Skillful blog commenting can be almost as effective a marketing technique as hosting a blog. Well composed, well aimed and carefully thought out comments produce a number of benefits, such as --
- Making you stand out from the crowd as an authority
- Putting yourself on the radar of influential bloggers
- Opening up opportunities for guest blogging and collaboration
I would almost go so far as to say a person who fully commits to a blog commenting strategy wouldn't need his/her own blog at all. (The missed SEO opportunity is what holds me back.) However, don't look at blog commenting as a time-saving alternative to blog authoring. In my experience, composing really effective comments can take just as much time, if not more, than writing a blog post. That being the case, most serious blog commenters I know pick their spots carefully: you don't want to invest half an hour or more unless you have reason to think there's a potential business benefit.
Tips for Writing Blog Comments
Read the Post Carefully
How often do you see a blog comment that makes a point identical to one in the post itself? Doing this will not further your reputation as an original thinker, and the only way to avoid empty repetition is to make sure you've read everything the author put forth. But reading is only the first step. A great blog comment starts with a point made by the author and expands on it, challenges it, or applies it to a different situation. In order to do this, you must take the time to fully understand the ideas behind what the author has written.
Read Other Comments Carefully
Restating comments that have already been made will not make you stand out, either. On the other hand, playing off another comment -- expanding or challenging it -- is highly effective. Here again, properly interpreting these other comments is important, and it's not always easy, because comments may have been dashed off in a hurry and are not particularly concise. Even so, a haphazard comment might contain a really provocative idea that you can elaborate on, adding a great deal of value to the conversation.
Edit, But Stay Conversational
Too much polish on a blog comment can backfire. You don't want the blogger or readers to get the impression you're trying to steal the platform -- this makes you look like a jerk. The key is to edit your thoughts with extreme care so that your ideas are crystal clear, while staying loose and conversational in tone. Mention the blogger and other commenters by name, and refer to their statements. Don't go off on a tangent that has nothing to do with what has been said.
Authors and commenters frequently ask questions, hoping that someone in the community has a reliable answer. Of course this is a great opportunity for you to showcase your skills -- as long as you do it properly. The challenge is to be authoritative without coming off arrogantly or like a shameless self-promoter. In this situation, links are tricky. There's nothing wrong with putting a link to your own content in a comment if it helps answer a question. Still, some bloggers and readers really dislike comment links on principle, or may jump to the conclusion that you're a spammer. For those reasons, I seldom put links in my comments unless I really know the blogger and the community well.
Avoid Bad Commenting Practices
Many types of comments will hurt your reputation rather than enhance it. There are so many I could never think of them all, so here's a quick list that you are welcome to add to.
- Empty comments. Saying things like, "Great post!" won't get you anywhere.
- Snarky comments. Showing your unpleasant side is unlikely to attract praise or leads, so what's the point?
- Arrogant comments. Similarly, trying to make a blogger or commenter look like a fool will never advance your interests. If you have that much hostility, either pick a different post to comment on or develop the ability to contend without being contentious.
- Cryptic comments. We must always remember that the Web is a fast medium. Readers need to grasp your meaning quickly. They will pass over comments that are vague or contain obscure references. In short, be direct.
Take Your Time, Do It Right
Relatively few people take the time to write world class comments. As a result, bloggers and serious readers love people who do, and will make an effort to reach out to you, cultivate a relationship with you, and in some cases, do business with you. It's a great technique for building a business, even though social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter get all the attention, it's one that I think is greatly underutilized.
What do you think? Has blog commenting helped your business?
Brad Shorr is Director of Content and Social Media for Straight North, a leader among Chicago Web design agencies. The firm specializes in helping middle market B2B firms, with clients in specialized B2B niches such as credit card processing for gas stations and air quality monitoring. Brad has been a business blogger (and commenter) since 2005 and writes frequently on social media topics.