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The 1-Step Way to Becoming A Comment Leader

Guest Post: Muhammad Saleem is a social media consultant and a top-ranked community member on multiple social news sites.

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Image by Charles and Clint

Before we discuss your role as a commenter, you should know that there are many ways in which you can actually hurt your ‘brand’ by commenting on other sites. Please keep in mind the following three basic principles of commenting before we move on:

1. Be yourself, Not Your Brand

When you leave a comment, make sure that your identity comes across. Don’t be your blog, be the author. People want to interact with other people that genuinely share their interests, and by being yourself you instantly become more accessible. Inject your comments with your own unique voice and leverage your own unique set of experiences to make your point.

2. Create Value, Not A Pitch

A comment is useless unless it creates value for the audience. You can choose to provide more examples or counterexamples and further the conversation but don’t write one or two word comments simply agreeing or disagreeing with people. Creating value also means contributing selflessly (i.e. don’t advertise your blog and don’t use excessive signage).

3. Engage, Don’t Attack

Remember, nobody likes a troll or a flamer. When leaving a comment, don’t just engage the author, but engage the entire audience. This doesn’t mean that you can’t disagree with what is being said, it just means that you should be civil and disagree with what is being said, not who is saying it. Don’t forget to provide evidence for your side of the argument.

Note: Quality is a a prerequisite you can’t compromise on.

So how do you become a comment leader?

Fact of the matter is that a majority of the content that is created on blogs such as this one is based on people’s own experiences and is not set in stone. As such, the information being discussed is subjective and therefore there can be multiple solutions or ways of approaching the same problem (and most of the time there are relatively few wrong answers). When this is the case, and when most of the audience is trying to determine what the right answer is, they do two things:

1. People go to high-authority blogs to see what the author has to say.

2. When people are uncertain, they look towards others in the audience for help.

This help can come in the way of an affirmation of what the high-authority author is saying, or a rejection of the idea in favor of a different position. By speaking first, you can establish your influence and have a visible effect on the course the rest of the conversation takes. This is important because there is strong evidence suggesting that the order in which people speak is incredibly important in determining the impact that their opinion has.

This doesn’t mean that you start going to other blogs and commenting just so you can be first. What this means is that if you think that you’re voice is getting lost in the crowd, or that you have a strong opinion that needs to be heard, it’s time that you stepped up to the plate and spoke out first. The point of your comments doesn’t have to be to prove you right, but to make your side of the argument heard before the community decides what is right or wrong.

As an example of this phenomenon in play, let’s have a look at the comments from my previous contribution to ProBlogger:

Comment Leader

Thanks to Lucy for her kind comment. Out of a total of 19 commenters, that followed the first comment, half of them used Lucy’s words to describe the article.

At the same time, it is equally important for content producers to create an environment that nurtures comment leaders. Just as people with legitimate opinions can use the power of commenting first to provide a framework for the rest of the discussion, comment abusers can abuse it for the same purpose. As James Surowiecki elaborates in his book The Wisdom of Crowds, “As in an information cascade, once that framework is in place, it’s difficult for a dissenter to break it down.”

As a content producer, make sure that your audience is comfortable stating their opinion, and as the audience, take full advantage of the platform given to you to express yourselves.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. I must say, i do agree with you. Comments are there to give the viewer of the site a chance to make his view-point known. As a blogger myself, i am trying to learn to write in a way to actively encourage comments, and whilst this post isn’t specifically about that, i do think its valuable information none-the-less.

    Thank you. :)

  2. Nice post Mr. Saleem. Especially enjoyed “When leaving a comment, don’t just engage the author, but engage the entire audience.”

    Google alerts helps to get in early on a story.

    What do you folks think?

  3. Great article, I have tend to find new blogs from reading peoples comments and clicking on their names to see their sites. I think Allen Stern from Centernetworks did this very well.

  4. Great post, Mu. This is also a good reason to volunteer to be the first presenter at a conference or even in college classes. The first person sets the pace, tone, and the bar to beat.

    Do you want to set the pace or be struggling to keep up?

  5. Vikram says:

    Nathan good point here, Google alerts can help and indeed is very important.

    If one reaches on a blog post bit late and it has already received lot of comments, Chances are slim that your comment would get noticed!

    I use a desktop feed reader which lists my favorite blogs, and the moment a new post is published it plays a sound. I check the post, and if its intriguing I can be among the very first to comments on it!

    Also guys, if the post is a hit, chances are that your comment would be read a lot of times and increases the chances of other readers visiting your site!

