Should I Turn Off Comments On My Blog?
Let me tell you something funny about rebellious internet trends:
While they look epic at first blush, they’re usually not the best idea for you to imitate.
(When I say “you,” I’m specifically talking to the amazing entrepreneurs + small business owners out there who are trying to use social media like your website + Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. to earn a living…and do what you love.)
Now I get it. The concept looks awfully attractive. Say goodbye to Facebook? Permanently shut down your blog comments? Crawl in a hole and still make money?
Yup, sounds good to me.
It’s not unlike the daydreams I get where I imagine how utterly glorious it would be to build a Montana “cabin” (I like to use that term a lot like Bill Gates + Ted Turner + John Mayer did when they built a home here) along a winding stream, 50 miles from everyone.
Blissful seclusion. A backyard as big as my entire town. A beautiful
mansion cabin…I mean cabin! What’s not to love?
Then a little voice comes to me (pesky thing) and says to me,
“Gee whiz Erika, you know they ain’t got no restaurants or gourmet grocery stores with a deli out there? When you’re doggone tired of makin’ dinners, what ‘er you gonna feed yer kids?
And who’s gonna shovel that there driveway when it’s snowed under 4 good feet? And pick up that stinky garbage? And come rescuin’ ye when yer boy breaks his leg steppin’ in a gopher hole?
Oh, and one more thing, darlin’. There’s no internets in that neck o’ the woods. Good luck runnin’ a bizniz!”
Sometimes we all need a little common sense pep talk in order to help us see clearly, so allow me to be that (only somewhat pesky, I hope) voice for you now when it comes to the topic of turning off your blog comments.
What does it mean for your business if you silence the combox? Let’s take a look.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU TURN OFF COMMENTS ON YOUR BLOG
If you turn blog comments off, it does three big things:
1. It sends the message to your audience, “I’m not really interested in hearing from you”
When I come to a site that has flung the comments section into the internet trash can, this is what I feel they’re saying to me:
“I don’t really want to hear your opinions, feedback, or ideas on what I write. This is my soapbox and I’m here for moi. If you really want to talk, then I guess you can do the work of finding me somewhere else. Good luck, babe.”
Personal blogs have the freedom to take that stance, but if you’re trying to run a business where your goal is (or should be) to serve others?
It can come off feeling cold and hypocritical.
2. It inhibits your ability to learn from your audience
When people think of their comment area, I don’t think they realize the gold mine they’re sitting on.
It used to be that businesses would spend hundreds, thousands, and even hundreds of thousands of dollars to conduct “market research.” They’d print up surveys, conduct mass phone call campaigns, and send out people into the street all just to find out what their target audience really needed (and wanted) from them.
A blog combox is one of the main market research tools for the modern age. You barely have to do a thing and your audience will tell you exactly what they think of your ideas, what they’re struggling with, and how you could help them!
If you get rid of your comment section, you’ve just cut off an enormously valuable, FREE way to listen to your potential clients + customers.
Why do that to your business?!
3. It prevents you from developing stronger relationships with potential clients + customers
Not only does the blog comment area enable you to listen to customers, it enables you to converse with them as well.
This is a beautiful thing, folks. Why? Think of it this way: how many times have you heard the adage that people buy from those they “know, like, and trust?”
A million times, right?
Well, how else are people going to learn to know, like, and trust you if they can’t talk with you?
Very rarely will someone visit your website, read a blog post, and decide to make a purchase from you.
(Particularly larger ticket items or services.)
But they WILL be likely to make a purchase an item or service from you if over time they’re able to make a personal connection with you. The most natural place for this connection to start is in — you got it — the comments.
(Yes, they can and will connect with you on social media too. But your website should be your HOME BASE. Social networks come and go, and there are a lottttt of distractions there. If you can attract a community to your website, you have a precious, precious thing.)
So before you put the “closed” sign up on comments, think about this for a moment. It’s no small sacrifice to give up a channel of communication with those you’re depending on to pay the bills.
(This is even more true if you’re a new/solo/online-based business.)
SO WHY DO PEOPLE SHUT DOWN BLOG COMMENTS?
The above drawbacks are significant, but people are still tempted to silence their comments.
And I understand why.
a) we’re overwhelmed, or
b) we’re really, really overhelmed.
Whether it’s due to the volume of comments we get or being blasted by spam, it’s true: moderating comments takes WORK.
And we often feel torn between answering comments or doing the 1 gazillion other tasks we need to run in our business. (Yes or yes?)
But is there an alternative? Can we live with our combox and still be a happy entrepreneur?
I say HECK. YEAH.
Here are a few different strategies to try that are a pile full of paperclips better than turning off comments entirely:
IF BLOG COMMENTS ARE OVERWHELMING YOU…
1. Commit to answering comments only between certain hours/on certain days
I commit to being active in my blog comments the day my post goes live. That doesn’t mean I sit here all day, it just means that periodically I check my notifications and respond to anyone who stops in.
I do try hard to get back onto the blog and respond if a comment comes up later, but if the other areas of my business are especially busy I sometimes need to simply let it go.
2. Choose how many comments you’ll respond to
If your blog is inundated with comments the day you publish a post, responding to all of them may be too heavy a burden. If this is the case, stop in once (or a few times) and answer a couple comments that stand out to you.
This helps your community feel like you’re still involved and interested, even if you’ve reached the point where it’s difficult + time-consuming to reply to each and every one of them.
3. Step away entirely and let the community interact among themselves
This strategy is OK if you have a big, big, really big blog. (The kind of blog where you get 100+ or 200+ comments each post.)
At this point your business is nowhere near “small” anymore and a stand-alone community has formed around your brand. (Lucky you!)
Is it still nice to check in and give a comment here and there? Yes. I recommend you do it, even if you just say one or two quick things.
But maybe it’s a very busy time in life and you’re juggling so many projects you can barely breathe. If so, inhale. Exhale. It’s OK.
Your community will continue on and be fine talking among themselves.
(Just make sure you or an assistant checks in occasionally to make sure no inappropriate behavior — bullying, vicious personal attacks, etc — is going on. A certain level of moderation is always required if you have a combox, even if you aren’t actively engaging there.)
4. Get smart about how people can comment
They will virtually eradicate spam, which means a lot less blog management on your end. (No more “your comment is awaiting moderation” tasks.) Win!
In closing, I want to share with you some of my favorite examples on how others treat their blog combox. Check out:
And now I have two questions for you: How do you handle your blog combox? What tips do you have for others to avoid the overwhelm/guilt?
I love you guys! Thanks for being here with me. 🙂 It’s a joy to read the insight + support you give each week.
Would you consider Pinning (and/or tweeting) this post if you found it useful-slash-amusing? I’d really love that. Thank you.
“A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.”