compliment the author on something specific. Personally I think about what was the difficult part of writing that article. Good bloggers put time into things like research, screenshots, and well reasoned arguments. Complimenting an author on these specifics lets them know that you really read and appreciated the post.

LINK: Don’t be afraid to add a link. Once you’ve fulfilled the previous requirement don’t be afraid to add a link to a post that might build on the conversation. Don’t link just for the traffic but do so to engage the author. Writers are conversationalists and if you leave a good comment, a good compliment, and include a descriptive link there is a good chance they will take the time to read what you wrote. However the litmus test for sharing a link must always be, “Use your comment and link to enhance the conversation and don’t simply look for an opportunity to get visibility”.

SHARE: Last piece of advice, if you’d like to get your comment noticed try sharing their post manually via Twitter or Friendfeed. Add your own take or reason for sharing in lieu of a simple headline. Add value! Not only have you commented (and possibly Tweeted/add to Friendfeed) you have also manually drawn the attention of your audience to this post as well. If it is worth commenting on there is a good chance it is worth sharing. An author will notice and appreciate your effort.

Read and Respond

It can’t be said enough, Engage your Readers. If someone took the time to read your post and left a comment you owe them the consideration of a response. Now obviously I’m not talking about responding to trolls or responding to someone that linked to their affiliate marketing scheme (neither comment should hit your post anyways) but if there is a high value comment respond. Click on the commenters URL link, find an article you like, read it, leave them a comment. Let them know that you appreciate them taking the time read your writing. Simple interaction can begin strong loyal relationships.

Final Word

Commenting done right can increase the visibility and interaction on your own content and it can spark conversations and relationships across the web. Never forget that social media is about people.

25 responses to “The missing link in your social media toolset”

  1. Tsudo says:

    As an addendum: Disqus also allows a user to use a global setting to control how and when they receive notifications and this gives deference to your reader since they don't have to make individual decisions based on every post they comment on.

    For another good example of how an outbound post can give visibility check out this Tweet from my friend @GrowMap

  2. tspe says:

    Disqus has actually a problem with trackbacks and reactions on my blog http://cluetrainpr.de

    Doesn´t work anymore. 🙁

  3. lyceum1776 says:

    I have ShareThis on my blog and Blogger's own comment system. I have been thinking of adding Disqus to the blog, but it looks a bit complicated. I want to add Disqus to my new site EgoSoleTrader.com [under construction! ;)] sometime in the future. I first saw Disqus used at Travis Campbell's site, MarketingProfessor.com.

    I haven't heard about Intense Debate. I am using BackType's Twitter service, TweetBack to find interesting tweets linked to specific URLs.

    By the way: I found your site via Robert Scoble's FriendFeed stream.

  4. Like the post. I recently migrated from Blogger to Word Press and the comments getting copied over is a real pain. I had built an island of comments that not only were stuck and un-levered conversations but when it is moving time, they literally are stuck on a Blogger island. I guess if I took the time to have someone write and run queries and move them all over but too many other issues to deal with. Disqus, separate Friend Feed stream and a page for my Feedly shares, it is a much better forum. Discovered Wibiya on your site looks very nice, will check it out. Thanks.

  5. […] Comments – The missing link in your social media toolset […]

  6. Tsudo says:

    Disqus is usually pretty responsive. Have you tried their support? If you send them a Tweet or Post about it in Friendfeed they are always listening.

  7. Tsudo says:

    I'm not familiar with the process of integrating Disqus into Blogger but after Googling it seems well documented. I can assure you that it would be worth your effort.

    I haven't tried the Tweetbacks option with Backtype because Disqus already offered this gathering function with many more services.

    I really appreciate you taking the time to read and thank you for letting me know how you found me.

  8. Tsudo says:

    Franchise that is an excellent point that I didn't consider. I can see how the comments might get trapped in a migration. Are you migrating to WordPress.com or a self hosted WordPress? I highly recommend using the WordPress support forum because someone might have already solved your issue.

    Thanks for taking the time to read the article and for leaving me a comment. Glad you liked Wibiya.

  9. Otto4242 says:

    I've tried all three of these. Personally, I found Disqus incredibly difficult to use and set up, and Intense Debate marginally less so.

    But the problem with both of these is that really, your comments are no longer your own. That is to say, when somebody comments on your blog post using these two comment systems, the comments are not on your site anymore, they're on this third parties site. Sure, they both mirror them onto your site, and the integration is pretty decent, and yes, you get copies back, but in the end you're giving up that fundamental control that you shouldn't need to give up.

