Managing, Moderating Your Comments Well as Your Blog Grows

I love comments, even these.

[This is part of the Developing Great Blog Content Series.]

One of the neat challenges that many of you will experience in the coming months and years is the challenge of managing lots and lots of comments.

Now, a lot of this may depend on your own personal style, how you’ve chosen to develop your blog community, as well as perhaps your official blog comment workflow and your blog comment policy.

But you’ll  have to make a choice: Do I engage with all of my commenters or just a few (or none)?

The simple truth is this: As your blog grows and as you get more comments per post it takes a much longer time to read and respond as it once did. And this is a good thing because comments (and community) are part of your content strategy, right?

At first this was easy because you had just one or two a day and you could easily respond with gusto but when it’s 10, 20, 30 comments per blog post (and you publish more than once a day) this becomes difficult.

But, at the same time, you don’t want to abandon your readers who have gotten used to you engaging with them – you value their input and want to show your support for their time and effort to comment with a reply. What do you do? How do you balance the tension and manage the growing challenge?

Here are some of my thoughts and strategies:

Batch Your Management:

This is a strategy that you can learn today and one that I wish I had learned earlier in my blogging career: The art of batching my work.

How this relates to comment management is quite simple: I have chosen two explicit times during the day during which I will read comments and respond to them, once in the morning and once in the evening (and if you’ve been around here for a bit you already know this!).

By doing this I can commit myself to executing efficiently and not be worried about an inbox full of un-answered comments. I do this by creating Filters in Gmail so that they can be skip my inbox and not clutter that area up:

Filters are awesome.

No worries...

In this way I don’t get anxious about them or become distracted in my main inbox as they fill up during the day.

Of course, I’m always at liberty to break my own rules and answer comments if I have a few moments or see one that is especially time-sensitive, but I try and make it a point to stand firm on the two times a day that I engage with my commenters – batching is a powerful strategy and method!

Leverage Community and a Culture of Conversation

Now, at this point with this blog I’m still able to tread water but just barely - there will come a time as this community continues to grow that I will probably be unable to respond to every comment. I have committed to reading every comment but it’ll eventually become impossible to always respond to every single comment that comes in.

What I hope will happen (and it’s already begun) is that community champions will rise up and be a catalyst of engagement in the comments when I cannot.

A perfect example of this happened just yesterday when Graham responded to another commenter’s question before I could get to it:

Thanks Graham!

Not only did Graham answer the question but also has been around long enough to know that I’ve covered that particular topic and provided a helpful link!

Wow, I couldn’t be more humbled to see this level of engagement and community, especially since developing a culture of conversation is not something that I explicitly set out to do.

But it happened, and I really value it and am quite thankful for it!

What Will You Do?

Again, it’s ultimately up to you in terms of how you will grow in your moderation and management of comments for your blog. Currently I’ve chosen to read and respond to nearly all comments (for now) but I know it won’t be sustainable long-term – but I’m looking into some more advanced ways of managing and providing even more community (so stay tuned!).

What do you do for moderation and management for your comments and community? Have an particular process or system in place?

[This is part of the Developing Great Blog Content Series.]

  • Mathias

    I’ve found it pretty hard to instantly answer to all blog comments on my previous blog. I found it pretty weird that in the beginning i had a lot of “spam” comments, from weird people trying to get featured. It seemed like robot. Might need a filter for these types of comments.

    Great post, John.

    • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

      I would recommend installing akismet. It’s not free (but is still cheap), but it’s worth it.

      • http://john.do John Saddington

        it is free…!

    • http://getbusylivingblog.com Benny

      Even better than Askimet is a plugin called GASP. It’ll be a box that the user has to check to prove they are human before submitting a comment. I’ve recommended it to a handful of bloggers and it’s totally cut down on their spam. I’ve used it on my since day one and I don’t get spam.

      An a list pro-blogger was using Askimet but had all this comments, including his go to spam!! So he switched to GASP and no more problems.

      http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/growmap-anti-spambot-plugin/

      • http://john.do John Saddington

        there are definitely a few great alternatives to akismet. i dont’ use any of them though.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      spam comments suck! get a good spam comment system…

  • http://hearmumroar.com Hear Mum Roar

    I like to answer everyone (I’m not including spammers, of course) then if they have a blog, I mosey on over there and leave a comment, too. The only times I don’t comment at a reader’s blog is if they’ve not written something new, or I can’t find how to comment on their site.

    I always wonder at what stage will I run out of time to do that. 50 comments per post? 100? lol. But I love doing it, my fave part is talking to my readers, after all, without them, my blog is nothing.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      how many blog posts are you publishing a day/week?

      • http://hearmumroar.com Hear Mum Roar

        Not a great deal at the moment *blush* Usually, I aim for one or two daily, but due to personal reasons have not been publishing as much as I wish to:)

        • http://john.do John Saddington

          do you have a schedule? something you’ve committed to?

          • http://hearmumroar.com Hear Mum Roar

            Not yet:) I have freelance jobs I’m doing, plus I’m a carer for my partner and a mother of three, so I’m juggling lots at once.

            Actually, tell a lie; I’ve written a schedule, but I’m going to wait until after this blogging function I’ve got on Friday before I start it. It’s just been overwhelming lately, but I think a schedule is a really key thing. It drives me nuts that my blog isn’t getting the same attention it was.

            • http://hearmumroar.com Hear Mum Roar

              Attention from me, that is, lol! Not in a diva kind of, ‘why aren’t more ppl reading my blog’ way!haha

              • http://john.do John Saddington

                things ebb and flow… sometimes good weeks and sometimes bad months…!

