Building our blog communities is accomplished in our comment section.

Last week Liz Strauss, author Successful And Outstanding Bloggers and “The Secret to Writing a Successful and Outstanding Blog (the book), answered the question, “How To Format A Blog Post To Maximize Comments”.

As we all know, part of receiving comments is answering them. Our readers want to know they’re being heard. Based on the fact Liz will soon be sporting 70,000 comments on her blog, I asked what her secret is to inspiring her readers to continue to leave comments, thus building community.

I asked: With the amount of comments you receive, I suspect your readers are finding more than “just another blog” where they can share their opinion. When you read and answer your comments, what technique do you use to make each reader feel so special they want to subscribe to your blog and/or continue reading your work?

Liz answered: I don’t do much special. In fact, I suspect I do exactly what you do. I read the person’s name, say hello, and comment back to each one, exactly the way I might if I met that person face to face in my house at my front door. I want to know what people are thinking. It’s a genuine curiosity on my part about who they are and what I might learn from where they’ve been and what they’ve taken from what they read. We build a response together. :)

I often click through the link to see who I’m talking to before I write my answer. I like to answer each person individually. After all each person talked to me one at a time. :)

When Ellen of Wilson’s Words and Pictures asked how Liz manages to answer the massive amount of comments she gets, she continued on by saying:

How do you answer questions your kids ask? One at a time. Answering comments is no different. I could ramble on about rules and wisdom, but there really isn’t much more to say. If you care about what someone says, you listen and respond.

To Elaborate on Liz’s answer:

Thank you Liz for taking time to answer these questions. You’re answers have been most helpful.

Rereading Liz’s answer, it’s all about common sense. We treat our readers special by letting them have their say. By respecting their viewpoint and responding appropriately, they feel compelled to come back for more conversation.

Today’s Assignment:

How do you answer your comments, one by one, or as a group?

How do you like your comments to be answered? Individually, or is a group response from the author acceptable?

If a blog author does not respond to your comment, will you return to that blog?


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Look Who's Talking
  1. Cath LawsonNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara – It really is common sense isn’t it? Mind you, I can remember feeling really nervous the first time I had to respond to a comment that wasn’t just spam.

    I try to respond to each comment individually. But when I was in Mexico, I couldn’t, as my Internet access was limited, so I responded to a group of commenters instead.

    You mentioned bloggers who never answer commenters. Well, if i really like the blog, I’ll pop back again, but after 2 or 3 times, I often don’t bother – especially if it’s not a blog with lots of comments. And a real pet hate is when I see folk asking questions and they don’t get answered.

    Now, if it’s a really busy blog, I don’t mind so much if the blogger doesn’t reply. I don’t know if you’ve visited Dooce but she gets hundreds of comments – there’s absolutely no way she’d be able to answer them all.

    What do you think about comments Barbara? How many is too many to cope with?

  2. DavinaNo Gravatar says:

    I answer each commenter separately 99% of the time. There was one occasion where I spoke to a few commenters in one answer as my answer was the same for all 3 of them.

    If my comment was not replied to but I really enjoyed the content on a particular blog I would still return to read. I just might not comment anymore unless I had a strong opinion on something.

    I suspect that if certain comments are not answered it makes that blogger look bad to the other readers and they may lose subscribers???

    Davina’s last blog post..My Turn To Be Seen

  3. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Catherine,

    When you were on vacation, I was surprised that you even showed up. I was hoping you were relaxing on a beach with not a care in the world. :)

    How many comments is too many to cope with? I would say it depends on the blog author and how much they can handle. We need to keep in mind, when we decide to have a blog, and build a community, responsibility comes with that.

    Hi Davina,

    Yes, bloggers do risk losing readers if they don’t acknowledge comments. Some take that risk and do fine, whereas others may see a steep decline of readers.

  4. Scott McIntyreNo Gravatar says:

    I love any article you write on building a blog community, Barbara- I think you might’ve guessed that by now ๐Ÿ˜‰

    You and Liz do it so well.

    (cough) On this topic, could I highlight my last article on Liz’s blog?

    I hope your other readers might find it helpful.

    http://www.successful-blog.com/1/engaging-the-offline-customer-do-you-talk-with-non-bloggers/

  5. Hi Barbara –

    Great questions!

    I try to answer each commenter individually because, you’re right – it’s a common sense kind of thing.

    And it’s funny you should ask – I will often read a new blog including the comments and if I see a pattern of questions and the like going unanswered, that’s likely the last I’ll drop by. I sure as heck won’t add them to my reader.

    I also agree with Cath – if it’s a really busy blog, I might not mind so much if some things go unanswered but I still like to see a comment or two from the blogger acknowledging at least something.

    I think responding to comments says more about the blogger than the posts they write. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    ~ Annie

    Annie Anderson’s last blog post..This weekโ€™s around the web

  6. Barbara,
    In my case, I answer comments one to one because I do not receive a lot of comments and I have enough time to respond to them. However, I feel that when a blog becomes so active and famous and it the blogger posts more than once a day, then it is okay to sit every other day or so to reply to all reactions in the period. However, when you do answer all in one response block, you should somehow try to repeat the question (or rephrase it in your answer) without forcing other readers to go back and check what the original response was.

    Threaded comments (and relevant plugins) was promissing but not useful for multiple answers in one comment.

