As I surf through the blogosphere, I continually see a trend toward bloggers desiring to see an increase in comments on their blogs. In some sense, these comments seem to provide a sense of validation to the authors.

I even had a blog author ask me if they should allow comments to be published even though they know for a fact that they are automated spam comments as long as they sound legitimate. This was their effort to make it appear as though a conversation was taking place. It was sort of the fake-it-til-you-make-it mindset, a mindset I very much abhor.

Of course, I don’t ever advocate pretending to have a conversation. Folks who act that way usually end up living with padded walls.

All of this because bloggers want comments. In fact, many bloggers measure the success of their blogs on the number of comments that they receive. That number is so incredibly important to most people…too important if you ask me.

Instead of working to pump your comment count to get your sense of validation, let’s shift our focus to something that actually matters…genuine conversation.

Stop Chasing Comments & Start Building Conversations

Not only is conversation more important than a few spam comments, it actually results in more comments. The idea of social media isn’t to chase contacts, build traffic, drive profits or expand your business network. The key is to simply be human at a distance. And the most remarkable part of this entire concept is that when you stop chasing traffic, profits and perks and start talking, communicating, playing, joking and being a real, live human-being then you’ll actually start gaining the traffic, profits and perks that you stopped chasing.

Thanks for the Comment

You’ll find blogs all across the internet plagued with dozens of comments that say nothing more than “Thanks for the comment!” You see it on Twitter. You see it everywhere. If someone you were speaking with in real-life kept thanking you for talking to them, would you hang around for very long? It would get creepy.

“Hey, could you please pass the rolls?”
“Sure. Thanks for asking a great question.”
“Umm. Okay…Hey, these are really good.”
“Absolutely. Thanks for the great comment.”

It’s hilarious when you imagine these common blogger-like conversations in real-world scenarios. Needless to say, we wouldn’t have very many people coming back over for dinner if our conversations followed this example…and we won’t have many people interacting with us on our blogs or across social media if we do either.

Rather than going through the motions, begging for comments, and working to pump your stats, simply get out there and be friendly, chat around your respective niche, share information, ask questions, and make friends.

Stop chasing comments and start building conversations.

Nicholas Cardot

About Nicholas Cardot

It's my personal quest to enable every person that I can to unlock that dormant potential concerning their online influence. Also, I'm a geek.

71 Comments

  • Brad Harmon says:

    Ugh!! Thanks, Nicholas. Now every time I thank someone for leaving a comment I’m going to have your little dinner roll exchange running through my head.

    Here in the South we are still quite a polite bunch. As the song goes, “We say grace, and we say ma’am. If you ain’t into that we don’t give a …” 😉 I think some of this is more natural in some regions of the country (or world) than others.

    Your point about chasing comments is very apropos for what’s happening with a lot of bloggers. I was tempted to accept spam comments just to have any comments at all in the beginning of my blogging career. It’s not that hard to game the system if you are determined enough.

    I could fake 100 comments a post, several hundred tweets and Facebook likes, and even have several thousand subscribers. I would look like a big shot, but what would be the point?

    It’s hard to fake genuine conversations though, isn’t it?

    • I’m certainly not saying that we shouldn’t ever be polite or say thank you, but your comment right here is proof of my very point. The fact that you wrote a 5 paragraph comment that is actually fluid like we’re having a conversation means far more to me than if you had simply thanked me for a ‘great post’. Being friendly, building a conversation, developing that relationship…those are the real thank you’s.

  • ChickenFreak says:

    Brad, you don’t have to thank people for comments if you want to be polite – instead, respond to the comments. In the “rolls” example, the response to “Hey, these are really good” can be, “Thank you so much! They were my grandmother’s recipe; she always insisted that you have to use pure lard and cake flour, and I have to admit that they’re better that way, even if they are cholesterol bombs.” And so on.

    Even in the most polite online society, thanking someone for a comment feels wrong to me – among other things, it acknowledges the blogger’s often-desperate desire for a response from his audience, and that’s a little uncomfortable. To me, it’s not like a host’s “thank you for coming”; it’s….weirder, needier, nervous-making.

    • Brad Harmon says:

      Thanks for that comment, ChickenFreak. 😉

      Just to clarify, what are you thanking the person for in your example? Isn’t it their comment about the rolls? You added much more to the conversation, but you still thanked them for the comment. That’s very similar to what I do when responding to, or leaving, comments.

