One of the best ways to engage with your blogging community is to respond to reader comments. But what's the best way? Should you respond to every comment, every time? And how should you respond: within the comments or directly to the commenter? It can get confusing quickly. Luckily, there are options.Do I need to respond to every comment?
If you're starting out or don't have a solid following yet, then my advice is to respond to as many comments as you reasonably can. Just as bloggers love to receive feedback on posts, readers like to know their opinions have been heard. If someone is taking the time to write a thoughtful comment on your post, it makes sense to acknowledge it and encourage even more comments. This can get sticky if your blog grows and you start receiving many comments on each post. At that point, you may need to re-think your comment response strategy your comment policy. Most comment policies set boundaries for rude and attacking comments or spam, but you should also set expectations of how often you will respond to comments (if at all). By setting expectations early on, readers will be more likely to understand when you can't get to everyone.
Now, having said all that, there are bloggers who don't respond to comments at all (or very rarely) and that's OK too. As readers, I encourage you not to take it personally if a blogger doesn't respond to your comment.How should I respond to comments: via e-mail or in the comments section?
Each blogger handles commenting differently. Some respond to each comment individually via private e-mail; others respond individually within the comments section. Or, if there are recurring questions or reactions, a blogger may choose to update the post itself to address those concerns. Unfortunately, the default comment systems on most blogging platforms leave a lot to be desired. Luckily, there are work-arounds for the most common issues. Here are some plug-ins, widgets, and third-party applications you can install depending on your platform and what you want to achieve.
- Subscribe to Comments via Tempus Fugit allows users to subscribe to comments so they'll know whenever someone else leaves a comment on the same post. This can be helpful if comment discussion is lively and users want to have updates to the conversation sent to their inbox.
- Comment Email Responder via Ugh!!'s Greymatter Honeypot is an easy way to send an e-mail response to the commenter and have that same response automatically show up in the comment section as well.
- If you haven't enabled threaded comments, you can follow Kim's instructions for enabling threaded comments on your WordPress blog. (Threaded comments are when responses to a specific comment are indented and show up directly under the comment they respond to.)
TypePad's default commenting system is fairly robust: it allows you to establish settings like whether to allow basic HTML within comments, set comment order (oldest to newest or vice versa), include userpics, etc. But if you want to include some extra functionality, you'll need to switch to TypePad Connect. Connect allows you to kick it up a notch with functionality like
- threaded comments
- replying to a comment via e-mail and having it show up in the commenter's e-mail box as well as the comment section of the post
- replying to comments directly from the comments section and having it show up in the comments and also sending a copy to the commenter's e-mail box.
Although Blogger is a great blogging platform for some and it's very malleable in many ways, its commenting feature has been a source of frustration since the beginning. To get around the lack of commenting features, many Blogger users resort to third-party software. The two most popular options are Disqus and Intense Debate.
How are you handling comments? What plug-ins are you using to make your comments more efficient and usable for you and your readers?
Melanie Nelson writes tips and instructions at Blogging Basics 101. She is also the co-author of TypePad for Dummies.
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