    In my humble opinion the blog platforms/plugin developers are yet to come up with that ‘special comment structure’ that is intuitive and easy to spot/read. So I would leave it to the technology to streamline the commenting style itself :) Hope I am making some sense here…

    Cheers,
    Ajith

  7. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Annie,

    Isn’t it funny how we can judge a blog author by the comment section?

    I like how you put that, “…responding to comments says more about the blogger than the posts they write.” You’re onto something there.

  8. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Scott,

    I just realized your comment was in moderation.

    Thank you for your kind words.

    Do I mind you’ve included a link to your latest article? Not at all. It’s always a pleasure to know we can read your writing prior to you getting your blog online.

  9. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Ajith,

    You do bring up a good point. When answering comments we should try to rephrase the question/comment so others don’t have to be scrolling back up to see what the commenter said. (How was that? :) )

    You’re making total sense. An ideal way of handling comments is yet to be found. Like you, I will leave it up to those who are technologically smart.

  10. Cath LawsonNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara – I guess it depends on how quickly the blogger is able to answer the comments then.

    I don’t know if you’ve seen the comments section on The Writer’s Manifesto, but Monika has a different comment set up. Folk can leave comments underneath what another commenter has said.

    That might save rephrasing the comment. Only thing is, I’m not sure if you can get a plugin for that, or if it’s built into the theme.

  11. Scott McIntyreNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Cath,

    I believe it’s called a threaded comments plug in.

  12. Alex FayleNo Gravatar says:

    I treat my blog as a conversation. In a conversation I don’t need to answer every sentence. I tend to focus on topics raised – if one person raise the topic, I answer that person. If more than one, then I respond to all of them at once.

  13. NaturalNo Gravatar says:

    I answer one by one, that’s how the comment appeared one by one. I don’t think I’ve ever done the group thing before, I prefer individual comments. Of course if your blog has a lot of comments, like 200, that might be hard to do. I have seen some people pick and choose which comments they respond to.

    For a while I was the only one commenting on a persons blog and they NEVER wrote back, said boo, hello, how you doing, so I stopped going. I can talk to myself just fine without typing a comment on any blog.

    good day, barbara.

    Natural’s last blog post..Doggone, Grandma

  14. LanceNo Gravatar says:

    Comments – a source of connectedness on the web.

    I answer each comment individually, but will group them together in one comment post. I feel it’s important to acknowledge each persons comment. And I like to do that by name. It feels more personal. And that’s what I’ve found I’m looking for in blogging. I have occasionally answered as a group answer, but only when it seems completely appropriate.

    When I first began blogging, I would sometimes wait a couple of days to answer posts. What I’ve found, though, is that I like to know that my comments on other sites are getting answered. So, that has made me more conscious of trying to make timely answers to comments. And that’s something I learned here – you do this well Barbara – and it’s one of the things that made me keep coming back when I first found your site.

    Lance’s last blog post..Sunday Thought For The Day

  15. JayNo Gravatar says:

    Interesting question and I’m interested in the answers people give here, too.

    Yes, I answer comments individually, although if two or three people have said more or less the same thing, I’ll put all their names in one place and direct my answer to the group: for instance if x, y and z have all said ‘I love the photo’, then I’ll put the ‘x, y and z’ in bold (as I do for everyone in my comments section) and thank them as one – but only if they’re regulars. A new commenter will always get an individual answer and welcome.

    Personally I dislike threaded comments and find them hard to use. There is one blog that I comment on less than I might do, because it has threaded comments and sometimes I’m too tired to unravel who said what.

    Do I continue visiting a blogger who never comments on mine? I give them a while because often new bloggers don’t understant how important comments are .. but in the end, no. They get wiped from my news feed. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  16. Dr. CasonNo Gravatar says:

    Hi

    I answer each comment back one by one. Some sneak by but I really try to answer. I absolutely hate when I take the time to comment and I’m not acknowledged- I love what Natural had to say- “I can talk to myself just fine without typing a comment on any blog.”

    On a recent post that Shilpan Stumbled- God bless him – I got over a thousand hits and the absolute nicest things were said. How can you not respond when people are going out of their way to say kind and good things.

    That’s why I always find myself knocking on your door- Your just so sweet.

    Dr. Cason’s last blog post..Medicine Mondays #3

  17. I love when people comment back to me, but I don’t expect it. I still can’t believe Liz replies to every message. I must admit that if I had as many comments as she does I don’t think I would answer every comment.

    Some of my favorite answers have also been by other commenters. It always surprises me how much knowledge other readers have when they answer a question of mine.

  18. Al at 7PNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara,

    I try to respond to each person’s comments, but I usually bunch the responses together in one comment. In Twitter the responses have the “at” sign (for example, @Al) and it also helps for quick scans to separate the different responses to people. At least I think it came from Twitter.

    At any rate, it made sense to me and seems like it’s a common practice. I know it also helps when one commenter is specifically addressing another commenter and not the blogger.

    Another way I’ve seen bloggers respond is by actually editing the person’s comment and appending their own response to the original comment. I’m not a fan of that approach since it seems a bit intrusive.

    Al at 7P’s last blog post..Why Should I Help You?

  19. HarmonyNo Gravatar says:

    This is a great question…and I am so glad you brought it up.
    I may sound a bit direct here…but then, here is t one of my points, Barbara, you may be the only one reading this comment. I wonder how many bloggers take time to read comments on blogs they are visiting. They have their own blog to write, to comment back on if they do and then visit and then read….HOLY MOLY….it can get wordy.

