How NOT to comment

Commenting on blogs, forums, and networking sites is an important part of your online presence. Search engines are likely to find and index your comment, especially if it is on a well-known site, and links you post (when allowed) can send new traffic to your page. More importantly, it shows you and your company are participating in the conversation. But it is important to do it right.

Michael's recent post about white boards received a comment that looks like this:

Anonymous,  December 31, 2010 8:11 AM  

For a whiteboard that stays pure white, check out this glass marker board. Great for the corporate or classroom environment.

I went ahead and published the comment - we post almost every comment we receive, except for the most obvious Spam, but review them first - because it does fit both with the topic of the post (white boards) and the theme of our blog (building products), but this comment fails on several levels to achieve its goals.

1. This was posted by "Anonymous", which does several bad things. Most importantly, it makes me not trust it. Anything I get, via any medium, without a real and recognizable name looks immediately like spam. If it has a real human name I will at least open it, instead of automatically deleting it, but the sender only has 1-2 sentences to get my attention. But this also represents a missed opportunity. Digital marketing is as much about developing your brand as an individual as the company brand; social media is about people, so your personal reputation is what brings people to your company. Posting anonymously is like sending someone a birthday card without signing your name; they want to like you, but do not know who you are.

2. The company or product name does not appear anywhere in the post. There is an art to doing this right, because overusing either makes a comment look like an ad. I recommend following the same guidelines as for a magazine article; focus on the technology and include the name as part of your credentials ("In my work for Chusid Associates, I've found that....").

3. Clicking on the link brings you to a very busy, hard-to-read homepage. Most surfers will get there, look around for 10 seconds, and leave because they cannot find what they want. Instead this should point towards a dedicated landing page, with "Whiteboards that stay pure white!" in big, clear letters. Look for more on landing pages in an upcoming post.

4. This is not a well-written comment. Spelling and grammar are fine, but there is no sense of excitement, no sense of who this is for, no real motivation unless I was already looking for a white board that addresses this topic. That describes a very small part of the architectural market at any given time. If it had said, "See the lated improvement..." or "Learn how we made..." then you draw the much larger audience that does not currently need a white board but is curious about new products. Or better, actually respond to the post; but have an actual response, not a formulaic salutation ("I like what you said about....", not "Great post! Visit....") Also, consider an exclamation point.

I am certain this comment was placed by a automated script; probably no one at the company has ever heard of our blog (too bad for them!). There is nothing wrong with using these scripts, if you use them well. I would recommend setting the script to notify you so you can write a custom response, rather than using a canned message. Anything canned looks like spam, and eventually that will get you in trouble.

Commenting is a very controversial issue right now; there are as many views on the best way to do it as there are digital marketers, and many high-profile blogs forbid including links or have even disabled comments altogether. The general rule everyone agrees on, though, is be polite. You are a guest in someone else's home; if you cannot improve the conversation then stay quiet.