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Very little real discussion happened in the comments section – even for the articles that had them.
My first major run-in with comments happened when I set up topical websites at an Eastern Iowa media company in 2010-11. We partnered with a local event where people where sharing five-minute Ignite talks with their visions for the community’s future.
The talks were great, inspiring and some may even a bit unrealistic. But then dreams aren’t necessarily supposed to be realistic for today.
Many videos were shared dozens of times – some over 100 times. (Many community managers would love those kind of shares!)
But there were hardly any comments on the site. All the commenting and discussion happened on social media – Facebook, for the most part. What made it worse for yours truly: How can you measure all of this apparently awesome discussion? Much of it was behind privacy walls. But the glimpse of what I could see was promising. But none of it on my site.
It’s OK. Conversation happens where it happens and it can’t be forced – for the most part.
Today, years later I’ve completely turned comments off on The Authentic Storytelling Project. Hardly anyone complains and when people have a question they email or – more commonly – tweet at me. Not a problem at all for the most part.
Once, though, somebody took an issue with my comments being closed. He said something about me not being open to feedback and when I asked what his feedback was he just kept telling me my comments are closed and should be open.
He did end up blogging about my comments being closed. His comments were open, by the way. After his post published, I noticed a lot of Twitter discussion surrounding the post.
I was receiving a lot of notifications since folks were tagging me. I looked quickly and couldn’t figure out what the flurry of Tweets was even talking about. I had to run and forgot about it. Thirty minutes or so later I returned to who a bunch of unread Tweets. People were still discussion the article – but not in the comments – on Twitter!
Once I figured out what they were talking about, I jumped in, just to get one of my advocate to respond: “No need to explain. You know what you are doing.”
Point proven, I thought, discussion often happens on social media and not necessarily in the blog sections – though it can. There are sites that have great comment section discussions from time to time.
If I have anything of substance to say, though, I will probably likely draft my own post and share it here and link to the original article.
What’s my theory on why some people are so passionate about comments?
Thanks for asking. 🙂 Oftentimes, comments are seen as an immediate success metric. If people comment, we have engagement. So we are shooting for that. We can see the engagement.
But comments aren’t always a measurement of engagement. Let me take EasternIowaNews.com. The news start-up had over 100,000 unique visitors in just nine months and hardly any comments.
It was widely considered a success and even helped me get a job. The site had 80-some contributors and 2,700 posts. It worked and people read it.
But comments are often taken as a success metric. If we turn them off, how will we measure success? First, I would always recommend to tie blogging to a business goal (customer acquisition, for example), but for early digital metrics you might also consider these (instead of comments):
- Social shares
- Social website visits
- Unique visitors
- Time on site
- Pages per visit
This doesn’t mean that all sites should remove comments. There might be a very good reason why you should have comments turned on and it’s working on your site. But don’t think of it as a default and required setting. When in doubt, test it and then go from there.
Related: Pro Blogger removes comments
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