    Then….my next question, if you do take time to answer back, which I try to do (about 95% successfully, and sometimes in a group), how many people have the time or make the time to remember all the places they commented, and then on top of all the duties mentioned above, go back and look for comments to their comments???

    I am not sure I have made my own mind up as to how to proceed on this. I have 3 blogs happening – and it seems impossible. Plus, even with one blog, it is a big job to do all that for the sake of oftentimes just dropping a line to be noticed (come on please fellow bloggers, let’s be honest) or trying to keep up.

    So, my last comment is this – I know we need to build community, and I happily do so. It is great to hear the thoughts of my dear readers. And I do love sharing and encouraging on other blogs and I want to balance that with authenticity and joy – bringing true meaning and intention with comments.

  20. hyrcanNo Gravatar says:

    How do you answer your comments, one by one, or as a group?

    I have a strict mathematical formulation that considers the quantum flow of electrons to asses the optimum number of comments per electron grouping to respond to…. or I just answer the one or two that get left on my site when they come up

    …which ever is a smaller than the square root of pi. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    How do you like your comments to be answered? Individually, or is a group response from the author acceptable?

    Hmm, I don’t mind how they respond. Though if someone else has stated something or asked a question, I don’t normally repeat it, so it doesn’t make any since to respond to my comments in a group responce… unless it’s one big comment that touches on the points along with other people’s issues. Again doesn’t matter that much. Though if it’s a direct response it does give the impression that they are giving your comment or idea a bit more weight than lumping it in with others. So I guess in that respect I’d feel a bit honored.

    If a blog author does not respond to your comment, will you return to that blog?

    It depends on the traffic I think. If it’s a busy blog, or my comment wasn’t that moving, then I’d not be to surprised if I did not get a response. And I certainly wouldn’t hold it against them. If it’s a smaller blog (and thus less comments), then I would be a little surprised, but not put out. If the blog is worth reading I’ll continue to read it. What I would do is stop participating in the dialog… considering their isn’t one (same is true for bigger sites).

    That is unless other community members respond/reply to my comments. Then I may continue to comment.

    hyrcan’s last blog post..Healthcare Security in the U.S. (Wordless Wednesday)

  21. Cath LawsonNo Gravatar says:

    @ Scott – Thank you. Jay mentioned that he didn’t like threaded comments. What do you think of it? Is it a good way to get folk talking to each other? Or do people get confused with too many threads?

    @ Harmony – three blogs is a lot. Writing one is bad enough. Would you not be happier focusing all your efforts on just one?

  22. RobinNo Gravatar says:

    To Harmony above – I often read other people’s comments on posts, and I read yours!

    I get a bit disappointed these days if a blogger doesn’t reply to my comment (on their own blog) – but it doesn’t change whether I leave a comment. I usually look at the older post with my comment on it the next time a read a post on that blog, to look for a reply.

    On my own blog I read each comment separately and answer it – so it’s doesn’t make any difference if they say similar things.

    Robin’s last blog post..On Overcoming Obstacles

  23. hyrcanNo Gravatar says:

    @Harmony: Good questions, I ask that myself. I’ve posted on blogs in response to someone’s comment and never got a rise out of the original commenter. So I think that number can be low some places. Other places much higher (this is one of those places) people read all the comments, and I think that also effects the number of people who come back to check up for responses.

    Now figuring out a way of tracking all the places you have a dialog going, that’s a bit tricky. Some places, like here, offer the ability to get notifications via email, or subscribing to it via RSS. That’s a help, you can at least subscribe to the ones you’ve commented on to keep track of responses.

    I wish more did that, at least I know that with most wordpress sites that I can add /feed (like so) to the end of the url and get a comment feed for that post even if they don’t provide a link. Unless they have a misbehaving plugin that is, or disabled it on purpose. I’m sure other services have something similar, but I’ve not looked it up.

  24. RitaNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barb,

    It’s great to have you – and Liz – back! With only ONE exception, I answer each comment or question individually. Though it frequently takes me three times as long to answer comments as it does to write a bog, my feeling is that the person who left a comment has taken time to write an individual comment; hence, that deserves an individual response.

    We ALL are busy – with blogging and living! However, if someone crosses the street to say “hello” to me, I appreciate the effort, and will engage the person for as long as they wish.

    As to how I “like” my comments answered, it doesn’t matter, as long as the answer indicates that the blogger actually READ my comment, and is giving a personal answer. A list of “thanks for your comment”(s) is offensive to me. Other than that, to each, his or her own!

    Finally, I will go back to a person’s blog if they do not respond to my comment. I will go there TWICE. If by the second time, I have not heard their voice, I see it as an indication that the blogger does not care what I have to say. On that issues, two strikes – and you’re out!

    Thanks,

    Rita

  25. Scott McIntyreNo Gravatar says:

    @ Cath – I think it can look a little messy with so much sub-activity taking place under the main comment section.

    That said, Pick The Brain has it.

    I guess it’s really all down to whether your blog audience really needs- or wants- to talk amongst themselves.

