So, you’ve decided to add a blog to your company’s website. Great! Blogs are a wonderful way to let clients and prospective clients know what you’re up to. But now, you have to address the question all bloggers eventually have to answer: Should I allow comments?
Allowing comments is one way to get immediate feedback on how your business is doing. It’s also a terrific way to build an online community that is solidly linked to your enterprise.
For example, say you have a business that sells boating equipment. A lot of your customers are active in the local sailing scene. You decide to not just use your blog to promote your products, but also talk about races and teams and nautical events. By inviting your regulars to comment on your entries, you encourage them to build a virtual hangout where they can discuss issues and exchange information. The more popular your hangout becomes, the more the public will see your company as an important part of the community and a go-to for their boating needs. Also, keep in mind that for every reader who posts a comment, there may be 10 other readers who just like to follow the ensuing conversation in silence.
But popularity does have its drawbacks. Once you decide to allow comments, keep the following in mind:
- You need a good spam filter. Even the smallest blogs get spam comments every day. Sometimes, those spam comments are three times longer than your blog post! The worst ones may even include malware. Make sure your blog platform (WordPress and Squarespace are good for this) has a way to deal with spam before it posts, whether it sequesters it in a special mailbox or filters it out completely. Your readers will thank you.
- You get to set the tone for your commenting section. For example, are you going to allow adult language? If not, make sure your blogging platform has filters in place to catch any objectionable words before they’re published. Are you going to allow commenters to speak to you or other commenters in a disrespectful way? To derail discussions with off-topic subjects? How about adding links that may lead to malware-infested or otherwise objectionable sites? If not, you need to be able to ban the habitual offenders.
- Deleting someone’s comment is not unconstitutional. Remember, the First Amendment states that the government cannot prevent people from speaking their minds. Your business is not a branch of the government. Nor is it a public space. Think of it this way: If someone came into your brick-and-mortar store and started throwing the merchandise around and threatening other customers, you’d kick them out, right? Commenters may be a vital part of an online community, but they are still there as your guests. Bad guests should be shown the door.
- If your blog starts getting more comments than you can handle, consider appointing a moderator or ambassador. A moderator can empty the spam folder, clear any legitimate comments that got labeled spam by mistake, and rein in any unruly discussions before they get out of control. If you don’t have the budget to pay a moderator, consider getting a social media intern.
I hope the above tips don’t discourage you from inviting the public into your blog! But if it does, that’s okay. You have to think about what will work best for your business. Besides, you can always change your mind!
Photo by Adikos via Flickr.