Do You Get Many Comments on Your Blog?





Small business owners like you and I are more likely to participate in social media online than the average population. We’re more likely to be blogging and uploading videos. We’re also more likely to participate in online communities through commenting.

How do I know that? Well, it actually comes from some research by Forrester Analysts Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. It’s in connection with their new book, Groundswell, about social media attitudes and adoption. (Check out their interactive Profile Tool, too, which Ivana Taylor clued me in to.)

They point to survey results of small businesses (with under 50 employees). Their research shows that small business owners are more engaged and involved online than the average population. Interpreting their survey results they note:

The first thing to look at is the proportion of Spectators (people who consume some form of social content) and Inactives (those who do no social activities at all). With 53%, Spectators, and only 38% Inactives, small business owners are significantly more likely to participate in social applications than the average American consumer. This tells us it’s worth putting social in your marketing budget for them.

Second, notice that Creators and Critics are well represented among this group. The Creators among them are blogging and uploading content like video – it would pay to keep an eye on them, using monitoring services like Motivequest. The high number of Critics tells you that business owners are relatively open to responding to blogs and participating in communities.

This is valuable information. However, I do offer up one observation that’s a little different: in my experience and from observing and visiting many non-technology small-business sites, I find that most small-business readers and members tend to be silent participants. Comments tend to be sparse — certainly more so than on, say, technology sites or politics sites.

Is that your experience? If you have a blog, do you get a lot of comments? And what about you — how often do you comment on other blogs and community forums?

35 Comments ▼

Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

35 Reactions
  1. Hi Anita,

    I’ve generally found the same thing. I think the reason they appear more engaged is because they are, quite literally more engaged. They have a lot more invested in the success of their business. It’s not ‘just a job’.

  2. I agree- I think that generally participation in social media is sparse because a small business owner has a limited time he/she can spend on activities outside their business walls.

  3. I do get a good amount of comments, but my business, cartooning, is a little more personal to readers I think.

    Like this post, I’ve also taken to asking questions directly of my readership, which always helps! 🙂

  4. Great observations Anita, thanks!

    I’ve been blogging for several years now. Also, my company has added blogs to our client’s websites and/or converted their static sites into content management systems. Blogs allow business owners to update their own content, lower their website maintenance costs and improve their online marketing ROI.

    I get a lot more comments on “hobby” type blogs than business blogs. However, I have found my clients often talk about content I’ve posted and they tell me they read my business blog frequently. Although they rarely comment on the blog itself, we receive dozens of referrals as a result of the content.

    Again, thanks for the info.

  5. Anita,

    Ouch! Small-business-blogger pain point—low comments! I reach out constantly to other bloggers, not just in small business writing, which works a bit because everybody can relate to what I write from the customer angle, but I’d really like to “hear” more from the silent majority of my readers, who are small business owners, entrepreneurs, or thinking of starting a small business.

    I know I’m being read by clients and prospects, who often mention that they were pre-sold by reading the MCE Blog, but something holds those readers back from being active participants. Most commenters are fellow bloggers or folks who’ve read my comments on other blogs.

    I’ve been to three sites in the last week recommended by other SMB bloggers, with super insights and years-longer track records than mine, with absolutely no comments on over two-thirds of their posts. Whew.

    Regards,

    Kelly

  6. Anita, here’s the key.

    Just because small business owners are more likely to participate in the groundswell, that doesn’t mean they’ll comment on YOUR site.

    You can reach them, they will participate. But they have lots of other alternatives. There are plenty of small business owners participating in social applications from Intuit and Constant Contact, as we describe in our book.

    My recommendation to those targeting small business is this: pick a niche (Boston-area plumbers, freelance graphic designers, whatever) and market to them. That’s the strategy most likely to succeed unless you’re as big as Intuit or Staples.

  7. Hi Anita:

    I think time is an issue – for sure. But I too often hear from clients and prospects that they have read posts on my blog – and ask/tell me about them when we meet FTF.