  26. Hi Barbara –

    A couple people have mentioned threaded comments and I must say, I don’t particularly like them. I find it annoying. Threads work much better in either groups or on a message board but I think they get a bit messy on blog posts. My opinion only, of course. I know that style works well for lots of others. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I like the plugins that allow commenters to subscribe to the comments via email like yours. In fact, I think I need to add that to my blog very soon. There is a comments RSS on my blog, but I don’t like how it works and I don’t think commenters do either because I can’t see that anyone is subscribed to them.

    Blogs like yours that encourage commenters to respond to each other are valuable. I tend to comment more on such blogs. In this way, it is a conversation and that’s appealing.

    ~ Annie

  27. HarmonyNo Gravatar says:

    WOW, this is a good conversation and I am learning a lot.

    My three blogs on related to different areas and I enjoy them. I think my question is more about authenticity, you know what I mean?

    Okay, here is a question –
    Will you post a comment on a blog even if you didn’t really get much from the post? Since you took the time to read it, will you comment just because you think you should?

    AND
    If someone makes really vague comments on your blog…OR…
    their comments have very little if anything to do with your content, how do you thoughtfully comment? I read a comment above stating that saying “thanks for your comments” was offensive, and I respect that – so I wonder, what do you say to in your reply to what seems to be not related to your post?

    Boy, am I chatty Kathy today or what? :-)

  28. RitaNo Gravatar says:

    Barb,

    A response to Harmony, if I may. I almost ALWAYS read every comment AFTER I’ve posted mine on another blog. My first goal is to comment to the blogger. Occasionally, like now, I like to “comment to the commenters.” The only reason I do it AFTER I leave my own comment is that I want my comment to be original to me – even if 5 other people have already said the same thing!

    As with everything, however, we are all free to make our own choices based on personal preferences, and time permits.

    Thank you,

    Rita

  29. HarmonyNo Gravatar says:

    By the way Barbara, you are setting the benchmark for me in learning how to get people sharing and exploring with each other on blogs. I really appreciate your efforts.

    Harmony’s last blog post..Whistle While You Work

  30. HarmonyNo Gravatar says:

    Barb,
    One more question directed specifically to you. I really like your blog and it’s functionality also. I referenced to Performancing at the bottom. Can you tell us a bit about why you chose them, your experience, and if you find this blog software you use as friendly as we all think it is? :-)

    Harmony’s last blog post..Whistle While You Work

  31. SpaceAgeSageNo Gravatar says:

    When a blogger first responded to my comment on her blog, I was amazed. When someone, besides family, first responded to my blog, I was amazed. I come from a journalism background where feedback is extremely rare, so I value the interaction of the blog world a great deal. I try to leave good comments where I can, and I realize some writers just don’t have the time to respond to comments, as was mentioned here earlier (Dooce, etc.). There was one comment left at my site that so confused me, I never did come up with a response, but I respond to 99.9 percent of comments.

  32. ChrisNo Gravatar says:

    When I look at my blogging friends and see how they’ve grown their community, I wish I could do the same. But, my problem is that I cannot give the time needed to grow my community…excuses, excuses…

  33. Ellen WilsonNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara,

    Okay, I just did the math concerning answering comments on Liz’s blog.

    If she has 70,000 comments and answers 50 per day (70,000/50), then she has 1400 days left to answer 50 comments per day.

    At this rate of 1400/365 (days in a year) = 3.8 years to answer 50 comments per day.

    I think 50 comments per day is a pretty fair estimate considering all the other activities in a day that a person has to partake in.

    Even so, this just blows my mind away. I’m not saying that it is impossible, or nor do I doubt that Liz can’t do it. It just blows my mind away.

    Does anyone have a better equation for this? hyrcan?

    @Harmony – Yes, words upon words upon words. If there is no presence behind the words there is nothing. Now, I shouldn’t have said that, because nothing is behind everything. You know what I mean. Frustrating.

    Homework:

    I answer my comments one by one. People deserve that.

    I like my comment to be answered individually.

    I will not visit a blog very often if a person does not respond to me. I don’t always know, though, because I don’t always have the time to check back.

    If I visit a persons blog a few times and they do not visit mine, I will not return to theirs. It’s as simple as that. It doesn’t always have to be 50/50. But the effort should be made. If it is not, then I assume the other person does not want to maintain the relationship. You should not waste time on relationships where you are always giving giving giving – like Natural says. You are busy, the other person is busy, and if you’re not careful you can be eaten alive by it all.

    Another way of saying this is that I think blogging IS about communicating: responding and listening and therefore, equality. If I want to be part of a chorus, I will join a community choir. And if I want to be center stage, I will get a lead role in a community play.

    Granted, I have no aspirations to be Liz Strass or Dooce, and once the concentric circle of blogging comments/responses widens there is less room for others. We are finite beings with a finite amount of time.

    For me this is the responsiblity you speak of in blog relationships, Barbara. Do you think this is a fair analysis?

  34. What is meant by group response? I always respond personally but usually to the amount that has already commented.

    I will most definitely return if a blog owner does not respond to my comment. It’s nice when they do – but it is not a requirement. If it was, I wouldn’t read great blogs like problogger, or skelliewag.org.

    I read for the content. An answer to my comments is nice, but not required. However, for me to return to a blog – good content is.

  35. You know, with me, I don’t mind staying small. I don’t need 100s of comments, however if they came they would all be well accepted. I guess I’m just saying it’s not a push of mine. I definitely respond to everyone’s comment individually when I can.

    I’m not running a “tour guide” blog.