      • ChickenFreak says:

        I’d say that I’m thanking them for the compliment, not the comment. If their remark hadn’t been a compliment (“Oh, I didn’t realize they had an egg wash; I’m afraid I’m allergic.”) then I wouldn’t have thanked them in my response. (“Oh, dear. I’ll remember that next time. Are you OK with pecans? My grandmother had a great savory pecan twist recipe, complete with blue cheese.”)

        My problem isn’t with the phrase “thank you”, but with the idea of thanking someone merely for communicating with me.

      • I think the biggest issue isn’t whether or not you thank, but that you don’t simply thank and then shut up. It’s more meaningful to have a smaller thank you and a more legitimate, real-to-life conversational tone than to simply make sure that you’re expressing proper gratitude. I think that placing the effort on the conversation will allow thoughts and ideas to be developed from all the members of the conversation, it will allow friendships to develop, and in the end, it will allow more comments to be produced than otherwise would have been produced.

    • Thanks for the comment, ChickenFreak. Just kidding. Seriously though, you’re dinner time example is right on the money. A short, passive thanks that leads into a more thoughtful, engaging response is far more effective than simply saying thank you. Not saying thankful doesn’t mean that you don’t express gratitude. It means that you take your gratitude to the next level by actually engaging with the person.

      I can be sitting at a bus stop in Timbuktu and if I sneeze, someone will invariably say, ‘God bless you.’ But that token of kindness doesn’t constitute a conversation. It’s simply a pleasantry and that’s exactly how the thank-your online are taken. Instead, be friendly. Have a nice conversation. That’s a real thanks.

  • anthonynlee says:

    Great points. It all goes back to what I see a lot of you great bloggers talking about recently….being REAL. Being the pure unadulterated you is not just an included requirement of social media…..its an ESPECIAL requirement. This is how you will engage people who may or may not do business with you. They need to know, like, and trust YOU. they get to know who you are via your blogs and social media platforms.
    Aside from that, it is my belief that you will probably always be your own biggest fan….and so the only way to find people like you (cuz they ate the ones who will love ur stuff) is to be you. Be a real person and see how many conversations you have then.

    • That’s exactly right. I sometimes fear that people feel that there’s a different way to talk and act online than there is offline, but I’m constantly advocating that people try to imagine their conversations as if they were taking place face-to-face in real life. I think this visualization would help a lot of people relax and just have a normal conversation.

  • Being one that subscribes to comments every time I leave one, I agree. The incessant thank yous really take a lot of deletion time.

    On the bright side, I now have a really good way to make sure some never return for dinner. 😉

  • I admit when I started I kinda had the intentions of letting suspect comments through anyway, unless they were evidently automated. But then I realized it was pointless, and now I am a lot more picky. Just yesterday I tagged as spam a couple of comments which came through both Akismet and GASP and were perfectly “human” but made just for the sake of the backlink. I am not comfortable in allowing that kind of comment any more, honestly.

    • That’s good that you’ve matured in your blogging in this way. I remember when I felt that way about comments where I wanted to do whatever it took to create new comments. I was desperate, insecure. Once you get past that, you can really focus on building friendships and building robust conversations around great topics.

  • Derek Jensen says:

    Would you agree that conversation about the topic or message at hand can be talked about with social media outlets rather than being bogged down in trying to manage and retain a conversational comment?

    I always think about the reason why John Gruber chose to go against having comments on Daring Fireball. He focuses on people emailing him which will then focus on you, the author, to build your credibility and audience that will want them to email you instead.

    • I feel like that reinforces the point that I’m trying to make. I think that a lot of folks really go after that comment count and in reality, conversations can take place anywhere in any form. Comments are worthless in the light of a real conversation with actual substance whether that takes place on Twitter, Facebook, email, or wherever it might be. I maintain that the conversation is far more important than the comments and I don’t have a problem at all with someone removing comments altogether from the site in an effort to drive the conversation through some other medium.

      • Derek Jensen says:

        That’s what I’ve done.

        Boy did I get a good deal of heat from people asking why I have no comments. As long as I provide quality content a conversation will take place and shared. They will find a way.

        • If there’s enough thought that goes into the content, it won’t matter if you allow comments or not. For example, Seth Godin doesn’t allow them and his material is incredibly popular because it’s incredibly powerful. Don’t let anyone tell you that you have to have comments. Decide it for yourself.

    • ChickenFreak says:

      I dislike the idea of comments going to email; I think that conversation between commenters is valuable, and going to email eliminates that. It puts more focus on the author, yes, but I don’t consider that such a good thing.

      For the same reason, I dislike the need to moderate comments; even a brief delay slows down that reader conversation. I realize that it’s unavoidable for many blogs, but I think that it’s unfortunate.