    Even commenting should have a bit of incentive, and I think nothing can beat new visitors!

    Great Post MS!

  6. Hamish M says:

    Nice writeup Mu. I agree completely. And commenting is a great way to network with the blog author, and even the other commentators.

    My biggest comment beef is the people who think that posting “First!” is a cool thing to do. It’s not too common nowadays, but I can’t help but cringe when I see it.

  7. Manish says:

    At the start i did not case about comments on my blog but since i have started replying to them they are increasing .hence i share the same views on comments as you do

  8. Lid says:

    Hi Muhammad,

    I enjoyed reading this post and wanted to say thanks.

    Your ideas take me back to the days of BBS’s (sad huh?) and I remember how great it was to get into a conversation with someone about a topic, then have a whole heap of other people contribute – they all wanted to help one another – and it would be a place to learn. Some of these conversations led to relationships, some of which I still have today.

    What I’m noticing now is a lot of marketers/PR folk using commenting just to push their brand/product out, and it feels like they are just messing up the Web for the rest of us (maybe I’m just too pessimistic?) – but boy, wouldn’t it be nice if we could have a “Comment Well Day” – a day where all the influential bloggers out there remind the rest of us the importance of conversation, sharing, and learning…

    Me thinks you have a new fan

    Thanks again!

  9. Frank C says:

    Sometimes it’s just a matter of knowing the audience…San Dimas High School football rules.

  10. Well stated post, Mu. I think the first person to comment should set the tone and maybe even ask some questions that follow-up comments can answer.

    I can’t stand reading posts and find that the first comment is just a couple of words saying “Nice job” or “Way to go!”. All that happens after that is a bunch more nosense comments trying to get links.

    I hope people read the posts and give quality comments. This keeps the online conversation flowing and fun to participate in.

    Thanks.

  11. Mike King says:

    I’m wondering a bit about you saying never to advertise your blog in your comments in any way. I’m curious about this as I’ve often had people add a related article or something that expands my post somewhat and I can’t image that people don’t like that? I have never minded as long as it is a useful related article. What does everyone else here think about that?

  12. david says:

    Those birds are so cute!

  13. Rice Blogger says:

    nice writeup.

    Remember to say that it is bad to have signature on comment?

    Unless it is your evidance for your disagreement with the author.

  14. Michael Wong says:

    Tina Su said she got big at 120 days. I think it’s totally possible if I read all the posts in your blog. Thanks for Lesson 6. And thank you Muhammad.

  15. Martin says:

    Commenting on blogs is also a good way of encouraging new bloggers. Often it is the only way they know someone has visited. As a blogger I enjoy having my blog acknowledged, even if it is to say “Hello, I visited your site.”

  16. Jacob Cass says:

    You should have had sheep as the picture :) Thanks and so true.

  17. MR says:

    Number 3 is very important. Engaging rather than attacking is extremely good in many ways. One way you can have a decent discussion or argument and learn new things. Another way is the hits that specific post increases due to the readers coming back to read the latest comment.

    Thanks Muhammad. Salam!

  18. Barbara says:

    Thank you for the great post.

    I don’t think it matters if you are the first to comment, as much as it matters that you feel comfortable leaving a comment if you find you have something to contribute.

    I love reading comments on other blogs, don’t mind if commenters leave a link to a related article, and as a blog author, I enjoy responding to the comments that are left on my blog.

  19. Hi Mohammad.

    Nice post. Commenting has always seemed like an overwhelming exercise to me. Basically, it’s due to lack of time. I’m leaving this comment from my music class…I’ll write about commenting on my blog later on today.

  20. Joanna Young says:

    I agree with your three principles for quality comments, but would encourage people to focus on them rather than some perceived need to ‘go first’.

    This can be hard to achieve in popular high traffic sites like this – and as Darren has written here before it can be a tactic that backfires if other bloggers get bugged that you’re always first!

    Your point about the impact of ‘early bird’ comments is well made though – which means we should take extra care with those comments… but I wouldn’t want to lose sight of the power of our words to shift and influence the tone of a conversation part way through

    Joanna

  21. Dave Origano says:

    Taking your article Muhammad I’m far to late to get my comment noticed by anyone but you. That doesn’t matter though.

    What I wanted to add, since you talk about creating a nice environment for top-commenters, is for blogs to have a Latest Comments plugin installed. Together with the Do-Follow links, it gives some instant link juice to those who comment most.

    Some bloggers say it’s the best way to get more comments, others find it’s causing spam. In the end it’s up to the user to decide.