    I think it’s ok if there’s a group reply just so as long as once in a while I might be recognized as actually trying to participate and help others out.

    I’ve been having a real hard time with Problogger and Copyblogger lately because of this. I’ll ask Brian and Darren a specific question and I think Brian responded all but once.

    I know they are busy. I do. But ya know, they most certainly aren’t the only ones.

    John Hoff – eVentureBiz’s last blog post..Securing Your WordPress Blog: Post 2 – How To Change Your Username

  36. I also think it’s important to keep in mind that only a very small percentage of a blogs overall readership comments to begin with. I think this fact should not be ignored.

    That being said – it’s always a plus when comments are responded to. Definitely.

    Bamboo Forest’s last blog post..Why Having to Say Hello Twice can Be So Awkward

  37. DavinaNo Gravatar says:

    @ Chatty Kathy (Harmony) :-) Up until last week I would go back to the blog where I’d left comments to see what the replies were. Now as my subscribership increases I find I’m short on time and don’t get back to all of them. I’ve even been missing commenting on some of my favourite blogs lately and feel badly about it.

    You know how it is when you’re working on building a website and a business and keeping a blog too :-) — not to mention Threeeeeeeee.

    I don’t leave a comment if I don’t get a lot from a post. It’s nothing personal to the blogger; it just doesn’t feel “write” to post it if my heart’s not in it.

    Davina’s last blog post..Does Misery Really Love Company?

  38. Cath LawsonNo Gravatar says:

    @ Rita – I didn’t realised you were that impatient – you have commented twice on a post of mine today. I have read but not responded yet. I do that a lot as I like to think about what people have to say first. But I’ll be careful from now on.

    @ Harmony – it’s a shame you couldn’t have all your topics on the one blog. You must have a lot of energy to keep up with so many.

  39. VeredNo Gravatar says:

    I like to answer each comment individually, but since I know how time-consuming it is, I completely understand bloggers who choose to handle comments differently.

  40. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi All,

    I’ve been working on this response for the last four hours (in between doing my paying job). Sit back and enjoy, it’s a long reply. :)

    Hi Catherine,

    How quick we can answer comments raises another issue. For me, my paying job comes before my blog, so often I’m answering comments in between tasks at hand, phone calls, reports, etc. I might spend hours answering comments, only because I’m getting interruptions.

    I’ve seen those threaded comments, however, to me they can get confusing…maybe because I haven’t seen too many blogs use them.

    Hi Alex,

    You’re right. We don’t have to address each sentence the commenter writes.

    Hi Natural,

    That’s a tough one, when you’re the only person commenting and the author isn’t acknowledging you. You can try and guess that maybe they don’t know how to answer the comments, or don’t know blogging etiquette says you should, but after numerous comments, we often just give up.

    When I first started blogging I didn’t know what to do with a comment. I didn’t know I was suppose to answer them, so I didn’t. I quickly learned otherwise.

    Hi Lance,

    Thank you for your kind words.

    I find it interesting how you learned what to do on your blog, by observing how you like your comments treated on other blogs. It goes back to that “treat others as you would like to be treated”.

    Hi Jay,

    I agree, a new commenter should be acknowledged and welcomed to your blog community. It’s no different than being introduced to a new acquaintance.

    Reciprocal commenting is essential if we want to build our communities.

    Hi Dr. Cason,

    Thank you.

    Yes, some comments do sneak in, and sometimes we miss one or two. If I catch a missed comment later on, I’ll address it, but if I don’t, I hope the commenter understands it was an error on my part.

    Hi Karl,

    Isn’t that great when you realize not only the blog author is reading your comment, but the other commenters are, too. That’s a good reminder of how important it is to leave a well thought out comment. Plus, it’s also a good way to get your own blog found.

    Hi Al,

    I’ve seen the @ sign used a lot in comment sections, and it works great when one commenter is speaking to another. You’re right, it’s easy to spot.

    Editing a comment to add a response is a different approach, and although it’s good the author is responding, I’m not sure why the author chooses to use that method.

    Hi Harmony,

    Thank you for your kind words.

    I’m going to try and address all of your comments at once. :)

    As you can see from the responses, many people read all of the comments on a blog post. Often, they are looking to learn more about a subject, or they don’t want their comment to sound the same as someone else.

    Going back to blogs we leave comments on is VERY time consuming. I usually check for an answer when I comment the next time, or, in the case of blogs with an RSS comment feed, I will check that.

    Granted, some bloggers do leave comments only to get noticed, however, most bloggers genuinely care about each other and leave a comment to show support.

    Will I leave a comment just because I think I should? Not necessarily, however, when I follow my NBOTWs and other new blogs, I will often comment just to let the author know I’m still following their work. On the other hand, if a NBOTW is gaining momentum and getting tons of comments, I may read the post, smile knowing they’re on track, and come back another day to leave a comment.

    “Off content” comments need to be addressed just as any other. If you don’t want your commenters to go “off content”, you might think of having a comment policy posted. Personally, I don’t care if someone goes “off content”, especially if they have a burning question they want an answer to. I will address the comment, and often use that as an idea for a future blog post (and link back to the author’s blog).

    Re: Why I chose this Performancing for this blog theme. This theme is actually designed by Brian Gardner. I found it on Performancing’s site. I like Brian’s designs for their simplicity and use another one of his themes on my other blogs. This is one of his free ones.