      • I agree with you ChickenFreak. I personally blog not only to share my thoughts with people, but also to learn from people. I always welcome comments, and I often learn a lot from the experiences people share related to the topic I wrote about.

        • Derek Jensen says:

          It’s all about training your audience and finding the best method for you and others to gather and leave quality responses instead of just a response.

          • Exactly. As they see your conversational approach and as you control and gently lead the conversations, folks will get on board and the conversation across the site will mold and change.

  • Elena says:

    What a good point! I think that people thank others out of courtesy and acknowledgement. I can see how it is overdone though. I am guilty of always thanking my commenters.

    I think it’s better to answer their questions or comments and thank them only if it is appropriate.

  • Sarah Harris says:

    Very well said. I always thank people for leaving a comment, but then I respond to what they’ve said as well. I think this definitely gets the conversation going.

    But you’re right about the overuse of the ‘thank you.’ When you look at it the way you presented, it really doesn’t seem that natural. Because my blog is still fairly new, I’m just so grateful anyone is reading at all!

    • It’s certainly good to be grateful to your readers, but just as you mention, that can be expressed through a simply thank you and then a conversational response. What do you blog about, Sarah, and how long ago did you start?

  • Hi Nicholas,
    I suspect that agendas might change over time. Many might initially use comments as a way or strategy to increase traffic. However genuine friendships do develop that foster and encourage real conversation. Commenting (purpose, frequency, where etc) is one of the many issues newbie have to sort out.
    Riley

    • NR says:

      I agree with your sentiments in terms of gaining more traffic. I think a lot of new bloggers find it hard and discouraging at first when no one really visits their sites. When you finally get commented on the post, they may feel validated.

      But genuine conversations start with the author not the guest. I think if you harbor a blog that allows for great conversations and a topic worth discussing..then you have a recipe for success.

      • Everything rises and falls on leadership. Although the conversation may start with the guest, the conversation relies on the author. It’s up to the author to build the conversation and create that feeling that makes a commenter want to come back and keep discussing issues with the author. If the author doesn’t respond of if they don’t respond well, comments will decrease quickly.

    • Although that’s somewhat true, I often find that as bloggers mature in their blogging career, they begin to rely on comments much less for traffic and far more for the relationships that they can build. After all, that type of traffic isn’t always necessarily the targeted traffic that’s going to purchase your products anyways.

  • Brad says:

    This comment doesn’t exist for your validation Nick. It exists to tell you to keep kicking ass with these great posts.

    Have a good day and remember that this post isn’t real, it’s only a figment of your imagination, and the voices you hear are real people at a distance.

  • Alex says:

    Great post NIck, and I love the way you ended with that succinct sentence that tied it all together.

    Not sure if I should be commenting though? 😉

  • I will be honest, sometimes I don’t respond to every comment simply because there’s nothing there to spark a conversation. As a commenter, a response of thank you for commenting isn’t particularly valuable to me. i don’t always expect something in return. If you do spark a conversation great, but if not, i’m not going to hold it against you. Not every comment is conversation worthy.

    • I agree that not every conversation is conversation worthy. After all, you can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip. However, as the author, it’s up to you to make your best efforts to connect and to make those judgment calls. When it feels right, build that conversation. When it doesn’t, then don’t.

  • Hey Nick, you make a great point here, and one that’s been bugging me for a while.

    For a long time, both on my blog and when guest posting, my policy on comments was that I only respond if they asked a question, or I have something to add – I felt exactly as you do, that otherwise it results in these inane and ridiculous comment conversations.

    I actually got feedback from some larger bloggers with whom I guest posted saying that that could come off as rude and uninvolved, and that some readers take it personally when you don’t respond to their comments (to the point of emailing “why did their comment warrant a response and mine didn’t?”).

    That doesn’t feel right to me, but at the same time I want to be gracious to my hosts when guest blogging, and courteous to my readers when blogging on Firepole Marketing, so lately I’ve been leaning towards responding to more comments, unless there’s really nothing at all for me to add.

    I’m not really sure how to handle this, and I’d definitely appreciate your input!

    • A while ago, I had made it my goal to respond to every single comment on this site. However, I was also working a full-time job as a United States Army Infantryman which meant that during the day, my time belonged to Uncle Sam. When I would get home, I would peruse my comments and respond to each of them. I remember getting home one day to a very rude email from an irate reader. “WHY HAVEN’T YOU RESPONDED TO MY COMMENT YET!!! I SEE THAT YOU RESPOND TO EVERYONE ELSE’S!!!”