    The one I finally settled on, BackType, is much more laid back. They just search for references to your content from other services, then send those references back to you. These comments can then appear on your site, because they're mirrored back to you, and not through a third party on the front end like the other two. Much nicer and cleaner way of doing things, IMO. Plus, and this was important to me, you maintain control. The comments on my site are *on my site*. Not on somebody else's site and then just show up there via iframe tricks (or whatever).

    You shouldn't have to give up control in order to use a commenting service like this, and BackType is a different kind of service. They don't make comment forms or easier ways to comment, they simply aggregate comments from other existing systems, and let you retrieve and mirror that aggregation (via BackType Connect).

  10. We are self hosted. I have someone looking into getting the comments over. Another caveat the links. You will have a gaggle of Google links that are dead that you took years to build up. That's completely fixable as well. Get everything lined up and then make the switch. Do as I say, not as I do. When we are done, I will have the guys put together a Blogger to WordPress checklist that might be helpful with our mistakes to avoid.

    Found your site via FriendFeed stream from Scoble

  11. Tsudo says:

    I hear this argument quite often but honestly the rational escapes me. My website sits on server that doesn't reside in my home or use my internet connection. My email, my RSS, everything is relying on some other system. I just don't get the mindset of hoarding comments. The reward for using one of the platforms is just to great to miss.

    Help me understand what is the benefit of having all the comment's on my site. It seems to be an easy choice between an outdated notion of property and the ability to increase interactions.

    I've been wrong before so help me understand.

  12. Otto4242 says:

    There's nothing wrong with propagating the data further and faster. In fact, that's a good thing. But you don't need to give up control to increase interactions like this. Every “feature” you like and which helps your site can be easily accomplished from your site alone. You don't need a third party to do it for you.

  13. Tsudo says:

    I've yet to see how I'm giving up control. I actually have better control through Disqus than a native comment system. As for accomplishing it in other ways you are absolutely right. But I'd have to rely on multiple plugins addons and other things that weren't coded to be an integrated product. More points for incompatibility and failure. Disqus is easy and gives me a complete package

  14. Otto4242 says:

    Okay. So what happens to your comments and your conversations when Discus folds up tomorrow and shuts off their servers? Do you have backups of your data, or is that lost forever to you?

    Recently, tr.im decided to close up shop, and people are worried about millions of their links going dark.

    Scoble just retweeted about a guy who got his account on Facebook closed (spam or something) and lost 5 years of his photographs from college and such.

    You can easily find dozens more examples. Maintaining control and access to your data is not something one should give up lightly, IMO. Yes, it's easy to set up something like Discus, but how confident are you in their ability to continue to provide their service to you? If they folded tomorrow, would your site be affected? Do you place any value on the conversations being held underneath your content, or is it secondary and not worth backing up somewhere? These are non-trivial considerations that anybody should consider before using these services.

  15. Tsudo says:

    If I'm not mistaken I've got a cached copy of all comments. I know that if I
    disable Disqus that I still have comments within WordPress.

    As far as confidence in Disqus I'm extremely confident in their stability as
    an organization or I wouldn't recommend them. I don't think I'd lose
    anything if they folded and I'm gaining everything by using their service.

    Just as an aside you've linked to 2 discussion by our friend Scoble and I
    note that he uses Disqus as well. I'm glad we have differing opinions but it
    would be boring if everyone agreed.

    Thanks

  16. bible study says:

    nice post, thanks for sharing 🙂

  17. My pleasure. Thank you for taking the time to read the post and leave a comment. I appreciate it.

  18. Tsudo says:

    My pleasure. Thank you for taking the time to read the post and leave a comment. I appreciate it.

  19. […] Comments – The missing link in your social media toolset […]

  20. gauraw says:

    Thanks for posting.

  21. Although I was posting a comments on some blogs but the links doesn't appear is their any problem on my disqus account?

  22. Although I was posting a comments on some blogs but the links doesn't appear is their any problem on my disqus account?

  23. Adrian says:

    Wow, as a new blogspot blogger, i was so annoyed by the difficulty to let my readers comment that i was about to try to host somewhere else. Now discovering DISQUS, this is the light at the end of the tunnel !

    Thanks a bunch.

  24. Keith says:

    My pleasure. Blogspot's commenting is a bit crazy.

  25. Keith says:

    My pleasure. Blogspot's commenting is a bit crazy.

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