“Why don’t I get comments on my blog?”

This is one of the most common blog-related questions I receive.  My recent post on re-thinking community engagement — especially on B2B blogs — received a lot of attention.  In addition to a vibrant comment section, I received emails, DM’s and phone calls with more ideas from the majority of folks who are meaningfully connected with companies and blogs, but don’t engage in a traditional sense.   I wanted to pass on some new  ideas on why comments may not be the best measure of “engagement,” especially for B2B companies, courtesy of the {grow} community:

Comparisons to traditional consumer behavior

Brian O’Kane and I had a lengthy Skype call on a range of topics, including the fact that most people just don’t feel comfortable commenting … on anything.

“Conventional businesses have no way of knowing how many engaged customers they have,” he said. “Think about traditional brands.  A very tiny percentage of people would actually write in to express their loyalty or displeasure with a brand yet they know they have thousands or millions of loyal consumers.  We somehow expect a higher degree of personal interaction with social media .  Because you blog or make a comment, you may expect people to comment too. But consumer behavior is still the same — most people are just happy to read and enjoy and be engaged that way. For me, I would be less concerned about the intensity of the level of engagement and more focused on the long-term business objectives.”

Engagement outside of the blog

In my post last week, I mentioned GE as a gold standard of corporate blogging but they rarely attract a reader comment.  GE’s Community Manager Megan Parker provided her take on why:

“For GE reports, we have an active and interested audience, and they tend to show us their enthusiasm or concern, as the case may be, when one of our stories really strikes a chord. We don’t have an expectation that people will comment daily or even routinely, but we do make the option to comment available every day. We’re currently fielding a survey about GEreports.com to understand what we’re doing well and not so well now that GER is about 18 months old (barely a toddler).

“We also do not look at GE Reports as just one site but more as a news and information “system” with key extensions on Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, email and RSS.  So the commenting, interacting, downloading and sharing extends beyond the orbit of GER.com and out into this constellation of sites from GE.”

Emotional connection without sharing

Josh Kashorek told me he has been reading {grow} for about a year but had never commented.  “I still feel engaged with {grow} while I’m merely a listener, ” he said. “I think it boils down to a combination of authenticity, and time. I know that sounds a bit cliche but I don’t think having an authentic voice is so much about standing out as it is about allowing readers build their own connections. The more you show me who you really are the more ways I can find that we are similar and the more similarities I find the more engaged I become. For example, we both have a strong focus on business/capitalism. This gets me more engaged because many in the social media space are still talking only about puppies and unicorns.”

Technology and policy hurdles

Jeremy Victor called me to say the post had him thinking and offered a very practical reason why comments are few and far between on B2B blogs: “Studies show that more than half of company employees aren’t even allowed to access the social web from their computers at work and  even if they can, they may not be allowed, or enabled, to comment.” So you need to consider your core audience — do they even have the ability to make a comment?

I would also add that competitive considerations may prevent many people from commenting on a company’s public blog site.

The empty restaurant

Brian compared one psychological aspect of commenting to walking into an empty restaurant.  Some would be more inclined to only take a seat if other people are there. Commenting in an empty comment section might be similar. You don’t want to be the only one putting your neck out.  It’s easier to add a comment when somebody else has been there.

… and the crowded restaurant

“Another reason I don’t comment is if I see too many comments, ” Brian said.  “I saw one of your blogs had 53 comments.  I figured if I commented, nobody will ever see it.”

These interactions, and your generous comments on the post last week, have helped change the way I look at engagement, especially on corporate blogs.  Like many of you, I’ve been guilty of falling into the “it’s all about the conversation” myth without stepping back and looking at practical business realities, traditional consumer behaviors, and other ways people can feel connected to a blog without the tangible presence of engagement.

What do you think?  Does this change your view of the social media “conversation?”

Illustration: Ciudadano Poeta
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