      The only reason I hadn’t responded to their comment yet, was because I was at my job and unable to until I got home from work. To me it was silly and juvenile. I wanted to respond that I didn’t like them, they smelled funny, and I wished that they would go play leapfrog with a unicorn, but I refrained from saying that. Instead, I explained the situation and everything was alright.

      The long, drawn-out point is this: It is true that some folks really want to know that you’re there for them as far as the conversation goes, but also there’s no way that you can ever make everyone happy regardless of how much effort you put into it.

      With that in mind, I would recommend that instead of using a question as the litmus test for whether or not you should respond, I would say to respond if their comment is at all conversational. If it’s conversational and you leave them hanging, that’s somewhat rude even if there’s no question. Or rather, it’s not necessarily rude, but it can come across as rude.

      Does that help a bit?

  • Murugappan says:

    Had been doing it… saying “thanks for the comment,” followed by the commentator’s name.
    Well, you’ve got a point. But, Nick, what more can you expect as a reply to “Thanks for the Great post, Muru!”? That’s my question.
    Suppose I delete that comment, I must be breaking the relationship with him/her.
    Or should I do something better? Should I advice them to comment something sensible? That’s more harsh than it sounds. Also, who’d like to listen and act upon advices?
    Waiting to hear from you.

    • You don’t have to delete their comments, but you can use your creativity in crafting a response to them. Sometimes those types of commenters are comfortable with building online conversations and they need your subtle guidance to make it happen. Here’s an example conversation as an example of how you can craft highly creative responses to build a conversation.

      John Doe: “Thanks for the great post, Muru.”
      Muru: “You’re welcome, John. I’m really happy that you enjoyed it. How long have you been blogging, John? Do you think there’s any ways to implement the ideas from this post into the way that you write at your blog?”
      John Doe: “Wow. Thanks for the response. I’ve been blogging just over a year, but I’m still struggling to see the kind of growth I’d like. I could probably…..”

      Does that help a little bit?

      • Murugappan says:

        Might help. But in most probability, John Doe, I reckon, might not come back to the post to check the comments having sent a comment that most people wouldn’t extend to a conversation. Or John Doe might have come to site only to build a backlink. What’d you do to John Doe if that was the case, Nick?

        • Keep in mind that you’re not just responding for the sake of the person that you’re responding to. You’re also responding so that the next person who comes along to leave a comment can see that you take the time to interact with your readers.

  • Brankica says:

    I think I am trying to build conversations, not only on my blog but others as well.

    I get the point here and although I thanks for (almost) every comment it feels weird. People are used to getting replies to all comments on my blog but sometimes I really can not build a conversation out of a comment. Now I even confused myself trying to explain this, lol.

    • Sometimes it really is difficult to create something conversational from some of the comments that people leave, but that’s where you get to be creative and see how you can break outside the box and find a way to draw that reader deeper into conversation.

  • Izzat Aziz says:

    Most blogger including me sometime are prefer number, because it the only thing that I could benchmark on. How many people, how many comment, that what matter.

    Little did I know that what is important is much more than just number, if there was a mathematical formula to calculate the value of comment, it definitely look way different than the actual number.

    You got so many comment, but the comment is either too short, or talking about totally unrelated topic, not only it doesn’t add up the value of the post, but there will be no conversation after that.

    But it hard to make sure people are commenting a ‘good comment’ but I remember you said to me that it the owner of the blog which the one responsible to start the conversation.

    • Two things:

      First, you can’t force others to leave good comments on your blog. You can only leave good comments yourself.
      Second, that number will never matter. What matters is that the message your blog is conveying is getting into the hearts and minds of the people reading it, and that isn’t reflected in a number but in the quality of the reactions.

    • Murugappan says:

      I somewhat agree. Bloggers wouldn’t bother the number of comments, right. But the end-user does have a kind of attraction towards a blog with more number of comments and hence tends to consider that a reliable source. Right?

      • What you’re talking about is called social proof. It’s the same idea as when a world-class violinist sits on the subway station in New York City and after an hour of playing, he walks away with only 20 or 30 dollars. Later that night, he plays in a concert hall and walks away with thousands of dollars. In one situation, he was in a place where paying a ticket price and cheering for him seemed the norm. And in the other situation, he was on a subway.

        The point is that there is a psychological aspect to the concept of social proof that does work, but ultimately the value of his performances never changed. He produced beautiful music both times and people recognized it.