    Blogging is publishing – and it is hard to attract fans- you have to be timely, relevant, remarkable, entertaining, etc. And that is a challenge. We are competing for people’s time and attention – the most valuable of all currencies.

    TO’B
    http:\\humanvoice.wordpress.com

  8. Fascinating! Just in these comments from Greg and Kelly and Tom I’m hearing this: “people read and listen and are influenced, but don’t necessarily comment.”

    The important part of that statement seems to be that readers take in your message from you blog, even if they don’t comment.

    Is that your experience?

  9. Hi Josh, thanks for stopping over. My point was more about small businesspeople being that “silent participant”.

    They are participants, and engaged participants, as some of the commenters here attest. They just participate “silently.”

    My advice to other small biz bloggers is: do not judge the success of your business blog by the number of comments.

    Let me offer an example. Here at Small Business Trends, one of the most popular articles is Laura Bennett’s 2008 Pet Industry Trends. That article is “emailed to a friend” almost daily. But if you look at the number of comments, it has only 9 comments and 3 trackbacks. Other posts on this site have far more comments, but get much less traffic.

    Anybody else have similar examples on your own site? Of articles that you KNOW are popular, but have few comments? 🙂

    Anita

    PS, Josh, nice work! Looking forward to reading the book.

  10. People only respond to what affects them. I have a very well read blog that receives few posted comments but we get emails whenever we strike a chord. We are affecting our readers but they only take action when their particular passion is addressed. See my blog at http://www.joelblock.com/blog

    Thanks for your great material!

    Joel

  11. Thanks for this post and the comments. I often feel disappointed that I get very few comments on my business blog. Right now I don’t have the time to integrate it with the website which I believe would help. I keep at it, though, thinking that some people are reading and at the very least I am making a good habit of writing.

    Often I search blogs for posts about our products and add facts, updates, etc. in the comments. My blog comments have converted to sales and page views on our website. For a few minutes writing time, and no other cost, these comments are a valuable conversion earner for our online retail business!

  12. Joel, you raise a great point about emails. Someday I’d like to do a poll to see the proportion of emails versus publicly displayed comments, in relation to blogs. I think some businesspeople just feel more comfortable emailing than commenting.

    Rachel, it’s wonderful to hear your ROI from commenting on other blogs. I am thrilled to hear that the commenting is paying off!

    Anita

  13. It’s a shame that commenting is so rare, because having an interesting, active discussion going on is one of the things that makes a blog so valuable to readers.

    I’d have to agree that a lot of readers on our own blog will email us directly if they really liked a particular article. Part of this is possibly because they are working professionals who fear a public record of “wasting work time” on the internet 🙂

    Some people arguably also avoid comments because they’re turned off by blog spam. I love it when someone engages with a discussion and shares a link to a relevant product or service, but it’s a bit of a turn-off when you see comments like “I couldn’t agree more with your viewpoints on the eating habits of Llamas! Check out my website: http://industrialwidgetworld.com” (not a real site).

    I do think there are a couple of solutions. One – the owner of the blog can raise the bar and get the discussion going … your blog (small biz trends) is great because you get very actively involved in these comment threads, and nudge the conversation along.

    Two- I’m a big believer in social voting technology. This is another way to get people engaged in the discussion and feel ownership in a community. Comments can be rated by other readers as interesting, funny, spam, or inflammatory. The interesting or funny ones float to the top while the others get “buried” (anyone familiar with Slashdot will know what I mean). If you ask most people why they read Slashdot, their answer is usually “I read it for the comments”. The only problem; I can’t find any such software compatible with our own blog 🙁 A business opportunity for someone!

  14. Hi Anita. It was great to meet you at the Karcher Group seminar last week. I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation!

    We recently started a corporate blog and we’re still getting our feet wet. The blog stats show that people are visiting our blog although the comments are sparse. As long as we’re getting our message out (the blog has only been up for about six weeks now) I’m not too terribly concerned about the lack of comments…just yet.