    Just my 2c,

    -Dave

  22. I especially enjoy the negative comments I get.

  23. Ed Roach says:

    Mohammad,

    I absolutely agree with all your commnets except the first one: Be yourself, Not Your Brand.

    You ARE your brand. Your blog is also part of that brand. Since essentially your brand is your reputation overall, you and everything that you do impacts your brand. Your blog, your company and yourself should reflect the same brand values to become a leader.

  24. This is the problem of some aspiring new bloggers. They think by simply commenting on great blogs like this can help increase their traffic just because their names are posted here. I suppose all of us should be conscious on what we are doing and this post should be a good reminder to all.
    Thanks.

  25. Chetan says:

    Good points there Saleem, and especially regarding the brand thing, i always take care of that.
    One change that is often seen is that when a SEO contest is started, then the competitors start commenting using the targeted keyword as their name. That looks really odd but the competitors dont care about that.
    And always being against the points while commenting also would not look good in my view.

  26. Cheapest Man says:

    Comments have pretty much replaced my forum on one of my sites. I think people like the simplicity of comments and they don’t have to do much work to create one (versus a post in a forum).

    At first I was nervous when my comments started getting more attention than the forum, but I learned to let things happen, and it’s been great for my site.

  27. Tamra Engle says:

    Thanks so much! I alway find valuable content on your pages. & to “comment” on your comments…. lol…. There have been countless times when I was looking for information on a wide range of subjects, from things that effect my buying decisions on products. to just simple education on a topic that I have found the comments to be sometime MORE helpful than the actual article itself.
    Blog on brother, and thanks so much for your tips.

    Have a terrific week

  28. Tamra Engle says:

    Thanks so much! I alway find valuable content on your pages. & to “comment” on your comments…. lol…. There have been countless times when I was looking for information on a wide range of subjects, from things that effect my buying decisions on products. to just simple education on a topic that I have found the comments to be sometime MORE helpful than the actual article itself.
    Blog on brother, and thanks so much for your tips.

    Have a terrific week

  29. Gyutae Park says:

    Hey Muhammad,
    While I agree with the points you made in this article, I don’t think they are feasible in most cases. Because of time constraints, not everyone can be the first to comment on a post. Sometimes it’s better to post a comment without regarding placement since being the #1 position is not something you can control. Good in theory, but difficult to do in practice.

  30. Well, fooey: not all commenting has ulterior motives.

    Sometimes, believe it or not, I leave comments JUST BECAUSE I HAVE SOMETHING TO ADD. Because I have a wide range of interests, I’m often reading and commenting at sites that have nothing to do with my blog. I don’t expect visitors from that, don’t even particularly want to attract them because they are bound to be disappointed.

    Sometimes a comment is just a comment.

  31. It is great to bring up the issue of commenting. I think commenting first is great, especially immediately after the post ahs been read, as it brings out our first thoughts. The initial reaction is usually the most clear.
    I find however that there are exceptions and the comments complete the post as they add facets that are incredibly interesting. In those cases it is fine I think to comment later.
    http://electronrun.wordpress.com/

  32. David Lano says:

    @ Joanna Young

    Excellent point Joanna. I totally agree.

    Sure submitting a comment early on in the game is great, but every word counts. Especially when their is a conversation taking place amongst readers. I don’t think comments should ever be viewed as an authority game.

  33. Marvin says:

    This is an impressive and entirely accurate overview of commenting one that I practice and endorse. Blogging, even professionally is a very personal activity. It’s very important for those who create blogs to reach others on a personal level and in doing so to have other respond in kind. One of the things which makes blogging a unique medium, that it is participatory as opposed to being passive. The human to human interaction of blogs and bloggers is the very thing has made it such a popular and growing forum where the open exchange of information and ideas can take place. That is only possible the interchanges are honest and sincere.

  34. Lucy Dee says:

    Hey, Mu! I’m a bit slow on the uptake, but thanks for incredible nod and the much appreciated mention in your article above. I must say, I think this is the first time I’ve ever been used as an example and not been admonished for it.

    As you said, we should have something to add to the discussion whenever we comment.

    So here is my original piece: I saw one commenter mention above the debate between “being a brand and versus being yourself.” And, yes I think this is a difficult call especially if you’ve built your blog (and hence your blog personality) as your brand. Making the difficult call and differentiating between the two may be blogosphere suicide (or perhaps a slight maiming) of your blog “reputation”… and in that case, I would leave in the reserves, a blogger alias for just such a divergence from character.

