Nothing lends weight and authority to a blog post than a slew of comments at the end. It’s like a snowball: The more comments you have, the more likely other people are willing to add their own two cents. If you’re lucky, you’ll have entire conversations taking place.
So, how do you manage all those comments at the end of your posts? If you’re fortunate enough to have a lively, chatty audience, you’ll need to learn how to manage anything that shows up in your comments section. Here’s how to do that:
Welcome new participants with open arms
To some people, posting a comment is like showing up naked to school. The exposure that comes along with voicing their opinion in front of a group of critical strangers is often enough to turn a participator into a lurker. For this reason, setting up complex registration process so a reader can comment is one more way to turn away someone uncertain about commenting in the first place.
To kill the uncertainty of shy readers, make posting on your blog as easy as possible, without drawing an avalanche of spammers. WordPress has the option of letting anyone post sans registration, but it gives you the option of approving a reader’s first comment and letting every other comment beyond the first comment show up without approval.
Be your own sheriff
To keep things clean and easy, think of your blog as a small town. You want people to have fun and enjoy living there, but you have to set up some rules first. This means developing a list of things you’ll allow in comments, along with things you won’t allow.
Many blogs start with the obvious ones like banning racism and hate speech, but you’ll need to decide beyond that if you’re going to blanket ban name-calling and other offenses, or mete out justice on a case-by-case basis.
The point is, you decide. If a loyal poster goes off the deep end, delete their comment and then email them, explaining why. If the offense is made by a person who is just popping in to get a rise out of other posters, you’ll have to make a decision then and there if you’re going to banish them or let them stay in the village.
Dump some trolls, keep others
Internet trolls come in many shades, ranging from the juvenile-spirited hacks to provocative political bomb-throwers. While some simply enjoy getting everyone’s ire up, others come in with an opposing view almost certain to stir healthy debate.
Before you decide to give certain posters the heave-ho, ask yourself two things: is the person insulting anyone personally, and are they adding anything to the discussion? For instance, a person who enters a dieting forum and calls the other posters “fat” is 100% troll. However, a person who enters a diet forum and offers a scientifically backed view that the diet du jour is harmful to one’s health actually brings something to the conversation.
If a fiery discussion ensues without getting personal, feel free to keep the troll around to cause a bit of a ruckus. Controversy for a blog is good sometimes, and you’ll find people who never commented before jump in to offer their own opinions on the topic.
Have no tolerance for spam
Spammers can ruin a comments section faster than you can spell S.E.O. No one wants to read through your comments when every third one has nothing to do with the good posts they’ve spent reading. Unfortunately, spammy comments can also discourage legitimate people from posting, killing the conversation even further.
When it come to spammers, you have to really be on your guard. The old spammer of yesteryear used to simply throw up a URL and list out prices of goods like Nike cross trainers or designer handbags. Today’s spammers spell out web addresses (“free meds dot net”) to sneak past your defenses, and may even leave a legit comment about your post, but they end their comment with a web addresses or an email address.
If you are using WordPress, make use of the comment blacklist feature, but be careful – blacklisting a word will also ban longer words that contain that word. For instance, if you ban the word “cash” you’ll ban the word “cashmere”, which can be a major issue for your comments section, especially if you run a fashion blog.
Chances are you know at least one person – most likely more – that has a blog of their own. In times of trouble, don’t be afraid to ask your friends and colleagues out in the blogosphere for a comment trade where you comment on their blog and they comment on yours. “Priming the pump” like this is not the ideal way to get your comments section rolling, but it can definitely help. Just make sure the trade is not obvious to anyone else that visits your blog (or theirs).
Remember: the comments section of your blog can be a very powerful marketing tool, adding an air of legitimacy (and popularity) to your posts. On the other hand, a poorly managed comments section can drive possible frequent readers away.
Ultimately, the key to successfully modding comments is finding balance between which comments to keep, which comments to ditch. If you do master the art of modding your comments, you’ll definitely see an increase in dialogue.