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Will you answer that? A guide to blogging (Image woodleywonderworks via Flickr)I was surprised by a story I heard this week about the way a management team in charge of a WordPress blog was handling comments.

To be fair, this organisation is new to the business of blogging and unlike a one-person operation, a team requires members to be mindful of how their actions can reflect back on other members, let alone the entity itself.

What surprised me was that a blog article published by the organisation had received two comments, both very favourable and both awaiting approval.

The problem was that the person ‘in charge’ of the blog was waiting to take the comments back to the team for approval before publishing them.

On one hand, this hesitation can be understood in terms of caution, particularly with the proliferation of comment spam (more in a moment).

On the other hand, it signals to me that the team needs to determine a blog commenting policy and empower one person to enforce it so that people who bother to read and comment on the material feel valued and appreciated, and inclined to return.

Let’s ponder those two angles.

Look before you leap

The old saying about looking before leaping can often be life-saving, especially when trying to cross a busy road.

However, in terms of social media (within which blogging is the fundamental building block), he who hesitates appears rude.

If someone takes the time to comment on one of your blog posts, WordPress can be set up to email you with a notification that a comment is awaiting moderation.

Ideally, you will have your emails connected to your phone so you can respond in a timely manner (then, or over lunch, or during television viewing, etc) on the same day.

If this seems to extreme to you, think about it from the commenter’s perspective. They have shared precious minutes of their life with  you, adding commentary to your blog and potentially piquing Google’s interest in your endeavour. If it takes days or weeks for a reply, how will they feel?

The only time I bless a delay in responding is when:

  • the comment poses thoughts that need time to ponder (a quick reply to that effect would be excellent)
  • you are unable to comment for some unusual and one-off reason such as an internet outage, travel, etc.
  • you are new and something about the comment raises concerns

This latter point is worth exploring.

In today’s story, the team had received two positive comments but neither had been allowed to go live.

It is good practice to ALWAYS check the web address connected with blog comments because often, spammers flatter you with over-the-top, generic praise, just so that their website address gets a mention (commenters are asked to submit a website address if they wish to, automatically within WordPress and other blogging software). Typically, you will find most submitted web addresses behind gushing praise link to John’s Porn Palace or The Waterbed Emporium or some other outfit unrelated to the comment or the writer’s name, topic, etc.

However, in today’s case, two legitimate comments should have been quickly and confidently approved. The organisation had written some material and published it to the world, so what is wrong with publishing voices in agreeance with you?

I am confident this first hurdle will be most valuable to this fledgling blogger team.

Take the ball and run with it

What I encourage you to do, especially if you have more than one person responsible for your blog, is to craft a clear, simple, commenting policy and empower one person to enforce it.

This will make approval a simpler process and show respect to your active readers.

You will find such a policy in the bottom, right, of the Baker Marketing website. Yours does not need to be to dissimilar to ours.

The key things you want to convey are:

  • rules about tone and behaviour
  • guidance on topics
  • encouragement to disagree
  • notice that you will delete comments at your discretion, within the guidelines you have shared

Please go forth, blog confidently, and respond to your ‘people’ in a timely and earnest manner. After that, you can truly say you are involved in ‘social’ media marketing.

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