Don’t Let Social Media Comments Ruin Discussions On Your Blog

social-media-comment
Social media comments are the new trackbacks.

Enabled by a slew of tools, there is an increasing trend of bloggers aggregating comments about their content from around the web right on their blog.  In theory, this is a nice idea – bringing together bits of conversations in one spot – under the original content.

I get what bloggers are trying to do:  use those comments as a type of social proofing.  But social proofing should not interfere with user experience – by that I mean – get in the way of legitimate content on a page.  And on a good blog, comments are most certainly content.

Aggregating 100′s of people ReTweeting the subject line of your message underneath the conversation adds nothing to your community, except destroying the actual conversation your community is trying to have on that page itself.  By aggregating noise from around the social web on your blog (a place which can be a breath of fresh air from the never-ending river of real-time) you may be limiting the depth and impact of conversations.

Two of my favorite bloggers are doing this.  Their content and their comments are great, but they are adding a whole bunch of noise that is just cluttering up an otherwise top-tier blog.

Samples of what not to do…

This is what the conversations look like on a sample post on PR Squared (he is using Chat Catcher to aggregate social comments).  I grayed out the social media comments from around the web (made up of essentially just titles of the content and links back to the page you’re already viewing) so you can see just how far down in the comments you have to go to get to an actual comment:

pr2.0

Sure its aggregating them in order, but the comments are from disparate sources and really none of the ReTweets or “reading this article now” add any value for site visitors.

Let’s look at another example from Brian Solis’ blog (he is using JS-Kit to aggregate social comments)

brian-solis

Again, there’s not much of a point in drowning out the actual conversations on this page with people sharing the article with their personal networks and not really commenting.

Not trying to single out PR bloggers – I’ve seen this done in other niches, but I know Todd and Brian are nice guys and open to feedback.

Samples of good integration of social comments

1.  Put pings/responses/shares below actual comments

Eric Friedman over at Marketing FM does a nice job of separating comments (he’s using Disqus to aggregate social comments).  Notice the clear separation of actual comments on the site vs. social media trackbacks in this story on designing for social traction:

marketingfm

2.  Separate via tabs

Here’s the comment section of a post from Smashing Magazine.  I rather like this approach – segmenting the comments and the trackbacks/pings onto separate tabs altogether.

smashingmag

Would be neat if they added something like Chat Catcher to a third tab and labeled it social media comments or something similar.

3.  Go old school – show only real comments that add value to readers

Daniel at Daily Blog tips has his comments setup in a clean, effective way.  It’s old school:  just site comments and then a subscribe/bookmark CTA along with related articles.  This is a good approach in my opinion, as it cuts out all the noise.  Instead of a bunch of disparate comments, Daniel is using the space right next to the comments – a place your eyes naturally go after finishing a story – to call people to action.

DBT

Closing thoughts

Don’t let your blog comments section become a cluttered mess of pings from around the social web that in reality are just a title and a short URL.  It isn’t adding anything to your site and there is little value in it.  In fact, personally I’m less likely to share pages looking like that as it gives the appearance the whole world has already seen it by now, so perhaps it isn’t worth sharing yet again.

For my own blogging, I don’t see a compelling reason to bring comments from around the web about content here on these pages.  For people who want to take the time to comment on this blog and actually add content to a page, their words should be put up front and center, not drowned out in a mix of comments from other networks.  Besides, every community is different, the reactions happening elsewhere about this content may actually be a disconnect to people visiting this site.

You may get the urge to try and integrate everything about a piece of content in one place, and perhaps it can work for you, but if you’re going to do it:

1.  Keep it organized – not just chronologically, but segment them into logical sections if you’re going to do the aggregation thing.  Otherwise it becomes an unreadable jumble.

2.  Don’t alienate your current community by mixing their comments with shouts, shares or comments from around the web, especially if they add nothing to that conversation in particular.

3.  Have some sort of strategy with why you are aggregating comments on your site, measure the effects/results and see if what you are adding is actually accomplishing some sort of objective.  Is doing this actually encouraging more comments?  Could that space be used for something better?

Screen real estate is extremely valuable, treat it as such.  Don’t add more things to your blog or website because they are new or easy, think carefully about if it’s actually going to make the experience for visitors better and accomplish your goals.

image credit: Martin Allinger via Shutterstock