Thursday, January 29, 2009

Comments in the Social Media; are we being ignored?

You and I both know that the social media gravitates around the conversation. The many new social instruments that appear on a near daily basis are specifically designed to ensure that the Internet is more conducive to interactions. Many have designated the social shift attributed to these two way information flows 'Web 2.0'; a term coined by Tim O'Reilly. The advent of Web 2.0 technologies saw a departure from the generally static web offerings of the mid to late 90's, offering the user an electronic voice with which to respond to web content. This dynamic capacity to react is most obvious in blog comments. Unfortunately, whilst the various Web 2.0 technologies have proven their worth as communications facilitators time and again, I can't help but feel that sometimes we are still being ignored.

Developing Together
Blog comments are integral for developing conversations. Whilst the opening post provides the conversational foundations, by itself it represents little more than an opinion. The result of such a strategy would invariably be a one way broadcast more reminiscent of the traditional media. By encouraging comments however, opinion is replaced by debate, discussion is facilitated, and community based knowledge is collectively enhanced. 'We' are responsible for developing 'Our' intelligence. It is for this reason that I get frustrated when blog authors close their comments sections for contributions by registered users only. The debate which such pages instigate is, as a corollary of registration requirements, diminished, and these authors are almost certainly guilty of detracting from the conversation that might otherwise take place.

Killing the Conversation
Despite the capacity for the social media to establish a direct link with the customer, many organisations implement the various Web 2.0 technologies with a retained traditional marketing perspective. Technologies adopted with the intention of reaching out to the customer often become stale; this being a corollary of contribution neglect. Despite actively inciting discussion through blog postings, many an organisation is still failing to recognize the additional benefits of engaging within the resultant conversations. Unfortunately for the organisation, stagnant conversations are unlikely to draw further commentary. Those companies that are guilty of allowing the conversation to stagnate must realise that in so doing they are killing the conversation; for who is going to use their digital voice if they feel that they aren't being heard?

Enhancing the Conversation
Comments have the capacity to truly develop the conversation, however this is reliant upon two factors. Firstly, your customers must be enabled to contribute; closed systems invariably deter engagement, and secondly, the conversation must not be permitted to become stagnant through contribution neglect. If your customers have felt sufficiently moved to engage with your organization, don’t waste this opportunity for relationship development. In choosing to implement social media based applications, your organization has opted into the conversation described above. In order to reap the benefits, you need to demonstrate a capacity to ‘listen’ in addition to your capacity to ‘talk’.

Let's not revert back to the static, one directional 'conversations' of the 90's. Let's stay social by both encouraging and engaging with the comments we receive.

Show the Rogue some Stumble love


  1. This is a great post Chris. I think that the problem with a lot of these different sources that you mention is a culmination of lots of factors. While it's no secret that most of the best bloggers are the guys who let people comment, and react to those comments.

    The problem with a lot of these different blogs in particular ones you have mentioned are afraid of trolls (simple moderation takes care of that) or that they truly just want another coverage / information source.

  2. Hey Adam,
    Thanks for your comments. You're right; comment abuse through trolling etc can be a major deterant aginst incorporating comments into blogs. As you correctly suggest though moderation can resolve these issues in most cases.

    Admittedly, comment moderation can become impractical when blog traffic skyrockets, however there are ways and means of challenging the occurence thereof; for example, by empowering the community to challenge content abuse.

    Whilst a reaction to each and every comment is not always necessary, periodic involvement demonstrates a human interest in the development of the discussion. This in turn will encourage the community to develop the conversation themselves.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, Adam.