Sunday, October 31, 2010

Branding Your Blog - Building a Positive Comment Culture

(PR and Your Blog is a series written by Seth Hawkins (Debra's husband). Seth is a PR professional turned school teacher, who is sharing his knowledge of PR)

You know you crave them. No, I'm not talking about those delectable Dove chocolates or the 40-percent-off coupons at Michaels. What you really crave is comments. Let's be honest, comments are a major part of why we blog. We put ourselves out on the line every time we write a post in the hopes someone out in cyberspace will relate to what we have to say and communicate with us.
Nothing is more aggravating than writing a post you really love and have nobody comment on it. At times like that you really start to question your abilities as a blogger and ask yourself what went wrong. There could be any number of reasons why people don't comment on a blog post and you can't control those factors, but there are some things you can do to build a positive comment culture.

Remember, when building a blogging brand, your goal is to be open and honest with your readers. They need to feel comfortable and know what to expect. The same needs to be true with your comments.

Take a moment and think about your comments. How many comments do you get on average? How many would you like to get? Now, ask yourself, "Why do I want so many comments?" This will tell you a lot about your approach to blogging. If it's all about the numbers, you are not building a positive comment culture. If you want a fluid dialog, then you are on the road to a positive comment culture.

Comments are a form of communication that are more personal than a tweet and not as formal as an e-mail (which is funny because e-mails are not formal at all). When you post something on your blog you are sharing with others, and comments allow them to share back. In reality, your posts and comments are a real conversation. Do you tell someone important information, let them respond and then never say anything back to them? Of course not, but it's easy to fall into that trap with a blog.

A positive comment culture can avoid that trap. A positive comment culture involves several elements.

Elements of a Positive Comment Culture
1. Encourage readers to post comments. This can be done by adding a line at the end of a post that asks readers what they think, or ask them to offer suggestions. This is an open invitation that is especially useful when trying to attract new or curious readers.

2. Be careful in your post to not sound like a know-it-all. We all remember that annoying kid in school who thought they knew everything. Don't be the online equivalent. Leave room for discussion.

3. When someone posts a comment, quickly respond to it. But, many ask what the best way is to do this. Should I e-mail them, post something on their blog or should I post a comment back on my own blog? There is no hard and fast rule, but it comes down to your brand. Are you personal? Do you want to build friendships with people? If so, a personal e-mail goes a long way. People value that personal communication.

4. However, if you want to have a conversation on your blog, commenting on your own posts is a great way to keep talking. While the original comment poster may never see your comment back to them, your continued interest in the post will encourage other readers to post comments. Technology and forum blogs have been successful at this method for years and frequently have long comment chains that are dotted with comments from the original poster. Not only is this fun for you, it's great for your brand. It shows you care about those who read your blog and that you want to interact. Through this process, you build a community, which is really what blogging and branding is all about.

5. Make sure to comment on others' blogs. We all have that friend who will never call you, but expects a call from you at least once a week. It's obnoxious in real life and no fun in blogging. The more active you become in posting sincere comments on others' blogs, the more exposure you give your own blog. Think about it, when you post comments on another blog, you have the opportunity to show your wit and fun side. When others see your comments, they may be intrigued and visit your blog, thereby increasing your readers and enhancing your brand.

On the other hand, if you post the traditional, "Cute blog, come visit me at (insert blog address here)," all the time, you are showing that all you really care about is your own blog and not others. You can accomplish the same end goal by posting a sincere comment and then refer that blogger to a specific, related post on your own blog. Chances are, that blogger will take the time to check out that post and potentially become a regular reader of your blog.

Building a positive comment culture is a time investment, as is everything worthwhile, but it's a rewarding investment that will provide worthwhile conversation.
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