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