    These have been great questions, Harmony. I’m hoping others will benefit from them, as well. If I missed answering anything, please let me know.

    Hi Hyrcan,

    You’re funny! “quantum flow of electrons”?

    I do agree, some blog authors don’t answer comments, but like you, I will continue to visit them for the knowledge I’m gaining.

    Re: participating in the discussion. You and John are great at that, especially when I have “open mic” and other visitors have technical questions.

    As you know, Hyrcan, it was your email reply which resulted in my being able to add the RSS comment feed (watch for a post on that later in the week). Again, I thank you!

    Hi Robin,

    Like you, I also read each comment separately. I don’t know how you do it, but I use a split screen. It saves me from having to scroll up and down.

    Hi Rita,

    Thank you.

    Yes, answering comments does take time. But, isn’t it fun? And, don’t you find the commenters often make us look at a subject from a new angle, thus opening our eyes to other possibilities?

    Hi again Scott,

    Re: commenters talking amongst themselves. I let a lot of that happen, especially on my “open mic” days. Although I’m following what’s going on, I often don’t “interrupt”, but will acknowledge the comments and help that was provided.

    If one commenter is addressing another commenter’s issue, I find it adds value to the comment section.

    Also, on my NBOTW (New Blog of The Week) series, if the new blogger chooses to answer the comments, I allow that. I will come in and do a group “Thank you”. When the comments are directed at the new blogger, I don’t want to sound redundant.

    What we’re seeing here is that there are many ways to handle what goes on in our comment section. It’s essential the blog author has some involvement, otherwise we could witness the comments going a muck.

    Hi again Annie,

    Subscribing to comments via email is one way of being notified of updates, but what I found was my inbox got so full, I couldn’t keep up.

    The subscribe to comments RSS feed works much better for me. Like I said earlier, I’ll do a post later in the week to teach you all how to add it to your site.

    Hi SpaceAgeSage,

    Isn’t it amazing how blogging gives us that interaction that traditional websites don’t.

    For comments that confuse us, the best thing to do is say, “thanks for sharing”.

    Hi Chris,

    Time is an issue we all have to deal with. Being part time bloggers, our real lives come first, and often that doesn’t leave a lot of time for blogging.

    Hi Ellen,

    Do I see a bit of a statistician in you? I agree, answering 50 +/- comments a day is a lot. Keeping that in mind, that doesn’t leave much time for our other blogging activities, does it?

    With that being said, the bigger our community grows, the more time we must allow for talking to our readers.

    I agree with you”We are finite beings with a finite amount of time”. And yes, your analysis is very fair.

    Hi Bamboo,

    To me a group response is if I were to say, “Hi all…….”, and not address each commenter by name.

    You’ve hit a nail on the head. Good content is vital for readers to continue returning to a blog. In that case, the knowledge we can gather, is more valuable than having our comment answered.

    Hi John,

    I hear your frustration with big name blogs not addressing your questions. What I try to do is find a smaller blog to get my questions answered, and turn to the big name blogs for cutting edge information.

  41. LindaNo Gravatar says:

    I like to answer each one as an individual. I also find that if it is the first time for a visitor, I also send an email thanking them for coming by. I like the personal touch.

  42. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Vered,

    That’s true, answering each comment can be time consuming. And yes, what works for some, may not work for all. If it’s a blog we enjoy reading, it’s often best to accept the fact the author has chosen not to participate in the comment section.

  43. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Linda,

    Sending an email definitely gives your message a personal touch. It might also ensure the reader will come back and become a regular.

  44. Barbara –

    Holy schmoly! That was a long reply. LOL

    What do you use for the split screen? I know firefox has an add-on for it but I never liked the way it worked. I would like to find something to do that, though.

    And you’re right about the comments – subscribing via email creates a lot of messages (especially here and on Cath’s blog). I think I might just have to subscribe via the comment RSS now that you’ve got it working. But . . . will it do it for ALL comments across ALL posts? Or only the ones I’ve commented on/subscribed to?

    ~ Annie

  45. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Annie,

    I use the Firefox add-on. It took me awhile to get used to it, but now I love it. Although it allows splits horizontally and vertically, I like to use the vertical one – I split to the right.

    The comment feed will show all comments across all posts. I have been subscribed to Catherine’s for some time now, and although I don’t read all of the comments, I like that I can pick and choose. It shows the title of the post and then the name of the commenter, with a snippet of the first few words.

    Since I just got mine active over the weekend, it started with the tail end of the comments on my Open Mic post.

  46. hyrcanNo Gravatar says:

    @Ellen Wilson: I guess the question is how long does it take to answer a comment, that’s where it gets tricky. 50 comments a day may be pretty easy to do if it only takes a few seconds to respond. To find what it would be like for you, you’ll need to average out the time it takes for you to formulate the response. Using this comment as an example, it’s taken four full minute to get it written (distracted by other things) and another minute to get it finish off and posted. So with that in mind, we’ll use this embarrassingly small sample to discover how long it takes to reply to 70000 comments. We’ll shave off a minute, because sometimes there’s going to be some pretty quick response, and other really long ones.