  • Nick,
    Now…. I had read another awesome post by you. As you told in your post, we should be able to get valid and good comments. Most of the newcomers to the blogging world even love to spam their own blog to increase the count. Needless to say that everyone like me and you know that quality matter and not quantity. but, those poor fellow bloggers aren’t aware of it. too sad.

  • Thomas says:

    Hi Nicholas
    Like in many other aspect of life quality beats quantity and this is also the case when it comes to comments on a blog. I must admit that when I started commenting on others blogs it was mainly to try to drive a little link juice back to my own little blog. Eventually I found out that behind most blogs there is a real human being that are struggling with a lot of the same issue that I am with my own blog. I also learned that a lot of those people actually was more than willing to help me and connect with my if I just was reaching out and asked some questions or in other way added useful value to their blog. When I started with that the real fun blogging started for me 🙂

  • Melody says:

    Hi Nick! I have read blog articles where people say that it is not necessary to respond to every single comment. I think that once upon a time I read Mitch Joel article with that idea, though I can’t find it now, so I’m not sure I’ve got that right.
    What is your strategy when you feel like you want to say the same thing to two people? Do you make two comments?

    The other thing is that the sheer number of comments IS something that many people look at to know if a blog has visitors. It is the only visible sign of traffic. (Absent a hit counter which I would never use). There are many people who don’t realize that it may take 100 visitors to get one or two comments. And some people have never heard of Google analytics. 😉

    On a serious note, having a big number is fun, but you are right that it is meaningless unless it’s a genuine conversation or at least a genuine comment. I loved the “pass the rolls” part of this.

    Pass the comments, Nick … Oh and can I get one of those ‘cholesterol bombs’ that ChickenFreak is having?
    ~Melody

  • ah hong says:

    I felt the same where most of the comment in blogs were just half way rather than one way conversation.

    It’s a different stroy in Facebook, conversation can be built easily after I wrote a status update. Maybe my friends & fans is checking the Facebook all the time and respond the comment in real time but not in my blog 😀

  • Kazia says:

    I’m one of those bloggers who is looking to improve her blog’s comment thread. And I’m pretty sure I’ve been guilty of the “Thanks for the comment” style response.

    And you’re right, I need to cut it out right now!

  • Hi Nicholas,

    I have to admit, I don’t visit your blog all that often (just so darn busy), but when I do, it’s always such a learning experience.

    And ironically, I enjoyed reading the comments on your blog just as much as the article itself!

    You have really perfected the art of conversation. It really is quite remarkable and something you don’t see all too often.

    I’m with you, it’s all about building relationships; whether it’s on your blog or one of your social networks. It’s a process just like anything else.

    All the best.

    • That’s alright, Michele. I forgive you. LOL. Seriously though, we’re all busy. Don’t feel bad. I appreciate that you do enjoy it when you are able to make it over here.

      It really is a process to learn to build conversations with people and you definitely have that same gift.

      • Nerma Moore says:

        Hello NIcholas,

        I completely agree with your message in this post.

        Due to the fact that most bloggers online receive little to no comments with their blog posts, it is sometimes very tempting to allow comments from “anyone” just to create a false sense of recognition.

        Ultimately though, the blog built on a stable foundation, with solid principles will survive the test of time.

        Thanks for the post 🙂

        • It can be very tempting, but that doesn’t mean that the false validation that can come from it is healthy or useful to the bloggers. As you mention, growing your blog with a solid foundation and focusing on continued growth will get you up the ladder of success.

  • […] a matter of time before real people start commenting on your blog. Nicholas Cardot stated it best, Stop Chasing Comments & Build Conversations. #3:  Start Multiple Blogs (Before Perfecting One) If you’re just starting, you need to […]

  • Hi Nicholas

    Excluding the obvious spammers the number of very short comments may well be linked to the way many people now communicate.

    It started with text messaging and now has moved into even less characters with Twitter. Perhaps this is one reason why there are shorter comments.

    What do you and readers think?

    Roland

  • […] than JJ, my inspiration for this piece was drawn from Nicholas Cardot’s piece on building conversations. I often revisit topics like this on my Yogizilla-branded blog (Y3B) so please come visit me and […]

  • […] Cardot got it right when told his readers to Build Conversations instead of just chasing […]

  • […] Stop Chasing Comments and Build Conversations […]

  • Mel Melhado says:

    We can understand about the ugliness of automated spam comments but a blog which does not allow readers to comment doesn’t make the readers feel welcome. There are countless of blogs so readers can always extract the juice from some other blogs which also offers high quality comments.

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