                • http://hearmumroar.com Hear Mum Roar

                  This is true:) The biggest lesson for me in blogging at the moment is that life still happens

                  • http://john.do John Saddington

                    it does.. .and it goes on and on and on…..

  • Michael Eve

    Is this post the key difference between being a blogger and being a broadcaster: you’re putting your thoughts out there and are ready to interact with the community’s responses?

    Perhaps this is an ideal world but, when you’re budgeting your time to make a post, you’ve only got time to make the post if you’ve got time to respond to the comments.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      i think you could extend the post or extrapolate out those ideas, for sure. i think both have a place and if your strategy works well then i’m all for it, even if you don’t like comments!

  • http://www.thesaleslion.com Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion

    This is such an interesting topic John because when we start blogging, we’d practically kill for comments, as they in many ways are what validates what we’re doing. But when one experiences success, and the comments grow, then a shift occurs. And with huge success, comments can go from one’s greatest blessing to one’s greatest curse, all because of the time involved in responding to each– time that potentially could be used for more ‘productive’ activity.

    So how do we manage it? Heck, I have no idea. That’s why I only post twice a week. For example, my post from Tuesday now has about 155 comments. It has taken me about 2-3 hours answering each one. So if I had to do that more than 2 times a week, it would kill me. But like you, I do see a day when I will likely not be able to keep it up and have to change what I’m doing.

    Great stuff sir.

    Marcus

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      marcus,

      I saw chris brogan (i think) tweet that post, right? I bet that was a big traffic day! (or perhaps you get a lot of traffic all the time).

      I know that I’ll “feel” the weight and time commitment to the point of where i’ll have to make a shift… it’ll be pretty obvious.

      batching, though (and i’m breaking my rule right now answering this comment) is super important.

      but yes, 2-3 hours… for sure!

    • http://getbusylivingblog.com Benny

      Out of all the blogs I go to, Marcus is the king of getting comments and replying to them. I’m completely amazed he can do that plus all his other responsibilities going on!

      • http://john.do John Saddington

        marcus has obviously been doing something right…!

  • Dewitt Robinson

    The community is very small now. I normally reply quickly.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      consider learning to batch now… see if it changes anything and keeps your more productive?

  • http://lifexpresseddigitally.me/blog Brian Alexander

    Right now my strategy is to respond to everyone. Every once in a while I get a comment from somebody. I Start to reply, but don’t have anything to say. If I can’t think of a response to their comment, i’ll leave no comment there.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      do you respond instantly or batch your time?

  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

    I look forward to the day when I have this problem! By the way, John, I’ve noticed and appreciated your batching of comments for a while. (I’m a productivity nerd.)

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      thanks loren! it’s very helpful for me… and saves me a lot of time.

  • Brandon

    That’s awesome! I really want my site to be like that. I respond to comments fairly quickly, but unless someone asks a direct question, I wait a little while. This has really helped wirh discussion. I hope it gets better and better.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      i think there’s wisdom in waiting… especially if it’s an emotional topic.

  • PJ Lincoln

    I can see how replying to everyone could get out of control on a a popular blog. I think you do a great job with it, John.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      thanks pj… i’m trying… it won’t be forever though… so i’m going to have to figure it out!

  • http://ericspeir.com/ Eric

    This is some solid advice. At this point I have the time as well to answer every comment but I wondered where to go from here.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      have you tried batching now?

  • Michael

    I look forward to the day when I need to manage my replies to comments :) At the moment however I am somewhat content being a “baby blogger” and having the time to improve my site :)

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      slowly but surely!

      the thing that i was trying to get across was that it’s good to start now these habits instead of waiting until they are dangerously-necessary!

      • Michael Walden

        Oh yes, I caught your drift. I check daily for comments and answer new ones as soon as I read them :)

        • http://john.do John Saddington

          ;) improve your process yet?

  • http://findmyblogway.com Lye Kuek Hin

    Hi John,

    For my case, i will try my very best to respond to every comment given in my post. This is some kind of respect from my part as they took the time to read the post and posted a comment in it.

    This is also a good strategy of encouraging further comments in the later post as we are telling our visitors; “I read every comment and reply to it”. So far my comments stand around 20-30 so i am able to respond every comment. If it grows to 100 plus, we need to see.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      wow!

      you’re doing such a great job lye!

  • http://getbusylivingblog.com Benny

    I respond to every comment I get. For my last post the first batch of comments I got took me about 30 minutes to reply. It’s a double edged sword. We are dying for comments but as our blog grows they get overwhelming.

    I’m not at the point to be selective when I reply. I do reply for every comment because I really appreciate the regulars and the new visitors that leave a comment.

    As for how I reply? I try to it in batches periodically when I have free time.

    That’s one thing I’ve enjoyed about here, that you reply to just about every comment. Short or long reply.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      i try benny, i really try.

      i think you’re right about the double-edged sword… i think that’s a nice metaphor…

      we all want a lot of comments but without a system in place to easily mange them it becomes a curse!

  • Michael Walden

    This is a little off topic but I’m not sure where else to ask. I use akismet and have set my wp settings as you suggested in another post to reduce comment spam. Akismet has caught all spam so far (well over 100). What I’m noticing is that all of the spam I am getting is linked to ONE post on my site. Is it normal for every single spam to come via ONE post?

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      yes. at times, since they try to target some of the more trafficked blog posts (or attractive ones).

  • http://www.ehacking.net/ Irfan Shakeel

    waooo great article i was looking for it………….it turns the knowledge to the interview question..

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      sure……!