Content is king, frequency is crucial, formatting and theme are important, and authorial tone (including humor) often makes a world of difference when it comes to successful blogging. But let’s talk about a sometimes-forgotten aspect of your blogging lifestyle: replying to comments.
Engaging your community through replies is extremely valuable, and especially for beginning bloggers who are in the process of building a brand and an audience. It gives commenters a sense that their views are important to you, and that they can make a difference in the direction or content of the current discussion. This will make them (and others) want to visit more. It also breaks down the rather imperial one-way street of blog content. When visitors feel that a blog’s content is going in two directions, they’re more likely to engage, increasing your traffic.
Here are six tips to start your moderating career off right.
- Delete derogatory, racist, expletive-laced, or otherwise hate-filled speech. Don’t sink to their level and try to respond to or somehow deconstruct such comments. Not worth your time!
- Combat comment spam. Naturally, you need to take steps to eliminate all of those wonderful broken English solicitations for designer handbags and Canadian pharmacy medications. Current versions of WordPress come with the anti-spammer plugin Akismet, and SpamFree is also a popular plugin. In any case, find a way to automate the process rather than burden yourself with the headache of manual deletions.
- Brevity is your friend. Comments are not the place for entry-length commentary. Don’t take too much time and bury good content in replies that are harder to find than proper blog entries. If a reply warrants a whole other entry, make a new entry, and acknowledge the user who spurred the new topic.
- Make like Gandhi with the haters. Unless you’ve cultivated a particularly tough persona and an appropriately tough audience, it doesn’t make much sense to spit venom back at those who denigrate your site, mock your expertise, and belittle what you have to offer. Non-constructive insult-slingers deserve just what they would if they called in to some huge corporation’s customer service department: an indifferent, diplomatic answer. “I’m sorry you didn’t respond to the entry. Please check back next time, and hopefully you’ll find something more to your liking.”
- However, correct misconceptions. Vague insults are one thing; if someone is taking issue with a contention you’ve made, replies are the proper forum to engage in a healthy debate.
- On a related note, freely admit when you’re wrong. Very few of us are some sort of unimpeachable masters of our field. First and foremost, we are intellectually curious and passionate about our topic of choice, and that’s what drives your content (and your audience). Check your pride at the door and acknowledge mistakes.
How do you handle replies? Do you think they’re useful in building a community?