    I do, however, have an etiquette question for you. Should we respond back to every person who does post a comment?

  15. NO, but I also send out my blog as an ad on the Net for several categories that then is directed to my Squidoo lenses which helps to increase traffic. Also it may be weeks or even months before someone will make a comment out of the blue!

  16. Hi Anita,

    You know-it’s odd. Some posts get lots of comments, some trigger more direct emails, and then others just sit there.

    I think it has to do with the date they get posted as well. Some days are better than others.

  17. Just want to give credit where credit is due — Guy Kawasaki tweeted the link to the Forrester Profile and wanted to know what everyone though – I’m going to tweet him and send him HERE.

  18. I too have seen large numbers of visitors to my blog without a great number of comments made. I do know, however, from other sources (email, etc.) that people are absorbing the information I’m providing and using it to help grow their businesses.

    I wonder if it’s not a “time” issue. Perhaps people have time to review several blogs, etc., and use the information to their benefit, but not enough time to get involved in them. It’s much faster to scan the information presented and move on than to stop, think and make a meaningful comment.

  19. My blog gets very few comments, but I often get emails in response to my posts.

    I think it is important to differentiate between blogs and other types of social media. Community and/or support sites seem to generate a lot more small business response and interaction than blogs.

    The Constant Contact best practices blog, for example, gets very view comments despite a pretty large audience. And at Intuit comments and posts are mostly happening in their support and networking communities. So while both companies are very successful in engaging their customers with social media, the response success comes from their community and support sites, not their blogs.

    This is not to say that their blogs aren’t successful. They appear to me to be very successful, they just don’t generate a lot of comments.

    Steve

  20. Anita,

    I believe that some of it also comes down to lack of experience with commenting and social media and believing that their voice isn’t that important. Many small business owners are not comfortable discussing their business in a public forum because they feel that their sphere of knowledge is incomplete. I know that I struggled with it for quite a while before I was comfortable leaving comments.

    Doug

  21. For the msot part, my blog readers tend to be great commentors, but when compared to a purely “make money online” blog such as John Chow or Problogger… it’s definitely not as much. However, their traffic is much higher, and they are also looking to get their links out there too.. which is why I guess this justifies any larger numbers of commentors on their “Make Money” blogs.

  22. I have a blog and it has been up for about one month. I hardly get any comments, but I have been getting a good amount of traffic. Is there anything I can do to help people comment on the blog page?

  23. Hi Patti,

    I enjoyed meeting you, too!

    Regarding your question:

    “I do, however, have an etiquette question for you. Should we respond back to every person who does post a comment?”

    It’s very good form to respond back to each person commenting — I recommend it, especially when you’re just getting your blog going. Some people will be so pleasantly surprised that they’ll write back and you develop an ongoing relationship. That’s happened to me many many times.

    Here’s how to do it. Post a reply on the blog as your own comment. Make sure you have your blog set up so that it emails you each time a comment is made. Then in the email you received, simply paste the text of your comment and hit reply. It takes just an extra 30 seconds to respond that way.

    I still do that on occasion. Unfortunately, the volume of this site has gotten to the point where it’s hard for me to do that 100% of the time now, especially if I’m traveling or slammed with projects and deadlines.

    If you don’t think you have the ability to respond to each comment, for anyone using self-hosted WordPress (wordpress.org) there is a plugin called Comment Relish that Matt McGee clued me in to. Comment Relish will send an automated response to a person the first time they have commented on your blog. I tried it briefly, but had a little trouble getting it to work right. As soon as we can get it operating properly, I’ll activate it again. It’s not as good as a personal reply, but at least it acknowledges a person the first time they’ve participated.

    And — I actually got several responses to those automatic emails, and then I took a few minutes to respond back to them. So it turned into a nice personal exchange.

    No matter what, I read every single comment made on this site. I have comments emailed individually to me, and I also scan the comments dashboard just in case I missed something.

