Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Lessons :: Why Can't I Comment?

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Julia asks:

"I just found your blog because you commented on mine, and I have to say that I'm really enjoying reading yours! I noticed that you don't have commenting on your blog and I was just wondering if there was a reason behind this? I guess I'm just intrigued because when I used to blog more I always felt the major pressure of getting enough comments on my posts, and that was one of the stresses that led to me making a major step back in my blog (aka, basically stopped blogging for a year and am just now thinking about getting back into it). Just curious as to why you set your blog up to have no comment section. :)"

Hi Julia! Thank you so much for reading. I've touched on this subject before, but new visitors may not know the answer to this question, and I think it's a pretty important one!

First, I'd like to start with a quote from Kat of Rock 'n Roll Bride. She wrote a fascinating article called I Don't Care About Blog Comments... And You Shouldn't Either. Here's a bit of what she had to say:

"I love to get feedback from my readers and it’s awesome to see so many encouraging words after I’ve published something. However, recently there’s been a massive shift in how people interact with and read blogs, and for the most part, these factors mean that across the board blog comments are going down. When I started writing online, leaving a comment on a blog was pretty much the only way to communicate with the blogger. However, these days blog readers have so many ways to contact their favourite bloggers. Conversely, many of these options are a lot easier than having to log in and leave a message on the website. The other thing about encouraging social media interaction is that the messages you get back are less likely to be pointless, spammy or offensive because the user has to be accountable for what they say. If you look at blogs which do still get a lot of comments, most of them aren’t actually adding to the conversation. There are many other ways you can measure the success of a blog post, all of them arguably more accurate than simply looking at comment numbers. A better place to start would be pageviews. The more a post resonates with somebody the more they will share it with their network of contacts, either via Facebook, Twitter or by linking to it from their own blog. Commenting culture is changing and I for one couldn’t be happier about it."

On the other hand, Kirstin wrote an equally thought-provoking post titled Is social media killing your pageviews? and here's an excerpt from that:

"Social Media is the new mecca of today’s society. With the ease of use and access to absolutely everything and anything your heart could ever desire, it is difficult not to get sucked up in the whirlwind train ride that is social media. If you have a blog, website, or page that you manage you may notice a drop in page views – especially when an article you post does not contain many images. Reading is becoming a thing of the past, and photographs, images, and memes are the way of the future. As a writer, I find this extremely disheartening. With social media giants like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and even Twitter, writing is crammed down to a limited number of characters while the images are what’s really the focus. It’s become so easy to just scroll through your feed and double click or like an image, add the image to a Pinterest board, and that’s the end of it. There’s no further reading needed, because of the instant gratification that the images on your social media feed provide you. I’m not saying that I’m not right there with the masses, scrolling through my feed and liking and saving images left and right. I’m simply saying that we, as a society, have become lazy. While social media has it’s perks and benefits with branding, brands, bloggers, connecting with people and exploring others’ talents – social media will be the death of page views, and eventually the death of reading in general. That is, of course, unless what your website contains is almost 100% visual."

Here's my take. I do believe that social media can take away from pageviews, but it can also help increase them, especially if you choose to disable comments. The internet is constantly changing, and as bloggers we need to be on top of it. If we don't use social networking to our benefit, then yes, we will be lost in the shuffle. I have a post coming up that details more of that, but here's what my sessions look like from the past year or so, beginning around the time that I shut off comments. (Please ignore the gap with no data. When my last blog designer did the coding, she accidentally deleted the section for Google Analytics and I didn't notice for three months!) Sessions are different from pageviews because it measures unique visits, which I believe is even more telling.

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As you can see, my traffic did take an initial dip, but after awhile began to increase again. Why? First off, I think it weeded out the visitors who were only coming to comment in order to get a comment back. I now know that the people who visit my blog are here because they like me and enjoy my content. Also, these days, bloggers are used to not commenting on their favorite blogs; as both Kat and Kirstin stated, it's much easier to like or share a link over social media. I don't think this is a bad thing -- in fact, it can be GREAT for us if we use it to our advantage. I mentioned here that I do a ton of tweeting, pinning and Facebook-ing of my own posts. With the constant flow of online information being shoved at us, this self-promotion isn't obnoxious but rather, necessary. Promoting your posts in this day and age is like shouting through a crowd, but it must be done if blogging is your career or passion. And because I do it, my readers are sharing more, and I am actually starting to get more views than ever.

Okay, so back to the original question: why did I disable comments? As you touched on, Julia, it was a stressful part of blogging. Instead of focusing on my content and blogging about what I loved, I was very focused on the feedback that people were giving me. I felt that I was catering too much to what my audience wanted instead of paying attention to my own passions. Though it's important to keep your followers happy if you want them to return, you can't please everyone, and I felt a lot of pressure to do just that. Also, I would always compare posts and the number of comments I was getting on them. Even though I tried not to and knew I shouldn't, it was just too hard to resist. I would spend a lot of time at work checking my personal email and analyzing the comments received.

I also felt a lot of pressure to reply to every single comment. Again, I do think it's important to interact with your readers and respond to them, but if someone says 'cute shirt!' are you supposed to take the time to visit them, especially if you (gasp!) don't think their blog is that great? I personally don't think so. Since disabling comments, I know that if someone has something of value to say (a question, a heartfelt opinion, constructive criticism) then I know that they'll take the time to tweet, Facebook or email me. I also think that interactions such as those are a lot more fun anyway!

PS: Once in awhile I open comments up for a giveaway, like here. If you're interested. ;)

See more advice posts here and feel free send a question here. (All responses based on my own opinion.)

*Photo found here.
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