5 Ways to Manage Comments and Trigger Engagement

BunchCast Team

Sep 25th, 2013


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Popular Science, the science and technology magazine, announced in September 2013 that they were closing the comment sections on every new article of their website in an effort to avoid trolls*. This decision triggered a lot of anger on the Internet. They were accused of choosing the easy way out and giving up on their reader's feedback. Handling comments for big media websites is tricky. 
* from Wikipedia: In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, either accidentally or with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.
For marketers, the problem is different because you are creating content to bring value and to start a relationship with a reader that may become a potential customer. It is important to let the reader express his feelings about the content you provide. Not doing so can cause frustration, like for Popular Science, and prevent you from getting feedback on what you put out there. 
Here are a few techniques to help you trigger engagement and manage comments efficiently.

1 - Always include a Call To Action

If you want to trigger engagement you should always finish your article with a clear Call To Action to help your reader know what you expect him to do. A Call To Action can be used to get a reaction from your reader and let him express what he thinks of your content, what he might add to some list, what his take is in relation to a specific part, etc. Your reader will feel your need to engage with him and your willingness to communicate and not only to distribute your "knowledge". 

2 - Moderation tools for Comments

To handle comments, many websites and blogs commonly use third-party softwares like Livefyre or DisqUs. It is difficult to handle comments on Wordpress without getting the help of such a plugin. Some prefer to stay with the standard version of Wordpress comments, while adding Akismet to manage the spam. Akismet is free for personal blogs only. Livefyre and DisqUs are free for all. 

Facebook also provides its own commenting plugin attached to a user account. Anybody who wants to comment needs to have a Facebook account. It guarantees the authenticity of the commenter. Moreover, when a comment is posted, it shows up on the user's timeline, making it known to the commenter's friends what he just said, and where he did it. Therefore, it is a little more difficult for people to make non-constructive comments or to spam.

Google is working on a new Google+ comments block like Facebook's. It appears to be the same kind of feature. Youtube is going to integrate Google+ to handle the comments because of the amount of spam. People will be forced to authenticate to their Google profile before commenting. Google did a very meticulous job of sorting out real people's profile when Google+ was created. They now count on that to assert the authenticity of the commenter. Some non-official plugins are already available on Wordpress.

3 - Notes on Paragraphs

A new kind of comment is emerging thanks to media websites like Quartz (qz.com) and to the publishing platform, Medium. Comments are not made on the whole article, but on specific parts of it. They are displayed on the right side of the text. This helps the commenters to add their take right in the middle of the article or argue with a specific issue. Global comments can still be made on the title of the post. 

4 - Answer to every Comment but never to trolls

Each time a reader makes a constructive comment on your blog, you should take time to answer. Some will make comments to add value, others will have questions or won't agree with you. Always take time to let your readers know that you acknowledge their comment. 

However, when a comment is made by a troll, you should either choose to use your moderation power or to ignore it. Don't ever feed the troll as it can backfire on you and make you lose some precious time.

5 - Invite to Comment on Twitter

Using a Call To Action to comment on Twitter will help you create a conversation about your post and increase your readership. You can also put a widget at the end of your post to gather all the reactions. If you include a #hashtag in your Call To Action, it will help you gather the tweets more easily.
Regardless of how you do it, you must always add a way for your reader to react and you should always be open to feedback. Somebody reacting to a piece of content you wrote is never a bad thing. It means you triggered a reaction (a good one, or a bad one). It is worse to be ignored.
We would love to hear your feedback on this article in the comments below. Don't hesitate to share your tips, we will add them here and credit you for them.