    Hope this helps. Good luck with your blog.

    Anita

  24. Hi Hugh, that’s why I don’t shut off comments for old posts, for exactly what you say. It takes more monitoring (because spammers target older posts). But I see some excellent comments on posts that are 2 or 3 years old.

    Hi Shama and Alan, what you both say is so true. It depends how much time the reader has, how he or she wants to engage — and so many other factors.

    Anita

  25. I am a newbie to blogging and social networking. I get many visitors to click my links but find that only a core group of people take the time to respond.

  26. Hi Bryan, Nice blog you have there.

    In answer to your question:

    “Is there anything I can do to help people comment on the blog page?”

    Make the “Comment” link visually carry more weight. For instance, try bolding the link. You also might add a small icon next to the text link, in order to call attention to it. And you might consider changing the anchor text for the link from “No comments” to something more like “Add a comment?” or “Speak your mind” or something inviting. Not too cutesy, because if people have to think too hard, it easier just to leave the page.

    Hope this helps,
    Anita

  27. Thanks for the interesting discussion. To encourage comments, I usually end each post with a specific question to the readers. I’ve also noticed that I get more comments when I post about an issue that’s slightly controversial, or when I intentionally write an incomplete post and end with, “What did I forget?”

    My comment link text is “Be the first to comment,” which I saw on another blog and immediately stole.

  28. Martin Lindeskog

    Wow! Lots of comments here! 🙂 I don’t get so many comments on my blog, but I don’t really mind. Now and then a post is sparking more comments, e.g., an anniversary or a milestone, or if I have participated in a blog carnival. The fascinating side of blogging is all the buzz by fellow bloggers, private email conversations, trackbacks and sphere related material, etc.

    I enjoy reading the comments on Small Business Trends and the ongoing discussion. Keep up the good work! 🙂

  29. I have three blogs which are very active. And, yes I do get great comments and I generally respond when appropriate. One of my blogs “Notes From the World of Anger Management” was reviewed by Anita Campbell several years ago.

    George Anderson

  30. I read a wide variety of blogs on Google Reader, and pass through an even wider variety of comment-enabled content when I surf the web. My desire to comment, though, is usually limited by pressures on time and the usual need to find and process information rather than respond to its source. I believe this is the case for most other small businesspeople. However, as in this case, there are occasional, though infrequent, comment posts. Usually, a comment like this is left when I find a topic that I haven’t seen explored a great deal. A young idea. Also, when there isn’t an overwhelming horde of other comments to drown out mine — or when there isn’t a span of lame or fleeting comments — I will post. Thanks —

    Does anyone else follow a similar process before commenting?

  31. I run a blog for a factoring company located in Cleveland, OH. Since I’ve started blogging, we’ve only had about 3-4 comments, yet we have over 3000 subscribers. I think the whole world of blogging is still so new and fresh in people’s minds that they shy away from them in general. I also think that you’re average web site user is weary of leaving comments, type-o’s and/or personal opinions that could track back to them.

  32. Martin Lindeskog

    Nikki,

    You have an impressive number of subscribers. I think you will get more and more comments as time goes by. Have you invited your subscribers to your blog and do you ask for comments, suggestions and tips?

  33. I am a small business owner and i often use http://www.smallbuisnessbrief.com for articles and blogs. I find owning a small business I have to research a lot of information myself and that forum has helped me do so in massive leaps and bounds. I also use a few blogs on blogger, however I am sometimes too busy to research.

  34. I am a newbie business blogger at http://www.btbtraining.com/blog and have just started get some comments which is great. I am starting to see that comments are a give and take situation, the more comments you leave, the more you are likely to receive. Ultimately I would like to be able to encourage debate through my blog but I still feel I have so much to learn so thanks for the advice.

  35. GREAT DISCUSSION. I am an author/life entrepreneur who relies on blogging and social networking sites to generate buzz about my book, creative projects, and related events and products. I try to repond to all comments because it helps me establish connection with my readers.

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