I receive dozens of comments each day at The Simple Dollar, both on the site and by direct email. There are times when I’d much rather spend my time working on posts or reading other interesting sites or posting on messageboards than dealing with this user feedback, but I make it a point to read every single piece of feedback and, if there’s any reasonable way to make a response, fire off an email.
For starters, you might gain a new regular reader. The person who commented has some degree of interest in your site. Follow up on that interest and engage the reader and you’ll likely guide them back to your site for further reading.
You might also spark an interesting discussion. Conversation is what blogs are really all about. They can bring about new ideas, new relationships, and potential interesting posts for your blog.
Also, you never know for sure who you might be interacting with. I was once contacted by a well known writer using only his first name. I didn’t realize I had made this connection until the conversation had grown a bit, and that only happened because I took the initiative to respond to his comment.
Given the obvious positives of responding to comments, many of us still mess it up from time to time as we deal with some of the more sticky issues. Here are a few pointers that will help you avoid any major faux pas when dealing with comments on your blog.
Don’t delete negative comments unless they’re actually demeaning to the readership in general. Some people choose to use a harsh negative voice in their commentary. Even if you don’t agree with the person, leave their comments be; they provide an alternate perspective on the content you’ve posted.
Respond to both positive and negative comments. No matter whether the comment is positive, negative, or neutral, the simple fact remains that the comment was left by a reader who was interested in what you’ve written, interested enough to bother to interact. Don’t let that interest die by not responding if there is a place to respond.
If the message was in the form of a comment, reply on the site and also make sure to send an email. The person might not come back to your site just to see if you’ve left a responding comment. So shoot that person an email as well, including your URL. This ensures that the connection that your blog has made won’t die.
When the messages get overwhelming… your blog is doing very well. At this point, you no longer need to respond to everything; just read everything and fire a response to the ones that are interesting to you and more likely to spur interesting conversation. I’m basically at this point with The Simple Dollar; if I responded to every single message and comment that I receive, I’d do nothing but respond to messages and comments. I read everything, though, and respond where it’s interesting or needed.
In short, your blog is a central point of a community. Whenever new people move into the community, you should take them a hospitality basket, especially when the neighborhood is small. When the neighborhood grows large, you should still keep tabs on everything that’s going on and interact where there’s room for you … and be proud that your community has grown to this point.
Building a Better Blog is a month-long series at The Simple Dollar, outlining steps you can take to build a long-term healthy blog that will attract readers. Jump ahead to the next essay, Inspire Yourself, or back to the previous one, Length Doesn’t Matter.