    70,000 x 3 min = 210,000 min. = 3500 hours = 146 days

    If you spend the average time on-line as we do in the U.S. you’ve got 10hours a day to get that done. Considering you’ll be doing other things, maybe say 4 hours doing blog stuff. And only 2 hours reading your comments and responding… that’s hmmm… so ok… Maybe my estimation of the average time how long it takes to reply to a comment is way off… or it really would take 1,750 days to reply to all 70,000 comments. 0.o

    Of course that may highlight that once you’ve gotten a large community that it’s impossible to give in-depth replies to each post. Sometimes they don’t need a large response, sometimes just a simple, that is a good point, or I see So-and-so has answered your question will do the trick, and lower that average time to reply.

    @Barbara: Happy to help. :)

    Hmm…. that reply to Barbara just totally destroyed my sample above… lets see… 2min…140000… 1,166… still not much better.

  47. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Hyrcan,

    WOW, I thought Ellen had given a lot of thought to answering 70,000 comments. Leave it to you to take it a few steps further. You have me laughing with your response. :)

  48. Ellen WilsonNo Gravatar says:

    Hyrcan,

    Yeah, that’s pretty good. Now if we can only add in the electrons and other variables. Ha! Seriously, yes, you can see why big name bloggers just can’t answer all their comments. It would kill them.

  49. Liz StraussNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Everyone,
    My body is back from Gnomedex. My mind is still a bit filled with cotton, but I so enjoyed reading what’s been said. It reminds me that we make the conversation together. Our thoughts inspire new thoughts and new ideas. The more we share the more that comes back to all of us. It sure is something. :)

  50. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Liz,

    Thank you for dropping in.

    I agree, new thoughts do inspire new ideas. Pretty awesome, isn’t it?

  51. hyrcanNo Gravatar says:

    @Liz Strauss: Aww… :( All the cool conferences happen on the west coast *pout*

    As a supporter of OpenSource software I wish more people would figure out sharing ideas freely lead to amazing things…

  52. Evelyn LimNo Gravatar says:

    Great question that you’ve brought up. I used to spend a long time writing a suitable comment for other blogs but realised that I was not getting the same. I now prefer to pick and choose which blogs I comment on.

    I try my best to answer every comment made on my blog although it is sometimes difficult to if I’ve got other stuff cropping up during the week. My hat goes off to you and some of the other bloggers who seem to be managing their blog commenting well!

    Occasionally, I take the time to read all the comments especially when it is a topic that I want to find out more on. So yes…commenting is a great strategy that helps build a community.

    Evelyn Lim’s last blog post..Planet Of Dreams

  53. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Evelyn,

    Thank you for your words of support, however, I’m not all that good on keeping up on my blogging activities. If I run out of time, I unfortunately can’t visit all of the blogs I’d like to. I do, however, try to visit the one I missed the next day.

    Due to time constraints, many are doing what you do; visit less blogs, spend more time on a suitable comment and read all of the comments for the additional value.

  54. I respond to every comment that’s left on my blog. I mean, I care that they took the time to say anything…they are what makes my blog, my conversations, interesting to begin with. Ya know?
    Sometimes, I don’t always respond directly on the site via the comments… Instead I take the time to e-mail the person and expand on the thought that they shared with me. So you see, just because I don’t respond on the site via a comment back, I’m still reading…I’m still engaging and conversing with you… I do care….

    Re: “If a blog author does not respond to your comment, will you return to that blog?”
    I have to admit that inclined to visit that blog less and less. It’s indicative of the fact that this person cares less about having a conversation. There are other people who care to engage with me and I allot my time to them since they do care to share their time with me…

    Ricardo Bueno’s last blog post..[Just for Fun] Thank You for the Nomination!

  55. RitaNo Gravatar says:

    Barb,

    I GIVE! It is 3:23 am and I JUST stopped responding to comments, so I am now going to do things differently:

    I will continue to address each and every commenter individually, and with as much thought as possible.

    BUT

    I will now answer ALL of Cath’s comments in one fell swoop, given that she has already probably finished breakfast, I have not seen my bed yet, and I have written more to Cath about hats today than I have OWNED hats in my life! :-)

    Thanks for the little rant there…

    Rita

  56. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Ricardo,

    It is important to let your commenters know you care, isn’t it? Emails are great ways of expanding on conversations and building relationships even further. That’s kind of you to make time to do that, and builds community even more.

    Hi Rita,

    I’d say it’s time to give it up for today, and get some rest. The worse thing that can happen is you get burned out.

    Hats, you say? I missed that one.

  57. I answer each comment individually. Each person took the time to talk to me, so they deserve a direct response. The only time I don’t respond to a comment is when my readers are commenting to each other, which I LOVE, but I just sit back and enjoy the fun. As for other sites not commenting back? For the most part I won’t stick them out for long, but there are one or two that I enjoy so much I keep reading. I think it’s because on those sites, I still managed to feel included, because of how they are writing. As opposed to other sites where I feel they are writing mainly to read their own words. Hard to explain, because I think it’s more of an intuitive reaction to the blogs.

    Urban Panther’s last blog post..The Panther goes oopsie daisy

  58. NascarNo Gravatar says:

    I am a blogger and I allow my users to say anything they would like as long as it does not contain profanity. I keep a clean blog that is very appropriate and informative to all.

  59. RitaNo Gravatar says:

    Barb,

    I was a bit punchy – that you missed the “hats” comments, frankly amazes me. I was beginning to believe that I had written three consecutive posts on hats!

    Nonetheless, I of course, will continue to answer each and every comment individually – even if it DOES keep me up until after 3 am occasionally. Bloggers are writing from all over the world, and I truly DO appreciate every well thought-out comment that I receive.