    But then the new question is, which blog do you link back to? (lol)

  35. I found the selection of your bird picture interesting!!!

    Did you know that leaders of birds flying north to south and return actually take turns being at the lead of their V-formation?

    Did you also know that this V-formation of the flog (i.e. a group whereby everyone harmoniously gets along with each other, each doing their own, individual, important bit), gives them a tremendous advantage in speed? How much?

    Wild goose flying in a V-formation get 70% more effectiveness that way.

    This is actually a snippet of a blog entry on birds that’s still in draft format. I could not resist spilling the beans here though… :-)
    Interesting insights like this on alternative health, healing and personal development can be found at my blog.

    Namaste,
    A. Lee, We Are One World Healing

  36. Catherine L says:

    Thank you for the great info. It sounds as though the first couple of comments made can really influence what others say and think about your post then?

    So, Muhammed, with that in mind, I’m wondering if it is best to delete comments which are terribly abusive.

    I have had a couple of v rude comments recently and I left them up. But, I wouldn’t like to think people reading them could be influenced by the comments that some mean person has made.

    What do you think? How rude is too rude and when is it time to hit the delete key?

  37. Hello Muhammed, hi everyone,

    This has been a really useful thread of comments for me. I am in the early stages of building my blog and I am finding that I am quite nervous about making mistakes, breaching some invisible unwritten rules of protocol when commenting on other people’s blogs.

    So I am very glad of your clear exposition of the do’s and don’ts.

    I also enjoyed everyone else’s contributions and got a lot of value from the range of viewpoints.

    @Catherine L As regards the your question, how rude is too rude?

    I have had only a few comments on my blog so far and they have all been positive. So I have not yet faced the issue of what to do with a rude comment.

    So its great to read Catherine’s question and here is my response based on a few moments reflection.

    My view on this is I will delete anything that contains profanity for profanity’s sake.

    In all my years of participating in online forums, going back to Usenet in the early 90s and FidoNet in the late 80s, I have never particularly appreciated or enjoyed profanity in people’s writing.

    There are some rare occasions when profanity works for me in writing, mostly in literature where it is contextually appropriate.

    Contextually appropriate profanity can serve some limited useful purpose Informally in speech amongst close aquaintances, while the margin of safety for its contribution to communication is much smaller in writing, there would still be an occasional situation where I would be comfortable in keeping a comment that contained profanity.

    As for rudeness, I consider the Golden Rule. Do unto others what you would have them do unto you. There is no point in being offensive and nasty to someone.

    Even if someone has already expressed an ignorant or unfortunate point of view that is clearly going to distress others.

    No point in adding fuel to the fire.

    If I felt that someone was being offensive or rude in a way that may cause another to feel aggrieved, fearful, hurt, or injured, I would not let that rudeness stay on my blog.

    This is an interesting subject and I would love to know what others think about it.

    Happy days,

    Bradley C Hughes

  38. masdhenk says:

    hahaha…
    I think, if there is a way to monetize the first comment in a blog, and we can value it by such a money, lot of blogger want to buy it. but not for me :)

  39. Shreemani says:

    Regarding the first to comment…. I can hardly be the first one… but I always try to be the first one. and yes, commenting on high profile site do give you a quite a lot of hits back.

    But, regarding this post… I expect more quality from it. Specially when I’m visiting Problogger.

  40. Barbara says:

    Muhammed,

    Catherine does bring up a good point with regard to negative comments. I read one extremely rude comment on her blog, and the author remained “anonymous for fear of confrontation”.

    Although she defended herself very well, in her answer, being a commenter who followed that “interaction”, I felt the negativity had tainted the her comment section.

  41. Catherine L says:

    Hi Barbara and Bradley – thanks both for your advice. I have taken it and deleted the offensive anonymous comment. Also – thank you too Muhammed for making us aware of the influence that the first commentors could have.

  42. vineet nair says:

    Nice post.
    Very interesting points made by commentors above , namely
    using google alerts to know of it early and using desktop feed reader.
    I have explored google alerts but never thought of such a use. I personally use feed reader to keep track of my favourite blogs (this being one of them) but again did nt think of using it to track new posts.
    Great post and interesting comments.

    thanks again
    Vineet
    http://hubpages.com/_signup3/hub/yahoo-bid

  43. CanCar says:

    Great article, but I check the post, and if its intriguing I can be among the very first to comments on it.

    Sometimes, the people who comment first said: IM FIRST, JAJAJAJA. I WIN… This is a stupid comment,