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Blog Comments: Strategy Or Tactic?

The opportunity to reach out and literally touch people all over the world with words still feels like a miracle to me, even after three years of blogging. A millennial who regards Internet connectivity like oxygen would wonder what on earth I’m talking about. If you’ve lived life without an Internet connection you’ll probably understand what I mean.

When people began blogging over a decade ago blog comments were a real way to engage or add to the discussion. Today the amount of content we can access online has exploded and how we consume that content on the go via mobile devices has changed things. The truth is that a tiny percentage of readers ever leave a comment and some of the most popular single author blogs in the world like Zen Habits don’t have comments at all.

Here are a few things I’ve noticed about blog comments

The number of comments is seen as social proof, or as a way to judge the worthiness of a post.

We assume that if a post is good it will have lots of comments. But a post that might resonate with you may not appeal to someone who likes to comment. Many of the most shared posts on this blog have no comments. I noticed that this bothered my loyal readers who felt the need to comment just to say thanks for writing an article that helped them.

Many blog posts are engineered to invite comments.
Often blog posts end with a question. Sometimes that question adds value, but more often it’s used as a tactic to get more comments.

Older blogs have built communities through comments.
Established blogs became places where readers recongised and connected with the ideas of other readers through comments. That’s getting harder to do these days.

Readers use comments to acknowledge and connect with the writer.
That can be a good thing, but there are better ways for you and I to meaningfully connect.

Readers use comments to show their gratitude.
I love the intention behind that—but there are limits to how many times someone can say, ‘thanks for writing this post, here’s how it helped me.’ in the comments.

I don’t want people to dismiss a post that might be useful to them because it has no comments. I want to empower readers to decide what’s relevant to them. I’m not sure that comments are the best way to make either better writers, or more informed and inspired readers.

I want to spend time writing for you and not trying to massage the end of each post with a question that’s designed to make you comment so that I can show the world that a gazillion people read it. I am happy if each post helps a handful of people to go out there and bring ideas that create difference to the world.

If I am going to build a community around these ideas I believe I need to do that with intention and right now comments are not helping me to do that.

I don’t want you to comment because you feel like you should, or because you feel like you need to pay me back in comments. You’ve already paid with your time, attention and trust. I don’t take any of that for granted for a second.

If you ever want to reach out to me to say anything—even if it’s thanks, you can contact me any time, as many readers do by hitting reply when posts are emailed to you or by email.

So, that’s my very long winded way of explaining why I’ve decided to switch off comments here for now to see how we go. This is not to say that comments won’t work brilliantly for you and your blog.

Today might be the end of comments, but it’s definitely not the end of the conversation.

Image by Eddie Codel.