    And that includes Cath, of course, as well! :-)

    Thanks,

    Rita

  60. Hi Barbara – I truly can’t imagine having that many comments. I struggle to keep up with my blog as it is given the demands of my full time “day job”.

    I like the dialogue when someone personally responds to me and try to do the same in my blog (although usually somewhat delayed due to travel schedules). It is disappointing when you take the time to reply on someone else’s site, but they don’t respond in kind. I’ve personally be thrilled when someone comes to my site to read/comment after I have been on theirs. However, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt if they aren’t responding – maybe they don’t know the “rules of blogging” or maybe they are overwhelmed in the day to day. I would however find it insulting if a writer responded individually to others, but not to myself.

    Theresa Zagnoli’s last blog post..The Great Divide?

  61. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Urban Panther,

    Yes, when our commenters talk amongst themselves, in a way it would be wrong for us to interrupt. If they’re helping each other, I do try to tell them thank you.

    Hi Nascar,

    Welcome to the BWAB community.

    As long as your commenters know the rules, your blog will stay clean. If not, there’s always moderation, and/or the spam folder.

    Hi Rita,

    I don’t read all of the comments on all blogs I visit as usually I am under a time crunch. Sorry I missed the “hats” comments. I’ll come back later when I have a chance and read them.

    Hi Theresa,

    You’re right! That would be like an insult if someone responded individually to some, but not to others.

    In some instances I can see how that would happen as I have some real comments that end up in my spam folder. If they’ve been sitting there for days and I fish them out, they may be on an old post that I forget to go back to. That’s not to be construed as an excuse, but I believe I may have missed one or two. For those commenters, I apologize.

  62. […] I was reviewing the A.S.K. – Liz Strauss – How Do You Inspire Your Readers To Join Your Community article, a comment written by Theresa Zanoli said, in part: I would however find it insulting if a […]

  63. I love how the post is really about the comments here. ๐Ÿ˜‰ In other words, the comments *are* the post. In most compelling blogs, the comments take on a life of their own and become an integral part of the post. Comments create community, and online people tend to look for that and respond to that energy. Which means that commenting to empty space is less fulfilling. I make it a point to respond to every comment, and the blogs I find most compelling do that too. It gives a payoff to the commenter, a reason to participate and feel a part of something.

  64. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi New Age Bitch,

    Welcome to the BWAB community.

    Isn’t it great how a comments can take off and add so much value to the original idea? And yes, it is in the comment section we find the community of a blog.

    Who knew comments could tell our readers so much.

  65. I love to acknowledge a great blog or post. I don’t mind if it is not answered. I have very few readers of my own. I always visit their blogs and would certainly answer any questions a reader may have but I don’t feel it necessary to reciprocate a simple pleasantry.

    Great blog by the way.

  66. […] A.S.K. Liz – How do You Inspire Your Readers To Join Your Community 2) New Blog Of The Week – Writer Dad 3) Parties, Spam and Hanging Chads 4) Self Promotion From The […]

  67. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Millar:

    Welcome to the BWAB community.

    Thank you! I don’t think it’s essential to reciprocate a comment, but to me it’s proper etiquette.

  68. […] last week when we learned how to build our communities? Based on the interview with Liz Strauss and the comments that followed, bloggers gained tools to […]

  69. JenniferNo Gravatar says:

    My blog is slowly receiving comments, mainly from family. I respond to every comment individually but I do not mind when authors reply in group form. I think that if someone takes the time out of their busy schedule to read my blog and express themselves, they definitely deserve some form of a response. If an author does not reply to my comment, it does not sway my opinion of their writing skills and I will still be interested in returning.

    I know this is completely off the subject, but you mention that if I have a question, to ask, so here goes: I noticed that when someone leaves a comment for you that they are able to display an avatar and a notice about their blog at the end (in a little box). How do I pick an avatar and how do I get the link box at the bottom of my comment? I see there is a box right now that says a feed could not be found at my website. I use blogger, is there a setting I need to fix? Thanks for your help!

  70. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Jennifer- Comments do take time to build. It takes a lot of patience and visiting other blogs (and commenting), as well.

    Re: Why CommentLuv is not picking up your last blog post, I’m trying to figure that out. I’m going to email you as I’m noticing you’re blog is taking a long time to load.

    In the meantime, to get an avatar/gravatar, check out my post titled: How To Get and/or Add A Gravatar To Your Post Comments. If you have any problems, just let me know.

  71. JenniferNo Gravatar says:

    Thank you, Barbara. I appreciate the feed back. I noticed what you said about my page taking a long time to load and think it had something to do with a video I put on (which I have now taken down). I have read your post about Avatars and will visit those sites you mentioned this evening. Thanks for your help!

  72. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Jennifer – You’re welcome. Have fun finding an avatar. I’ll be watching to see what you pick. Keep in mind, you can also make your own using a favorite photo.

  73. VincentNo Gravatar says:

    I wouldn’t want to have too many comments on my blog. I’m not after “success”. It would take up too much time responding to all the visitors!
    .-= Check out Vincentยดs awesome post: Out of Jail =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Vincent,

      Yes, answering comments can be time consuming. Some bloggers prefer not to, whereas others find by answering the comments it builds a community on the blog. It’s all a matter of choice.

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